Ms. Quinterri represents lawyers in professional discipline, from initial Bar investigations (“Bar complaint”) to formal proceedings before a hearing officer or the Disciplinary Commission. She counsels and represents individuals applying for the Bar with regard to the Character and Fitness process.
Ms. Quinterri also advises and consults on general professional responsibility issues, provides opinion letters, and maintains a small civil litigation practice– only cases that have some relationship to ethics issues.
State Bar Investigations (“Bar Complaints”)
Lawyers refer to the dreaded letter from the State Bar as a “bar complaint.” The State Bar refers to it as a “charge” (see Rule 46(f)(3), Ariz. R. Sup. Ct.) or an “inquiry” (see State Bar’s website form). Whatever the term used, the fact is, they are always complaints. Somebody is not happy about something a lawyer supposedly did or did not do. Typically the complaints come from disgruntled clients who are hoping to get their money back, sometimes they come from other lawyers or the court or a family member of a client. Sometimes the lawyer actually did do something wrong—however, the statistics show that most of time the lawyer did nothing wrong.
If you are a lawyer who has received a probable cause order from the State Bar of Arizona, you need to obtain counsel promptly. The formal discipline process is very different from the civil or criminal process. Discipline is, by definition, different. The disciplinary rules require hearings to be completed within 150 days of the filing of the formal complaint. Maintaining due process in this expedited process is difficult.
The worst thing that an attorney can do is fail to respond. If there is any inclination to put that letter to the side and forget about it, call Ms. Quinterri or another experienced respondents’ counsel immediately. Attorneys shouldn’t be embarrassed if they do not understand what it is the Bar is asking for. It is important to remember that you will certainly not be the first lawyer in that position, and probably will not be the last. Ms. Quinterri is very experienced with trust account cases and can quickly evaluate your case.
In most cases, my clients are solos and small firm practitioners who occasionally need a sounding board and do not have the luxury of an in-house ethics counsel or other partners to brainstorm with. The State Bar has an ethics hotline that is available for many questions, free of charge. However, not all questions fit under their guidelines, and there are also times when you may wish to discuss your issue with your own personal ethics counsel.
Applicants to the State Bar must apply to and be approved by the Character and Fitness Committee of the Supreme Court of Arizona. If the Committee sees deficiencies in the application, the applicant may be subject to an informal hearing, a formal hearing, or possibly both. The applicant may, of course, be represented by counsel at the hearing.