Lawyer Disciplinary Proceedings

A formal disciplinary proceeding begins with a “probable cause” order. The probable cause order includes a list of the ethical rule (“ER”) violations that the State Bar believes it can prove against a lawyer by clear and convincing evidence. After the Bar obtains a probable cause order, a formal complaint will follow, usually within a few months.

The formal complaint will resemble a civil complaint in court, and will be filed at the office of the Disciplinary Clerk of the Supreme Court. A formal answer, in accord with the rules of civil procedure, will be required. As in Bar investigations, a lawyer who fails to respond does so at his or her peril. Default means that all charges are deemed admitted.

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. (“Discipline and disciplinary proceedings are neither civil nor criminal, but are sui generis.” Rule 48(a), Ariz. R. Sup. Ct.)

The disciplinary rules require hearings to be completed within 150 days of the filing of the formal complaint. (Rule 57(j), Ariz. R. Sup. Ct.). Consequently, the discovery period is highly condensed and everything moves very fast. Further, hearing officers routinely schedule the hearings within 100 days instead of 150, in an effort to speed up the process even more. Maintaining due process in this expedited process is difficult.

You will not be able to defend yourself adequately. You are not likely to understand the process or the players involved. You are not likely to know where to find the proportional case law or to determine the arguments in regard to what sanction (if any) is appropriate. You are highly unlikely to be able to present your own direct testimony in a satisfactory manner. Not to mention that you have to maintain your own practice at the same time—you definitely do not want to fall behind in a current client matter due to your stress and time constraints from the Bar proceeding.

In sum, no matter how knowledgeable an attorney you are, this process is entirely different than anything you have ever experienced. Do not go it alone. Call experienced respondents’ counsel immediately upon receiving a probable cause order.


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Contact Denise Quinterri Do not take a chance when your license is on the line. If you have questions about lawyer ethics issues in Arizona, contact Denise.

Phone: (480) 239-9807
Address:
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Phoenix, AZ 85044

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