About Attorney Discipline: The Formal Disciplinary Proceeding Process

Process Steps

 Step 1: Hearing on Formal Charges (to Top ↑)

A hearing on a complaint is held only if disciplinary counsel receives permission to file formal charges and, thereafter, files the charges. When a formal disciplinary hearing takes place, a three-member hearing committee (two lawyer members and a public member) appointed by the Disciplinary Board convenes to take evidence.

The hearing procedure is similar to a court trial. The ODC bears the burden of proof. The respondent defends the charges and may be represented by counsel. The complaining party may be called as a witness. Testimony is given under oath and documentary exhibits are submitted. A full record is kept of the proceedings, which proceedings are generally open to the public.

Upon completion of a formal disciplinary hearing, a written report is prepared by the hearing committee. The report includes the hearing committee’s findings of fact, legal conclusions and, if the committee determines that misconduct has occurred, recommendations for discipline.

 Step 2: Board Appellate Review (to Top ↑)

Review by the Board is limited to proceedings in which the ODC or the respondent has objected to the report of the hearing committee, or upon remand from the Court. At the Board, the matter is assigned to a three-member panel of the Board’s adjudicative committee. Each Board panel is comprised of two lawyer members, one of whom acts as the panel chair, and a public member. The Board’s review consists of holding oral argument and reviewing the entire record created by the hearing committee. No evidence or testimony may be introduced at oral argument.

If, after oral argument, and considering the report of the hearing committee, the Board determines that misconduct has occurred and discipline is warranted, the Board prepares a written report recommending discipline. The Board forwards a copy of this recommendation to the parties. When the Board recommends the imposition of suspension, disbarment or permanent disbarment, the Board’s recommendation must be reviewed by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

If the Board determines that public reprimand is appropriate, the Board will issue such reprimand, unless the Board’s determination is appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court. Like a private admonition, a public reprimand remains on the attorney’s record and may be taken into account should future Rule violation(s) occur. The Board may also determine that dismissal of the formal charges is appropriate. Absent objection, the Board has the authority to dismiss formal charges.

 Step 3: LA Supreme Court Review (to Top ↑)

If the parties do not file objections to a hearing committee report, the disciplinary matter proceeds directly to the Louisiana Supreme Court for review. In matters in which the Board determines to dismiss formal charges or issue a public reprimand, the Court will review the Board’s determination only on appeal. The Court must review a Board recommendation to suspend, disbar or permanently disbar.

If the parties file no objections to the findings and recommendation of the hearing committee or Board, the Court may enter an order based on the recommended discipline with written reasons which may be summary in nature. The Court may, however, require briefs and/or oral argument. In the event objections to the Board’s report and recommendation are filed, the matter shall be assigned for oral argument and notice will be sent to the parties.

After the matter is taken under advisement, the Court will issue a final order of discipline or dismissal.

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 Related: What to Expect and What NOT to Expect