Attorney Discipline

The Formal Disciplinary Proceeding Process

Step 1: Hearing on Formal Charges

A hearing on a complaint is held only if formal charges have been filed and the formal disciplinary proceeding has begun. When a formal disciplinary hearing takes place, a three-member hearing committee (two lawyer members and a public member) appointed by the Disciplinary Board (but not consisting of Board members) convenes to take evidence.

The procedure is similar to a court trial. 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 are open to the public.

Step 2: Board Appellate Review

Upon completion of a formal disciplinary hearing, a written report is prepared by the hearing committee for review by the Disciplinary Board. The matter is assigned to a three-member panel of the Board’s adjudicative committee. The adjudicative committee is composed of nine members (six lawyers and three members of the public), all of whom are appointed by the Louisiana Supreme Court and volunteer their time. Each panel of the Board’s adjudicative committee is comprised of two lawyer members, one of whom acts as the panel chair, and a public member.

When a hearing committee finds unethical conduct warranting discipline, the hearing committee’s report and recommendation are forwarded to the Board for consideration. The hearing committee cannot itself impose discipline, although the Board can. When a hearing committee has filed a report recommending public discipline, oral argument is routinely scheduled before the Board. The lawyer may appear in person and may be represented by counsel. No witnesses are permitted at this oral argument and no testimony is taken. If the Board determines that suspension, disbarment, or permanent disbarment should be imposed, this written recommendation must be reviewed by the Louisiana Supreme Court. The Board forwards a copy of the recommendation to the parties.

The Board can impose a public reprimand upon the attorney, in which event the case will end there. 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.

Step 3: LA Supreme Court Review

Suspension, disbarment, and permanent disbarment can be ordered only by the Louisiana Supreme Court. Therefore, if the Disciplinary Board determines that suspension, disbarment, or permanent disbarment should be imposed, it must submit a written recommendation to the Louisiana Supreme Court for review.

Upon receiving the Board’s written recommendation, the Supreme Court may hear oral argument on the matter. After the matter is taken under advisement, the Court will issue the final order disciplining the attorney or determining that no discipline is required.

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