About Attorney Discipline: The Complaint Process

Process Steps

 Step 1: Filing a Complaint (to Top ↑)

All complaints regarding attorneys must be received in writing. Complaints can be filed by any person, not just a client, in one of two ways:

  1. By submitting a completed complaint form to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. Complaint forms can also be obtained from the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board in Metairie or the Office of Disciplinary Counsel in Baton Rouge, or by calling (800) 326-8022 or (225) 293-3900 to request one by mail. Complaint forms must be completed in full!
    **You can print and attach additional pages if you need more space for your explanation.

  2. By writing a letter to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel which includes your name, address and telephone number. Please describe what the lawyer did or failed to do and include all important information, including attorney name, address, phone numbers and dates of events. If any letters, agreements or other documents are available, please submit them to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

 All complaints must be sent to:

4000 S. Sherwood Forest Blvd., Suite 607
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70816
Phone: (225) 293-3900 or (800) 326-8022

If additional information is needed, it will be requested by ODC. If you have difficulty corresponding in writing, a personal interview may be arranged after your written complaint is filed.

 Step 2: Review and Investigation (to Top ↑)

Each complaint is reviewed and screened by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) to ensure that it falls within the jurisdiction of the disciplinary agency and to determine whether or not it warrants a full disciplinary investigation. If the complaint falls within the jurisdiction of the agency, and if no further details are needed from the complaining party at that time, ODC will send a copy of the complaint to the lawyer, who is asked to submit a written response to the complaint. If, after completing the screening process, ODC determines that a full disciplinary investigation is not necessary, it will refer the matter to the LSBA Practice Assistance Program for Diversion or simply administratively decline to open and conduct an investigation.

The complaining party usually receives a copy of the lawyer’s response and is asked to submit further comments. Depending on the nature of the complaint and the complexity of the facts, the process of exchanging correspondence could be repeated several times. ODC may also need to interview the parties or other witnesses directly and to obtain further supporting documents. The aim of the investigation is to gather all facts necessary to determine whether there is clear and convincing evidence of misconduct on the part of the lawyer.

 Step 3: Evaluation and Disposition (to Top ↑)

When the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) obtains all necessary facts regarding the alleged misconduct, an evaluation is made as to whether there is sufficient evidence to support a finding of a Rule violation. Upon the conclusion of an investigation, ODC may dismiss or may recommend probation, admonition, the filing of formal charges, the petitioning for transfer to disability inactive status, a stay, or diversion to the Practice Assistance and Improvement Program administered by the Louisiana State Bar Association. Typically, the investigation will result in one of the following dispositions:

  • Dismissal of the complaint, when there is inadequate evidence to support a clear finding of misconduct. The complaining party will be notified of the dismissal and his/her right to file a written request for appeal within thirty (30) days of receipt of notice of the dismissal pursuant to Rule XIX, §11(B)(3). Appeals of dismissal are assigned to a hearing committee for review. The hearing committee may approve, modify, or disapprove ODC’s dismissal or direct that the matter be investigated further. If the complaining party is still not satisfied, he/she may file a written request for appeal within thirty (30) days of receipt of notice pursuant to Rule XIX, §30(A), in which case the hearing committee’s decision will be reviewed by a three-member panel of the Board’s adjudicative committee. The Board panel may approve, modify, or disapprove the hearing committee’s disposition of the matter, or direct that the matter be investigated further. Within thirty (30) days of the mailing of the Board’s disposition of the appeal, the complaining party may file a petition for leave to appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court under to Rule XIX, §30(C). Leave shall not be granted unless the complaining party shows that the Board acted arbitrarily, capriciously, or unreasonably.

  • Imposition of a private admonition, which is the least severe form of discipline. Although an admonition is confidential, it remains on the lawyer’s record and can be considered should a future violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct occur. If ODC recommends that the matter be concluded by a private admonition, the lawyer can demand in writing, within fourteen (14) of receipt of notice of the proposed admonition, that the matter be disposed of by a formal proceeding. Failure of the lawyer to do so constitutes his/her consent to the private admonition. See Rule XIX, §11(D).

  • Commencement of a formal disciplinary proceeding, which is marked by the filing of formal charges against the lawyer. A formal disciplinary proceeding is required whenever discipline more serious than a private admonition is believed to be necessary.

Before ODC can file formal charges, it must receive the permission of a hearing committee chairperson upon a showing of probable cause. In other words, ODC must demonstrate that “there is probable cause to believe that a violation or attempted violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct has occurred or that there are other grounds for lawyer discipline pursuant to Section 9.” Rule XIX, §3(E)(1). ODC’s request to file formal charges is presented to the chairperson of a hearing committee (or the regular lawyer member as designated by the Administrative committee of the Disciplinary Board). See Rule XIX, §3(D) & (E)(1). The chairperson may "approve, modify, or disapprove the recommendation of disciplinary counsel, or direct that the matter be investigated further." Rule XIX, §3(E)(1). If the chairperson approves ODC’s request, ODC may proceed with the filing of formal charges. (The chairperson may grant partial approval on whatever portions of the request meet the probable cause standard.)

Upon receiving the permission of a hearing committee chairperson, ODC may file formal charges. The formal charges shall “give fair and adequate notice of the nature of the alleged misconduct.” Rule XIX, §3(E). The charges are filed with the Disciplinary Board and served upon the respondent pursuant to Rule XIX, §13(A):

Service of Petition. Service upon the respondent of the petition in any disciplinary or disability proceeding shall be made by personal service, by any person authorized by the chair of the board, or by mailing the petition by registered or certified mail to the primary address shown in the registration statement filed by respondent pursuant to Section 8C or other last known address. Please note that "[s]ervice or proof of attempted service at the [respondent’s] primary registration address" constitutes adequate notice for the purposes of Rule XIX. Rule XIX, §8(C). Therefore, lawyers shall inform the Louisiana State Bar Association of any changes to their primary registration address. See Rule XIX, §8(C). See also Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.1(c).

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