State Bar Defense Attorney
Regardless of how long you have practiced law and how much you strive to adhere to the professional ethics of your profession, the day may still come when you receive a letter from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel informing you of a complaint filed against your law license. If you are an attorney faced with this situation, you may not be aware of the Rules of Conduct and the Disciplinary System in Pennsylvania, or the necessity of obtaining the services of an experienced state bar defense attorney to ensure you receive effective representation at both the administrative hearing and (potentially) criminal litigation levels.
Are you an attorney facing an accusation of unethical or illegal conduct, whether it involves a DUI issue or some other matter related to your practice of law in Pennsylvania? Is this accusation threatening your standing with the state bar and/or potentially placing you in jeopardy of being charged criminally? Our team at Fienman Defense is able to provide you with the representation you need to protect your license, your rights, and reputation.
Contact us today at (215) 839-9529 to arrange a consultation with a skilled professional license defense attorney.
Disciplinary System for Attorneys in Pennsylvania
The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania grants the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania the sole authority to regulate attorneys and levy disciplinary sanctions. Such discipline can be applied privately or publicly. A private issuance of discipline may be given from the Disciplinary Board with a reprimand, or through an informal admonition given by the Disciplinary Counsel. Publicly issued discipline may come in the form of a suspension, disbarment, public reprimand by the board, or public censure from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The Court itself has the final say on what, if any, public discipline will be implemented.
Through the Office of the Secretary, the Disciplinary Board manages the system and designates members of the Hearing Committee – these individuals are volunteer attorneys. The Board conducts a review of all disciplinary matters received for review by the Hearing Committee. If the Board determines that public discipline is necessary, it is issued by the Board and subsequently provided to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
As the defendant, it is vitally important for you to have an experienced state bar defense attorney managing your defense throughout the entire disciplinary complaint and hearing processes.
Disciplinary Complaint Process
All complaints against an individual attorney are to be made in writing and sent to the Office of the Secretary. The Secretary then sends the complaints to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, whose employees will perform an initial review of the complaints.
There are a number of grounds for discipline that involve violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct. These include, without limitation:
- Conviction of a crime
- Willful failure to appear before the Supreme Court, Board, or Disciplinary Counsel
- Private or public informal admonition or reprimand
- Failure to continue meeting the requirements for licensure
- Lying on your state bar application
- Failure to provide a statement of the respondent/attorney’s position after request by Disciplinary Counsel
There are also a number of different disciplinary actions that may be imposed upon a state bar licensee for these violations. They include, without limitation:
- Public censure
- Probation under supervision provided by the board
- Informal private admonition by Disciplinary Counsel
- Revocation of an attorney’s license for admission to practice law
You will hear about a disciplinary investigation against you through a form called a “Request for Respondents Statement of Position.” This form will outline the points of the complaint as well as the rules you allegedly broke. While you have 30 days to respond to this form, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel may allow you an extension to respond if necessary. A state bar defense attorney will help you respond appropriately to the allegations against you.
After your response is reviewed, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel may dismiss the complaint. Dismissals are sometimes granted for various reasons, including the discretion of the prosecutor, frivolous nature of the complaint, lack of jurisdiction, or Disciplinary Board policy.
If there is no dismissal of the complaint lodged against you, any recommendation by the Board must receive approval by a designated member of the Hearing Committee. Additionally, the prosecution must receive approval for the introduction of formal charges.
Once a decision regarding whether or not to prosecute you with formal charges has been made, a Petition for Discipline is filed against you. You then have 20 days to respond, with an additional 20-day extension if necessary. It is at this point that the proceedings are made public.
A pre-hearing conference occurs 30 days prior to the hearing in order to go over various issues pertaining to evidence, stipulations, exhibits, expert witnesses, and discovery. The burden of proof standard at a hearing is “clear and convincing evidence.”
The evidence is then provided to the Hearing Committee. Upon evaluation, said committee will issue a report that stipulates whether or not the Rules of Professional Conduct have been violated. If it is determined that you have violated the Rules of Professional Conduct, you face disciplinary sanctions. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel and your attorney have an opportunity to brief the Board in of this decision and possible sanctions.
The Board conducts a review of the Hearing Committee. The Supreme Court conducts a review of the Disciplinary Board, and then issues its own decision about how the matter should be resolved.
DUI Convictions as a Lawyer
If you are convicted of a criminal charge in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania such as DUI, your state bar license to practice may be in jeopardy.
As a lawyer convicted of a DUI charge in Pennsylvania, you’re required to report your conviction to the Disciplinary Board. Failure to disclose your charges and conviction may subject you to losing your license and ability to practice law. As a licensed lawyer with DUI felony issues, you may suffer a lengthy suspension or revocation of your State Bar license.
It is essential to obtain the skilled counsel of a state bar defense lawyer from the initial stages of your DUI arrest to the end of your case in order to have the best representation throughout the process.
The Problem With Self-Representation
When they find themselves in need of legal counsel, attorneys sometimes opt to defend themselves. However, lawyers sometimes make mediocre or weak advocates for themselves, particularly if they don’t have knowledge or experience in the specific practice area.
Do you have a complete understanding of differences between civil and disciplinary issues? Unless you have experience at handling disciplinary issues before a Hearing Committee and understand the requirements and nuances of an administrative hearing, as opposed to the skills required to defend a client and a civil case in court, you may not manage your state bar defense in the most effective manner.
The Need for State Bar Defense
Due to the fact that a state bar complaint can result in serious disciplinary action, there is no substitute for having a highly effective state bar defense attorney directing your defense from start to finish.
At Fienman Defense, we are able to aggressively defend the charges against you, and facilitate the most appropriate response to persuade the Hearing Committee that you are fit to practice your profession.
The various types of disciplinary matters we can help you with before the Disciplinary Board include:
- Moral turpitude
- Matters pertaining to a conviction
- Client complaints
- Lapses in judgment or ethics
- Conflicts of interest
- Violations involving IOLTA or other third-party funds
- Breaches of fiduciary duty
- Alcohol or controlled substance dependency issues
Contact an Experienced Philadelphia State Bar Defense Attorney
If you are facing a pending or already filed disciplinary action against you from the Pennsylvania State Disciplinary Board that is threatening your livelihood and future as an attorney, it is important to have experienced representation working on your behalf. At Fienman Defense, we have your tirelessly on your behalf.
Contact our office today at (215) 839-9529 to set up a consultation to discuss your case.