Professional Disciplinary Proceedings Against Attorneys in Florida
Some professionals expend an unbelievable amount of time and energy to become members of their respective professions. The years of education only provide an initial foundation. Then, in order to begin your career, you take a test to prove your knowledge and ability. Furthermore, several professions require you to affirm your commitment to ethical behavior and professional industry standards. Finally, when all of these elements are successfully completed, you can begin working in your chosen career. But all of this hard work and effort can be negated by a single lapse in judgment or solitary mistake.
A recent article in the Tampa Tribune discussed disciplinary proceedings against several Florida lawyers regarding alleged behavior towards another attorney. According to the article, the committee found the following possible rule violations:
- Engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, including knowingly or through callous indifference, disparaging, humiliating, or discriminating against parties in a lawsuit, jurors, witnesses, court personnel or other lawyers;
- Conduct involving fraud, dishonesty, deceit or misrepresentation;
- Violating or attempting to violate the Bar’s rules of professional conduct, or knowingly assisting or inducing someone else to break the rules;
- In representing a client, using means chiefly to embarrass, delay or burden a third person, or knowingly using methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of such a person.
- Presenting, participating in presenting, or threatening to present criminal charges solely to get an advantage in a civil matter; and
- Unlawfully obstructing a person’s access to evidence or altering, destroying or concealing a document or other material a lawyer should know is relevant to a pending or foreseeable proceeding.
The Disciplinary Process for Attorneys
Facing a professional disciplinary hearing is an extremely stressful challenge. You are placed in a situation where not only are your actions questioned, but your morals and fitness to continue in your profession. A negative finding can result in your inability to continue in your career of choice, causing significant financial, professional and personal hardships. These proceedings should be handled with an aggressive defense that rigorously asserts your fitness to continue in your career.
Within the Florida Bar, attorney grievance matters start when a complaint is received from a source. The process then proceeds as follows
- An initial intake investigation is completed and a preliminary decision to dismiss or move forward is made;
- If the decision is made to move forward, the file is forwarded to the grievance committee;
- Committee determines any probable cause. If found, a referee is appointed. If there is no probable cause found, the case is dismissed;
- Trial is held and Bar recommendations are made to the Supreme Court; and
- Supreme Court makes the final disciplinary decision, with sanctions ranging from public admonishment to disbarment.
Attorneys are not the only professionals who may face disciplinary proceedings. Engineers, architects and real estate agents are all subject to similar actions. Additional professions include doctors, teachers and accountants. Regardless of your career, you want to protect your ability to work, and it is important to secure the services of an experienced attorney if your license is ever in jeopardy.
If you are facing a professional disciplinary proceeding, call the Miami firm of Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC today at 305-600-3519 for a confidential and free consultation.