State Bar Discipline Attorney in Montebello
Your Guide From Complaint to Decision & Appeal
Most attorneys aren’t aware of what to expect with the State Bar discipline process until they go through it. At State Bar Help, we’re focused on helping California attorneys and law students alike. We work to help students and lawyers better understand the regulatory processes that govern the legal profession.
By providing an overview of how the California State Bar’s disciplinary process works, we hope to better prepare attorneys facing charges. For attorneys or law students not undergoing such scrutiny, we hope the following information is informative. We hope this illuminates the importance of ensuring your practices closely comply with the expectations set forth by the state bar.
California State Bar Association Disciplinary Actions: A Six-Step Process
When you face charges levied against you by the State Bar, the process can be broken down into six phases. From complaint to investigation, litigation, and imposition of disciplinary measures, you are legally obligated to cooperate in the process. It is just as how your clients would be expected to cooperate in any investigation or litigation involving their affairs.
Phase 1: A Complaint Is Submitted
The State Bar’s disciplinary process is mostly driven by the submission of complaints. These complaints can come from anyone, but most often are from the attorney’s current or former clients.
Complaints aren’t the only way the State Bar can open an inquiry or investigation against you. However, it is by far the most common means of doing so. Should the State Bar receive information by other means that would otherwise prompt an investigation, it may do so.
Another way the State Bar will be prompted to act is if you are charged with a crime. This is especially true if the crime could be directly tied to your abilities and privileges as a lawyer.
Phase 2: The Complaint Is Investigated
The investigation of a complaint against you will be handled by the State Bar’s Office of Enforcement. Investigators will collect information pertinent to the complaint, and you may be contacted to provide them with relevant documents.
You may not decline to cooperate in the investigation. However, you can assert certain privileges afforded by law and the Constitution that protect you from self-incrimination. During the investigation, you may also be subpoenaed to conduct depositions or provide additional documentation.
Phase 3: The Prosecutor Pursues Charges
The State Bar’s prosecutor will examine the evidence collected during the investigation. They will then determine whether or not to prosecute the charges against you. Keep in mind that the burden of proof is only clear and convincing. This means the case against you doesn’t need to be as iron-clad as if you were facing criminal charges.
Because of this, prosecutors with even flimsy cases against you may be inclined to move to trial anyway. You should expect the prosecutor to take your case until it is clear the charges against you won’t be pursued.
Phase 4: The Prosecutor Initiates Litigation in State Bar Court
The State Bar Court is a real court with real judges. The only difference between it and the courts you’re accustomed to is that its procedures are governed by the State Bar Rules of Procedure – not the Penal Code or Civil Procedure Code.
Litigation begins when the prosecutor files a notice of disciplinary charges against you. You will have 20 days to respond to these charges before a default judgment admitting the charges against you. Discovery will also occur during litigation, but it’s typically limited to an exchange of documents and witnesses.
Phase 5: Trial & Decision
Your trial will occur within 125 days after disciplinary charges have been filed against you in court. Five judges will preside during the hearing and reach a decision. In many cases, a settlement can be reached before trial.
Phase 6: Transmittal of Hearing Dept. Decision & Disciplinary Actions
Whatever the judges decide in The State Bar Court is deemed a recommendation. That recommendation is then sent to the California Supreme Court for final approval. This is especially the base for suspensions and disbarment. However, the State Bar Court does have some authority to impose lesser sanctions without approval from the state’s highest court.
In most cases, the California Supreme Court is inclined to adopt The State Bar Court’s recommendations. It typically does so within five months of the original decision’s transmittal.
How the California State Bar conducts its disciplinary process may seem straightforward, but it’s a legal process that adheres to regulations and rules you may not be familiar with.
Our State Bar discipline attorney in Montebello can help you understand this process and represent you at any point along the way should you require legal support.
For assistance, reach out to State Bar Help by filling out our online contact form today!