How Lawyers are Disciplined
This article appeared in the June 1, 2007, edition of the News & Observer. Written by the State Bar's Executive Director, it explains who the State Bar is, gives an overview of the disciplinary process, and what are the possible outcomes.
All North Carolina lawyers must follow a code of ethics called the Rules of Professional Conduct. The North Carolina State Bar's job is to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute lawyers for violating those Rules.
If you think a lawyer has done something dishonest or unethical, you may file a complaint about the lawyer with the State Bar. The State Bar will review your complaint and, if the misconduct is proven, the State Bar may discipline the lawyer.
Here are some examples of the kinds of conduct that the NC State Bar can investigate:
Your lawyer reveals confidential information without your permission
Your lawyer misses important deadlines
Your lawyer fails to tell you what is happening in your case
Your lawyer won't turn over money s/he is holding for you
Your lawyer represents someone whose interests conflict with yours
Not every disagreement between a lawyer and client involves a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct, however. There are matters outside the jurisdiction of the State Bar as well as legal disputes that must be decided by the courts. Here are some examples of the kinds of conduct that the NC State Bar typically does not investigate.
Complaints that a lawyer provided ineffective assistance of counsel in a criminal case
Complaints that a lawyer has breached a contract or has failed to pay a debt
Complaints that a district attorney decided not to prosecute a particular individual
Complaints that are more than six years old—complaints must be filed within six years after the misconduct occurred
Complaints against lawyers from other states
Complaints about North Carolina judges go to the NC Judicial Standards Commission, PO Box 1122, Raleigh NC 27602
THE NORTH CAROLINA STATE BAR
217 E. Edenton Street • PO Box 25908 • Raleigh, NC 27611-5908 • 919.828.4620
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