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.0112 Investigations: Initial Determination; Notice and Response; Committee Referrals

(a) Investigation Authority - Subject to the policy supervision of the council and the control of the chair of the Grievance Committee, the counsel, or other personnel under the authority of the counsel, will investigate the grievance and submit to the chair a report detailing the findings of the investigation.

(b) Grievance Committee Action on Initial or Interim Reports - As soon as practicable after the receipt of the initial or any interim report of the counsel concerning any grievance, the chair of the Grievance Committee may

(1) treat the report as a final report;
(2) direct the counsel to conduct further investigation, including contacting the respondent in writing or otherwise; or
(3) direct the counsel to send a letter of notice to the respondent.

(c) Letter of Notice, Respondent’s Response, and Request for Copy of Grievance - Ifthe counsel serves a letter of notice upon the respondent, it will be served by certified mail and will direct that a response be provided within 15 days of serviceof the letter of notice upon the respondent. The response to the letter of notice shall include a full and fair disclosure of all facts and circumstances pertaining to the alleged misconduct. The response must be in writing and signed by the respondent. If the respondent requests it, the counsel will provide the respondent with a copy of the written grievance unless the complainant requests anonymity pursuant to Rule .0111(d) of this subchapter.

(d) Request for Copy of Respondent’s Response - The counsel may provide to the complainant a copy of the respondent’s response to the letter of notice unless the respondent objects thereto in writing.

(e) Termination of Further Investigation - After the Grievance Committeereceivesthe response to a letter of notice, the counsel may conduct further investigation or terminate the investigation, subject to the control of the chair of the Grievance Committee.

(f) Subpoenas - For reasonable cause, the chair of the Grievance Committee may issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses, including the respondent, for examination concerning the grievance and may compel the production of books, papers, and other documents or writings which the chair deems necessary or material to the inquiry. Each subpoena will be issued by the chair or by the secretary at the direction of the chair. The counsel, deputy counsel, investigator, or any members of the Grievance Committee designated by the chair may examine any such witness under oath or otherwise.

(g) Grievance Committee Action on Final Reports – The Grievance Committee will consider the grievance as soon as practicable after it receives the final report of the counsel, except as otherwise provided in these rules.

(h) Failure of Complainant to Sign and Dismissal Upon Request of Complainant - The investigation into alleged misconduct of the respondent will not be abated by failure of the complainant to sign a grievance, by settlement or compromise of a dispute between the complainant and the respondent, or by the respondent’s payment of restitution. The chair of the Grievance Committee may dismiss a grievance upon request of the complainant and with consent of the counsel where it appears that there is no probable cause to believe that the respondent violated the Rules of Professional Conduct.

(i) Referral to Law Office Management Training

(1) If, at any time before a finding of probable cause, the Grievance Committee determines that the alleged misconduct is primarily attributable to the respondent’s failure to employ sound law office management techniques and procedures, the committee may offer the respondent an opportunity to voluntarily participate in a law office management training program approved by the State Bar before the committee considers discipline.
If the respondent accepts the committee’s offer to participate in the program,the respondent will then be required to complete a course of training in law office management prescribed by the chair which may include a comprehensive site audit of the respondent’s records and procedures as well as attendance at continuing legal education seminars. If the respondent does not accept the committee’s offer, the grievance will be returned to the committee’s agenda for consideration of imposition of discipline.
(2) Completion of Law Office Management Training Program – If the respondent successfully completes the law office management training program, thecommitteemay consider the respondent’ssuccessfulcompletion of the law office management training program as a mitigating circumstance and may, but is not required to, dismiss the grievance for good cause shown. If the respondent fails to successfully completethelaw office management training program as agreed, the grievance will be returned to the committee’s agenda for consideration of imposition of discipline. The requirement that a respondent complete law office management training pursuant to this rule shall be in addition to the respondent’s obligation to satisfy the minimum continuing legal education requirements contained in 27 N.C.A.C. 1D .1517.

(j) Referral to Lawyer Assistance Program

(1) If, at any time before a finding of probable cause, the Grievance Committee determines that the alleged misconduct is primarily attributable to the respondent’s substance abuse or mental health problem, the committee may offer the respondent an opportunity to voluntarily participate in a rehabilitation program under the supervision of the Lawyer Assistance Program Board before the committee considers discipline.
If the respondent accepts the committee’s offer to participate in a rehabilitation program, the respondent must provide the committee with a written acknowledgement of the referral on a form approved by the chair. The acknowledgement of the referral must include the respondent’s waiver of any right of confidentiality that might otherwise exist to permit the Lawyer Assistance Program to provide the committee with the information necessary for the committee to determine whether the respondent is in compliance with the rehabilitation program.If the respondent does not accept the committee’s offer, the grievance will be returned to the committee’s agenda for consideration of imposition of discipline.
(2) Completion of Rehabilitation Program – If the respondent successfully completes the rehabilitation program, the committee may consider successful completion of the program as a mitigating circumstance and may, but is not required to, dismiss the grievance for good cause shown. If the respondent fails to complete the rehabilitation program or fails to cooperate with the Lawyer Assistance Program Board, the Lawyer Assistance Program will report that failure to the counsel and the grievance will be returned tothe committee’s agenda for consideration of imposition of discipline.

(k) Referral to Trust Accounting Compliance Program

(1) If, at any time before a finding of probable cause, the Grievance Committee determines that the alleged misconduct is primarily attributable to the respondent’s failure to employ sound trust accounting techniques, the committee may offer the respondent an opportunity to voluntarily participate in the State Bar’s Trust Account Compliance Program for up to two years before the committee considers discipline.
If the respondent accepts the committee’s offer to participate in the compliance program,the respondent must fully cooperate with the Trust Account Compliance Counsel and must provide to the Office of Counsel quarterly proof of compliance with all provisions of Rule 1.15 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Such proof shall be in a form satisfactory to the Office of Counsel. If the respondent does not accept the committee’s offer, the grievance will be returned to the committee’s agenda for consideration of imposition of discipline.
(2) Completion of Trust Account Compliance Program -Ifthe respondentsuccessfully completes the program, the committee may consider successful completion of the program as a mitigating circumstance and may, but is not required to, dismiss the grievance for good cause shown. If the respondent does not fully cooperate with the Trust Account Compliance Counsel and/ordoes not successfully complete the program,the grievance will be returnedto the committee’s agenda for consideration of imposition of discipline.
(3) The committee will not refer to the program any case involving possible misappropriation of entrusted funds, criminal conduct, dishonesty, fraud, misrepresentation, or deceit, or any other case the committee deems inappropriate for referral. The committee will not refer to the program any respondent who has not cooperated fully and timely with the committee’s investigation.If the Office of Counsel or the committee discovers evidence that a respondent who is participating in the program may have misappropriated entrusted funds, engaged in criminal conduct, or engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, misrepresentation, or deceit, the chair will terminate the respondent’s participation in the program and the disciplinary process will proceed. Referral to the Trust Accounting Compliance Program is not a defense to allegations that a lawyer misappropriated entrusted funds, engaged in criminal conduct, or engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, misrepresentation, or deceit, and it does not immunize a lawyer from the disciplinary consequences of such conduct.

History Note: Statutory Authority G.S. 84-23

Readopted Effective December 8, 1994

Amendments Approved by the Supreme Court: February 20, 1995; March 6, 1997; December 30, 1998; December 20, 2000; March 6, 2002; March 10, 2011; August 25, 2011; August 23, 2012; March 5, 2015

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