The Investigative Process
An investigation is initiated by the filing of a request for investigation (also referred to as a "grievance"). The Grievance Administrator can initiate a request for investigation in his own name as well. A request for investigation filed by a complainant is initially evaluated by the Intake process to promptly determine whether an answer is required. In most instances, the request for investigation must be answered by the attorney (respondent). The intake process will again evaluate the matter to determine whether additional investigation is warranted. If not, the Grievance Administrator has the authority to dismiss the request for investigation. A request for reconsideration may be filed by a complainant if the request for investigation has been dismissed at this stage.
If additional investigation is needed, the matter is assigned to staff counsel. Investigations can vary in terms of length of time and in gathering materials or conducting research. The Grievance Administrator has non-attorney staff whose duties include gathering material and conducting witness interviews at the direction of staff counsel. When the investigation is concluded, the matter is submitted to the Commission (which meets on a monthly basis) for review and a determination.
There are essentially four different options the Commission can take:
- It can close a file;
- It can issue a consensual admonition to the respondent, which generally remains non-public
- It can place the respondent on consensual contractual probation, which also generally remains non-public; or
- It can authorize the filing of formal charges with the Attorney Discipline Board. The parties are advised in writing of the Commission's decision regarding the action taken.