I just learned that my attorney is facing an ethics charge, what should I do?
21 December 2023
Answer: Learn the ethics complaint process (timeline), the likelihood of suspension occurring in your attorney’s case, and consider changing counsel, and do all this right away.
There is a process to an ethics complaint. It can take a while. There are a few stages of ‘investigation.’ If it gets to the serious stage, there is a decision issued from the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers ethics board that decides whether to seek a petition to a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court and stating what exactly it will seek and why. At that point, the attorney is not suspended, but the writing it on the wall, in the author’s opinion, if suspension is recommended by the board’s decision. In other words, it is just a matter of time. Then the board petitions the Supreme Judicial Court to a single justice session and there is a hearing. The single justice issues a decision imposing the decision. Understand, once a single justice issues a decision, generally, its effect cannot be stayed by appeal, and the attorney is suspended on the date stated in the decision. Supreme Judicial Court Rule 2:23 (a). Typically, the attorney cannot take on new clients, must withdraw all cases upon suspension, which is effective in 30 days.
A lawyer claiming a single justice’s decision could be appealed and the imposition of his suspension would be stayed upon that appeal was the bold faced lie the author witnessed an opposing counsel tell the court and apparently to his client. The issue was whether the attorney would be licensed by the time trial would occur, and opposing counsel did everything to convince others he would continue to be licensed come trial time. This was until the single justice decision was issued and gave him 30 days to withdraw from the case. Needless to say, he didn’t make the trial, and it was exposed that he hoodwinked the judge. What can be done, you might ask. What can be done to an attorney already under an order suspending their license in 30 days? Not much.
Another take away is to search the Board of Bar Overseers website for the status of your lawyer’s license. If a complaint is pending, at least at a mature stage, it will appear on the website. You can find it here: https://www.massbbo.org/s/. You can also learn if your attorney is covered by malpractice insurance and his official office address.
There is another significant consideration, your lawyer’s dedication to your case. Consider that the lawyer might be expecting to be suspended, and have one foot out the door, so to speak. How effective can he be if he will need a new career upon a certain date? Probably, not very.
Again, start taking action in anticipation for what may be next.
In the event you discover your attorney is facing professional discipline, feel free to give this office a call.