Introduction

Click here to view a flowchart of the State Bar's disciplinary procedure.

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.

How the Disciplinary Hearing Commission (DHC) Works


 

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

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