Utah Supreme Court Forms OPC Oversight Committee
By Judge Diana Hagen and Keith A. Call
Nothing will raise a lawyer's blood pressure like getting a letter from the Office of Professional Conduct stating that you are under investigation for violation of the ethical rules. If you have ever seen such a letter, it probably included something like this: "We recognize that having our office involved in matters such as this can be inconvenient and unsettling." They are obviously Masters of Understatement.
What Is the OPC?
The Office of Professional Conduct (OPC) is comprised of a "senior counsel" appointed by the Board of Commissioners of the Utah State Bar, and other lawyers and non-lawyer staff appointed by the senior counsel. See Utah Sup.Ct. R. Prof 1 Practice 14-504. The purpose of the OPC is three-fold: (1) investigate allegations of attorneys violating the Rules of Professional Conduct; (2) prosecute those allegations in accordance with applicable rules; and (3) provide informal guidance to members of the Bar concerning professional conduct. See www.utahbar.org/opc/ (last visited Mar. 30, 2019). The Bar pays the salaries of OPC counsel and their staff. Utah Sup.Ct. R. Prof 1 Practice 14-505.
A few years ago, at the suggestion of the Utah State Bar, the Utah Supreme Court asked the American Bar Association (ABA) to conduct an evaluation of Utah's attorney discipline system and make recommendations for improvement. In 2017, the ABA submitted its findings in a written report available on the Utah Courts website. See American Bar Association, Utah Report on the Lawyer Discipline System (Apr. 2017), available at https://www.utcourts.gov/ resources/reports/docs/ ABA-OPC_Report.pdf. While noting the many strengths of Utah's existing system, the ABA recommended specific reforms designed to increase public trust and confidence in the system as well as the speed and efficiency of the process.
After receiving the report, the Utah Supreme Court formed an ad hoc committee to review the ABA's suggestions...