Focus on Ethics & Civility

JurisdictionUtah,United States
CitationVol. 34 No. 3 Pg. 46
Publication year2021
Focus on Ethics & Civility
No. Vol. 34 No. 3 Pg. 46
Utah Bar Journal
June, 2021

May, 2021

Lawyer Discipline Process

by Adam M. Pace and Keith A. Call

Letter from the Utah Office of Professional Conduct

Dear [insert your name here]:

This is to notify you that the Office of Professional Conduct (OPC) has received information concerning your conduct as a lawyer. A copy of the information is enclosed. We recognize that having our office involved in matters such as this can be inconvenient and unsettling. Although the information received does not constitute a Bar complaint, the OPC has a duty to screen all information coming to its attention that may relate to misconduct of an attorney. We will undertake an investigation of this matter and will either open an OPC informal complaint or decline to prosecute the matter.

Sincerely, Office of Professional Conduct

Inconvenient and unsettling? That’s the understatement of the year. Your initial reaction to receiving a letter like this might include going straight to the restroom, losing several nights’ sleep, and becoming functionally incapacitated for a time. But then what are you going to do? We will help you understand the process.

The attorney discipline process is governed by the Rules of Lawyer Discipline, Disability, and Sanctions, which are found in Chapter 11, Article 5 of the Utah Code of Judicial Administration. The OPC functions as the prosecutor – it investigates allegations of misconduct and decides whether to press charges. See R. 11-521. The process consists of three phases: preliminary investigation; screening panel proceedings; and district court proceedings.

Preliminary Investigation

First, the OPC receives a complaint from someone regarding attorney misconduct or, in some cases, files a complaint itself. R. 11-530(a). The OPC conducts a preliminary investigation to determine whether the complaint can be resolved informally. Rule 11-530(c)–(e). If the complaint cannot be resolved informally, or if good cause otherwise exists, the OPC serves on the lawyer the complaint and a notice, which identifies with particularity the possible violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct. R. 11-530(e). The lawyer then has twenty-one days to file an answer explaining the facts surrounding the complaint together with all defenses and responses to the claims of possible misconduct. R. 11-530(f). After the answer is filed, or if the lawyer fails to respond, the OPC refers the...

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