It’s 2012, Do You Know If The Attorney You Are Choosing Has A Disciplinary History?

In the long-running saga of Lindsay Lohan’s legal troubles, every single misstep — each dirty drug test, every missed court appearance, even a profane message etched on her fingernail — was publicized, scrutinized and dissected in tabloids the world over.

But there were two allegations of misconduct that came and went quietly, out of public view. They weren’t transgressions by the former teen star growing up in the limelight. They were by two veteran judges presiding over her case.

L. A. County Superior Court Judges Marsha Revel and Elden Fox at the Beverly Hills courthouse were reproached by the state’s Commission on Judicial Performance for their handling of Lohan’s DUI case, according to documents obtained by The Times.

This excerpt from Victoria Kim’s July 15, 2012 article in the Los Angeles Times, Oversight Panel Disciplines Judges in Lindsay Lohan Case, (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lohan-judges-20120715,0,5277330.story), brings to light disciplinary actions against two judges that would otherwise be kept from the public eye.

Does the same hold true for attorneys?  Are attorney disciplinary actions kept from the public?

More importantly, can a legal consumer find out whether their lawyer, or potential lawyer, has any disciplinary complaints against them, how many, for what, etc.?

The answer, in the vast majority of cases, is NO!

HALT (Help Abolish Legal Tyranny) – An Organization of Americans for Legal Reform, Inc., founded in 1978, seeks to raise awareness of this issue among others. See http://www.halt.org/what-we-do-for-you/hold-lawyers-accountable/lawyer-discipline/discipline-transparency.  According to HALT,

In today’s online information age, consumers can easily learn where a lawyer went to school, how long he or she has been in practice, [and] whether or not the attorney is in good standing with the state bar . . . . What the vast majority of Americans cannot easily discover, however, is whether the attorney they are considering hiring has a disciplinary record. . . . They have no way of knowing the number of complaints, the type of misconduct alleged, the number of investigations started, the number dismissed, and if misconduct is found, the type of severity of discipline imposed.

What legal consumers may also not know, is that the attorney disciplinary systems in the various states are almost all regulated by attorneys.  Also, according to HALT, over 30 years ago, an American Bar Association Committee headed by then retired Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark “pointed out that a panel of lawyers . . . were running the disciplinary system,” and that “this institutional bias rendered the system ineffective.” Just over 20 years later, an American Bar Association Committee headed by academic Robert McKay “noted that where elected bar officials controlled all or parts of a state disciplinary system, a conflict of interest was created.”  See http://www.halt.org/what-we-do-for-you/hold-lawyers-accountable/lawyer-discipline.

Unfortunately, there are currently no answers.  But, focusing on these issues and bringing them to light may start the process to eventually finding an answer to this conflict of interest for the benefit of all legal consumers.

You’ve got options.  The Center for Legal Practice Reform can help you navigate the attorney/client relationship and level the playing field.  Call LPR today for a free consultation – (301) 351-7970. 

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