The Overseers of the Bar has by all appearances an open process of complaint for the public. If I was researching a lawyer I am able to view 13 years of complaints brought against 247 lawyers. Each decision has a link provided so that I can see what the complaint was about and the outcome – the decision handed out to that lawyer. While the disciplinary action is written out in a way that only a lawyer could love (legalistic, specific and dry) it dose give the reasoning behind the decision.
What do the numbers show us?
There are currently 247 lawyers that have complaints where decisions have been handed out by the Overseers. Those decisions amount to a total of 362.
Of the 247 lawyers who had complaints 179 appeared before the Overseers only once. The balance of 68 lawyers appeared on multiple occasions. Of those 68 lawyers 29 appeared 3 or more times. In terms of the decisions handed out those 68 lawyers had 183 (or 50.55%) of the decisions handed out to them.
What was the order that the Overseers of the Board handed out to these lawyers. There are 43 categories that summarizes what action the Overseers recommends. Most mean nothing to the casual observer – maybe this is intended. The focus is on those that have meaning.
Reprimand is the most popular order given out to a wayward lawyer. This was handed out 36% of the time or 131 instances. Suspension is another popular order being handed out 4.7% of the time. Dismissal was handed out 8 times in 13 years. What is interesting is that 17 lawyers resigned and only 5 were disbarred. Those that were disbarred represents only 2% of the population who manages to make it to this point.
It is important to reflect on these numbers as it speaks to the process that the Overseers has in place and their ability to provide oversight to the lawyers that they license. Is the Overseers of the Bar able to provide effective oversight of those they license? Is the process that is in place a fair and equitable process to consumers of legal services as well as to lawyers? Or does the process favor lawyers? Is the process one that the average consumer can understand and easily navigate through?
What is not clear to anyone is how many times complaints were started against a lawyer and then was dropped because of the financial cost and time it would take. Or was weeded out at one of the many layers that is intended to make the process fair. Of those lawyers that had multiple complaints – how many more were started but were never completed or weeded out? The result of such filtering would be to allow a problem lawyer to continue and cause pain and suffering.
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