May 27, 2018
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How to file an ethics complaint against a lawyer

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

Every lawyer admitted to practice law in the state is required to follow a code of conduct and rules issued by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. The Board of Overseers of the Bar administers and enforces those rules.

Complaints concerning alleged ethical violations by lawyers must be signed and submitted in writing to the Board of Overseers on a form obtained from its Augusta office or website. Once complaints have been received they are investigated by the lawyers who work as bar counsel for the board.

When an investigation is completed, bar counsel submits the case to a review panel of the grievance commission with a recommendation to:

• Dismiss the case because no violation occurred.

• Dismiss the case with a warning to the attorney.

• Refer the case to a three-member panel for a disciplinary hearing.

Disciplinary hearings are conducted in a manner similar to a civil trial. All witnesses are sworn, and bar counsel represents the Board of Overseers’ case, including information provided in a complaint. Lawyers may choose to represent themselves or hire other lawyers to represent them, the people who filed the complaints may testify before the panel.

The hearing panel makes one of the following findings:

• No violation occurred and the case will be dismissed.

• A violation did occur, but it was minor is not likely to be repeated, and the case will be dismissed with a warning to the lawyer.

• A violation of the rules occurred, and a public reprimand of the lawyer will be issued.

• A serious violation of the rules occurred and further disciplinary charges will be filed with the Supreme Judicial Court.

Hearings concerning a serious violation are held by a justice of the state supreme court. In a public order issued by the justice, the lawyer may be reprimanded, suspended or disbarred.

For information on filing a complaint with the Board of Overseers of the Bar, call 623-1121 or visit the board’s website at

Source: Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar

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