Questions & Answers About Filing A Complaint Against A Lawyer
"The mission and purpose of the Association is to maintain a proper
discipline of the memebers of the bar in accourdance with these Rules and
with the principles of the legal profession as a public calling..."
Kentucky Supreme Court Rule 3.025
Office of Bar Counsel
Kentucky Bar Association
514 West Main Street
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601-1883
Phone (502) 564-3795 Fax (502) 564-3225
Board of Governors
What are the ethical duties of a lawyer in KY?
What can be done to a lawyer who is guilty of
What should I do if I think a lawyer is guilty of
What will happen after I file a complaint?
What should I expect from filing a complaint?
Q: What are the ethical duties of a lawyer in KY?
Lawyers who practice in Kentucky are required to meet professional
standards issued by the state Supreme Court. These standards are officially
known as the Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct, and are often simply
called "the Rules." The Kentucky Bar Association (KBA) is empowered by the
Supreme Court to investigate violations of the Rules.
The Rules require a lawyer to do certain things for each and every client, no
matter what type of legal matter is involved. For example, they require the
lawyer to represent the client competently and diligently. They also require
the lawyer to keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the case
as it proceeds.
The Rules also prohibit the lawyer from doing certain things that are
considered to be unethical and unprofessional. For example, they prohibit the
lawyer from taking a case that involves a conflict of interest, from
disclosing confidential information without the client's permission, and from
charging an unreasonable fee for the work performed. The Supreme Court
decides whether these duties have been violated in a particular case.
The Rules are written in simple, easy-to-understand language. They are
contained in Supreme Court Rule 3.130, which can be found in the rules volume
of the Kentucky Revised Statutues. The Kentucky Revised Statutes are
available in the reference departments of most public libraries, and may also
be found in the law library at any courthouse.
Q: What can be done to a lawyer who is guilty of
The Supreme Court has the power to discipline a lawyer who is guilty of
professional misconduct. For Exmaple, it can:
- issue a public reprimand against the lawyer;
- suspend the lawyer's license to practice in
Kentucky for a period of months or years; or
- enter an order of disbarment prohibiting the
from practing law in Kentucky.
Of course, the sanction to a particular case will depend on the nature of the
misconduct and the surrounding circumstances.
The sanction only affects the lawyer's right to practice law. It is not a
ruling that the lawyer is guilty of malpractice, or a decision in favor of any
person making a claim against the lawyer. A disciplinary proceeding will not
have any direct effect on the case in which the misconduct occurred.
Q: What should I do if I think a lawyer is
guilty of misconduct?
The Staff of the KBA Office of Bar Counsel investigates complaints against
lawyers and prosecutes any charges that may be authorized by the Inquiry
If you believe a lawyer is guilty of professional misconduct, you should file
a complaint with the KBA. The complaint must be in writing, but you can
obtain a simple form to fill out by calling or writing the Office of Bar
Counsel at the address shown on this brochure.
You should follow these guidelines when preparing a complaint:
- Go strait to the point and state exactly what the lawyer has done
failed to do which makes you believe the lawyer is guilty of misconduct.
- Concentrate on stating facts, not your impression or conclusions.
For example, if you believe your lawyer has neglected your case, you should
state what you know about the staut of the case and the work performed by your
lawyer. It is not enough to allege that the case has been neglected.
- Attach copies of documents that support your account of the facts.
- Make sure the complaint is sworn and notarized before submitting it
to the KBA. This is an official requirement of the Supreme Court Rules, so
don't be surprised when the complaint is returned to you without any action if
it is not sworn and notarized.
Q: What will happen after I file a complaint?
You will receive letters that explain each step of the process along the way.
The basic steps are:
- Initial review and investigation. First,
a staff attorney in the Office of Bar Counsel will review your complaint to
determine whether the facts you have provided could consitute a case of
professional misconduct if they are prove to be true.
If your complaint does not present a case of
professional misconduct, it will be returned to your or, if the KBA can help
in another way, it may be referred to another office of the KBA.
If your complaint does provide facts that may
constitute professional misconduct, it will be forwarded to the lawyer for a
response and will also be assigned to a staff attorney in the Office of Bar
Counsel for analysis and investigation.
- Review by Inquiry Commission. After the
staff investigation is complete, the case will be reviewed by an independent
panel of three people (two lawyers and one non-lawyer), who are members of
the Inquiry Commission.
The Inquiry Commission is appointed by the Supreme
Court to serve as a "grand jury" in disciplinary cases. It reviews the
entire record of each complaint investigated by the Office of Bar Counsel.
Based on the review, it will decide:
- whether there is probable cause to believe that the lawyer is guilty
of misconduct, and
- if so, whether the violation is serious enough to justify a formal
If the Inquiry Commission decides that a charge is not appropriate, it
may dismissthe complaint, require additional investigation, or issue a letter
of reproval, called a private admonition, to the attorney.
- Hearing by Trial Commissioner. If a
charge is issued by the lawyer disputes your account of what occurred, an
evidentiary hearing may be held. An attorney from the Office of Bar Counsel
will present evidence in support of the charge, and may ask you to appear
as a witness. The hearing is conducted by a Trial Commissioner, who reviews
the evidence and renders a report with recommendations on how the case
should be decided.
- Appeal to Board of Governors. If the
Office of Bar Counsel or the respondent is not satisfied with the Trial
Commissioner's recommendation, either may appeal the case to the Board of
Governors of the KBA.
- Entry of Final Order by Supreme Court.
After the case has passed through all of the necessary steps, the Supreme
Court will issue an official order stating the terms of discipline, if any.
Q: What should I expect from filing a complaint?
Supreme Court Rules regarding Professionalism of lawyers
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