Understanding the Grievance Process

The Grievance Committee of the Clermont County Bar Association has been given the authority by the Supreme Court of Ohio to investigate grievances against attorneys and judges which arise in Clermont County. Matters which arise in other counties may be directed to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Supreme Court of Ohio, 175 South Third Street, Suite 280, Columbus, Ohio 43215-5134, or to the Bar Association of the appropriate County.

The authority of the Grievance Committee is limited to the investigation of attorney misconduct which would be in violation of the specific Disciplinary Rules which are included in the attorneys’ Code of Professional Responsibility. The Bar Association has no authority to investigate other behavior by an attorney which the public may view as “unethical”, but which is not covered by the Disciplinary Rules. A fee dispute between you and your attorney usually cannot be investigated by the Grievance Committee, because most fee disputes do not involve professional misconduct. Fees are a matter of contract between the attorney and client, and the Bar Association is not a party to that contract. We do, however, offer a service of fee arbitration. If your grievance involves a fee dispute, we will be happy to send you information regarding this service.

There are several important limitations on how and when the Bar Association can take action in response to your allegations against an attorney. First, neither the Bar Association of its Grievance Committee can act as a court of appeals – it cannot change the outcome of your case or redeem your losses, whether monetary or otherwise. The only function of the Grievance Committee is to investigate allegations of attorney misconduct and to either seek sanctions against the attorney in the Ohio Supreme Court or to exonerate the attorney when no misconduct is found.

Second the Grievance Committee cannot interfere with ongoing court proceedings. The grievance process will not be used on behalf of one party in a lawsuit to put unfair pressure upon the other parties to that suit or upon the attorneys who are involved. The court system is the proper place for the resolution of civil or criminal disputes, and the injection of an attorney grievance into court proceedings is disruptive to the court system itself and may unfairly influence an attorney’s representation of his client.

Finally, it is important to recognize that the Bar Association and its Grievance Committee cannot give you legal advice or represent you. The Grievance Committees’ function is to investigate, and seek discipline for attorney misconduct. A person with a legal problem should consult an attorney, and cannot rely in the Bar Association for legal representation. You may pursue a cause of action in court against an attorney at the same time that your complaint against the attorney is investigated by the Grievance Committee. However, the Grievance Committee will not be representing you, and the grievance procedure is separate and distinct from any civil cause of action. The fact that you have filed a grievance with the Bar Association will not affect the time limitations for the proper filing of a civil lawsuit, whether that suit is against your attorney or against anyone else. The investigation of a grievance by the Bar Association will normally take from 60 to 90 days.

The Grievance Committee operates under rules adopted by the Supreme Court of Ohio which are designed to protect the public from attorney misconduct and to uphold the integrity of the Bar. It is the goal of the Grievance Committee members to thoroughly investigate the complaints of attorney misconduct in a manner that is fair to both the accused attorney and to the interests of the public.

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