What is attorney discipline?
All attorneys licensed to practice law in Nevada are sworn to uphold the ethical standards of conduct adopted by the Supreme Court of Nevada. These standards are listed in the Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1 through 8.5 and are enforced by the State Bar of Nevada. Any attorney who violates these ethical standards is subject to discipline.
Forms of discipline
Discipline of lawyers in Nevada may take one of four forms depending on the particular circumstances and the severity of the offense. These four disciplinary sanctions are as follows:
1. A letter of reprimand which is kept on permanent file with the State Bar. This may be accompanied by a fine or restitution up to $1,000;
2. A public reprimand which is published in the local newspapers and official State Bar publications;
3. Suspension of the lawyer’s license to practice law; or
Note: Effective March 1, 2007, disbarment is irrevocable.
Who should file a complaint?
A formal complaint against a lawyer is a serious matter. If you believe a lawyer has committed an unprofessional or unethical act, file a complaint. However, if your grievance is the result of some misunderstanding or breakdown in communication with your lawyer, first sit down and talk openly and honestly with the lawyer. Tell your lawyer that you are unhappy or confused and ask for a full explanation in terms that you can understand. Such a meeting may clear up the problem.
How do I file a complaint?
You may file a complaint by writing a letter which clearly states the facts involved in your grievance. Send your letter and copies of any supporting documents to the State Bar of Nevada Office of Bar Counsel at the closest office to you. No special language or form is necessary. However, for your convenience an online form has been prepared to assist you in filing a complaint.
The complaint may be sent via U.S. Mail or fax to the closest State Bar. The addresses and fax numbers are located at the bottom of this page. You may also e-mail your complaint to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While an initial e-mail or online complaint will be accepted, all correspondence from the State Bar will be in writing via U.S. Mail. If you send attachments, you should confirm that they were received. Please note that you may be required to resubmit any online attachments in hard copy by U.S. Mail.
The Office of Bar Counsel usually completes the initial review of all complaints within ten business days of receipt. We will let you know if we require additional information. Unfortunately, we are unable to meet with you in person about your complaint. Should you have any questions about the status of your complaint, please call your closest State Bar office.
What happens next?
Your complaint will be reviewed by the Office of Bar Counsel staff to determine whether or not the conduct complained of raises an ethical issue under the Rules of Professional Conduct. If your complaint does involve an ethical issue, then Bar Counsel asks the lawyer involved for a written response to your complaint and an investigation is conducted. The matter is then presented to an impartial Screening Panel who decides whether the case should be heard by a hearing panel of the Disciplinary Board. If your complaint has no factual basis, or even if true would not constitute misconduct, your complaint will be dismissed and you will be notified of that dismissal.
You should recognize, however, that the Office of Bar Counsel and the Disciplinary Board cannot and does not give legal advice, does not have jurisdiction over damage or malpractice claims against attorneys and cannot alter or affect in any way the outcome of private legal matters in court. If you need additional advice on your case, you must obtain the assistance of your own attorney.
You can also view a flowchart showing the discipline process.
What is a Disciplinary Board?
Disciplinary Boards are the pool of lawyers and non-lawyers who are appointed to individual hearing panels to hear the case against an attorney. There are two Disciplinary Boards, one each in northern and southern Nevada. Supreme Court Rules require that at least one non-lawyer be appointed to each hearing panel.
What are the procedures for hearing a complaint?
When a complaint is referred to a hearing panel, the Chair of the Disciplinary Board will appoint either three or five members to hear a particular complaint. Bar Counsel serves as the prosecutor. Hearings can be either informal or formal depending on the severity of the alleged misconduct.
Is the discipline process public or confidential?
Proceedings before a Screening Panel are confidential. For matters filed after March 1, 2007 (when the Supreme Court changed the rule), matters become public when a formal complaint is filed or the matter is concluded.
What can you expect from the State Bar?
You can expect us to treat your complaint with fairness and dispatch. We are genuinely concerned about your complaint and we will handle it as quickly as possible. The Office of Bar Counsel will keep you informed at each stage of your case. If your complaint is referred to a hearing panel you may be contacted by the investigator assigned to your case. You may be called as a witness before a hearing panel. At the conclusion of the case, we will notify you of the final outcome with an explanation of the result.
In certain limited cases, a panel may order restitution, requiring the attorney to repay fees or other monies given to the attorney. The possibility of restitution depends on the specific facts of each case.
What if you have a complaint about a judge?
The State Bar does not have jurisdiction over the conduct of judges in Nevada. If you have a complaint about a judge, you may contact the Commission on Judicial Discipline, P.O. Box 48, Carson City, NV 89702. Telephone: 775-687-4017.
Where should you write or call to contact the State Bar’s Office of Bar Counsel?
Please write or call the Office of Bar Counsel nearest to where the attorney practices.In Southern Nevada: State Bar of Nevada
Attn: Office of Bar Counsel
3100 W. Charleston Blvd. Suite 100
Las Vegas, NV 89102
Fax No. (702) 382-8747
In Northern Nevada:
State Bar of Nevada
Attn: Discipline Department
9456 Double R Blvd. Suite B
Reno, NV 89521
Fax No. (775) 329-0522