Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Friday, May 01, 2009

Above the law?

Legal standards:
You be the judge

By David Baker
Posted Friday, May 1, 2009

Have you filed a well-documented complaint about misconduct by a lawyer with the Committee on Professional Standards, only to be told months later that there was “ … an insufficient basis for a finding of misconduct.”?

Are you willing to provide copies of all the documents related to the complaint for a new Web page?

If so, your documents – including any response by the attorney that was forwarded to you by the Committee – will be posted on the page. If you didn’t see any response, that will be noted. The attorney will be contacted and offered an opportunity to comment, and his or her comments will also appear on the Web.

Visitors to the page can then judge whether the conduct described is the way they would want an attorney to handle a case.

The state Supreme Court Third Department’s Professional Standards Committee operates in near secrecy. It is run by attorneys, for attorneys. It can and will ignore serious misconduct, particularly if the attorney is well known or well connected.

Unless the committee puts a complaint before the Appellate Division – which in most cases is reciprocal action for penalties already imposed in other states – the committee is prohibited by law from revealing what sanctions it imposes. Why?

Is this really the best way to protect the reputation of the legal profession? That's what this standards committee is supposed to be doing. Or is it more interested in dealing with misconduct by flatly refusing to acknowledge overwhelming evidence that it occurred?

Soon, you can be the judge.