New Jersey Law Journal

As the legal community welcomes 2020, the total number of licensed attorneys in New Jersey is expected to eclipse 100,000. All attorneys have taken an oath to strictly adhere to New Jersey’s Rules of Professional Conduct. Invariably, some attorneys will find themselves the subject of an ethics grievance, formal complaint, or final discipline. Regardless of whether the allegation of ethical misconduct arises from a spurious accusation arising from improper motives, or involves serious misconduct, the process must not be underestimated as in all cases an attorney’s license to practice law is at risk.

In New Jersey, the Supreme Court is vested with exclusive authority over the attorney disciplinary process and imposition of discipline. N.J. Const. art. VI, § 2, ¶ 3. By designation, District Ethics Committees staffed by local volunteer attorneys appointed by the Supreme Court are charged with investigating most allegations of attorney misconduct. N.J. Court Rule 1:20-3(e). The purpose of the attorney disciplinary system is to maintain public confidence in the legal profession and to protect the public from lawyers who run afoul of the Rules of Professional Conduct. An ethics grievance may be filed by anyone and is not restricted to former or current clients. Grievants may be an adversary, colleague, or member of courtroom staff, to list a few. Moreover, a disciplinary investigation is not limited in scope to the allegations raised by the grievant. That is to say, even if the grievance contains allegations proven to be meritless, an attorney may still face discipline as a result of facts uncovered during the investigation that form the basis of ethical misconduct. Attorneys are permitted, and are encouraged, to obtain counsel specializing in ethics matters to assist with defense of a grievance.

This article first appeared on the New Jersey Law journal. Click here to read the full article on their website. 


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