Florida Bar grievance committees are made up of local attorneys and non-lawyers. An investigating member of the grievance committee may speak with the lawyer and others and investigate the matter further to his or her satisfaction. The chair of a Bar grievance committee can conduct hearings and issue subpoenas. Eventually the grievance committee will either terminate the case, or send it to the referee level, by a finding of probable cause.
In the context of a Florida Bar complaint, knowing what to say—or not say—can be a very nuanced matter requiring fine judgment and discernment in addition to knowing the rules. Because practicing the law is a privilege and not a right, the privilege against self-incrimination cannot typically be invoked. As with criminal cases, Florida Bar attorney disciplinary proceedings have critical stages; thus, the sooner the accused lawyer is represented by an effective Florida Bar defense attorney, the better.
If the grievance committee finds probable cause, the Florida Bar will draft and file a formal complaint in the Supreme Court of Florida. The Bar’s filing and service of the formal complaint initiates the referee stage, a formal, adversarial proceeding.