Eagle Courthouse

Bar Grievance Committee Investigations

From the Florida Bar staff investigation, bar counsel may forward the file to a Florida Bar grievance committee. Proceedings before a Florida Bar Grievance Committee are defined as “non-adversarial.”  This means that the accused lawyer does not enjoy the substantive and procedural due process rights typically accorded in an adversarial proceeding.  Because of this, the grievance committee level presents both peril and opportunity to the responding attorney. This means that the risks of self-representation are heightened by missteps or missed opportunities.

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.