The Disciplinary Process
The goal of the attorney disciplinary process is to protect the public, the profession and our system of justice from the unethical conduct of attorneys. The conduct of Nebraska lawyers must comport to the standards set forth in the Rules of Professional Conduct as adopted by the Nebraska Supreme Court. The Nebraska Supreme Court has assigned the office of Counsel for Discipline to investigate and prosecute violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
The Office of the Counsel for Discipline, Committees on Inquiry, Disciplinary Review Board
The Counsel for Discipline has a paid staff of attorneys that investigate and prosecute grievances against attorneys admitted to the practice of law in Nebraska. Members of the six Committees on Inquiry and the Disciplinary Review Board are appointed by the Nebraska Supreme Court and serve on a volunteer basis. One third of the members of the Committees on Inquiry and Disciplinary Review Board are non-lawyers.
What We Can Do
One of the primary purposes of the attorney disciplinary system is to protect the public. It is our function and our duty to enforce the Rules of Professional Conduct , which is the standard of conduct for attorneys in the performance of their work. If we determine that the attorney about whom you complained has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct, we will take action which will result in the attorney being privately or publicly criticized. If the violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct is very serious, the attorney’s license to practice law may be temporarily or even permanently taken from him or her. However, that action may not solve your own personal problem, as you will learn when you read the next section.
What We Cannot Do
The disciplinary process is set up to determine if an attorney has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct . It is not a substitute for a civil claim against the attorney. We cannot give you legal advice and cannot modify or change a court order.
We cannot take money or property from the attorney to return to you. We cannot sue an attorney because of his or her careless handling of your problem. We cannot do the work your attorney failed to do for you. The only action we can take is to impose disciplinary sanctions against the attorney.
By bringing a grievance to us, you help us learn of attorneys who need to be corrected or suspended/disbarred from the practice of law. This helps us keep the legal profession honorable and competent. In that way, you help yourself, your friends and your community.
How to File a Grievance
Filing a grievance is a very serious matter. However, you need not have any special legal knowledge to file one. If you believe that an attorney has acted unethically, you may file a grievance by sending us a letter that fully explains your problem. Remember that it takes evidence of unethical conduct to justify disciplinary action against a lawyer. You should therefore, give us copies of all letters and papers which support and explain your grievance.
Your grievance letter should be sent to:
Counsel for Discipline
3808 Normal Blvd.
Lincoln, NE 68506
If you question whether your situation warrants the filing of a grievance, call the Counsel for Discipline’s office at 402-471-1040.
The office of the Counsel for Discipline reviews every written grievance. If your grievance letter does not describe conduct which, even if true, would be improper conduct by an attorney, it will be rejected for that reason.
If there is a question as to the merits of your grievance, you may be asked to provide additional information. The attorney may also be asked to provide information as part of a preliminary inquiry.
If you have a proper grievance, we will ask the attorney to file a written response. In most cases, upon receipt of the response, we will send you a copy and give you a chance to reply to it. Our staff will then investigate the allegations.
When the investigation is completed, your grievance will be dismissed or charges will be filed against the attorney with the appropriate Committee on Inquiry. If we bring charges, we must be able to prove them by clear and convincing evidence.
Until allegations are proven against an attorney, the attorney is innocent. An attorney’s good reputation is easily destroyed and very hard to repair. For this reason, your grievance and our investigation are kept secret.