Filing a Complaint against an Idaho Attorney
If I believe an attorney in the State of Idaho has violated the Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct, where do I register a complaint?
You may register a complaint by sending it in writing to:
Idaho State Bar
Office of Bar Counsel
PO Box 895
Boise, ID 83701
What is the Idaho State Bar?
The Idaho State Bar is the administrative agency of the judicial branch of the State of Idaho. The membership of the Idaho State Bar consists of all attorneys licensed to practice law in Idaho. The Bar Counsel is the disciplinary counsel for the Idaho State Bar.
What are the Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct?
The Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct are the rules which govern the ethical conduct of all attorneys in the State of Idaho.
How do I file a complaint against an attorney?
A complaint against an attorney must be submitted in writing, unless prior approval is received in special circumstances. The Complaint Form Packet is available in PDF format. If you are unable to open and print the PDF version, contact the Bar Counsel's Office to request a copy by mail. Complete and return the form with a written, detailed explanation of the reasons you are filing a grievance against the attorney. Include as much factual data as possible (dates, names, phone numbers, amounts of money involved, witnesses, etc.). If possible, organize the information in chronological order. The complaint must be signed by you. Attach copies of any documents or correspondence which will help explain the complaint; do not send any original documents. If more information is needed, we will contact you.
What is attorney misconduct?
Attorney misconduct is any violation of the Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct which may include, but is not limited to, the following: improper use of trust account money, conflict of interest, breach of confidentiality, neglect, lack of communication, etc.
Is my complaint confidential?
Ordinarily, we would send a copy of your complaint to the attorney requesting a response. If you do not want us to do that, or you would like our office to talk with you before doing that, you must let us know as part of your complaint. By Rule, complaints are kept confidential unless the complaint is serious enough to require the filing of Formal Charges. The reasons for this are to: (1) protect any confidential communications between the attorney and client; (2) allow the investigation to be conducted in a fair and objective fashion; and (3) to prevent any unfair publicity about the attorney or grievant if the complaint is found to be without substance.
What will the Idaho State Bar do with my complaint?
When a complaint is received, it is reviewed by the Bar Counsel to determine if a violation of the Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct is present. You will receive a letter from the Bar Counsel informing you either that (1) the complaint does not appear to involve unethical conduct; (2) more information is needed; or (3) an investigation has been initiated. If an investigation is initiated, the attorney will receive a copy of the complaint and he/she is required to respond in writing to the allegations. Normally you will receive a copy of the attorney's rebuttal. If the investigation establishes that there have been no violations of the Rules or if there is insufficient evidence to prove that a violation has occurred, the complaint will be dismissed and you will be informed of the reasons for dismissal by letter. If it is determined that a violation has occurred, the attorney may receive informal or private discipline or in some cases, formal charges may be filed. If the attorney receives informal or private discipline, you will be informed of the type of sanction and reasons for it -- information concerning informal or private discipline must be kept confidential and is not for release to the public. Some violations warrant the filing of formal charges. The discipline ordered after the filing of formal charges can range from public reprimand to disbarment.
Can I appeal the decision?
Yes. If you feel the decision was incorrect, you may file a written request to have the decision reviewed. Likewise, the attorney can request a review of a decision he believes improper. A panel of three (3) [two (2) lawyers and one (1) nonlawyer] will review the complaint.
Does the Idaho State Bar have any jurisdiction over legal matters?
No. The Idaho State Bar only has jurisdiction over violations of the Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct. We cannot handle matters which involve legal malpractice. If you feel that you have been monetarily damaged by your attorney's actions on your case or if you feel you may have some legal recourse, you should consider discussing the matter with private legal counsel. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL WE HAVE REACHED A DECISION BEFORE TAKING ANY LEGAL ACTION. The Idaho State Bar cannot represent your individual interest in the matter, nor can we become involved in any legal matter which might relate to your complaint. We cannot answer legal questions or give legal advice.
How long does it take to resolve a complaint against an attorney?
Each case varies according to its complexity; a typical case takes approximately three to four months before a decision is reached. Cases that are complex or involve the filing of formal charges will take longer. We make every effort to see that the disposition of each complaint is handled as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.
What if I feel that my attorney's fees are too high?
Fee matters are not generally a basis for discipline because they usually do not involve questions of ethics or professional misconduct. There is no such thing as a "standard fee" for a particular type of case. If you feel that your attorney's fees are too high, you may wish to enter into Fee Arbitration.
What if I feel that my attorney misappropriated my funds?
Under special provisions of the Idaho State Bar and Supreme Court Rules, a Client Assistance Fund has been created to compensate clients for all or part of any losses caused by the "dishonest" conduct of a lawyer admitted to practice in Idaho. Under the program, fees are paid by all lawyers throughout the state to assist in compensating members of the public for an Idaho lawyer's dishonest conduct when the claimant has no other recourse to recoup the loss. "Malpractice" is not necessarily dishonest conduct, and the distribution of funds is limited to victims of "dishonest" actions.
The Idaho State Bar appreciates your concern in helping to maintain the quality of the legal profession in Idaho. You may be assured that all complaints will be handled in an appropriate and thorough manner.