April 9, 2009
ALLEGATIONS OF CRIMINAL CONDUCT IN GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE COMPLAINTS
By: Meghan Reilly, Legislative Analyst
You asked about the process by which the Statewide Grievance Committee (SGC) reviews complaints alleging criminal misconduct. OLR report 2006-R-0577 describes the role of the SGC and attorney discipline in the state.
Complaints must be filed with the statewide bar counsel who refers them to a grievance panel unless they are summarily dismissed or referred to fee arbitration under certain circumstances.
There are one or more grievance panels in each of the state's 13 judicial districts. A grievance panel is composed of one person who is not an attorney and two attorneys whose law offices are in judicial districts outside that in which the panel serves. Each panel also has an alternate member who is an attorney. No attorney member may hear a complaint against an attorney who has a law office in the same judicial district as the member.
The panel's primary responsibility is to determine whether there is probable cause to believe an attorney is guilty of misconduct. The preliminary investigation is not public unless the accused attorney (respondent) asks that it be public.
The panel generally has 110 days to complete its work. If it determines that probable cause does not exist, it dismisses the complaint without further review by the SGC, unless the complaint alleges that the attorney committed a crime. In such a case, the SGC or a subcommittee must review the panel's finding of no probable cause.
Specifically, Practice Book 2-32(i) reads:
In cases in which there is an allegation in the complaint that the respondent committed a crime, the panel shall file with the statewide grievance committee and with disciplinary counsel its written determination that no probable cause exists and the materials set forth in subsection (i) (1) (B), (C) and (D).
This appears to mandate reporting of complaints alleging criminal conduct. However, according to Michael Bowler, statewide bar counsel, the SGC has interpreted the rule to authorize the panel to decide whether a verifiable criminal complaint has been alleged. The SGC has also concluded that it is not authorized to review a panel decision that verifiable criminal conduct has not been alleged.
We found no relevant court cases interpreting this rule.