New Supreme Court Rule re: filing of Ethics Claims against Attorney

SCR 3.160 Initiation of disciplinary cases

(1) After review by Bar Counsel pursuant to subparagraph (3) of this Rule, any sworn written statement of complaint against an attorney for unprofessional conduct shall be filed with the Disciplinary Clerk who shall promptly notify the attorney by certified mail, sent to the address maintained by the Director pursuant to SCR 3.175, or other means consistent with the Supreme Court Rules and Civil Rules, of the complaint, and that he/she has twenty (20) days to respond to the complaint. Upon completion of the investigation by the Office of Bar Counsel the matter shall be assigned to an Inquiry Commission panel by rotation.

(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (1), when it comes to the attention of the Inquiry Commission from any source that an attorney may have engaged in unprofessional conduct, the Inquiry Commission, or a three-person panel thereof, may initiate and conduct an investigation, and if it believes from its investigation that there is sufficient evidence to justify its filing a complaint against the attorney it may file such a complaint.


(A) Upon receipt of a verbal or written allegation of a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct, or sworn complaint, the Office of Bar Counsel will initially determine, under the direction of the Chair and Inquiry Commission, whether the matter is appropriate for alternative disposition. Alternative disposition may include, but is not limited to:

i. Informal resolution

ii. Referral to Fee Arbitration under SCR 3.810

iii. Legal negligence arbitration under SCR 3.800

iv. Legal or management education programs

v. Remedial ethics education programs

vi. Referral to KYLAP under SCR 3.970(1)(c)

vii. Issuance of a warning letter.

(B) A complaint is not suitable for alternative disposition if it alleges serious misconduct in which the sanction would more than likely result in a suspension. Additionally, some ethical violations warranting a private or public reprimand may not, under all circumstances, be eligible for alternative disposition.

(C) After review and such preliminary investigation as may reasonably be necessary, the Office of Bar Counsel may attempt informal resolution and subsequently close the Complaint. If the acts or course of conduct complained of merit referral under 3(A)(ii)-(vi), and do not warrant a greater degree of discipline, the Office of Bar Counsel may issue a warning letter, which will be maintained in the investigative file of the Office of Bar Counsel but not be considered as discipline, or it may recommend remedial ethics, related legal or management education programs, fee arbitration, or KYLAP, completion of which would result in the complaint being dismissed.

(D) If Bar Counsel deems a written and sworn complaint to state an ethical violation, such that alternative disposition is not appropriate or the Respondent will not consent to or complete the alternative disposition program, the matter shall proceed under subsection (1) above.

(E) If Bar Counsel deems any written and sworn complaint against a member not to state an ethical violation and it is not suitable for alternative disposition, it may decline, without investigation, to entertain it.

(4) Neither the Association, the Board, the Director, the Inquiry Commission, the Trial Commission, the Office of Bar Counsel, nor their officers, employees, agents, delegates or members shall be liable, to any person or entity initiating a complaint or investigation, or to any member of the bar or any other person or entity being charged or investigated by, or at the direction of, the Inquiry Commission, for any damages incident to such investigation or any complaint, charge, prosecution, proceeding or trial.


HISTORY: Amended by Order 2013-12, eff. 1-1-14; prior amendments eff. 2-1-08 (Order 2007-007), 4-1-07 (Order 2007-01), 1-1-06 (Order 2005-10), 10-1-98 (Order 98-1), 1-13-86 (Order 86-1), 7-1-79, 1-1-78, 7-2-71

Note: Former Rules of Appellate Procedure (RAP) were amended and redesignated as Rules of the Supreme Court (SCR) by Order of the Supreme Court effective January 1, 1978. Prior Rules of the Court of Appeals (RCA) had been redesignated as Rules of Appellate Procedure effective March 12, 1976.

Gwen Billingsley

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