Friday, April 25, 2014

Promoting And Monitoring Professionalism Among Attorneys

By Katelyn Desrosiers

Following the Florida Supreme Court’s Opinion No. SC 13-688, In Re: Code for Resolving Professional Complaints, the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Committee on Professionalism and the Hillsborough County Bar Association Professionalism and Ethics Committee joined efforts and created a joint committee to address the Supreme Court’s mandate. The opinion tasked each of the state’s judicial circuits with creating a local professionalism panel to address unprofessional conduct not rising to the level of a formal Bar grievance. Initially, a small taskforce brainstormed how to synergize our circuit’s efforts to promote professionalism and how to structure a local professionalism complaint process.

As a result of that meeting, on October 28, 2013, Chief Judge Manuel Menendez Jr. issued Administrative Order S-2013-071, which established our circuit’s Local Professionalism Panel (LPP) and created a process by which the panel receives, hears, and disposes of complaints. It further created subcommittees, including the communications and promotions committees, to give the Thirteenth Circuit’s committee a voice and to promote professionalism within the circuit. The administrative order also consolidated into the LPP the HCBA Peer Review Program so that the LPP will be responsible for addressing complaints previously referred to the Peer Review Program. 
Per the administrative order, any person may initiate a complaint against an attorney with the LPP and deliver it to the LPP chair, who will review the complaint and determine whether it is appropriate for referral to the LPP Review Panel. The panel consists of at least one judge and two other “members in good standing of the [HCBA] and the Florida Bar, [who] have been in practice at least ten years and have attained the highest respect of their peers and the judiciary for their professionalism and quality of practice.” Administrative Order S-2013-071. The panel will meet without the subject attorney to review the complaint and determine whether it merits a meeting with the subject attorney. In less serious cases, a member of the panel may meet and discuss the process with the subject attorney. In more serious cases, the full panel may meet with the subject attorney to review the complaint and determine whether he or she may benefit from various training programs offered in the circuit. In instances where the unprofessional conduct is so egregious that the LPP cannot appropriately dispose of the matter locally, the panel will send the matter back to the LPP chair for referral to the Attorney Consumer Assistance and Intake Program (ACAP).   
Both the administrative order and Supreme Court’s mandate require that the Thirteenth Circuit’s committee submit an annual report on the status of professionalism and professional activities in the circuit. In a meeting on January 7, the committee’s executive chair, the Honorable Ashley B. Moody, requested that all members (who are representatives of the circuit’s voluntary bar associations and sections, committees, and divisions of the HCBA) report any professionalism activities that their respective organizations completed in the past year. There was an overwhelming response. Stay tuned.