Michigan Attorney Discipline Representation
All Michigan attorneys are bound by Michigan Court Rule 9.113 to respond to requests for investigation (RFI) when served upon them. Attorneys may also be required to cooperate with the investigation process if called upon to do so. Any member of the public may file a request for investigation. A public official may file a request for investigation against an attorney and remain anonymous doing so.
The entire discipline process is covered in Michigan Court Rule 9.100 et seq. the following is a brief explanation of the process.
Once an RFI has been filed and served on a lawyer, a response must be filed with the AGC. The AGC then determines whether there is any misconduct warranting a response. If the AGC seeks a response, the attorney will be served with the RFI requiring a response within 21 days.
The original request for investigation, the attorney’s response, and any other investigative materials are then considered for further investigation and possible discipline proceedings. Note that most RFIs do not become formal disciplinary matters. Failing to respond to an RFI is of itself a violation of the court rule.
The investigations of alleged attorney misconduct are conducted by the attorneys who work for the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission. If in the course of their investigation they deem conduct of a lawyer to be misconduct, they will file a request to initiate a formal complaint against the lawyer. That request is presented to the Attorney Grievance Commission.
The Commission itself is made up of six attorneys and three non-attorneys who review and authorize formal complaints. They review and authorize formal complaints, disciplinary
dispositions, and other related business of the commission.
Any matter that becomes a formal complaint is tried before the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board. The ADB is an arm of the Supreme Court which adjudicates attorney discipline matters. The AGC will file a formal complaint with the ADB who in turn will appoint a panel to hear the matter.
Formal complaints are heard before discipline panels made up of three attorneys and located throughout the state. The attorneys are volunteers and are selected by the ADB. There
rules of hearing are dictated by rule 9.100 at seq.
Misconduct and discipline matters are bifurcated. Discipline panels first establish whether an attorney has committed misconduct as defined in the court rule. There are a myriad of reasons and types of conduct which qualify for review by the Michigan AGC.
This includes conduct outside of the office. Any criminal conviction triggers constitutes attorney misconduct. The hearings are akin to administrative law hearings. The standard of proof is a preponderance of the evidence. If the accused attorney is found to have committed misconduct, then a separate hearing is held to determine the level of appropriate discipline.
Decisions by the discipline panels are reviewable by the full attorney discipline Board and by the Michigan Supreme Court.
What to Do If You Are Served
Respond to the RFI timely
If you need extra time, you can contact the AGC. Do not sit on the file or ignore it. If you carry malpractice coverage, your coverage may include a courtesy defense for grievance investigations.
Ask for help
If you are uncertain of what to do, reach out to our office for guidance. Tim Dinan has been responding to RFI’s for 20 years. He has tried many formal hearings, appealed decisions of the ADB and is familiar with the process.