Colorado Supreme Court
Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel
Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.
Complaints/Discipline – Overview
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The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel investigates and prosecutes allegations of violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct by attorneys in Colorado. The Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge presides over formal complaints against attorneys.
The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel is authorized to investigate:
1. Attorneys licensed or otherwise certified to practice law in Colorado,
2. Attorneys who are not licensed in Colorado but practice in Colorado,
3. Colorado magistrates,
4. Colorado licensed attorneys serving as municipal court judges,
5. Allegations of the unauthorized practice of law,
6. Matters related to an applicant for admission to the Colorado bar, and
7. Matters related to the Colorado Attorneys' Fund For Client Protection.
To file a complaint related to any of the above topics, contact the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel by calling (303) 457-5800, or toll free (877) 888-1370.
Note that The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel does not handle complaints about judges, other than municipal court judges and magistrates. Complaints about judges should be directed to the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline.
Ethics and Discipline
The Colorado Supreme Court has established Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys. The rules are contained in the Appendix to Chapters 18-20 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure. The procedural rules for the investigation and prosecution of alleged violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct are located in Chapter 20 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure.
The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel is committed to treating all participants in the process with dignity and respect. The investigation process is designed to provide a thorough and objective review of the attorney's conduct, and to resolve the matter in a way that is fair to the complainant and the attorney.
An attorney who violates the law or the rules is subject to discipline. In cases involving minor misconduct, an attorney may be admonished, censured, or placed in a diversion program. In serious matters, attorneys face suspension of their license to practice law or disbarment.
Issues that may not be ethical misconduct
The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel receives many requests for investigation about conduct that do not violate the Rules of Professional Conduct. For example, attorneys who have honest disagreements with their clients about how a case should be or should have been handled have not engaged in professional misconduct. Similarly, an error in judgment does not necessarily violate the rules. Attorneys, like everyone else, make mistakes.
Except for unusual circumstances, a disagreement over legal fees is not evidence of misconduct. Persons having fee disputes will usually be referred to a voluntary committee of the Colorado Bar Association that arbitrates fee disputes. The CBA committee will attempt to help the parties reach a fair settlement of the problem.
Finally, there are situations that a client may find annoying but that do not constitute unethical conduct. An example is the attorney's failure to explain fully what is going to happen in the client's case, or the attorney's failure to respond to each of the client's telephone calls. Nonetheless, the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel tries to educate attorneys about best practices in order to avoid client complaints.
We have learned that the best way to protect the public is to prevent misconduct from occurring in the first place, if at all possible. And if misconduct does occur, we make every effort to respond in an appropriate fashion that prevents future misconduct, whether through education and rehabilitation, or discipline when needed.