Colorado Supreme Court
Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel
Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.
Complaints/Discipline – Overview
The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel investigates and prosecutes allegations of violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct by attorneys in Colorado.
Ethics and Discipline
The Colorado Supreme Court has established Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys. The rules are contained in the Colorado Court Rules, Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, Appendix to Chapters 18-20. The Court has also established procedures for the investigation and prosecution of alleged violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct. These procedures are found in the Colorado Court Rules, Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, Chapter 20.
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.
When attorneys enter the practice of law, they take an oath to uphold the law and follow the Rules of Professional Conduct. An attorney who violates the law or those 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.
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.
Issues that may not be ethical misconduct
The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel receives many requests for investigation about conduct that does 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.