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File a complaint against an attorney
Although the performance of legal services rarely generates complaints of misconduct against attorneys, the Supreme Court has established procedures for investigating complaints and reaching judgments on attorney discipline.
Search for rules relating to the discipline of attorneys
Disciplinary rules are strict
An attorney who is licensed to practice law in Kansas is fit to be entrusted with legal matters as an officer of the court.
Attorneys must uphold the law and abide by the Rules of Professional Conduct. Attorneys who violate these rules are subject to discipline.
Attorneys in Kansas pay for the disciplinary system by contributing to a statewide fund to maintain the Office of the Disciplinary Administrator. The office investigates all allegations of attorney misconduct and makes recommendations to the Supreme Court for discipline when warranted.
Before filing a complaint
Attorneys sometimes make mistakes, and some attorneys are more competent than others. An attorney might lose the trust and confidence of a client for various reasons. However, just because a legal matter does not turn out the way one had hoped does not mean the attorney violated any ethical standards. While your attorney assists you in presenting your case in its best light, the final decision rests with the jury or judge and is not controlled by your attorney. If you do not agree with the decision, an appeal to a higher court is more likely to benefit you than filing a complaint against your attorney.
The disciplinary procedure does not recover funds from attorneys or settle fee disputes. It determines whether an ethical violation has occurred and, if so, what discipline should be imposed. The Office of the Disciplinary Administrator does not become your attorney or represent your personal interests. You should not expect to receive any money damages, reimbursement of loss, or individual legal advice or services.
Talk to your attorney
The disciplinary administrator encourages frank discussion with your attorney, which often resolves the problem. Tell the attorney about your dissatisfaction and ask for a full explanation of the matter. If you still believe your complaint is well-founded, you can file a complaint.
Complaints are investigated by local bar associations or the disciplinary administrator's staff, who may seek further information. Many complaints are resolved or dismissed after preliminary investigation.
Once the investigation is complete, a review committee of three attorneys is assigned to study the complaint and investigative report.
The committee may dismiss the complaint if it is found to be without merit.
If the review committee finds probable cause to believe the attorney has violated the disciplinary rules, the matter becomes public and all records and proceedings are open.
If the committee finds probable cause to believe the attorney has violated the disciplinary rules, it can:
informally admonish the attorney and the matter ends; or
direct the disciplinary administrator to prepare a formal complaint. The attorney is normally given 20 days to respond to the complaint before a hearing is scheduled.
Three attorneys―two of which must be members of the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys―hear evidence from the Disciplinary Administrator's Office in support of the formal complaint. The accused attorney is entitled to representation by counsel and may present witnesses and evidence in defense. The individual who filed the complaint may be required to testify.
Forms of discipline
The hearing panel can:
find no violation of the disciplinary rules occurred and dismiss the complaint;
determine a minor violation occurred as a result of a mistake rather than an intentional act and can impose informal admonition. The attorney is summoned before the disciplinary administrator, admonished about the violation, and warned not to repeat the conduct; or
find a violation occurred and more serious discipline is warranted. The panel submits a formal report to the Supreme Court and recommends discipline.
Recommended discipline could be:
probation with conditions;
suspension of the attorney's license for a specific time period;
suspension for an indefinite period; or
Discipline cases submitted to the Supreme Court are processed in much the same way as appellate cases, with both sides entitled to present written and oral arguments. In addition, the Supreme Court reviews a transcript of the proceedings before the hearing panel.
The Supreme Court does not need to follow the recommendations of the hearing panel or the disciplinary administrator. The court can determine that no violation occurred or impose a different form of discipline.
Attorney discipline is conducted openly, with safeguards built in to ensure your complaint will receive full and prompt attention.
Fee matters are not ordinarily a basis for attorney discipline, because they usually involve the employment contract between the client and the attorney rather than questions of ethics or professional misconduct.
If you have a fee dispute, you should first fully discuss the problem with your attorney. If that does not resolve the disagreement, you can file in the court, because all fee contracts in litigated cases are subject to review and approval by the court that has jurisdiction. The court has the authority to determine whether the contract is reasonable. If the court finds the contract is not reasonable, it will set and allow a reasonable fee for the attorney.
Additionally, you may be able to settle a fee dispute with an attorney through local bar fee dispute committees. Currently, there is no statewide fee dispute committee.
Johnson County Fee Dispute Committee (Johnson County bar members only)
Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association (Johnson and Wyandotte counties only)
Sedgwick County Fee Dispute Committee (Sedgwick County only)
Office of the Disciplinary Administrator
701 SW Jackson Street, 1st Floor
Topeka, KS 66603-3729