For the Media
Anyone can find out if a Missouri attorney has a record of public discipline by contacting the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel. (Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel, 3327 American Avenue, Jefferson City, MO 65109. Phone (573) 635-7400 Fax (573) 635-2240).
Missouri Supreme Court Rule 5.31 sets out which records and procedures of the Missouri Supreme Court discipline process are public and which parts are confidential.
Rule 5.31. Records of Investigations and Formal Proceedings
(a) When filed in this Court, an information and all materials filed in connection with the information are public documents unless otherwise ordered by this Court.
(b) The records of all proceedings occurring prior to the acceptance of a written letter of admonition or the filing in this Court of a decision of a disciplinary hearing panel finding a violation of Rule 4 or of an information directly in this Court shall not be made public unless ordered by this Court or the lawyer shall so request. The records of all proceedings occurring before the disciplinary hearing panel decision or information is filed directly in this Court shall be deposited with the chief disciplinary counsel. Except as otherwise provided in this Rule 5.31 or otherwise ordered by this Court, such records may be inspected only by the chief disciplinary counsel, members of the committee holding a hearing, or the person complained against or that person´s duly authorized representative.
(c) If an investigation involves a member of the bar of another state and involves action adverse to such person, the chief disciplinary counsel shall transmit a copy of the record to the appropriate disciplinary authorities of the state where the lawyer is licensed.
(d) A letter of admonition accepted by the respondent shall be available to the public for a period of three years from the date of said acceptance. After the three-year period, the record of the letter of admonition shall be closed and shall not be available to the public. The period of the availability of the letter of admonition under this Rule 5.31 shall be extended, however, by the period applying to any other letter of admonition received by the respondent during the three-year period or against whom an information has been filed and is pending.
(e) The chief disciplinary counsel may make otherwise confidential records of disciplinary proceedings available to: 1) the commission on retirement, removal and discipline when the confidential records relate to a possible violation of this Court´s Rule 2; 2) the board of law examiners when the confidential records relate to the qualifications of an applicant for admission; 3) appropriate lawyer disciplinary authorities in other jurisdictions when the confidential records relate to possible violations by a lawyer licensed, or applying for licensure, in that jurisdiction; and, 4) to law enforcement agencies acting within the scope of their lawful authority when the confidential records relate to possible criminal conduct. Nothing in this Rule 5.31(e) compels the chief disciplinary counsel to make confidential records available without a subpoena and court order if the chief disciplinary counsel chooses not to exercise the discretion granted in this Rule 5.31(e) to make those confidential records available.
(Adopted June 20, 1995, eff. Jan 1, 1996.)
Alternatively, if after the investigation, the OCDC a Regional Disciplinary Committee does determine that probable cause exists that a violation has occurred, an admonition may be issued under Rule 5.11. If the lawyer accepts the admonition, the admonition against lawyer is available to the public for three years from the date of the lawyer’s acceptance of the admonition (or fifteen days from issuance if the lawyer does not affirmatively accept the admonition).
Finally, if, after investigation, the OCDC or any Regional Disciplinary Committee determines probable cause to believe that a violation has occurred and that an admonition is insufficient (or if an attorney rejects an admonition), an Information (the charges) are filed with the Advisory Committee pursuant to Rule 5.12.
After a hearing, the Disciplinary Hearing Panel prepares a Report, containing findings, conclusions and a recommendation for sanctions. At that point, unless the OCDC accepts a Hearing Panel recommendation for dismissal of the charges, the complete record of the hearing, the charges, and the decision are filed at the Supreme Court. At that point, those records are open to the public.
Status of Missouri Supreme Court cases can be tracked at: Casenet or at the Court´s own website by the docket, minutes and decisions. Additionally, all public discipline imposed by the Supreme Court (since January 1, 2006) is available at the Missouri Supreme Court website.
Attorney discipline cases, like civil and criminal cases, are often resolved by agreement (stipulation). In those cases, the Supreme Court must approve the stipulated decision. Those records typically become public when filed at the Supreme Court.
Complaints against Missouri Judges are handled by the Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline of Judges, 2190 South Mason Road, St. Louis, Missouri 63131, telephone (314) 966-1007.
Alan Pratzel, For the Media - General Information - 3327 American Avenue, Jefferson City, MO 65109-1016 - Phone: 573-635-7400 - FAX: 573-635-2240