Summary of State Bar Grievance Review Committee Report to the Legislature

April 10, 2024   |   Sam McGee

The State Bar Review Committee issued its Report to the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations after its last meeting on March 14. The committee met five times between January 24 and March 14 to explore the State Bar’s grievance process at the request of the General Assembly. The NCAJ Legal Affairs Team monitored the meetings and filings of the committee, and NCAJ’s Legislative Affairs will continue to monitor the issues raised during the upcoming legislative session.

Serving on the committee were:

  • Co-chairs Woody White (NCAJ member) and Lawrence Shaheen (NCAJ member)
  • Colon Willoughby Jr.
  • Marcia Armstrong (NCAJ member)
  • Justice Tamara Barringer
  • Judge Valerie Zachary
  • Judge Andrew Heath

The committee considered testimony and information from several interested parties, including attorneys that prosecute and defend disciplinary cases. Much of this information is included in appendices to the report, as referenced below. Although the committee suggested continued study and discussion of additional topics, their specific recommendations boil down to the following:

  • Improved access to agency file information for respondent attorneys, especially early in the process. This specifically references a chart included in Appendix D prepared by Alan Schneider, (Partner at Cheshire  Parker Schneider, PLLC,) and Carmen Bannon, (Counsel for the North Carolina State Bar). The chart borrows from a Texas rule. (Appendix D at page 43).
  • Allowing repeat initiators of frivolous complaints to be designated vexatious complainants and potentially limited in their ability to continue filing complaints (or perhaps requiring a lawyer to sign off before additional complaints are filed). No specific statutory proposal is made but reference is made to the Florida and Texas provisions which were cited by Schneider (Appendix D at pages 44-48). 
  • Instituting a standing requirement to prevent grievances from being filed by people with no connection to the conduct in question. No specific proposal is made but reference is made to a proposed chart of people with standing put together by Bannon, Schneider and Joshua Walthall of Boerema Blackton, LLP (Appendix D at Page 51). 
  • Allowing expungement of certain instances of discipline. Certain types of discipline would not be eligible (sex with clients, crimes involving dishonesty, false statements to courts, etc.). Others would be eligible after a certain amount of time with no further discipline. Recommendation again references a chart provided by Bannon, Schneider and Walthall. (Appendix D at page 49).