STATE BAR REVIEW COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS.

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View NCGA Bill Details2023-2024 Session
Senate Bill 790 (Public) Filed Wednesday, May 1, 2024
AN ACT TO REQUIRE THE NORTH CAROLINA STATE BAR TO PROVIDE CERTAIN INFORMATION TO A RESPONDENT ATTORNEY WHEN DISCIPLINARY ACTION HAS BEEN RECOMMENDED, TO ALLOW A RESPONDENT ATTORNEY TO ADDRESS THE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE AND TO HEAR THE OFFICE OF COUNSEL'S PRESENTATION TO THE COMMITTEE, TO IMPLEMENT A VEXATIOUS CONDUCT STANDARD FOR COMPLAINANTS FILING GRIEVANCES BEFORE THE NORTH CAROLINA STATE BAR, TO DEFINE A STANDING REQUIREMENT FOR THE FILING OF GRIEVANCES, TO DIRECT THE NORTH CAROLINA STATE BAR TO ADOPT RULES TO IMPLEMENT AN EXPUNGEMENT PROCESS FOR CERTAIN DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS, AND TO ALLOW THE NORTH CAROLINA STATE BAR TO ADOPT RULES TO IMPLEMENT THIS ACT, AS RECOMMENDED BY THE STATE BAR REVIEW COMMITTEE.
Intro. by Sawrey, Lee.

Status: Re-ref Com On Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House (House action) (Jun 5 2024)

SOG comments (1):

Long title change

Committee substitute to the 1st edition changed the long title. Original long title was AN ACT TO IMPLEMENT A VEXATIOUS CONDUCT STANDARD FOR COMPLAINANTS FILING GRIEVANCES BEFORE THE NORTH CAROLINA STATE BAR, TO DEFINE A STANDING REQUIREMENT FOR THE FILING OF GRIEVANCES, TO DIRECT THE NORTH CAROLINA STATE BAR TO ADOPT RULES TO IMPLEMENT AN EXPUNGEMENT PROCESS FOR CERTAIN DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS, AND TO DIRECT THE NORTH CAROLINA STATE BAR TO ADOPT RULES TO IMPLEMENT THIS ACT, AS RECOMMENDED BY THE STATE BAR REVIEW COMMITTEE.

S 790

Bill Summaries:

  • Summary date: May 14 2024 - View Summary

    Senate committee substitute to the 1st edition makes the following changes.

    Removes the proposed language in GS 84-28 concerning the discipline and disbarment of attorneys, and instead adds the following. Requires the North Carolina State Bar (Bar), when it serves a letter of notice alleging attorney misconduct on a respondent attorney, to provide the respondent attorney, when they request it, a complete copy of the complaint, including supporting materials. Allows redacting the complainant’s identifying information when the complaint is submitted by an attorney or judge under their obligation to report misconduct.

    Requires the Bar to provide an attorney with the following when the Bar’s Office of Counsel recommends disciplinary action: (1) all non-privileged, non-work product material and financial audits provided to the Grievance Committee in the respondent attorney's matter, and any evidence in the Bar's possession which indicates the respondent attorney did not engage in the alleged misconduct, or a certification that no such evidence is in the Bar's possession. These materials must be provided at least 30 days prior to the Grievance Committee's consideration of the Office of Counsel's recommendation and (2) an opportunity to address the Grievance Committee or its subcommittee and to hear the Office of Counsel's presentation of the factual basis for its recommendation.

    Amends GS 84-28.1 by adding the requirement that the Bar’s disciplinary hearing commission, or any of the commission’s committees, comply with the requirements of GS Chapter 84.

    Makes the following changes to new GS 84-28.3, vexatious complainants. Removes the Office of Counsel from those entities that may designate a person a vexatious complainant, giving that power solely to the chair of the Grievance committee. Makes the Bar, instead of the Office of Counsel, responsible for mailing a notice of the vexatious designation to the complainant. Adds that if the complainant does not request review of the vexatious designation, then the designation is final and not subject to further review. Amends the process under which the chair of the Disciplinary Hearing Commission completes a requested review of the vexatious complainant designation to provide that the Office of Counsel may file a response to the complainant’s request for review (was, may file and serve an answer). Allows the chair of the Disciplinary Hearing Commission to either uphold or vacate the designation (was, may either concur in the decision of the Office of Counsel and the chair of the Grievance Committee or remand the matter to the Office of Counsel and the chair of the Grievance Committee for further consideration). Makes conforming changes. Specifies that a designation as vexatious under the statute is final and conclusive and not subject to review or reversal. Amends the conditions under which the office of Counsel may review and process a subsequent grievance submitted by a person designated as vexatious, to require it be submitted by a member of the Bar who, in addition to having an active license, (1) is not designated as a vexatious complainant and (2) is not currently the respondent in a pending grievance investigation or the defendant in a disciplinary proceeding (was, is not currently the respondent in disciplinary proceedings before the Bar). Makes conforming changes. Makes an additional clarifying change.

    Amends proposed new GS 84-28.4, standing requirements to file grievance, as follows. Amends who is allowed to file a grievance, to include the party or client in the legal matter that is the subject of the grievance, and the representative of, in addition to the person, who has a cognizable interest in or connection to the legal matter or facts alleged in the grievance; removes: (1) a family member of a ward in a guardianship proceeding that is the subject to the grievance, (2) a family member of a decedent in a probate matter that is the subject of the grievance, (3) a trustee of a trust or an executor of an estate if the matter that is the subject of the grievance relates to the trust or estate, and (4) a trustee in a bankruptcy that is the subject of the grievance. Makes an additional clarifying change.

    Now requires the Bar to adopt temporary rules to implement the expungement process for certain disciplinary actions against respondent attorneys by October 31, 2024, and sets a deadline of January 31, 2025, for the adoption of permanent rules.

    Amends GS 84-23 to give the Bar Counsel power to expunge disciplinary actions.

    Changes the act’s effective date so that the entire act is effective August 1, 2024.

    Changes the act’s long title.


  • Summary date: May 1 2024 - View Summary

    Amends GS 84-28 to require the North Carolina State Bar (Bar) to include in any notice of alleged attorney misconduct served upon a respondent attorney a copy of the complaint, all non-privileged and non-work product material, financial audits, and exculpatory evidence presented to the Grievance Committee (Committee). Requires work product of the Bar that contains exculpatory evidence be provided to the respondent attorney. Provides for certification that the Bar does not possess exculpatory evidence if applicable. Requires the Bar provide the respondent attorney an opportunity to address the Grievance Committee at the initial probable cause hearing and to hear the Office of Counsel's (Office) presentation of the case to the Committee.

    Enacts GS 84-28.3, authorizing the Office and Committee to designate a person as a vexatious complainant and decline to review and process subsequent grievances from a person so designated unless the grievance is submitted (1) with verification signed by the complainant that the alleged misconduct is true under penalty of perjury and (2) by another active member of the Bar not current disciplinary respondent; if the vexatious complainant is licensed by the Bar, grievances must be submitted by an active member not currently a disciplinary respondent and who is not also designated as a vexatious complainant. Authorizes designation as a vexatious complainant if the person has initiated grievances alleging attorney misconduct which would fail to constitute a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if proven, or if available evidence conclusively disproves the allegations, in a manner and volume that amounts to an abuse of the bar disciplinary process, as defined. Provides for notice of the designation and a procedure for review of the designation before the Disciplinary Hearing Commission. Deems a designation by the Bar final and conclusive and not subject to review or reversal except by the Bar itself. 

    Enacts GS 84.28.4, establishing standing required to file a grievance with the Bar. Requires that the grievance allege conduct that would constitute attorney misconduct by violation of GS Chapter 84 or the Rules of Professional Conduct if true. Limits persons who may file grievances to seven categories of individuals, including attorneys and judges under professional obligation to report misconduct; judges, attorneys, court staff or jurors in the subject legal matter; a family member of a ward in a subject guardianship proceeding or of a decedent in a subject probate matter; a trustee or executor of a subject trust, estate, or bankruptcy matter; or a person who has a cognizable individual interest in or connection to the legal matter or facts alleged. Specifies that the Bar has authority to open and investigate grievances upon its own initiative if facts alleging attorney misconduct are discovered by the Bar.

    Authorizes the Bar to adopt rules to implement these statutory changes. Makes the above provisions effective July 1, 2024.

    Directs the Bar to adopt rules to implement an expungement process for certain disciplinary actions against respondent attorneys by the Bar, following recommendations by the State Bar Review Committee.