Attorney Grievance - Levels of Discipline

If you've had an attorney grievance filed against you, you probably want to know what may happen. The outcome will depend on the grievance itself, your answer to the grievance, and the approach taken by the Commission and its staff. Although there may be additional types of dispositions relating specifically to the attorney misconduct, the major ones are outlined below.

Once you have responded to the grievance, and filed an answer pursuant to MCR 9.113, a number of things may occur. 

  1. The Commission staff may request additional information from you. 
  2. The Commission may authorize the filing of a formal complaint against you. 
  3. The Commission may close the matter entirely. 

In any event it may be helpful for you to understand the possible disposition of your grievance.


If the commission staff is satisfied that the complainant did not allege misconduct against you, or that your explanation reveals that no misconduct took place, the matter may simply be closed. The majority of grievances are simply enclosed by the Commission. The fact that a grievance was filed against you is not made public. This is the best disposition of your case.


If, having received your answer the Commission believes that there was some conduct that was questionable on your part but it does not rise to the level of formal misconduct, you may be cautioned. Typically, your matter be closed with a cautionary letter. Again, the cautionary nature of the letter or the letter itself is not revealed to the public. Most of the time, a cautionary letter points out something that the Commission hopes will modify your practice. The wise attorney takes the Commission's caution seriously, and incorporates changes that will assure that future grievances are not filed against them.


Once the Commission receives your answer and analyzes the grievance, it may determine that some of lower-level misconduct occurred. In that case, the Commission may issue an admonishment. Admonishment is a formal discipline. The admonishment goes on the record. It is monitored and may be considered in the future if additional issues come up with your practice. Although the punishment does not rise to the level of formal complaint against you, it counts as a strike.


If after investigation, the commission determines that misconduct has occurred, you authorize commission counsel to issue a formal complaint against you. just like a civil proceeding, you must file an answer. In this proceeding, the commission will allege specific violations of the model rules of professional conduct. The burden of proof is on the commission and in the action proceeds similar to a civil action filed in the state courts mission. The action proceeds against the attorney until it is resolved.


A public form of discipline where the Reprimand is followed by a recitation of the offense and the rules violated. Meaning the misconduct will be published in the Bar Journal and can be picked up and featured by broadcast news and news publications.


An attorney may be suspended from the practice of law area. A suspension of less than 180 days requires that the attorney subject to the suspension to take specific steps outlined in the suspension including but not limited to notification of the attorneys clients. Obviously during the period of suspension, an attorney does not enjoy a license to practice law in the state of Michigan. The formal complaint and results are a matter of public record. The suspension of 180 days or more requires substantially more of the attorney. In the end of the suspension, notice must be given to the public, and the attorney must attend the hearing where a decision is made whether or not the attorney will be granted practice provisions again. If the suspension last more than 3 years, it's possible that the attorney may have to retake the bar exam. Finally, there is a possibility of disbarment where the attorney is prevented in the future from practicing law in the State of Michigan.

Posted on October 14, 2014 and filed under Attorney Grievance.