The Board on Professional Responsibility is responsible for adjudicating cases of lawyer misconduct and disability and for administering the attorney discipline system. The Board is composed of 7 attorney members and 2 public members.
The Board considers approximately 70 cases a year, hears oral arguments and writes reports and recommendations, which are filed with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. Its caseload includes petitions brought by Bar Counsel, criminal conviction referrals and reciprocal discipline matters. Board members are responsible for drafting recommendations, and each is assigned six to eight reports a year; opinions average 10 to 20 pages each. Thus, a Board member can anticipate about 100 pages of intensive legal drafting a year, not including dissents and concurrences, which members write on occasion.
The Board’s extensive administrative agenda is handled through various committees and includes the drafting of rules, review of Bar Counsel and Board policies impacting on the disciplinary system and consideration of the Board’s budget. The Board is assisted by an Executive Attorney and an Administrative Assistant.
The Board meets twice a month, for 11 months of the year. Given the stringent quorum requirements, it is necessary that every Board member plan to attend the 22 meetings. Each meeting includes a public session, when the Board hears oral arguments and conducts general policy discussions, and an Executive Session, during which cases are discussed and decided. Experience shows that to keep abreast of the work, the average Board member must be prepared to devote between 200 and 250 professional hours per year to the Board.
Historically, the Board of Governors has nominated for the Board members with experience on Board Hearing Committees or on the Bar’s Legal Ethics Committee. Members are appointed by the Court of Appeals for three-year terms and can serve two consecutive terms.
Hearing Committees of the Board on Professional
There are 11 Hearing Committees of the Board assigned to hear lawyer discipline cases brought by Bar Counsel and petitions for reinstatement, filed by attorneys who are disbarred or suspended and required to prove fitness to practice as a condition of reinstatement. Each Hearing Committee is composed of 2 attorneys and 1 public member. In addition to the 11 standing Committees, there is a roster of alternate Hearing Committee members, who serve when a regular member is unavailable.
Hearing Committees consider evidence and the testimony of witnesses, taken under oath. Committees are generally guided, but not bound, by provisions or rules of court practice, procedure, pleading and evidence. At the conclusion of the hearing, the parties file briefs, and the Committee drafts a report to the Board, with findings of fact and recommended conclusions of law. Reports are usually drafted by the Committee Chair, but he or she may delegate the drafting to another member. Hearings can take from a few hours to several days. Each Hearing Committee considers approximately 8 cases a year. Hearings are open to the public.
Hearing Committee members are appointed periodically by the Board on Professional Responsibility and can serve two consecutive three-year terms.
If you are interested in learning more about service on a Hearing Committee, please contact:
Elizabeth J. Branda, Esquire
Board on Professional Responsibility
430 E Street NW
Washington, DC 20001