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February 1, 2011
Diversity is the key to the Bar’s grievance process

A strength of The Florida Bar’s grievance process is the knowledge and diversity of views that members of the Board of Governors bring to their involvement.

Tony Boggs, the former director of the Bar’s Lawyer Regulation Division, also noted that the Bar properly has a reputation of being on the leading edge, even the “bleeding edge,” of grievance matters.

“And it should be,” he said.

Boggs addressed the board’s December meeting, a day after appearing before the Disciplinary Review Committee, to offer observations about the discipline system. Boggs, who retired in 2008, had nearly 30 years experience in that system.

“The grievance process is to punish the breach of ethics but also encourage rehabilitation,” he said. “It has to be fair to society, removing from society’s presence unethical conduct and unethical practitioners, and must be sufficient to deter others from unethical conduct.”

Boggs said the board has a valuable resource in Bar staff, which includes John Berry, who preceded and succeeded Boggs as director of the Lawyer Regulation, and Ken Marvin, who directly supervises the grievance system. “There’s a wealth of knowledge there that you have to learn to trust,” he said.

But board members themselves bring a great deal of knowledge. In response to queries from Boggs, most indicated they have served on local grievance committees and several have represented respondents in grievance cases. Several have been on the receiving end of a grievance complaint.

That diversity of experiences is valuable in making sure the system works, he said, and board members should not be reluctant about bringing their knowledge to the process and using it to challenge Bar staff.

“Some of the best work I did is when I was challenged,” Boggs said. “It’s not a system that can work well without a balance . . . . It is a system that is designed to protect the public, but also to protect individual rights.

“Talk to each other, rely on each other, and in many respects cherish each other.”

The board must also bear in mind what the Supreme Court wants, and he noted that the court is imposing tougher sanctions.

“The court has a trend of disciplining a bit more and even challenging the Bar to be more certain of its information,” he said. “Understand what the court is saying and why they’re saying it.”

Boggs noted that it was court opinions on readmitting disbarred attorneys that led to rule changes making it tougher to win readmission. The court, he said, has made it clear that those individuals must demonstrate more than just good citizenship to win back a Bar license.

Bar President Mayanne Downs, as well as other board members, praised Boggs’ appearance and service to the Bar. Downs added, “Yesterday at DRC, Tony said something that stuck: that we should listen to each other, challenge each other, and do good.”

[Revised: 11-27-2014]