The Florida Bar

Florida Bar Journal

Lawyer Discipline


In “Florida’s Lawyer Discipline System: What Every Attorney Needs to Know” (January/February), the author states the Bar has the “burden of proof,” but that is difficult, at best, to believe. Let me understand in general the procedure: The Bar brings the charges, the Bar prosecutes, and the Bar makes recommendation for the punishment. Common re-occurring theme is “the Bar.” While referring to a different specific item, I believe the entire process described, from inception to conclusion, can best be summed up by the last full paragraph on page 15 (emphasis added) (footnotes omitted):

Cases not resolved during the pre-trial stage proceed to trial before the referee. Disciplinary cases are “quasi-judicial administrative proceedings,” there is no jury, the rules of evidence do not apply, hearsay evidence is admissible, and the respondent does not have the right to confront witnesses. The respondent may be called as a witness and questioned by the Bar, and even if the respondent does not testify, the referee can ask the respondent questions to clarify matters.

This sounds like a trial in the old “King’s Court” of England, which was presided over by the monarch and held in a chamber with stars on the ceiling. This court is commonly called the “Court of the Star Chamber.” The respondent in the “Court of the Star Chamber” probably had more rights than a respondent in the Florida Lawyer Discipline System.

Warren Adrian Rachels, Tampa