This requirement is contained in the Rules of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. In addition to being a matter of fundamental fairness, the prompt exchange of communications helps the process to be more efficient.
Providing copies is also consistent with rules that govern court cases.
The general requirement is that grievances must be filed in the Attorney Discipline Office within two years after the act or acts of alleged misconduct. In some cases the two year period begins at the end of a course of conduct.
When alleged misconduct was not discovered -- and could not reasonably have been discovered -- at the time of the alleged misconduct, the grievance must be filed within two years of the time it was discovered, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have been discovered.
For other exceptions see Rule 37A(I)(i). https://www.courts.state.nh.us/rules/scr/scr-37a.htm.
Not all grievances involve a hearing. Many matters are either not docketed or are dismissed after it is determined that there is no reasonable basis to conclude that a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct could be proven by clear and convincing evidence.
If a hearing is necessary, there is no need for you to have your own lawyer. The case will be presented at the hearing by Disciplinary Counsel. Whether or not you would have to testify would depend on the facts of the case. While in most cases, complainants are called upon to testify, some matters can be presented based on documentation alone.
In any case in which it is ultimately found that a lawyer has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct, the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) imposes or recommends an appropriate sanction. Possible sanctions are reprimand, public censure, suspension or disbarment.
A reprimand is the least onerous form of sanction, and although it is public, it is not publicized. A public censure is a sanction published in the New Hampshire Bar News; a newspaper of statewide circulation (generally the Union Leader); and the newspaper in the location of the lawyer's primary practice. The PCC has the authority to impose a suspension of up to six months. When suspended, the lawyer may not practice law or offer legal advice or services. If the PCC determines that a longer suspension or disbarment is appropriate, it files its recommendation with the Supreme Court requesting that the more serious sanction be imposed.
The Attorney Discipline System does not have authority to order that fees be returned, even in the event there is a finding of misconduct. The New Hampshire Bar Association has a dispute resolution committee (https://www.nhbar.org/nhba-dispute-resolution-committee/), and some civil remedies may be available to the client.
Although some people consult with an attorney to assist them with filing a grievance, there is no requirement that a grievant have a lawyer.
The Rules of Professional Conduct are the rules that have been adopted by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which mandate minimum standards of conduct for all lawyers who have been admitted to the Bar of the State of New Hampshire. The Rules can be found on the website of the Judicial Branch of the State of New Hampshire at http://www.courts.state.nh.us/rules/pcon/index.htm.
Although all grievances are initially confidential, all matters filed with the Attorney Discipline Office eventually become public. New Hampshire Supreme Court Rules 37(20) and (21) set forth when grievances and complaints become public. Grievances that are not docketed as complaints become public when a decision is made by General Counsel not to docket the grievance, and after the attorney who is the subject of the grievance has been given an opportunity to file a response to the grievance. After a period of two years from the date of the original filing, a non-docketed grievance is destroyed.
A grievance that has been docketed as a complaint becomes public upon either the filing of a formal Notice of Charges by Disciplinary Counsel, or upon the dismissal of the complaint, either by General Counsel, the Complaint Screening Committee, or by the Professional Conduct Committee. Records of complaints that are dismissed may be destroyed after three years from the date of the notice of the dismissal.
Grievances should describe, in detail, the lawyer's behavior that you believe constitutes misconduct. In other words, you should describe with specificity what the lawyer did, or what the lawyer failed to do, that you believe is unethical. You must name the lawyer and describe in your letter when the conduct occurred.
You should include with your grievance copies of relevant documents that demonstrate or provide substantiation of your claim that the lawyer has committed misconduct.
Your grievance must be accompanied by an oath form signed in the presence of a notary public or justice of the peace (or contains wording that is substantially equivalent to the oath language in the form which has been notarized or attested to be before a Justice of the Peace). You must also certify that you have sent a copy of your grievance to the attorney who is the subject of the grievance.
You can find disciplinary decisions that have been issued since the beginning of 2004 at the Search Disciplinary Decisions page of this website. For disciplinary decisions prior to January 1, 2004, please call us at (603) 224-5828.
Decisions are posted when they become final.
When the Professional Conduct Committee issues a decision involving a six-month suspension or less, either the respondent attorney or Disciplinary Counsel may file a request for reconsideration. Such a request must be filed within ten days of the date of the decision.
If no request for reconsideration is filed, either the respondent attorney or Disciplinary Counsel may, within 30 days, file an appeal with the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The matter would become final when acted upon by the Supreme Court.
If a request for reconsideration is filed, the 30-day appeal period does not begin to run until the Professional Conduct Committee acts on the request.
If no appeal is filed, the decision of the Professional Conduct Committee would therefore become public after the expiration of the 30-day appeal period.
In some cases, the Professional Conduct Committee issues a decision recommending that the Supreme Court issue a sanction of greater than a six-month suspension. Cases in this category are also subject to a request for reconsideration. A recommendation to the New Hampshire Supreme Court does not constitute a final disposition of a matter. Only the Supreme Court can issue a greater sanction than a six-month suspension. The case will be posted to the website when the Supreme Court issues its final decision.