Article VIII, Section 4 of the Constitution of Utah provides that the Utah Supreme Court has exclusive authority within Utah to adopt and enforce rules governing the practice of law, including the conduct and discipline of persons admitted to practice law.
While this page will provide a general overview of the disciplinary process, it is not intended to be exhaustive and should not be used in lieu of a thorough reading of the above referenced rules and standards.
The OPC is charged with investigating all information coming to its attention that, if true, would be grounds for discipline. Information comes to our office from many sources including, clients, attorneys, judges, banks, and the media. Once information is received by our office it is investigated to determine if it implicates any rules or otherwise reflects adversely on an attorney’s fitness to practice law. Each case is unique, but the investigation typically includes speaking with the parties, contacting witnesses, and gathering relevant documents.
If, based on the investigation, the OPC believes there is probable cause that an attorney has engaged in misconduct it refers the case to a screening panel of the Supreme Court Ethics and Discipline Committee.
Rules of the Utah Supreme Court provide that, prior to the filing of a formal complaint or the issuance of a public reprimand, discipline proceedings are confidential.
The screening panel will then investigate the matter. This will typically include reviewing the information obtained by the OPC and conducting a hearing where additional evidence and testimony can be taken. Based on its investigation, the screening panel makes a determination as to whether the responding attorney violated any Rules of Professional Conduct or if the case should be dismissed. While the panel has the authority to recommend an admonition or public reprimand in accordance with the Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions, it may also direct the OPC to file a formal complaint in district court if it finds probable cause to believe there are grounds for public discipline and a formal complaint is merited.
Formal disciplinary cases are civil in nature and conducted in two phases: adjudication of the allegations of misconduct, and if necessary, a determination of the appropriate sanction.