Michigan attorney are obligated to follow the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct. These rules are standards of ethics that help lawyers make proper decisions when representing clients.
Some examples of attorney ethics rules are:
• “A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and comply promptly with reasonable requests for information.”
• “A lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation of that client will be directly adverse to another client.”
From time to time, attorneys run afoul of these ethics rules. If some believes a lawyer has engaged in conduct that violates the ethics rules, a grievance can be filed with the Attorney Grievance Commission (AGC).
The AGC is the agency that handles all allegations of lawyer misconduct. It investigates and prosecutes, when necessary, lawyers who have had complaints filed against them. When a grievance is filed, sufficient facts must be provided to the AGC to support the allegations. Also, grievances cannot be filed against law firms – they can only be filed against individual attorneys.
When a grievance is filed against a lawyer, the AGC investigates the complaint. When the investigation is complete, the matter goes before a panel of Commissioners who have been appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court (6 lawyers and 3 non-lawyers).
The Commissioners meet and will decide whether to:
• close the file without taking action.
• issue a consensual admonition to the lawyer (generally non-public).
• place the lawyer on consensual contractual probation (usually non-public).
• authorize the filing of formal charges with the Attorney Discipline Board, which is the adjudicative arm of the Michigan Supreme Court.
Agency decisions regarding attorney discipline can be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court.