You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide: Suspension May Result from Failing to Respond to Disciplinary Complaints

Many people have asked me what happens when an attorney fails to respond to a formal complaint from the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline. The short answer: they may be suspended. The long answer is that failure to respond to a formal complaint results in the Board issuing a certificate of default. Upon receipt of the certification, the Supreme Court issues an order to show cause why immediate suspension should not be entered. If the attorney then fails to respond to the show cause, the Court “may enter an order it considers appropriate, including an order immediately suspending the respondent.” Gov.Bar Rule V(6a)(B)(1).

Immediate suspension is not a rare sanction. This year, the Supreme Court has routinely entered immediate suspensions for failing to respond. See Trumbull Cty. Bar Assn. v. Marcheskie, 136 Ohio St.3d 1247; Trumbull Cty. Bar Assn. v. Joseph, 136 Ohio St.3d 1243, 2013-Ohio-2936; Mahoning Cty. Bar Assn. v. Fagnano, 136 Ohio St.3d 1232, 2013-Ohio-2937; Disciplinary Counsel v. Clinard, 136 Ohio St.3d 1201, 2013-Ohio-2263. Further, the attorney may be ordered to pay restitution to clients or third parties resulting from the misconduct alleged in the formal complaint. Gov.Bar Rule V(6a)(B)(2).

So when you or another attorney is served with a formal complaint – RESPOND!