Vol. 27, No. 9
From the Courts
To: Members of the Colorado Bar
From: Mac V. Danford, Clerk of the Supreme Court
Re: Increase in Attorney Registration Fee
As you know, since the Spring of 1997 the Colorado Supreme Court has been in the process of evaluating the attorney regulation system. After months of committee work, a report from the ABA, several published articles, and two public hearings, the Court has revised the attorney regulation system in order to: (1) foster public confidence and trust in attorneys and in the justice system; (2) help attorneys who need assistance; and (3) provide a fair, efficient, and visible process to resolve complaints charging attorneys with misconduct.
Some of the significant changes include:
Development of a "central intake system" to respond directly and quickly to the public's complaints. This is designed to provide resolution to approximately 70-80% of the complaints within 10 days;
Conversion to a new investigation process whereby the trial attorney assigned a case will assume responsibility from formal investigation until final resolution;
Establishment of a client protection fund to compensate unreimbursed losses caused by the conversion of client monies;
Appointment of a Presiding Disciplinary Judge who will preside over all contested hearings in order to bring greater consistency to disciplinary actions;
Increased access to proceedings by the public;
Stable funding for the peer assistance program, the Colorado Lawyer Health Program, which provides mental health, substance abuse and other counseling services to attorneys in need of assistance;
The addition of probation as a sanction in lieu of suspension when there is little likelihood that the attorney will cause harm during a period of rehabilitation and the conditions of probation can be adequately supervised; and,
The addition of offering diversion to the "Alternatives to Discipline Program" which may include programs such as mediation, fee arbitration, law office management assistance, evaluation and treatment through the peer assistance program, monitoring of attorney's practice or accounting procedures, ethics school, or any other program authorized by the Court.
These changes will cost approximately $60 per registered attorney. Of the $60, approximately $20 will be allocated to the Client Protection Fund, $9 to the peer assistance program, and the balance will fund central intake and adjudicative expansion. Because the attorney registration fee has not been increased since 1992, all reserves are nearly depleted and the current system is operating at a deficit of approximately $20 per attorney. An additional $20 increase was necessary regardless of whether the attorney regulation system was restructured.
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