Vol. 34, No. 9
From the Courts
Annual Report from the Colorado Supreme Court Office of Regulation Counsel
Colorado Supreme Court Attorney Regulation Committee 2004 Annual Report
The Attorney Regulation Committee ("ARC" or "Committee") serves several roles within the attorney regulation system. The Committee serves a gatekeeper role by making threshold determinations of whether filing a formal complaint is warranted and also considers alternatives to discipline. See C.R.C.P. 251.12. The Committee’s purview includes the review of complaints made against Attorney Regulation Counsel. The Committee also reviews dismissals of investigations when requested by complainants. See C.R.C.P. 251.11.
ARC is a permanent committee of the Colorado Supreme Court. See C.R.C.P. 251.2. The Committee is composed of six lawyer members and three lay members who are appointed by the Supreme Court for seven-year terms and serve at the pleasure of the Court. The Committee members are all volunteers. The Committee’s procedures are approved by the Supreme Court. It enlists the assistance of members of the Bar to conduct independent investigations when necessary.
The 2004 Attorney Regulation Committee members were: Steven K. Jacobson, Chair (Attorney Member—Boulder); Bethiah B. Crane, Vice-Chair (Attorney Member—Durango); Alberto Gurule (Public Member—Pueblo); Karen S. Howard (Attorney Member—Denver); Barbara Miller (Public Member—Denver); John E. Mosby (Attorney Member—Denver); Walter J. Torres, Ph.D. (Public Member—Arapahoe County); Doris B. Truhlar (Attorney Member—Centennial); and Albert B. Wolf (Attorney Member—Englewood).
The 2005 Attorney Regulation Committee members are: Steven K. Jacobson, Chair (Attorney Member—Boulder); John E. Mosby, Vice-Chair (Attorney Member—Denver); E. Michael Canges (Attorney Member—Denver); Janet Terry (Public Member—Grand Junction); Terry Fox (Attorney Member—Wheat Ridge); Barbara Miller (Public Member—Denver); Walter J. Torres, Ph.D. (Public Member—Arapahoe County); Doris B. Truhlar (Attorney Member—Centennial); and Albert B. Wolf (Attorney Member—Englewood).
Procedures and Practices
The Committee generally meets monthly on the second Saturday of the month. Approximately ten days prior to meetings, the Committee members are provided written investigation reports and responses from respondents, as well as proposed Diversion Agreements. Members of the Committee spend several hours in advance of each meeting reading these materials. The Committee conducts its meetings under the general guidelines of Robert’s Rules of Order. Each case is reviewed and a formal vote is taken. The investigating regulation counsel is present to answer questions. The Committee meets in executive session without regulation counsel at the beginning of each meeting.
With respect to investigation reports, the Committee can take the following action:
a) Direct regulation counsel to conduct further investigation;
b) Direct regulation counsel to participate in mediation with the respondent if the respondent is willing;
c) Dismiss the allegations with or without the issuance of a "better practices" letter;
d) Divert the matter by approving a Diversion Agreement;
e) Hold a matter in abeyance (or remove it from abeyance);
f) Authorize the filing of a formal complaint; or
g) Order that a private admonition be imposed (this can be rejected by a respondent, which results in the filing of a formal complaint).
Regulation counsel makes a recommendation for a specific decision by ARC as part of every submission; however, the Committee independently decides the appropriate resolution. This sometimes results in matters being treated as more or less serious than proposed by regulation counsel. For example, in the past, the Committee has rejected Diversion Agreements, directed regulation counsel to offer a respondent a diversion, and dismissed cases in which the initial request was for formal proceedings or diversion.
The Committee reviewed 268 cases in 2004. This is in comparison to 218 cases in 2003, 207 cases in 2002, and 194 cases in 2000. The Committee met eleven times during 2004, averaging the review of approximately twenty-four matters per meeting. In 2004, the Committee approved 189 formal proceedings and sixty-two Diversion Agreements. There were also nine private admonitions ordered and six dismissals entered.
Additional Responsibilities Of the Committee
The Committee also has been charged with reviewing the number and length of pending investigations conducted by regulation counsel. The Chair of the Committee regularly receives reports on the status of all investigations and is provided explanations when investigations are pending for longer than eight months.
Additionally, the Committee is responsible for allegations of professional misconduct made against members of the Attorney Regulation Counsel’s staff. Committee procedures provide for the holding in abeyance of such allegations, pending the resolution of the underlying disciplinary matter. The exception is when the allegation appears to constitute a claim of a general unfitness to practice law or when there is an allegation that the attorney poses a substantial danger to continually engage in misconduct. When such matters are at issue, the Committee conducts independent investigations and appoints a special prosecutor, if necessary. The Committee dealt with four such matters during 2004. Of those matters that have been concluded, none involved a finding of misconduct.
Finally, when Regulation Counsel dismisses an investigation after the intake stage, the complainant can appeal the decision for review by the Committee. The Committee conducted no such reviews in 2004.
Training of Committee Members
Members of the Committee receive training to assist them in learning about substantive areas of law and the Rules of Professional Conduct. Additionally, many members of the Committee have voluntarily attended the eight-hour Ethics School offered by Attorney Regulation Counsel.
The members of ARC are diverse and independent groups of lawyers and members of the public. Committee decisions involve open debate and are reached in a thoughtful manner after considering input both from respondents and their attorneys and Attorney Regulation Counsel. The primary focus of the Committee is the protection of consumers of legal services.
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