In this 3-part discussion, we explore grievances and how to respond to them. In Part 2, we detail the timeframe for investigating grievances:
While there are time limits in place to guide an investigation, they are fairly flexible.
After receiving a grievance, the ODC or CGC has 60 days from the date of receipt to conclude any investigations. Decisions as to the disposition of the grievance shall be made within 30 days after conclusion of the investigation. Extensions of time for completion of the investigation may be granted by the Secretary of the Board upon written request and good cause shown.
When an extension is granted, investigations are to be completed within 150 days from the date of receipt of the grievance. Time limits may be extended by the Board Chair to beyond 150 days.
An investigation that is not completed within those 150 days may be referred to another attorney by the Director.
No investigation is to extend beyond one year from the date of the filing of the grievance. However, the time limits are jurisdictional, and a grievance is not to be dismissed unless there exists an unreasonable delay AND the rights of the attorney to have a fair hearing have been violated.
While investigations beyond the one year limit are deemed prima facia evidence of unreasonable delay, the necessity to prove prejudice to the respondent reduces dismissals of investigations to a trickle.
A dismissed grievance and file closure by a committee may be appealed to the Disciplinary Counsel. If the Disciplinary Counsel affirms the dismissal, there is no other review or appeal. Conversely, decisions by ODC to dismiss a grievance after investigation are not subject to any appeal.
Independent experts, such as investigators, auditors, examiners, and alike may also be used in an investigation.
On a related note, a committee may promulgate written procedures for handling matters of client concern that do not constitute disciplinary violations, such as mediation, office practice monitoring, and other alternative dispute resolution methods (Prof. Cond. Rule V §5[G]).
Part 3 will look at what to do when a grievance is made about you.