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Suing a Client over Disciplinary Complaints

Recently, the Louisiana Supreme Court reprimanded an attorney for suing a client (his sister) because she repeatedly filed complaints against him and appealed when the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel determined that her complaints were baseless. In In Re: Roy A. Raspanti , the disciplinary board had recommended suspending the attorney for three months, with another nine months' suspension deferred, but the Supreme Court settled on a public reprimand.
Louisiana law guarantees that no one who files a complaint with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel can be sued for doing so, even if the complaint is malicious. In reprimanding the attorney, the Court stated that the privilege conferred by the rule for communications with disciplinary authorities is absolute, regardless of the form of action in which the lawyer’s pleading is cast. Accordingly, the court determined that a pleading alleging the filing of such complaints is frivolous in violation of Rule 3.1(2) and that filing such an action is conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice contrary to Rule 8.4(d). Many other states have adopted rules similar to those cited by the Louisiana court.
The court’s 31-page opinion includes an historical review of the development of modern disciplinary systems through the ABA and the states and provides a good primer for those interested in the evolution of modern disciplinary systems.
For more information on this topic, see ABA/BNA Lawyers' Manual On Professional Conduct, MOPC 61:101, available at lexis.com. If you have a subscription, you can access the resource here.