Bar News - August 14, 2009
Attorney Discipline Office Is Developing Website
The NH Attorney Discipline Office (ADO) expects to launch a comprehensive website by the end of the year that will improve access to Supreme Court-imposed discipline and Professional Conduct Committee decisions.
Due to limitations of funding and time, the website, initially, will only report information and decisions back to 2004, when the state’s attorney discipline process was restructured. The site’s database of decisions will be searchable by the name of the respondent attorney or complainant, year of the decision, docket number, and potentially, by specific Rules of Professional Conduct cited.
Decisions issued by the Committee before 2004 will continue to be available by contacting the Attorney Discipline Office. The website will provide explanations about how a member of the public can locate discipline decisions from before 2004, as well as the steps needed to pursue a grievance. Complainants will not be able to file complaints online; a written, notarized statement is required to make a complaint.
The site will link to the Rules of Professional Conduct as well as the procedural rules of the Attorney Discipline Office. The website will not have the ability to track the progress of a complaint as can be done with PACER in the federal court system.
Margaret H. Nelson, chair of the Professional Conduct Committee, said she wanted to give the NH legal community advance notice that the website will be launched soon, and she invited members of the bar and the public to provide useful input.
Key features of the website are still being developed and the URL (website address) of the site is not available yet. The staff of the Attorney Discipline Office, with Disciplinary Counsel Landya McCafferty taking a lead role, has been working with volunteer Saurabh Vishnubhakat, a Franklin Pierce law student and recipient of an Albert Schweitzer Fellowship for community service.
Nelson said the PCC wanted to create a useful website that provides access to the attorney discipline process in "a 21st century" manner. She said New Hampshire is likely one of the last states to post its decisions on the Internet. Presently, there are several pages on the state Judicial Branch website devoted to information about the attorney discipline process; decisions by the Supreme Court on attorney discipline are posted in the slip opinions.
The PCC hopes that the new website will eliminate some of the phone calls or in-person visits regarding routine queries that the ADO staff now handles. Attorneys who frequently represent attorneys in disciplinary matters will also benefit as they will have easier access to the work of the PCC and the ADO so that, for example, they may be able to compare decisions or sanctions made in cases with similar circumstances.
Attorneys or members of the public with questions or suggestions about the development of the new ADO website are encouraged to contact Administrative Assistant to the Disciplinary Counsel Gladys Strickhart, at email@example.com.