What is a disciplinary procedure?
Do you want to file an official complaint against a lawyer? Then you can do so with the staff member of his/her bar association. He will investigate your complaint and may refer it to the Disciplinary Board. It will then decide whether the lawyer will be punished and, if so, what the punishment will be. Find out how such a procedure works.
The complaint itself
Filing a complaint with the President of the Bar
If you feel that your lawyer has violated his/her professional rules, you can file an official complaint with the President of the Bar of which your lawyer is a member. To be granted the status of 'complainant', your complaint must meet certain conditions, namely that it is in writing and includes the date, your full name and your signature.
Incidentally, the President of the Bar can also initiate disciplinary proceedings himself against a lawyer if he feels that the lawyer has violated his professional rules. Thus, a client need not necessarily be an involved party.
Complaint is investigated
The President of the Bar investigates your complaint himself or appoints an investigator. The President of the Bar will inform you of this by letter. The staff holder or investigator on duty will gather evidence and (if necessary) interview you, your accuser's lawyer and witnesses to gather information. You may also provide evidence or information to the staff officer yourself at any time. Your statement will end up in a police report and you have the right to get a copy of it.
Complaint is dismissed or goes to the disciplinary board
If the chief of staff finds your complaint justified, he or she will forward the file to the chairman of the disciplinary board and the lawyer will appear before the disciplinary board. The disciplinary board is a kind of court where independent lawyers judge the facts for which the lawyer is being prosecuted.
If the chief of staff does not find your complaint justified, it means that the complaint is not serious enough to bring the lawyer before the disciplinary board.
The President of the Bar will let you know his decision by letter anyway.
Do you disagree with the President of the Bar's decision? Then you can appeal against it. In that case, send a registered letter to the chairman of the Disciplinary Board within 3 months to let him know that you are appealing the decision.
Have you still not received an answer from the President of the Bar within 6 months of your complaint? Then contact the chairman of the disciplinary board by registered letter. You then have 3 months to do so, i.e. up to 9 months after your first letter of complaint.
What punishment can a lawyer receive?
The disciplinary board does not decide on the lawyer's liability. Thus, this council cannot order the lawyer to pay you compensation. Such a thing can only be decided by an ordinary court. What the disciplinary council does do is acquit a lawyer or impose a punishment.
Possible punishments are
- Reprimand - Here, the disciplinary council can also impose that the lawyer is not allowed to participate in internal elections within the profession (election of President of the Bar, Bar Council, General Assembly, Board of Directors of OVB) for up to 3 years.
- Suspension - Temporary ban from practising the profession, max. 1 year. Here the Disciplinary Board may also decide that the lawyer is not allowed to participate in internal elections within the profession (election of President of the Bar, Bar Council, General Assembly, Board of Directors of OVB) for up to 5 years.
- Deletion - Then the lawyer is permanently banned from practising the profession, forever.
The disciplinary board can never prohibit a lawyer from voting for elections to the general assembly and board of directors of the OVB.
The cost of the investigation can also be passed on to the lawyer.
As a complainant, you are not a party to the proceedings. Therefore, you are not automatically informed of the disciplinary board's decision. You can always request information from the chairman of the Disciplinary Board or the Chief of Staff, but they decide for themselves whether to inform you of the Disciplinary Board's decision.
Want to know more about discipline?
Is the cooperation with your lawyer not going as desired or are problems arising? There are several solutions to this.
The disciplinary board is actually a body where independent lawyers adjudicate on acts that a lawyer has committed and for which they can be prosecuted. Thus, the disciplinary board is in a sort of court that judges a lawyer's actions. Are those acts in line with the professional rules or not?
A lawyer, like any citizen, must comply with legal provisions. He or she is also subject to strict deontological rules to ensure the proper practice of the profession. Disciplinary law sanctions breaches of those rules.