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May 30, 2013

Lawyer Discipline Live and Almost Live

by WSBA
Lady Justice
Did you know you can watch lawyer disciplinary proceedings in person, online, or on TV?

lady justice-smDid you ever wonder how lawyers in Washington are disciplined for ethical misconduct? You can watch lawyer disciplinary proceedings in person, from your computer, or on television.

Disciplinary Hearings

Disciplinary hearings conducted by volunteer hearing officers are open to the public, and held in locations throughout the state, primarily at the WSBA offices in Seattle. The cases are tried by WSBA disciplinary counsel or by volunteer trial counsel. After a hearing, the hearing officer issues written findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommendation. Contact the Disciplinary Board Clerk for more information.

Disciplinary Board

The Disciplinary Board, which has lawyer and non-lawyer members, automatically reviews hearing officer recommendations for suspension or disbarment as an intermediate appeal before the case reaches the Supreme Court. The Board holds oral arguments on many of these cases, which are open to the public and generally scheduled at the WSBA offices in Seattle. You can view the oral argument schedule here. After the argument, the Board issues a written recommendation to the Supreme Court.

Appellate Arguments

Appellate arguments before the Supreme Court in disciplinary cases are public and are held at the Temple of Justice in Olympia. Most of these arguments are also broadcast live on TVW.org. Check the TVW schedule for arguments in disciplinary cases on any given day, or search the Archives under Courts/State Supreme Court. See your television listing for TVW’s re-broadcasts of these arguments. After the arguments, the Supreme Court issues written opinions in disciplinary cases it considers. You can link to these opinions from the Supreme Court page on the WSBA website or from the official Supreme Court website.

Lawyer Discipline System

The lawyer discipline system protects the public by holding lawyers accountable for ethical misconduct. The WSBA website has a description of lawyer discipline in Washington, which shows the structure of the Washington Lawyer Discipline System, including the roles of the Washington Supreme Court (which has exclusive authority over lawyer discipline), the Disciplinary Board, Hearing Officers, and the WSBA’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel. Disciplinary sanctions are, in order of increasing severity, reprimands, suspensions, and disbarments. The Washington Supreme Court orders all suspensions and disbarments, including interim suspensions.

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