The Certified Grievance Committee of the Columbiana County Bar Association
and the Grievance Process
Filing a Grievance:
The Certified Grievance Committee of the Columbiana County Bar Association has been given the authority by the Supreme Court of Ohio to investigate grievances against attorneys with a Columbiana County mailing address. Matters which arise in other counties may be directed to the local bar association in that county or to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Supreme Court of Ohio, 250 Civic Center Dr., Suite 325, Columbus, OH 43215.
Understanding the Grievance Process
The authority of the Certified Grievance Committee is limited to the investigation of attorney misconduct which would be in violation of the specific Disciplinary Rules which are included in the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct. The Columbiana County Bar Association has no authority to investigate other behavior by an attorney which the public may view as “unethical,” but which is not covered by the Disciplinary Rules. A fee dispute between you and your attorney usually cannot be investigated by the Grievance Committee, because most fee disputes do not involve professional misconduct. Fees are a matter of contract between the attorney and the client, and the Columbiana County Bar Association is not a party to that contract.
There are several important limitations on how and when the Columbiana Bar Association can take action in response to your allegations against an attorney. First, neither the Columbiana County Bar Association nor its Certified Grievance Committee can act as a court of appeals–it cannot overrule any decisions that have been made by a court. The Columbiana County Bar Association cannot change the outcome of your case or redeem your losses, whether monetary or otherwise. The only function of the Certified Grievance Committee is to investigate allegations of attorney misconduct and to either seek sanctions against the attorney with the Ohio Supreme Court or exonerate the attorney when no misconduct is found.
Second, the Certified Grievance Committee cannot interfere with ongoing court proceedings. The grievance process will not be used on behalf of one party in a lawsuit to put unfair pressure upon the other parties to that suit or upon the attorneys who are involved. The court system is the proper place for the resolution of civil or criminal disputes, and the injection of an attorney grievance into court proceedings is disruptive to the court system itself and may unfairly influence an attorney’s representation of his or her client.
Finally, it is important to recognize that the Columbiana County Bar Association and its Certified Grievance Committee cannot give you legal advice or represent you. The Grievance Committee’s function is to investigate, and seek discipline for, attorney misconduct. A person with a legal problem should consult an attorney, and cannot rely on the Columbiana County Bar Association for legal representation. You may pursue a cause of action in court against an attorney at the same time that your grievance against the attorney is being investigated by the Certified Grievance Committee. However, the Certified Grievance Committee will not be representing you, and the grievance procedure is separate and distinct from any civil cause of action. The fact that you have filed a grievance with the Columbiana County Bar Association will not affect the time limitations for the proper filing of a civil lawsuit, whether that suit is against your attorney or against anyone else. The investigation of a grievance by the Columbiana County Bar Association will normally take from 60 to 90 days.
The Certified Grievance Committee operates under rules adopted by the Supreme Court of Ohio which are designed to protect the public from attorney misconduct and to uphold the integrity of the Bar. It is the goal of Certified Grievance Committee members to thoroughly investigate complaints of attorney misconduct in a manner that is fair to both the accused attorney and to the interests of the public.
Complaint forms may be requested from the Columbiana County Bar Association by calling (330) 420-3662 or requested via mail at: 32 North Park Avenue Lisbon, Ohio 44432.