Office of Disciplinary Counsel
THESE FAQ RESPONSES ARE INTENDED TO PROVIDE GENERAL, SUMMARY GUIDANCE AND ARE NOT A SUBSTITUTION FOR THE DELAWARE LAWYERS’ RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT (THE “RULES”). LAWYERS, CLIENTS AND MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC SHOULD CONSULT THE RULES, AS APPROPRIATE.
Q: What are the purposes of the disciplinary process?
A: The purposes of lawyer discipline are to protect clients and the public, to ensure the proper administration of justice, to preserve confidence in the legal profession, and to deter lawyers from ethical misconduct. Although attorney accountability is vital to the justice system, the purpose of lawyer discipline is not to punish lawyers.
Compliance with the Rules depends primarily on voluntary adherence by lawyers themselves. Peer support and formal disciplinary proceedings, when necessary, are the secondary and tertiary means, respectively, of obtaining compliance with the Rules.
Q: Can ODC represent me?
A: No. ODC does not provide legal advice. Consequently, ODC will not represent you in any legal matter. If you need help finding a lawyer, you may contact the Delaware State Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service.
Q: Can ODC help me find a lawyer?
A: No. If you need a referral, you may contact the Delaware State Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service.
Q: Should I file a complaint with ODC?
A: ODC will not advise you whether you should file a complaint because it cannot provide legal advice.
Q: Can ODC help me resolve a dispute with my lawyer (or former lawyer) regarding my legal fees or refund my money?
A: ODC will not adjudicate fee disputes between lawyers and their clients. If you have a dispute with your lawyer regarding the amount of fees paid, you may contact the Delaware State Bar Fee Dispute Conciliation and Mediation Committee.
Q: Can ODC intervene in a pending civil, criminal or administrative proceeding on my behalf?
A: ODC cannot intervene in pending court proceedings. If there are pending court proceedings, it is likely your complaint will be stayed or dismissed until those proceedings conclude.
Q: Can I appeal a court's ruling to ODC?
A: ODC is not a court and cannot review, reverse, or remand any decision made by any court.
Q: How do I file a complaint?
A: If you wish to file a complaint alleging a lawyer engaged in professional misconduct or alleging a lawyer or person engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, you must complete an ODC Complaint Form online.
Complaints should be filed electronically if at all possible. If you are unable to file the complaint electronically, you may print a hard copy of the Complaint Form and submit it by mail, or contact ODC at 302-651-3931 and a Complaint Form will be mailed to you. ODC does not accept complaints by phone.
Q: What happens after my complaint is filed?
A: The filing of a complaint does not automatically result in disciplinary action against the lawyer or person you complained about, or a hearing. Each year, ODC reviews hundreds of complaints, but only a small percentage of these ever proceed to a hearing.
Q: How long does it take to resolve a complaint?
A: Complaints may take months to resolve. Each case varies depending on the nature of the complaint and procedures necessary to finalize the matter.
Q: Can I request the status of a complaint I filed?
A: ODC typically does not provide status reports to complainants. ODC will notify you in writing regarding the final disposition of your complaint.
Q: Can I appeal an ODC decision?
A: ODC decisions are not appealable.
Q: Is a lawyer required to return client files at the termination of the representation?
A: It depends upon the specific materials requested and other facts related to the representation. Generally, upon the termination of representation, a lawyer is required to take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client’s interests, such as surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled. Rule 16(d). However, the lawyer may retain papers relating to the client to the extent permitted by other law. Id.
Q: How may I obtain disciplinary information regarding a lawyer?
A: Information regarding the public discipline of lawyers is accessible through the Digest of Lawyer Discipline available on the ODC’s website. Public discipline includes disbarment, suspension, interim suspension, public reprimand, and transfers to disability inactive status. Information regarding the private discipline of lawyers and disciplinary complaints that are dismissed is confidential.
Q: How do I file a complaint against a judge?
A: ODC has no jurisdiction to consider complaints against opposing parties, law enforcement officials, public agencies, or the courts.
Complaints regarding the professional conduct of judges may be submitted to The Court on the Judiciary, 55 The Green, Dover, DE 19901, 302-739-4155.
Office of Disciplinary Counsel
The Renaissance Centre
405 North King Street, Suite 420
Wilmington, Delaware 19801
P: (302) 651-3931 | F: (302) 651-3939