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Internal Rules - Investigative Panel

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RULES OF CONDUCT AND PROCEDURE OF THE INVESTIGATIVE PANEL
STATE DISCIPLINARY BOARD

    Pursuant to the powers and duties accorded it in Rule 4-203(a) (8) in Part IV of the Rules and Regulations of the State Bar of Georgia, the Investigative Panel of the State Disciplinary Board of the State Bar of Georgia establishes the following rules of conduct and procedure.

Rule 1.  Oaths of Office.
    Members of the Investigative Panel of the State Disciplinary Board shall, upon their selection, be furnished by the Executive Director with the oath of office required of them, shall immediately sign the oath furnished to them, and shall return the signed oath of office to the Executive Director who will preserve the oaths in the records of the State Bar of Georgia at State Bar Headquarters.

Rule 2.  Powers and Duties.
    The Investigative Panel shall have such powers and perform such duties as are set forth in Part IV of the Rules and Regulations for the Organization and Government of the State Bar of Georgia, referred to as the "Bar Rules."

Rule 3.  Meetings.
    The Investigative Panel or a subcommittee thereof shall meet as outlined at Bar Rule 4-201(a)(4) and at such dates, times and places as may be set by the Panel or a subcommittee thereof.  The Investigative Panel shall also meet at other times on the call of the chairperson of the Investigative Panel.

Rule 4.  Election of Officers; Powers and Duties.
    Pursuant to Bar Rule 4-201(a)(4), the Investigative Panel shall elect officers.
    The chairperson or vice-chairperson acting as chairperson of a subcommittee shall also exercise such powers and assume such duties as are hereinafter provided.  In case of the absence, disqualification or incapacity of the chairperson, the vice-chairperson shall assume the duties and powers of the chairperson.  In case of a disqualification of both the chairperson and vice-chairperson while a Panel meeting is in session, the Panel shall vote upon a member to preside over the Panel's consideration of the matter at issue.  In case of a disqualification of both the chairperson and vice-chairperson when the Panel is not in session, the president-elect of the State Bar of Georgia shall designate another member of the Panel to preside over the Panel's consideration of the matter at issue.

Rule 5.  Initiation of Grievances; Duties and Powers of the Office of General Counsel.
    (a)    All grievances against members of the State Bar of Georgia, other than those initiated by the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia or the Investigative Panel, shall be in written memorandum form signed by the complainant.  The grievance form which shall be used in all grievances considered by the Office of General Counsel shall be approved by the Investigative Panel.
    (b)    All grievances properly submitted on grievance forms shall be referred to the Office of General Counsel for initial screening and review.  The Office of General Counsel shall determine whether each grievance recites facts and assertions sufficient to allege the violation of one or more of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct listed in Part IV, Chapter 1 of the State Bar Rules.
    (c)    All grievances not otherwise found to be unjustified, frivolous, or patently unfounded and alleging the violation of one or more of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct contained in Part IV, Chapter 1, of the State Bar Rules shall be forwarded by the Office of General Counsel to a member of the Investigative Panel for investigation as hereinafter provided.  All other grievances shall be dismissed by the Office of General Counsel.
    (d)    At every meeting of the Investigative Panel, the Office of General Counsel shall report on the number of grievances it has dismissed since the previous meeting for failure to invoke the disciplinary jurisdiction of the State Bar.  The Office of General Counsel shall cause all grievances which it has received and which have been dismissed either by it or by the State Disciplinary Board to be kept on file at the headquarters of the State Bar of Georgia until expunged pursuant to Bar Rules 4-224(a)(1) and (2).
    (e)    When the Office of General Counsel receives information that appears to invoke the disciplinary jurisdiction of the State Bar of Georgia, but no grievance form is filed, the information should be brought to the attention of the Panel for the Panel to consider instituting a grievance on its own motion pursuant to Bar Rule 4-203.  The Office of General Counsel shall use the guidelines set forth in the Bar Rules and these rules regarding the screening of grievance forms to determine when a matter should be brought to the attention of the Panel.

Rule 6.  Evaluation of Grievances;  Selection of Investigative Members.
    Pursuant to Bar Rules 4-203(a)(14) and 4-204, the Investigative Panel hereby delegates to the Office of General Counsel assignment of cases for investigation by individual members of the Investigative Panel.  Such assignment shall be in the sound discretion of the Office of General Counsel. No assignment shall be made to the president-elect of the State Bar of Georgia, the president-elect of the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia, the chairperson of the Investigative Panel or any lay member of the State Disciplinary Board without that member's prior approval.

Rule 7.  Investigation by the Investigative Panel.
    (a)    All grievances assigned for investigation to a member of the Investigative Panel shall be served upon the respondent lawyer with a Notice of Investigation and the enclosures outlined at Bar Rule 4-204.1
    (b).  The investigating member is authorized to furnish supplemental information to more fully apprise the respondent lawyer of the charges against that Respondent.  Service of the Notice of Investigation and grievance shall be as outlined at Bar Rule 4-204.2.
    (c)    The respondent lawyer shall file a written, verified response to the grievance with the investigating member as outlined at Bar Rule 4-204.3.
    (d)    The investigation of a grievance assigned to a member of
the Investigative Panel shall be within that member's exclusive jurisdiction.  No other member of the Panel shall enter the investigation of the case or engage in ex parte communication concerning the merits of the case without the express prior authorization of the investigating member.

Rule 8.  Report of the Investigating Member.
    At each meeting of the Investigative Panel, each member who has been assigned a grievance for investigation shall report.  If the member's investigation has been completed, the investigating member shall give an accounting of the form and substance of the investigation after which the member may recommend and the Panel shall determine either that probable cause does or does not exist.
    The investigating member or the Office of General Counsel shall make available to any member of the Panel so desiring a photocopy of the entire investigative file or any portion thereof.

Rule 9.  Investigation of Petitions for Voluntary Discipline.
    (a)    If during the course of the investigation of a grievance by a member of the Investigative Panel, the respondent lawyer submits a petition for voluntary discipline under State Bar Rule 4-203(a) (9), a copy shall be furnished to the investigating member and the Office of General Counsel.  The member may continue the investigation.  The Office of General Counsel shall file its recommendation on the petition with the investigating member.
    (b)    The investigating member shall report to the Investigative Panel on the petition for voluntary discipline and the Office of General Counsel's recommendation at such time as the member makes a report under Rule 8.
    (c)    If the Investigative Panel votes to accept the petition for voluntary discipline, it shall impose confidential discipline under Rule 4-205.

Rule 10.  Investigative Powers.
    In investigating grievances against members of the State Bar, the Investigative Panel shall have all of those powers enumerated in Part IV of the State Bar Rules.  Each member of the Investigative Panel shall be authorized to issue oaths and affirmations and to issue subpoenas for the appearance of persons and for the production of things and records during the course of the investigation of a grievance against a member of the State Bar.

Rule 11.  Report of the Findings of Probable Cause to the State Supreme Court.
    After a finding of probable cause, the chairperson may delegate authority for the preparation, execution and filing of the documents required by Bar Rule 4-204.4 to the Office of General Counsel.
 
Rule 12.  Original Pleadings.
    Each investigating member shall keep a file for each assigned case with the original documents gathered during the course of the investigation.  When the investigating member completes an investigation and reports on the grievance as outlined at Rule 8, the file containing original documents shall be returned to the Office of General Counsel.

Rule 13.  Expedited Treatment for Certain Cases.
    (a)    Upon receipt of sufficient evidence demonstrating that an attorney poses a substantial threat of harm to clients or the public, the Office of General Counsel, with the approval of the immediate past president of the State Bar of Georgia and the chairperson of the Review Panel, or at the direction of the chairperson of the Investigative Panel, may petition the Georgia Supreme Court for the suspension of the attorney pending disciplinary proceedings predicated upon the conduct causing such petition pursuant to the procedures outlined in Rule 4-108 of the State Bar Rules.
    (b)    After the Investigative Panel has found probable cause for the lodging of a formal complaint under Investigative Panel Internal Rule 11, any member may move that the case be given expedited treatment as outlined at Rule 4-108.  If the majority of those members present vote to expedite the case, the Office of General Counsel shall proceed as outlined in Rule 4-108.

Rule 14.  Contempt Procedure
    Contempt proceedings against any person who fails to appear and give testimony or to produce books, papers, or documents, or who refuses to appear to testify before the Investigative Panel, its subcommittees, or any member thereof after being subpoenaed to do so, shall be as outlined at Rule 4-221(b).

Rule 15.  Challenges to the Competency, Qualifications or Objectivity of Investigative Panel Members.
    (a)    A respondent lawyer shall have the right to challenge the competency, qualifications or objectivity of any member of the Investigative Panel considering the grievance. Within ten (10) days after receipt of the Notice of Investigation pursuant to Rule 4-204.1, the respondent lawyer shall deliver to the Clerk of the State Disciplinary Board written objection to the competency, qualifications or objectivity of any member of the Investigative Panel. The objection shall set forth the factual basis for the challenge. The challenged member may answer the respondent lawyer's objection in writing and shall mail the answer to the respondent lawyer and the Clerk of the State Disciplinary Board. At its next meeting, the Investigative Panel shall excuse the challenged member from the meeting room and consider the objection. The affirmative vote of three (3) members shall be sufficient to sustain the objection.
    (b)    Any member of the Investigative Panel shall have the right to decline to participate when the Panel considers a grievance.

Rule 16.  Letters of Admonition and Reprimands.
    The Investigative Panel shall have the power to issue formal letters of admonition and Investigative Panel reprimands in lieu of the recommendation of other discipline upon the conditions set forth at Rule 4-205.

Rule 17.  Nonresident Members; Venue of Hearing for Special Master.
    Venue of hearings shall be as set forth at Bar Rule 4-221(c).

Rule 18.  Extension of Time Within Which a Formal Complaint May Be Filed
    The chairperson or chair-designee may extend the time within which the Office of the General Counsel may file a formal complaint with the Supreme Court of Georgia  for good cause shown.

Rule 19.  Notification to Complainants.
    The Investigative Panel shall notify the complainant or complainants of the disposition of the grievance.

Rule 20.  Files.
    A file shall be opened for all matters which may come before the Investigative Panel for consideration.  When such matters are closed, such files shall be expunged in accordance with Rule 4-224.

Rule 21.  Violation of Criminal Statute.
    In the event the charge against a respondent lawyer amounts to a violation of a criminal statute, the Investigative Panel may direct the Office of the General Counsel to refer the matter to the appropriate district attorney for criminal prosecution and the Investigative Panel may defer any further action to await the disposition of the criminal charge.

Rule 22.  Appearances Before the Investigative Panel.
    It shall be the policy of the Investigative Panel not to permit personal appearances before the Panel or its subcommittees at meetings, except as otherwise specifically provided in these Rules.  Any presentations to the Panel or any subcommittee thereof should be by brief, memorandum or in other written form, unless otherwise decided by a majority vote of the Investigative Panel members present at a meeting at which a personal appearance is requested.

Rule 23.  Chairperson's Review of Screening Decisions.
    When requested to do so by the complainant, the Chairperson of the Investigative Panel shall have discretionary authority to review a decision of the Office of General Counsel to dismiss a grievance under Bar Rule 4-202(c).  If the Chairperson agrees with the decision to dismiss the grievance, the complainant shall be notified of that decision in writing.  If the Chairperson disagrees with the decision to dismiss the grievance, the grievance shall be forwarded to the Investigative Panel or subcommittee under Bar Rule 4-202(c) and 4-204.

Rule 24.  Review of Newly Discovered Evidence.
    After the grievance has been considered by the Panel, the Office of General Counsel may refer a grievance back to the Investigating member of the Panel upon the request of either the complainant or the respondent when that person has presented newly discovered evidence.  The investigating member, in the member's sound discretion may review the newly discovered evidence and decide if the matter should be presented to the entire Panel.  If the investigating member is no longer on the Panel, the Chairperson may review the newly discovered evidence.

Rule 25.  Removal of Panel Members.
    (a)    Any Investigative Panel member who is absent from either three (3) consecutive meetings of the sub-committee to which that member is assigned or any four (4) meetings of that member's sub-committee in a calendar year, shall be considered for removal by the Panel, in Executive Session, at the next meeting of the Panel following said absences.  Any such Panel member shall be removed from the Investigative Panel, unless the Panel determines, by majority vote, that bonafide, unavoidable reasons exist for some or all of the absences, and that such Panel member is not in violation of the case handling time limits set forth in sub-paragraph (b).  Panel members may receive credit for attending a meeting of the sub-committee to which they are not assigned. 
    (b)    Any Panel member who has, after any two meetings of the Panel in a calendar year, more than three (3) cases in excess of 180 days old, measured from the date of service of the Respondent, shall be considered for removal in Executive Session, at the next meeting of the Panel following said occurrence.  Any such Panel member shall be removed from the Investigative Panel, unless the Panel determines, by majority vote, that bona fide, unavoidable reasons exist for the lack of resolution of some or all of the unresolved cases in question, and that such Panel member has met the attendance requirements set forth in sub-paragraph (a).  The Panel may grant extensions of time, for good and sufficient reasons, to complete the investigation of any case.
    (c)     The Panel member being considered for removal shall not vote on the issue of removal and shall not be present during the Panel's deliberation and vote.  The Panel member under consideration may address the Panel in writing, or personally, prior to the Panel's deliberation and vote.
    (d)    The failure of a Panel member to comply with any of the provisions of this Rule shall not have any effect whatsoever upon the resolution of any case by the Panel and shall not operate as a defense to the Panel's ruling on the part of any Respondent.
    (e)    The vacancy created by any Panel member who is removed from the Investigative Panel under the provisions of this Rule shall be filled by appointment of the current President of the State Bar of Georgia.

Rule 26.  Pending Civil Litigation.
    In those grievances where there is related civil litigation pending, the Panel may, in its discretion, defer action on the matter until the civil litigation is completed.

Rule 27.  Disqualification.
    No member of the Investigative Panel or the Review Panel of the State Disciplinary Board shall represent a respondent in any phase of an attorney disciplinary proceeding.  If a Panel member's partners or associates represent a respondent in any phase of an attorney disciplinary proceeding, then the Panel member is automatically recused from determination, investigation, or review regarding respondent's case during all phases of the disciplinary proceeding.



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