Board of Prosfessional Responsibility and Office of Disciplinary Counsel

For the Public

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The purpose of the disciplinary system is to protect the public, the courts, and the legal profession from attorneys who do not meet their ethical responsibilities. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has the ultimate authority for disciplining members of the District of Columbia Bar for violations of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct. The process is governed by Rule XI of the Rules of the Court of Appeals Governing the Bar, which generally provides that all members of the D.C. Bar, those making limited appearances pro hac vice, and others admitted to practice in the District of Columbia as Special Legal Consultants under Rule 46(c)(4) are subject to the disciplinary rules.

The Board on Professional Responsibility is appointed by the Court and serves as its disciplinary arm, responsible for the adjudication of disciplinary cases and the administration of the attorney discipline system. The Hearing Committees preside over disciplinary hearings and are appointed by the Board.

The Executive Attorney for the Board exercises the authority delegated by the Board pursuant to Rule XI and serves at its pleasure. The Executive Attorney acts as the Board’s legal advisor and administers the Office of the Executive Attorney, which is responsible for assigning formal charges to the Hearing Committees, maintaining records of disciplinary proceedings, and filing Board and Hearing Committee recommendations and cases.

Disciplinary Counsel is the chief prosecutor for the disciplinary system, appointed by the Board, and is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of complaints of attorney misconduct and disability. The procedure is governed by Rule XI and the Rules of the Board on Professional Responsibility, which set forth the specific requirements for the processing of cases.

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has inherent jurisdiction over members of the legal profession in the District of Columbia, including matters of attorney discipline. The Court has the power to promulgate and, in its discretion, amend the rules regarding attorney discipline, including the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct. The Court established the Board on Professional Responsibility as its disciplinary arm, appoints Board members, and designates those who shall serve as Board Chair and Vice-Chair. The Court reviews the recommendations of the Board and the Hearing Committees and has the exclusive authority to impose the most severe disciplinary sanctions—disbarment, suspension, and public censure.

Frequently Asked Questions for the Public

What is the Office of Disciplinary Counsel?

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) was created by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to investigate and prosecute complaints of ethical misconduct against lawyers licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia who violate the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC).

The Rules describe a lawyer’s obligation to clients, the courts, and the general public in professional and private dealings. The purpose of this process is to protect the public by disciplining lawyers who violate the ethics rules. Our office cannot consider complaints against judges acting in a judicial capacity.

For additional information, see Purpose and Mission.

Can you represent me in court or give me legal advice?

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel cannot represent you, give you any legal advice, or change the outcome of a court decision.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel cannot refer you to an attorney. You may consult the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center to obtain information about legal representation by calling their Legal Information Help Line at 202-626-3499.

Free Legal Help 

Contact the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center if you are an individual living in poverty who is at risk of losing your home, your livelihood, or your family. The Center also helps small businesses and community-based nonprofits needing legal assistance.

I am having problems with my attorney. What should I do?

Try to resolve issues with your attorney by communicating your concerns clearly and asking for a response.  Your attorney should clearly explain the fee agreement and scope of representation, keep you aware of developments in your case, and respond to any reasonable requests you may have for information.

If you feel that your problem is the result of poor communication or a misunderstanding between you and the attorney, you should have an open talk with the attorney before you file a complaint.

Can you help me contact my attorney?

The D.C. Bar’s Find a Member feature provides the same publicly available contact information for attorneys that we would be able to share with you.  If you are still unable to reach your attorney, you may need to file a complaint with our office.

Is my attorney licensed in the District of Columbia?

The D.C. Bar’s Find a Member feature enables a search of all attorneys licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia.  If an attorney is not listed as authorized to practice law and is advising you about D.C. law or representing you in Superior Court, please contact the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

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The Board on Professional Responsibility needs attorneys and non attorneys to serve on the Hearing Committees before whom disciplinary cases are tried.