Iowa considers less transparency in discipline process

July 26, 2011
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When it comes to disciplinary actions involving professionals – doctors, nurses, lawyers – I am all for as much transparency and access to information as possible. This isn’t just due to the line of work I’m in. I believe in educated consumers, and how can one make an informed choice without knowing their attorney or physician made some bad choices in the past.

When looking to purchase a new camera or visit a specific hotel, people read reviews. Why waste your money on a camera that people say is hard to use or not worth the price? It’s the same principle when shopping for a lawyer – before plunking down a retainer or entering into a contract, as the client, you should have the right to know the attorney was suspended for stealing from a client or whatever reason he or she had been disciplined.

In Iowa, the Supreme Court is considering whether to keep the disciplinary process confidential in exchange for cooperation from the offending attorney. If the attorney agrees that their license should be suspended, the matter could be prevented from being disclosed.

Bad idea.

I should be allowed to know whether I’m dealing with an attorney with a former drug problem or a history of not properly representing clients. Many of the attorneys who are disciplined can recover from the gaffe and move on to have incident-free careers. But there are the repeat offenders who cannot.

Making the process less transparent could also give those attorneys considering breaking the rules less pause to do so. If they know there’s likely no way the public will find out what they did, what’s there to keep them in check?

In Indiana, our process seems more transparent than what’s described in a Des Moines Register article. If you search Indiana’s Roll of Attorneys, you can see whether someone has been disciplined or has pending discipline. While you don’t know the topic of the pending matter, at least you’re aware the attorney may get in trouble for some reason.

What are your thoughts on the Iowa proposal?

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  • Transparency Tradeoff
    Iowa is for sure going in the wrong direction.
    But don't forget that in Indiana, as in most states, transparency only applies when a grievance has made it through several layers of in-house screening.
    This is a tough tradeoff, but probably the correct one. If every grievance is immediately made public, a lawyer can take a hit from a bogus complaint and have a very hard time living it down.
  • dont go there!
    It is most certainly a bad trajectory. Transparency is protection not only for the public but also lawyers. Lawyers need to be protected from bullying for political reasons. The less transparency in the process the less protection for the politically incorrect lawyer who may be bullied into resigning. I am thinking of In re Anastaplo and cases like that.

    Lawyers have a right to free speech too and dont just waive it by applying to the bar.

    And that should not just count for the left.
  • Chaining down the attorneys
    Looks like the Iowa S.Ct. joins another (much closer to us) in viewing all attorneys as its lackeys. All better be ready, willing and able to deny Christ as King -- as I was not -- they want to be attorneys in the Brave New World the elites are building for us (well, some of us).

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