The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board (LADB) is tasked with the responsibility of investigating all allegations of lawyer misconduct and making recommendations to the Supreme Court when discipline is warranted. The agency consists of a statewide board, hearing committees, disciplinary counsel and administrative staff appointed by the board and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC).
The Disciplinary Board is composed of 14 members who are appointed by the Louisiana Supreme Court. One member is nominated by the Louisiana State Bar Association each year and must have prior lawyer discipline experience. Four others are members of the general public with diverse backgrounds.
Regulation of the practice of law in Louisiana is a critically important responsibility resting upon the inherent and constitutionally grounded authority of the Supreme Court. Through the Court’s dedicated efforts, the lawyer regulation system ensures that the conduct of Louisiana’s nearly 23,500 attorneys comports with the ethical standards reflected in the Rules of Professional Conduct that are designed to protect the interests of the public, the bar members, and the courts.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) is the investigative and prosecutorial arm of the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board (LADB), a unified agency created by the Supreme Court effective April 1, 1990. In 2017, 2,796 complaints against lawyers were filed with ODC, a third consecutive yearly decline in those numbers. Of those complaints filed in 2017, less than half, or 1,059, were opened for formal disciplinary investigation. The remainder were either dismissed at screening or addressed in alternatives to discipline. In the exercise of a ‘firm but fair’ approach to attorney discipline, the ODC has aggressively pursued serious misconduct by lawyers, filing a combined 106 formal charges and consent discipline pleadings during the year.
Several underlying causes for this continued decline in complaints include a proactive approach to education by many of the stakeholders in the legal profession featuring: the LSBA award winning Professionalism Program held each year at all four law schools in Louisiana which immerses the first year law student in concepts of both ethics and professionalism beginning day one; the LADB/ODC statewide offering of free CLE seminars focused on solo practitioners and small firm members; LADB/ODC law school presentations, typically focused on 2nd and 3rd year law students and the Rules of Professional Conduct and Rule XIX; the LSBA Diversion programming addressing instances of minor misconduct where there was little or no harm, and where the misconduct is not likely to reoccur; the LSBA sponsored trust accounting school where practical education regarding the proper use and management of a client trust account is taught; and meaningful rule amendments by the Court such as the recently required trust account reconciliation on a quarterly basis which alone resulted in a nearly 50% reduction in the total number of overdraft instances reported to ODC. Of particular note is the extraordinary role played by Louisiana’s Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program which leads the nation as one of the premier programs as validated by a recent ABA audit finding.
The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board