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Florida Bar Disciplinary Actions

Lawyers sometimes need their own lawyers too, especially in the cases of defending formal complaints made to the Bar or when a license must be reinstated or readmitted.

Retain Your Professional License

A lawyer who has received a formal complaint from the Attorney Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP) needs to respond within 15 days. Take this time to find a lawyer who has experience with the Florida Bar, specifically regarding the discipline process.

Charles L. Curtis is the lawyer for lawyers. He has 43 years of experience working directly with the Florida Bar. His integrity, knowledge, and honesty make him a trustworthy lawyer to work with at this level. Watch this short video to learn a bit more about Mr. Curtis.

Mr. Curtis can help you retain your professional license by representing you throughout the discipline process. He is also experienced with the legal proceedings to help lawyers with reinstatement and readmission of a previously-revoked license.

Thorough & Aggressive License Defense

A Disbarment Overview

The Florida Bar is in place to protect the sanctity of our country’s judicial system. This system helps enforce diligent practice of all lawyers licensed to practice law in Florida, ensure high standards are upheld, and the public is protected as a result.

Clients deserve the right to the best service, so lawyers are legally held to a standard to help clients obtain the most favorable legal results.

According to the Florida Bar’s website, about 6 to 7 percent of lawyers in Florida are disciplined by the Florida Supreme Court. This discipline process is outlined below, but first it is important to discuss a few reasons why a lawyer may be disciplined when he or she does not conduct him/herself accordingly.

Unethical Or Criminal Conduct

Client complaints to The Florida Bar may also lead to civil actions against lawyers. Common reasons include:

  • Giving poor or bad; i.e. negligent, legal advice
  • Failure to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expired
  • Failure to meet court deadlines
  • Misrepresentation of the merits of a case
  • Failure to disclose a conflict of interest
  • Breach of fiduciary duty
  • Dismissal of a case due to attorney unexcused actions or failure to timely act
  • Excessive over-billing for legal work performed and results achieved

A lawyer may go through the Discipline Process with the Florida Bar if a situation arises that leads others to believe a lawyer is no longer fit to practice law. This is usually the result of unethical or criminal conduct, such as a lawyer being convicted of a felony.

Throughout history, some notable lawyers have faced disbarment, or have resigned from the Bar before it got to that point.

Former Vice President of the United States Spiro Agnew was charged with bribery and tax evasion.

Remember the Watergate Scandal? Former President of the United States Richard Nixon was charged with obstruction of justice. He faced disbarment.

Florida lawyer Jack Thompson specialized in activism against rap music and video games. Throughout his time, he made false and defamatory statements toward his opponents, which resulted in a permanent disbarment for a variety of misconduct charges.

There are multiple reasons a lawyer may receive a complaint and be forced to go through the Florida Bar Discipline Process.

The Discipline Process

Attorneys are subjected to strict guidelines, but sometimes clients feel their lawyer may not have served them to their expectations. Client complaints can lead to civil action against the lawyer, which can result in a lengthy discipline process with The Florida Bar. This infographic was created to follow a typical case. As with everything involving the law, each story is different and deserves personal attention. Use this infographic to clarify the process from the initial complete all the way to a Supreme Court order, if necessary.


The Details

Complaint Issued

The only reason a lawyer may ever need to hire a lawyer on behalf of his or her career is because a complaint was formally filed to the ACAP. Complaints are always evaluated to start the process of determining whether or not the lawyer in question is innocent or guilty of the allegations. Any person may file a complaint against a practicing lawyer, such as a client, a coworker, or even a judge.

Process Starts

The ACAP reviews the complaint. They determine if it is a violation of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar. If it is a violation, they alert the lawyer who then has 15 days to respond to the allegation to take further action.

Need Further Investigation/Lawyer Doesn’t Respond

At this point, the ACAP knows the allegation needs further investigation. It will be forwarded to one of the five branch offices of the Florida Bar. It may also be forwarded if the accused lawyer does not respond within the allowed 15 day window.

The five branches of the Bar are in Tallahassee, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale. The office chosen depends on the location of the lawyer’s judicial court.

Stop The Allegations

The allegations may be proved false upon further review during the 15 day window. If this happens, the case is closed and the lawyer does not have to worry about further investigation.

Grievance Committee

In the Bar office, there is a grievance committee. This committee will review the allegations and hold a hearing. The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether there is probable cause for the claim and if they need to pursue further action.

Need Further Investigation

In the event that the grievance committee finds probable cause in the claim, the case will be sent on to the Board of Governors for further review.

Stop The Allegations

The grievance committee may close the case if they find no probable cause. A letter of diversion or advice may be issued. This is similar to probation, in a sense. A letter of diversion or advice means the lawyer admits to the allegation but does not have to formally plead guilty or go to trial. There may be some supervision required for a certain timespan, depending on the allegation.

Board of Governors and Designated Reviewer

If the grievance committee finds there is probable cause, the next step is for the Board of Governors to evaluate the case and judgments so far. The Board of Governors appoints a specific person, known as the Designated Reviewer, to handle the case and to make a decision. This decision determines whether the case is closed or moves on to the Florida Supreme Court. If the designated reviewer determines the previous decisions will not hold up to the Supreme Court, the case is closed. Otherwise, the case heads to trial.

Heading To Trial

When the grievance committee and Board of Governors determine there is probable cause for the allegation, charges are officially filed to the Florida Supreme Court.

Referee Trial

The Florida Supreme Court appoints a county or circuit judge as referee of the trial. During this trial, the referee hears from witnesses and reviews evidence. It is this judge who presents the final decision for the case, but the Supreme Court gets the last say. The referee recommends innocence or guilt, as well as appropriate sanctions. The referee also reviews consent judgments.


The Board of Governors and the designated reviewer for the case examine the referee’s report and final decision. The accused lawyer and the Board of Governors have 60 days to file an appeal to the referee’s decision.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has the final say in all lawyer disciplinary actions. The court may disapprove or approve any piece of the decision on guilt from the referee, Board of Governors, and more. This discipline order is final. It is important that any appeals are submitted before it gets to the Supreme Court because, again, this is the last word on the matter.

Orders Enforced. Case Closed.

The contempt powers of the Supreme Court ensure the discipline order is enforced. The case is closed. In the best case scenario, the Supreme Court does not find the lawyer guilty and allows him or her to keep his or her license. However, the Court may find the lawyer guilty and order that he or she have his or her license disbarred or suspended.

If this is the case, it doesn’t have to be the end of a legal career.

Disbarred Or Suspended? How To Get Your License Back

Attorney Charles L. Curtis can help lawyers again obtain their legal licenses after suspension or disbarment. Learn more about the reinstatement and readmission process for the Florida Bar.

Reinstatement and Readmission

Reinstatement: A person must submit a petition for reinstatement, or the petitioner’s counsel must submit the petition, to the Florida Supreme Court to schedule a hearing. The Court will appoint a referee to report on the case to the Court.

Readmission: A person interested in readmission must apply to the Florida Board of Bar Examiners.

Lawyers who have been disbarred, suspended, deemed delinquent, or faced disciplinary resignation or revocation have the opportunity to earn back their license. Before a lawyer can give any consideration to reinstatement or readmission, he or she must have adhered to all elements of rehabilitation.

The Florida Bar requires a $500 processing fee be submitted with a copy of the petition or application so that a referee may be appointed.

This process may be dreary and long.

About Attorney Charles L. Curtis, PA

As an experienced, respected attorney before The Florida Bar and all trial and appellate courts in Florida, including The Florida Supreme Court, Charles Curtis knows what is required to maintain a license to practice law in Florida. He also understands that it is devastating to be threatened with the loss of any professional license and to lose one’s license. If your license has been denied or is in jeopardy of being disciplined, including being revoked, you can rely on Mr. Curtis to provide a vigorous, knowledgeable defense. He is a former member of Florida Bar Grievance Committees (three times; twice as Chair) and has handled numerous cases in The Florida Bar’s grievance process, including appeals to The Florida Supreme Court to uphold favorable recommendations by Referees and to reverse those which were improvidently made arising out of disciplinary proceedings. In 2011-2012 he was appointed by the President of the Florida Bar as an active member of the Hawkins Commission. It studied and recommended improvements to Florida’s disciplinary system.

All serious complaints should be timely addressed and defended with those lodging them and, where necessary, before the Florida Bar by an experienced and competent lawyer. Mr. Curtis can be that lawyer for you.

Practitioners of numerous professions choose the law office of Charles L. Curtis, P.A., for license defense in professional disciplinary cases and for representation in professional malpractice claims. Whether you are applying to The Florida Bar for a license or fighting allegations of misconduct in your practice, attorney Curtis can assist you.

For more than 43 years, Attorney Charles L. Curtis has served the lawyers of Florida with legal counsel involving any and all action with The Florida Bar. He is honest and has integrity. He knows how to approach these types of cases with perseverance.

The law firm run by Mr. Curtis is small, which means every client gets the one-on-one attention necessary for these delicate and future-effecting cases.

Mr. Curtis is the zealous lawyer you want defending you as you defend yourself to the Florida Supreme Court.

Contact Him Today To Schedule A Consultation