The Attorney Grievance Commission was established in 1975 to oversee the discipline of Maryland attorneys and review the conduct of attorneys to determine the need for alternatives to discipline. The Attorney Grievance Commission also seeks to prevent the unauthorized practice of law.
The Commission consists of nine attorneys and three non-attorneys appointed by the Court of Appeals for staggered three-year terms. Generally a member is eligible for reappointment immediately following the expiration of a full three-year term. Members of the Commission serve without compensation. The Chair and Vice-Chair of the Commission are designated by the Court.
Subject to approval by the Court of Appeals, the Commission appoints an attorney to serve as Bar Counsel. For fiscal year 2021, Bar Counsel’s staff includes two Deputy Bar Counsel, one Senior Assistant Bar Counsel, eight Assistant Bar Counsel, two staff attorneys, six investigators, a law clerk, an operations manager, and eight support staff.
The Commission employs an attorney as Executive Counsel and Director who acts as in-house counsel to the Commission, as liaison to the Chair of the Peer Review Committee, reviews documents filed with the Commission and maintains the records of the Commission.
The Commission oversees the activities of Bar Counsel and staff. Those activities include the investigation of possible misconduct, the prosecution of disciplinary proceedings, the review of escrow account overdrafts, the investigation of unauthorized practice of law and the investigation of petitions for reinstatement. The Commission meets monthly, receives reports on receipts and expenditures, disciplinary statistics, the flow of complaints at all stages within the disciplinary process and it reviews personnel performance.
The Commission appoints the members of the Peer Review Committee, all of whom are volunteers, and it designates the Chair and one or more Vice Chairs. The Commission determines the number of persons in each circuit necessary to conduct the volume of peer review meetings. One-third of that number are non-attorney residents and two-thirds are attorneys who maintain offices for the practice of law within that circuit. The term of each member is two years.
Upon completion of an investigation, Bar Counsel recommends to the Commission one of various actions, which the Commission may approve or disapprove, or files with the Commission a Statement of Charges with an election for peer review. Peer review panels hold informal meetings with Bar Counsel, the complainant and the attorney and recommend action to the Commission, which it may approve or disapprove. The actions which Bar Counsel or the peer review panels may recommend to the Commission include dismissal of a complaint (with or without a letter of cautionary advice or a letter of admonition) in accordance with Md. Rule 19-715; a Conditional Diversion Agreement in accordance with Md. Rule 19-716; a reprimand in accordance with Md. Rule 19-717; permanent retired status in accordance with Md. Rule 19-717.1; or the immediate filing of a Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action in accordance with Md. Rules 19-721, 19-722 or 19-723. A reprimand issued by the Commission is public and open to inspection pursuant to Md. Rule 19-707.
Petitions for Disciplinary or Remedial Action are filed by Bar Counsel in the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals designates a circuit court judge to hold a hearing and make findings of fact and conclusions of law. The matter is then transmitted back to the Court of Appeals for oral argument and final disposition. The Court of Appeals may order disbarment, suspension, reprimand, inactive status, dismissal or a remand for further proceedings.