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Frequently asked questions

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 Complaints against Lawyers – Frequently Asked Questions 

1. What falls within the terms of reference of the Ethics Commission of L.E.P.L. “Georgian Bar Association”? 

The Ethics Commission is the body elected by the General Assembly of the Georgian Bar Association, which verifies the received information whenever a complaint is filed against a lawyer, and makes a decision on the disciplinary responsibility of a lawyer. The Ethics Commission is an independent body, which makes decisions based on the Law of Georgia on Bar and the Code of Professional Ethics for Lawyers. In its activities the Ethics Commission is guided by the Regulation on Disciplinary Proceedings against Lawyers and Disciplinary Responsibility. The Ethics Commission has five disciplinary Collegiums, each of them consisting of three members. 

2. Who can file a complaint? 

Any person, who believes that a lawyer violated his/her rights or interests, can file a complaint against a lawyer with the Ethics Commission. Also a complaint can be filed by a lawyer against another lawyer for the commitment of a disciplinary violation and by a case reviewing agency against a lawyer for a disciplinary violation committed by the latter. 

3. Against whom can I file a complaint? 

You can file a complaint against an active lawyer if you believe that a lawyer violated his/her obligations under the law and the Code of Professional Ethics for Lawyers through his/her acts or omissions and thus jeopardised your rights and interests. However, the lawyer should have made this act in the course of discharge of his/her professional activities. 

4. What should I know before filing a complaint

You should try to solve your problem in a less formal way: you may present your claims and then discuss them directly with the lawyer or the senior partner of the legal bureau the lawyer concerned works for. 

5. What is beyond the terms of reference of the Ethics Commission? 

Ethics Commission is not authorized: 

To provide legal advice and offer legal counselling services; 

To accept such complaints which have already been considered by the Ethics Commission; 

To initiate disciplinary proceedings against a lawyer for an action, committed by the person concerned not in the capacity of a lawyer, but rather under a different status, e.g. in the capacity of a company employee, lecturer etc.; 

To force a lawyer to refund the paid fees to the client, pay damages or be an arbiter between a client and a lawyer in civil litigation. 

6. Are there any limitations with timelines? 

The Ethics Commission reviews complaints filed in relation with acts, committed after the adoption of the Code of Ethics; respectively the Commission is not authorised to review cases which were committed before 15 April, 2006. 

Also the Commission is not authorised to review cases if 5 years have already passed since the commitment thereof. 

7. How can I file a complaint? 

A complaint can be submitted in written form to the office of Georgian Bar Association or sent by mail. The Georgian Bar Association is located at 75 Barnovi str., Tbilisi. 

A complaint should contain your full name, address and contact data (telephone number, fax, e-mail). Also you must specify whether which act of the lawyer is appealed by you and if you have a representative, his identity, address and contact data should as well be provided. You may indicate the address and contact data of the lawyer (telephone number, fax, e-mail), if known to you. The complaint should be accompanied by the copies of the evidences, certifying the factual circumstances of your complaint. You may keep the original documents and provide them later. A complaint should be duly signed by you. 

8. Who can help me with receiving some information before filing a complaint? 

If you have any questions in relation with filing a complaint or disciplinary proceedings, you can approach the coordinator of the Ethics Commission. 

Do I need to pay some fee for filing a complaint? 

You can file a complaint free of charge. 

10. What happens after filing a complaint? 

The Chairperson of the Ethic Commission transfers a complaint to Processing Collegium, which makes a decision on the initiation or refusal to initiate the disciplinary proceedings. Firstly, the Processing Collegium will evaluate your complaint and contact you either by phone or in writing to obtain additional information about your complaint and notify you about the meeting with the members of the Processing Collegium. At this meeting you will be able to present additional explanations and evidences to substantiate your complaint. 

The decision of the Processing Collegium on the initiation of disciplinary proceedings or refusal thereto will be notified to you in writing. In the case of initiation of disciplinary proceedings, the case will be transferred to the Hearing Collegium, which will hold a session, and invite you and the lawyer, the complaint was filed against. During the hearing, you will have an opportunity to fully present your position, question witnesses, provide written or other evidences, petition for the presentation of additional materials, documents and information; also request the appearance of other persons for them to testify. 

11. Are the disciplinary proceedings confidential? 

Disciplinary proceedings are confidential as relevant information is known only to the parties to proceedings; however the decisions of the Ethics Commission are public. The members of the Ethics Commission and Commission office personnel are liable to guarantee the confidentiality of the information which becomes known to them during the disciplinary proceedings. However, you should also bear in mind, that a copy of your complaint will be provided to the lawyer the complaint is filed against. The foregoing ensures equal play grounds for both parties – for both of you to have the opportunity to fully present your position and enjoy the right to defence. The Commission is required to notify the lawyer about the content and author of the complaint. 

12. Can I withdraw the complaint? 

Yes. You can withdraw the complaint. In the case of withdrawal of the complainant, the Commission will discontinue the disciplinary proceedings against the lawyer concerned. 

13. Will I bear any responsibility for my complainant? 

No. You have a right to file a complaint with the Commission. However, you should bear in mind, that a complaint may change your relationship with your lawyer. In order to avoid further complications, please, make sure, that the complaint is accurate, is filed in good faith and is related to professional activities of the lawyer. 

14. How long does it take to resolve a complaint against a lawyer? 

The Processing Collegium is required to review a complaint and make a decision on the initiation of disciplinary proceedings within a period of one month after the receipt of the complaint. If the Processing Collegium makes a decision on the initiation of disciplinary proceedings against the lawyer, the case will be transferred to the Hearing Collegium, which is required to make a decision on calling of the lawyer to account or dismissal of the case within a period of 3 months. The trial of the case may take longer if disciplinary proceedings are suspended because of some objective reasons (illness of the lawyer, time, needed for the collection of evidence etc.). 

15. In which cases will the Processing Collegium not initiate disciplinary proceedings against a lawyer? 

The Processing Collegium will not initiate disciplinary proceedings against the lawyer, when the complaint or notice does not provide for grounds for disciplinary prosecution even if the presented information is true; when timelines set for the imposition of disciplinary sanctions have elapsed; when the lawyer concerned seized to be a member of the Georgian Bar Association; or when there is no evidence which would have reasonably made the Procedural Collegium believe, that the lawyer concerned committed a disciplinary violation. 

16. What disciplinary sanction or disciplinary measure may be applied against a lawyer

a) The disciplinary sanctions envisaged by law are as follows: 

- Warning; 

- Suspension of the right to practice law from six months to three years; 

- Termination of membership of the Georgian Bar Association. 

b) The disciplinary measures are as follows: 

- Provision of private advice to the lawyer ; 

- Termination of the membership of the Executive Council, Ethics Commission or Audit Commission of the Georgian Bar Association. 

17. Can I appeal a decision? 

The decision of the Procedural Collegium on non-initiation of disciplinary proceedings or acquittal of the lawyer is final and is not subject to appeal. However, you are free to file a complaint with the court on incurred damages or violated rights. 

We advice youto search for independent legal advice concerning available remedies.