As an attorney, you are likely aware that people can file complaints against you with the State Bar of California. These complaints can come from many sources, including clients and their associates, courts, other attorneys, the public, insurance companies or anonymous submissions.
What’s different about anonymous claims?
Unlike complaints from other sources, the State Bar will not notify you when they receive an anonymous complaint. However, they will still investigate it with the same vigor as a complaint from an identified source. A State Bar attorney will evaluate the complaint to see if there is enough evidence to show that you truly violated the rules of ethics. If necessary, the State Bar will contact the person who submitted the complaint for additional evidence.
What happens next?
If the State Bar finds enough evidence to prove an ethical violation, they will pursue a full and confidential investigation. Whether you receive a warning, an Agreement in Lieu of Discipline or disciplinary action depends on the seriousness of the violation, which is determined during the investigation.
The matter will only become public record if the State Bar files formal charges for a serious violation. In this case, the case proceeds to the State Bar Court. If this happens, your online profile will include a notice citing the legal proceedings against you for an ethical violation.
An anonymous claim, therefore, means that it can take a while for you to know that someone has submitted a claim against you. You might not receive notice from the State Bar until an investigation is well underway.