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How the State Bar Discipline System Works in California

The State Bar of California is California’s attorney licensing agency, responsible for managing the admission of lawyers to the practice of law, investigating complaints of attorney misconduct, and prosecuting discipline cases before the State Bar Court. The State Bar reports directly to the Supreme Court of California.

Office of Chief Trial Counsel

Through the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel (OCTC), the State Bar can prosecute an attorney for violating sections of the State Bar Act which carry discipline, for violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct or for criminal convictions. The State Bar of California investigates complaints of professional misconduct. Where the OCTC determines that an attorney’s actions involve disciplinable misconduct, OCTC prepares formal charges (a Notice of Disciplinary Charges)

State Bar Court

The State Bar Court hears the charges and has the power to recommend that the California Supreme Court suspend or disbar attorneys found to have committed acts of professional misconduct or convicted of serious crimes. State Bar Court can issue public or private reprovals for lesser offenses.

The State Bar Court can temporarily remove lawyers from the practice of law when they pose a substantial threat of harm to clients or the public.

Lawyers may seek review of State Bar Court decisions in the California Supreme Court.

The State Bar Court conducts hearings and makes decisions and formal recommendations on disciplinary matters.

Since 1989, the court has used full-time judges appointed by the California Supreme Court, legislature and governor. The court is divided into two departments — a Hearing Department and a Review Department.



When you get a letter from the State Bar, don’t go it alone! You need competent, experienced counsel to respond to the State Bar at every stage. Your license is at risk, so ensure you have the best representation from a former State Bar prosecutor before sending any response to an investigator or responding to formal charges leveled by the State Bar. You cannot make an informed decision without good advice. Call Erin now.

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