STRUCTURE AND SCOPE
1. COMPREHENSIVE LAWYER REGULATION SYSTEM
Court hereby establishes a comprehensive lawyer discipline
and disability system, consisting of an Office of
Disciplinary Counsel and a Commission on Practice. The Office
of Disciplinary Counsel shall perform central intake
functions and shall process, investigate, and prosecute those
complaints against lawyers which are within the disciplinary
jurisdiction of the Court. The Commission on Practice, which
shall be divided into Review and Adjudicatory Panels, shall
hear and decide complaints and in appropriate cases, shall
make recommendations to the Court for discipline.
Prosecutorial and adjudicatory functions shall be separated
and managed to secure responsiveness, efficiency, and
2. THE COMMISSION ON PRACTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE
STATE OF MONTANA
Court shall appoint a fourteen-member commission to be known
as "The Commission on Practice of the Supreme Court of
the State of Montana, " hereinafter referred to as the
"Commission, " which shall consist of nine
practicing lawyers, who shall be residents of the State of
Montana and licensed and admitted to practice in the state of
Montana, and five nonlawyers. One of said lawyers shall be
appointed from each of the areas hereinafter defined. One
lawyer member shall be at large and may be appointed from any
area set forth below. The nonlawyer members of the Commission
shall be appointed at large, but they shall be residents of
the state of Montana. The term of office of all members of
the Commission shall be four years. The persons serving on
the Commission on the effective date of these Rules shall
continue to serve on the Commission for the remainder of the
terms for which they were appointed, unless their membership
on the Commission is terminated as hereinafter provided
areas from which the lawyer members of the Commission shall
be appointed shall be comprised of the various judicial
districts of the state of Montana, and are to be designated
Area A, comprising the Eleventh and
Nineteenth Judicial Districts;
Area B, comprising the Fourth, Twentieth,
and Twenty-first Judicial Districts;
Area C, comprising the Second, Third, and
Fifth Judicial Districts;
Area D, comprising the Eighth and Ninth
Area E, comprising the Seventh, Tenth,
Twelfth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth
Area F, comprising the First Judicial
Area G, comprising the Sixth and Eighteenth
Judicial Districts; and Area H, comprising
the Thirteenth and Twenty-second Judicial Districts.
for the at-large lawyer member, appointments to the
Commission of the lawyer members shall be made by the Supreme
Court from a list of three practicing lawyers in each Area
having the three highest number of votes in an election by
the Area members of the State Bar of Montana. The time,
place, and method of such election shall be in accordance
with the orders of this Court. In the event that said
election is not held in any Area as ordered, the Supreme
Court shall appoint a member from that Area to serve on the
nonlawyer members and the at-large lawyer member of the
Commission shall not be subject to the election procedure,
but shall be appointed by the Court.
event of a vacancy in the Commission, a successor shall be
appointed by the Supreme Court for the unexpired term of the
member whose office is vacated. Members of the Commission may
terminate their membership at their pleasure, and their
membership may be terminated by the Court at its pleasure.
Election of Officers.
members of the Commission shall annually elect lawyer members
as chairperson, vice chairperson, and executive secretary. T
he chairperson, and in the absence of the chairperson, the
vice chairperson, shall preside at meetings of the Commission
except that in the conduct of disciplinary hearings the
chairperson may appoint another lawyer member of the
Commission to act as presiding officer.
presiding officer shall have all of the powers of the
chairperson in any case in which he or she has been
members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum when the
Commission is acting as a whole. T he act of a majority of
the members present at a meeting at which a quorum is present
shall be the act of the Commission.
of the Commission shall meet at times and places designated
by the chairperson or, in the absence of the chairperson, by
the vice chairperson, who shall determine the agenda for the
meetings. N otice of any such meeting shall be given by mail
or by telephone not less than seven calendar days in advance
of the time for such meeting, except in cases of emergency or
urgency requiring, in the judgment of the person calling the
meeting, a shorter time of notice. Also, the Supreme Court
may call a meeting of the members to be held at a time and
place ordered by the Court. Notice of such meeting shall be
given as above provided. The minutes of any meeting of the
Commission shall state the form and time of notice of meeting
given to the members.
chairperson, vice chairperson, and executive secretary of the
Commission shall constitute the executive committee. The
principal function of the executive committee shall be to
attend to administrative matters during the interval between
meetings of the Commission. The executive committee shall
have such other duties and authority as the Commission shall
determine from time to time.
Compensation and Expenses.
of the Commission shall receive no compensation for their
services, but may be reimbursed for travel and other expenses
incidental to the performance of their duties.
Powers and Duties of the Commission.
Commission shall exercise the following powers and duties:
(1) Adopt rules or policies providing for the time and place
of meetings, and such other procedural rules not in conflict
with these rules, as may be necessary to expedite the conduct
of its business;
(2) Periodically review the operation of the lawyer
disciplinary system with the Supreme Court;
(3) Establish Review Panels pursuant to Rule 3;
(4) Establish Adjudicatory Panels pursuant to Rule 4;
(5)Appoint and supervise any Commission staff;
(6) Assure that a Review Panel member who sits on a
particular case does not also sit on an Adjudicatory Panel
for that case;
(7) Maintain all permanent records of disciplinary matters
(8) Exercise such other authority and perform such other
duties as are provided in these Rules, or that may be
required in order to carry out the provisions of these Rules;
(9) Operate subject to budgetary limitations imposed by the
3. REVIEW PANELS: COMPOSITION; POWERS & DUTIES;
Chairperson of the Commission shall appoint one or more
Review Panels of five members each, at least two of whom
shall be nonlawyers; shall designate a Chairperson for each
Review Panel; and shall realign the membership of Review
Panels from time to time.
Powers and Duties.
Review Panel shall:
Review Disciplinary Counsel's request to file a formal
complaint, together with the complaint, the response from the
lawyer against whom the complaint was made and any reply from
the complainant together with other relevant documents and
Disciplinary Counsel's intake summary, investigative
report, and recommendations;
Refer complaint to Disciplinary Counsel for any further
investigation, if needed to determine whether a formal
complaint is appropriate;
Approve Disciplinary Counsel's request to file a formal
complaint when the facts appear to warrant disciplinary
action or transfer to disability/inactive status or reject
the request to file a formal complaint if discipline does not
appear to be warranted;
Hear and determine requests for review pursuant to Rule
10C(3) and for reconsideration pursuant to Rule 14;
Authorize the stay of disciplinary proceedings for good cause
shown pursuant to Rule 28;
Conduct show cause hearings when a lawyer has refused to
respond to inquiries from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel
or the Commission; and
Notify parties of action by a Review Panel.
members of a Review Panel, at least two of whom are lawyers,
shall constitute a quorum; however, any act of the Review
Panel shall require the vote of three members.
4. ADJUDICATORY PANELS: COMPOSITION; POWERS & DUTIES;
Chairperson of the Commission shall appoint one or more
Adjudicatory Panels of nine members each, at least three of
whom shall be nonlawyers; shall designate a Chairperson for
each Adjudicatory Panel; and shall realign the membership of
Adjudicatory Panels from time to time.
Powers and Duties.
Panels shall, in accordance with the specific procedures and
provisions of these Rules:
(1) Hold hearings on formal complaints and complaints for
interim suspension filed by Disciplinary Counsel;
(2) After hearing, make findings of fact, conclusions of law,
and recommendations to the Court for discipline or other
disposition of formal complaints;
(3) Hear and determine preliminary and procedural matters
incidental to the exercise of its powers and duties;
(4) Administer admonitions; (5)Hear and determine requests
for reconsideration pursuant to Rule 14; (6)Administer oaths,
provide for discovery, and exercise its subpoena power
pursuant to Rule 19; (7)Authorize the stay of a disciplinary
proceeding for good cause shown pursuant to Rule 28;
(8) Hold show cause hearings when a lawyer has refused to
respond or cooperate with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel,
a Review Panel, or an Adjudicatory Panel pursuant to Rule 24;
(9) Conduct proceedings relative to disability and transfer
to inactive status pursuant to Rule 28;
(10) Hold hearings on petitions for reinstatement and make
recommendations for their disposition to the Supreme Court
pursuant to Rule 29;
(11) Hold hearings and make recommendations to the Court
concerning assessment of the costs of proceedings,
investigations, and audits pursuant to Rule 9; and
(12) Approve Disciplinary Counsel's request to file a
formal complaint when the facts appear to warrant
disciplinary action or transfer to disability/inactive
members of an Adjudicatory Panel, at least three of whom are
lawyers, shall constitute a quorum; however, any act of the
Adjudicatory Panel shall require the vote of three members.
5. OFFICE OF DISCIPLINARY COUNSEL
Court shall appoint a lawyer to serve as Chief Disciplinary
Counsel and may appoint such Deputy Disciplinary Counsels as
they deem necessary. Disciplinary Counsel shall not engage in
private practice; shall be admitted to practice in Montana at
the time of appointment or within a reasonable time
thereafter as determined by the Court; and shall maintain
offices in Helena, Montana, in facilities designated by the
Powers and Duties.
Counsel shall perform all prosecutorial functions and shall
have the following powers and duties:
Supervise Office of Disciplinary Counsel (Office) staff in
performing central intake functions;
Evaluate all information coming to the attention of the
Office to determine whether it is within the disciplinary
jurisdiction of the Court;
Investigate all information coming to the attention of the
Office which, if true, would be grounds for discipline or
transfer to disability/inactive status;
Investigate all facts pertaining to petitions for
reinstatement or readmission; (5) Dismiss a complaint that
Disciplinary Counsel determines does not warrant disciplinary
addition to dismissing the complaint, Disciplinary Counsel
may issue a letter of caution or take other corrective action
when Disciplinary Counsel deems it appropriate;
Request leave to file a formal complaint when Disciplinary
Counsel determines that disciplinary action is warranted;
Prosecute before Review Panels, Adjudicatory Panels, and the
Court, discipline, interim suspension, reinstatement, and
readmission proceedings, and proceedings for transfer to or
from disability/inactive status;
Employ and supervise Office staff needed for the performance
of prosecutorial functions and, when circumstances
necessitate their use, appoint and supervise special
investigators and volunteer special counsel;
Notify promptly the complainant and the lawyer that an
investigation is to be initiated by Disciplinary Counsel or,
where Disciplinary Counsel dismisses, provide a concise
written statement of the facts and reasons a matter has been
Develop written guidelines for determining which matters fail
to allege facts that would constitute grounds for
Request the Clerk of the Supreme Court to notify each
jurisdiction in which a lawyer is admitted of a transfer to
or from disability/inactive status, reinstatement,
readmission, or any public discipline imposed in this state;
Whenever costs have been assessed against a lawyer by the
Supreme Court, assemble and serve on the lawyer an itemized
list of the costs of proceedings, investigations, and audits;
Seek reciprocal discipline when informed of any public
discipline imposed in any other jurisdiction;
Forward a certified copy of the judgment of conviction to the
disciplinary office in each jurisdiction in which a lawyer is
admitted when the lawyer is convicted of a serious crime (as
hereinafter defined) in this state;
Maintain permanent records of discipline and disability
matters and compile statistics to aid in the administration
of the system;
Prepare an annual budget for the Office and submit it to the
Board of Trustees of the State Bar of Montana for review;
Make reasonable and necessary expenditures pursuant to the
reviewed budget to perform the duties of the Office;
Supervise and direct Office staff and operations;
Prepare and submit to the Court recommendations concerning
the annual assessment of Bar members; and
Make recommendations to the Court about the lawyer regulation
Counsel shall not have authority to render advisory ethics
opinions, either orally or in writing, or to impose any form
of discipline on a lawyer.
6. COSTS AND EXPENSES; FISCAL REVIEWS AND AUDITS
Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
costs and expenses of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel
shall be paid from an annual assessment of active members of
the State Bar of Montana and of nonmembers admitted to
practice under the Montana State Bar pro hac vice rules. The
Supreme Court shall determine the amount of the annual member
Commission on Practice.
costs and expenses of the Commission shall be paid from
legislatively-appropriated public funds.
Fiscal Reviews and Audits.
Court may direct fiscal reviews and audits of the components
of the lawyer regulation system.
Any lawyer who is a member of the State Bar of Montana is
subject to the disciplinary jurisdiction of the Supreme Court
of Montana, regardless of where the lawyer's conduct
Any lawyer specially admitted by a Montana court for a
particular proceeding, appearing by pleading or otherwise in
any judicial or administrative proceeding in Montana, or
otherwise engaging in the practice of law in Montana, is
subject to the disciplinary jurisdiction of the Supreme Court
of Montana, for conduct pertaining to his or her practice of
law in Montana.
If a lawyer resigns as a member of the State Bar of Montana,
or the lawyer's special admission or appearance in any
judicial proceeding in Montana has terminated, the lawyer
remains subject to disciplinary proceedings for conduct
occurring prior to the effective date of the resignation or
The grounds for disciplinary jurisdiction enumerated herein
are in addition to those set forth in Rule 8.5, Montana Rules
of Professional Conduct.
8. GROUNDS FOR DISCIPLINE
Reasons for Discipline.
may be imposed for any of the following reasons:
Acts or omissions by a lawyer, individually or in concert
with any other person or persons, which violate the Rules of
Professional Conduct or the disciplinary rules adopted from
time to time by the Supreme Court.
act committed by an attorney contrary to the highest
standards of honesty, justice, or morality, including but not
limited to those outlined in Title 37, chapter 61, parts 3
and 4, MCA, whether committed in such attorney's capacity
as an attorney or otherwise.
Conduct which results in conviction of a criminal offense.
Conduct which results in lawyer discipline in another
jurisdiction. (5)Violation of the terms of any discipline or
Failure to promptly and fully respond to an inquiry from
Disciplinary Counsel, an investigator, or the Commission, or
failure to justify such refusal or nonresponse.
Willful contempt of court and failure to purge the contempt.
Relationship to C riminal Proceedings.
of a charge of crime, plea bargain, conviction of a lesser
crime, or dismissal of a charge of crime after deferred
imposition of sentence shall not constitute a bar to lawyer
discipline for that act, nor shall conviction in a criminal
proceeding be a condition precedent to the institution of
disciplinary proceedings for that act.
9. DISCIPLINE AND SANCTIONS
Forms of Discipline.
may take one or more of the following forms:
Disbarment. "Disbarment" means the unconditional
termination of any privilege to practice law in this State
and, when applied to any attorney not admitted to practice
law in this State, means the unconditional exclusion from the
admission to or the exercise of any privilege to practice law
in this State.
Suspension from the practice of law for a definite period of
time or for an indefinite period of time with a fixed minimum
term. "Suspension" means the temporary or
indefinite termination of the privilege to practice law in
this State and, when applied to any attorney not admitted to
practice law in this State, means the temporary or indefinite
exclusion from the admission to or the exercise of any
privilege to practice law in this State.
Admonition administered by an Adjudicatory Panel of the
Requirement of restitution to persons financially injured.
(7)Reimbursement to the Lawyers' Fund for Client
Assessment of the cost of proceedings, investigations, and
audits. Whenever costs of proceedings are assessed by the
Supreme Court as part of the discipline imposed upon a
lawyer, the Disciplinary Counsel shall assemble and serve
upon the lawyer an itemized list of those costs. The lawyer
shall then have ten days thereafter in which to file written
objections with the Commission on Practice and, if so
desired, request a hearing before an Adjudicatory Panel on
whether the amount of such costs is reasonable and necessary.
An Adjudicatory Panel shall thereafter recommend ...