New rules make complaints by citizens against lawyers open to public in Vermont
VERMONT — Under new rules issued by the state’s Supreme Court, complaints by citizens against lawyers are now public as soon as the Professional Conduct Board notifies the attorney that he or she faces charges.
The rules, which took effect in early November, make public all information on the charges except for board deliberations unless the person filing the complaint, the board or the attorney facing charges obtains a protective order for specific records.
Even before charges are brought the Board may disclose the subject matter and status of an investigation to protect “the public, the administration of justice or the legal profession;” if the allegations have become generally known to the public; if the allegations include conviction of a crime; or if the attorney waives confidentiality.
In the past, lawyer disciplinary proceedings were public only if the board recommended suspension or disbarment, and even those decisions were kept secret for 10 days. Previously an attorney could avoid the disciplinary proceedings altogether by resigning from the bar. The new rules allow proceedings to continue even after resignation.
The Burlington Free Press reported that 30 percent of the complaints against Vermont lawyers result in charges being brought.
Charges against all licensed professionals, from cosmetologists to physicians, were already public in Vermont.
(Administrative Order No. 9)