The Disciplinary Board looks into complaints against lawyers licensed to practice law in New Mexico. When a complaint is received, it is sent to the lawyer who is the subject of the complaint, along with a letter requesting that the lawyer respond to the complaint. Initially, the response is requested within two weeks of the date of the letter from Chief Disciplinary Counsel. If additional time is required, short extensions may be obtained upon request by calling the Office of Disciplinary Counsel at (505) 842-5781. It is not necessary to speak directly with Chief Disciplinary Counsel to obtain an extension.
In keeping track of these matters, attorneys should bear in mind that the response is due in the Office of Disciplinary Counsel on the date requested. This means one should allow sufficient time for mailing. If you require a longer extension of time to respond, such request should be made in writing with an explanation as to the reason for the extension. The extension will be granted at the sole discretion of disciplinary counsel.
Most conscientious attorneys find it disturbing to receive a complaint, particularly when they feel that the complaint is unjustified. It is for the protection of the public and the integrity of the profession that the Board must look into all complaints. Attorney cooperation is required under the Rules. For this reason, attorneys must respond to all complaints, even when the complaint seems unfounded. In order to resolve such situations as quickly as possible, it is important for attorneys to respond to the letters of disciplinary counsel promptly and completely. A request for a response in no way indicates prejudgment on the part of disciplinary counsel as to the merits of a complaint. All responses must be in writing and will be held in confidence pursuant to Rule 17-304 of the Rules Governing Discipline.
You may obtain a certificate stating your current membership status and your disciplinary history by completing a Lawyer Disciplinary History Request Form and mailing or faxing the completed form to The Disciplinary Board. This form may only be used by an attorney to request the release of information about the attorney's own disciplinary history. There is a $10.00 charge for the certificate. Please make your check payable to the Disciplinary Board.
Occasionally, attorneys find it necessary to seek advice or assistance in situations which are unfamiliar. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel frequently receives calls requesting such assistance. Unfortunately, disciplinary counsel cannot assist other attorneys in this manner. The Ethics Advisory Opinions Committee of the State Bar of New Mexico publishes well-researched opinions on questions that arise. Go to Ethics Advisory Opinions to review these opinions, or contact the Ethics Hotline at 1-800-326-8155.
The State Bar of New Mexico also has a new program designed to assist attorneys and their clients. It is called the Client-Attorney Assistance Program (CAAP). The program employs a part-time attorney who is available to attorneys and clients to answer questions and to assist in resolving problems that might arise that do not raise disciplinary issues. The CAAP attorney can be reached at (505) 797-6068 in Albuquerque or 1-800-876-6227 within New Mexico, or go to Client Information and Assistance for more information about CAAP.
Another program available to assist attorneys is the Bill Kitts Network Program of the State Bar of New Mexico which pairs attorneys with more experienced members of the bar in a mentor or advisory relationship. For more information about the Bill Kitts Network Program, call (505) 797-6033 in Albuquerque or 1-800-876-6227 within New Mexico, or go to Bill Kitts Network Program.
Lawyers are human, and like other human beings, may have difficulties with substance abuse or other personal problems. The Lawyers Assistance Program may be able to help. For more information, call (505) 228-1948 in Albuquerque or 1-800-860-4914 within New Mexico, or go to Lawyers Assistance.