The Vermont Supreme Court is responsible for the regulation of the practice of law. The Court oversees all aspects of attorney licensing, including bar admissions, continuing legal education, and attorney discipline.
In 1999, the Court promulgated Administrative Order 9, in which it delegated supervision of the attorney discipline system to the Professional Responsibility Program. At the same time, the Court adopted the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct. The rules are often referred to as “the ethics rules” and are the rules with which attorneys must comply. A violation of the rules is grounds for the imposition of a sanction against a lawyer’s license.
Bar Counsel and Disciplinary Counsel work within the Professional Responsiblity Program. Bar Counsel responds to ethics inquiries and screens complaints. Disciplinary Counsel investigates and prosecutes violations of the ethics rules.
Bar Counsel responds to inquires related to legal ethics, providing lawyers and non-lawyers with guidance. Bar Counsel will not provide you with legal advice and no guidance should be considered as such. If you need legal advice, you should contact an attorney.
Michael Kennedy is Bar Counsel. To make an inquiry, call Michael at 802-859-3004 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org He often responds quicker to email than to phone messages. Inquiries are confidential.
The process by which complaints are reviewed is set out in Rule 10 of Administrative Order 9.
Bar Counsel screens each complaint that is filed with the Program. The screening rule authorized Bar Counsel to conduct a limited investigation to determine the nature of a complaint and whether it can be resolved informally. Bar Counsel dismisses complaints that do not rise to the level of professional misconduct, resolves minor complaints, and refers more serious complaints for investigation by Disciplinary Counsel.
Once a complaint is referred for an investigation by Disciplinary Counsel, Bar Counsel’s involvement ends. Disciplinary Counsel investigates each complaint and decides whether to recommend formal disciplinary charges against the attorney involved.
Written complaints should be sent to: Professional Responsibility Program, 32 Cherry Street, Suite 213, Burlington, VT 05401. Complaints may also be sent via email to email@example.com
NOTE: The PRP does not handle:
- complaints against judges. To learn how to file a complaint against a judge, please contact the Judicial Conduct Board; or,
- complaints against non-lawyers; or,
- fee disputes. The Vermont Bar Association offers a fee arbitration program. For more information, contact the Vermont Bar Association at 802-223-2020.