Professional Guidelines

An agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia

The Virginia State Bar

Professional Guidelines

13-16 District Committee Proceedings

  1. Charge of Misconduct. If the Subcommittee determines that a hearing should be held before a District Committee, Bar Counsel shall, at least 42 days prior to the date fixed for the hearing, serve upon the Respondent by certified mail the Charge of Misconduct, a copy of the Investigative Report considered by the Subcommittee and any exculpatory materials in the possession of Bar Counsel.
  2. Response by Respondent Required. After the Respondent has been served with the Charge of Misconduct, the Respondent shall, within 21 days after service of the Charge of Misconduct:
    1. File an answer to the Charge of Misconduct, which answer shall be deemed consent to the jurisdiction of the District Committee; or
    2. File an answer to the Charge of Misconduct and a demand with the Clerk of the Disciplinary System that the proceedings before the District Committee be terminated and that further proceedings be conducted pursuant to Va. Code § 54.1-3935; and simultaneously provide available dates for a hearing not less than 30 nor more than 120 days from the date of the demand. Upon such demand and provision of available dates as specified above, further proceedings before the District Committee shall terminate, and Bar Counsel shall file the complaint required by Va. Code § 54.1-3935. The hearing shall be scheduled as soon as practicable. However, the 30 to 120 day time frame shall not constitute a deadline for the hearing to be held.
  3. Failure of Respondent to Respond. If the Respondent fails to file an answer, or an answer and a demand, and provide available dates, as specified above, the Respondent shall be deemed to have consented to the jurisdiction of the District Committee.
  4. Pre-Hearing Orders. The Chair may, sua sponte or upon motion of the Respondent or Bar Counsel, enter such pre-hearing order as is necessary for the orderly conduct of the hearing before the District Committee. Such order may establish time limits and:
    1. Direct Bar Counsel and Respondent to provide to each other, with a copy to the Chair, a list of and copies of all exhibits proposed to be introduced at the Misconduct stage of the hearing;
    2. Encourage Bar Counsel and Respondent to confer and discuss stipulations; and
    3. Direct Bar Counsel and Respondent to serve on each other, with a copy to the Chair, lists setting forth the name of each witness the party intends to call.
  5. Subpoenae, Summonses and Counsel. The Respondent may be represented by counsel. The Respondent may request Bar Counsel or the Chair of the District Committee to issue summonses or subpoenae for witnesses and documents. Requests for summonses and subpoenae shall be granted, unless, in the judgment of the Chair of the District Committee, such request is unreasonable. Either Bar Counsel or Respondent may move the District Committee to quash such summonses or subpoenae.
  6. Continuances. Once a District Committee has scheduled a hearing, no continuance shall be granted unless in the judgment of the Chair the continuance is necessary to prevent injustice.
  7. Public Hearings. District Committee hearings, except deliberations, shall be open to the public.
  8. Public Docket. The Clerk’s Office shall maintain a public docket of all matters set for hearing before a District Committee or certified to the Board. For every matter before a District Committee for which a Charge of Misconduct has been mailed by the Office of the Bar Counsel, the Clerk shall place it on the docket 21 days after the date of the Charge of Misconduct. For every Complaint certified to the Board by a Subcommittee, the Clerk shall place it on the docket on receipt of the statement of the certified charges from the Subcommittee.
  9. Oral Testimony and Exhibits. Oral testimony shall be taken and preserved by a Court Reporter. All exhibits or copies thereof received in evidence or marked refused by the District Committee shall be preserved in the District Committee file on the matter.
  10. Opening Remarks by the Chair. After swearing the Court Reporter, who thereafter shall administer oaths or affirmations to witnesses, the Chair shall make opening remarks in the presence of the Respondent and the Complainant, if present. The Chair shall also inquire of the members present whether any member has any personal or financial interest that may affect, or be reasonably perceived to affect, his or her ability to be impartial. Any member answering in the affirmative shall be excused from participation in the matter.
  11. Motion to Exclude Witnesses. Witnesses other than the Complainant and the Respondent shall be excluded until excused from a public hearing on motion of Bar Counsel, the Respondent or the District Committee.
  12. Presentation of the Bar’s Evidence. Bar Counsel or Committee Counsel shall present witnesses and other evidence supporting the Charge of Misconduct. Respondent shall be afforded the opportunity to cross-examine the Bar’s witnesses and to challenge any evidence introduced on behalf of the Bar. District Committee members may also examine witnesses offered by Bar Counsel or Committee Counsel.
  13. Presentation of the Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent shall be afforded the opportunity to present witnesses and other evidence on behalf of Respondent. Bar Counsel or Committee’s Counsel shall be afforded the opportunity to cross-examine Respondent’s witnesses and to challenge any evidence introduced on behalf of Respondent. District Committee members may also examine witnesses offered on behalf of Respondent.
  14. No Participation by Other Counsel. Neither counsel for the Complainant, if there be one, nor counsel for any witness, may examine or cross-examine any witness, introduce any other evidence, or present any argument.
  15. Depositions. Depositions may be taken only when witnesses are unavailable, in accordance with Rule 4:7(a)(4) of the Rules of this Court.
  16. Testimony by Videoconferencing and Telephone. Testimony by videoconferencing and/or telephonic means may be utilized, if in compliance with the Rules of this Court.
  17. Admissibility of Evidence. The Chair shall rule on the admissibility of evidence, which rulings may be overruled by a majority of the remaining District Committee members participating in the hearing.
  18. Motion to Strike. At the conclusion of the Bar’s evidence or at the conclusion of all of the evidence, the District Committee on its own motion, or the Respondent or the Respondent’s counsel may move to strike the Bar’s evidence as to one or more allegations of Misconduct contained in the Charge of Misconduct. A motion to strike an allegation of Misconduct shall be sustained if the Bar has failed to introduce sufficient evidence that would under any set of circumstances support the conclusion that the Respondent engaged in the alleged Misconduct that is the subject of the motion to strike. If the Chair sustains the motion to strike an allegation of Misconduct, subject to being overruled by a majority of the remaining members of the Committee, that allegation of Misconduct shall be dismissed.
  19. Argument. The District Committee shall afford a reasonable opportunity for argument on behalf of the Respondent and Bar Counsel on the allegations of Misconduct.
  20. Deliberations. The District Committee members shall deliberate in private on the allegations of Misconduct. After due deliberation and consideration, the District Committee shall vote on the allegations of Misconduct.
  21. Change in District Committee Composition. When a hearing has been adjourned for any reason and any of the members initially constituting the quorum for the hearing cannot be present, the hearing of the matter may be completed by furnishing a transcript of the subsequent proceedings conducted in one or more member’s absence to any such absent member or members; or substituting another District Committee member for any absent member or members and furnishing a transcript of the prior proceedings in the matter to such substituted member or members.
  22. Show Cause for Compliance with Terms. Any show cause proceeding involving the question of compliance with Terms shall be deemed a new hearing and not a continuation of the hearing that resulted in the imposition of Terms.
  23. Dismissal. After due deliberation and consideration, the District Committee may dismiss the Charge of Misconduct, or any allegation thereof, as not warranting further action when in the judgment of the District Committee:
    1. As a matter of law the conduct questioned or alleged does not constitute Misconduct;
    2. The evidence presented shows that the Respondent did not engage in the Misconduct alleged, or there is no credible evidence to support any allegation of Misconduct by Respondent, or the evidence does not reasonably support any allegation of Misconduct under a clear and convincing evidentiary standard;
    3. The action alleged to be Misconduct is protected by superseding law; or
    4. The District Committee is unable to reach a decision by a majority vote of those constituting the hearing panel, the Charge of Misconduct, or any allegation thereof, shall be dismissed on the basis that the evidence does not reasonably support the Charge of Misconduct, or one or more allegations thereof, under a clear and convincing evidentiary standard.
  24. Sanctions. If the District Committee finds that Misconduct has been shown by clear and convincing evidence, then the District Committee shall, prior to determining the appropriate sanction to be imposed, inquire whether the Respondent has been the subject of any Disciplinary Proceedings in this or any other jurisdiction and shall give Bar Counsel and the Respondent an opportunity to present material evidence in aggravation or mitigation, as well as argument. In determining what disposition of the Charge of Misconduct is warranted, the District Committee shall consider the Respondent’s Disciplinary Record. A District Committee may:
    1. Conclude that a Dismissal De Minimis should be imposed;
    2. Conclude that a Dismissal for Exceptional Circumstances should be imposed;
    3. Conclude that an Admonition, with or without Terms, should be imposed;
    4. Issue a Public Reprimand, with or without Terms; or
    5. Certify the Charge of Misconduct to the Board or file a complaint in a Circuit Court, pursuant to Va. Code § 54.1-3935.
  25. District Committee Determinations. If the District Committee finds that the evidence shows the Respondent engaged in Misconduct by clear and convincing evidence, then the Chair shall issue the District Committee’s Determination, in writing, setting forth the following:
    1. Brief findings of the facts established by the evidence;
    2. The nature of the Misconduct shown by the facts so established, including the Disciplinary Rules violated by the Respondent; and
    3. The sanctions imposed, if any, by the District Committee.
  26. Notices. If the District Committee:
    1. Issues a Dismissal, the Chair shall promptly provide written notice to the Complainant, the Respondent and Bar Counsel of such Dismissal and the factual and legal basis therefor.
    2. Issues a Public Reprimand, with or without Terms; an Admonition, with or without Terms; a Dismissal De Minimis; or a Dismissal for Exceptional Circumstances, the Chair shall promptly send the Complainant, the Respondent and Bar Counsel a copy of the District Committee’s Determination.
    3. Finds that the Respondent failed to comply with the Terms imposed by the District Committee, the Chair shall notify the Complainant, the Respondent and Bar Counsel of the imposition of the alternative disposition.
    4. Has elected to certify the Complaint, the Chair of the District Committee shall promptly mail to the Clerk of the Disciplinary System a copy of the Certification. A copy of the Certification shall be sent to Bar Counsel, Respondent and the Complainant.
  • AA.District Committee Determination Finality and Public Statement. Upon the expiration of the ten-day period after service on the Respondent of a District Committee Determination, if either a notice of appeal or a notice of appeal and a written demand that further Proceedings be conducted before a three-judge Circuit Court pursuant to Va. Code § 54.1-3935 has not been filed by the Respondent, the District Committee Determination shall become final, and the Clerk of the Disciplinary System shall issue a public statement as provided for in this Paragraph for the dissemination of public disciplinary information.
  • BB.Enforcement of Terms. In all cases where Terms are included in the disposition, the District Committee shall specify the time period within which compliance shall be completed and, if required, the time period within which the Respondent shall deliver a written certification of compliance to Bar Counsel. The District Committee shall specify the alternative disposition if the Terms are not complied with or, if required, compliance is not certified to Bar Counsel. Bar Counsel shall be responsible for monitoring compliance and reporting any noncompliance to the District Committee. Whenever it appears that the Respondent has not complied with the Terms imposed, including written certification of compliance if required, Bar Counsel shall serve notice requiring the Respondent to show cause why the alternative disposition should not be imposed. Such show cause proceeding shall be set for hearing before the District Committee at its next available hearing date as determined in the discretion of the District Committee Chair. The burden of proof shall be on the Respondent to show compliance by clear and convincing evidence. If the Respondent has failed to comply with the Terms, including written certification of compliance if required, within the stated time period as determined by the District Committee, the alternative disposition shall be imposed. Any show cause proceeding involving the question of compliance shall be deemed a new matter and not a continuation of the matter that resulted in the imposition of Terms.
  • CC. Alternative Disposition and Procedure for Public Reprimand with Terms. The alternative disposition for a Public Reprimand with Terms shall be a Certification for Sanction Determination. Upon a decision to issue a Certification for Sanction Determination, Bar Counsel shall order the transcript of the show cause hearing and file it and a true copy of the Public Reprimand with Terms determination with the Clerk of the Disciplinary System.
  • DD. Reconsideration of Action by the District Committee.
    1. A Charge of Misconduct dismissed by a District Committee may be reconsidered only upon:
      (a) A finding by a majority vote of the Panel that heard the matter originally that material evidence not known or available when the matter was originally presented has been discovered; or
      (b) A unanimous vote of the Panel that heard the matter originally.
    2. No action by a District Committee imposing a sanction or certifying a matter to the Board shall be reconsidered unless a majority of the Panel that heard the matter votes to reconsider the sanction.
    3. No member shall vote to reconsider a District Committee action unless it appears to such member that reconsideration is necessary to prevent an injustice or warranted by specific exceptional circumstances militating against adherence to the initial action of the District Committee.
    4. District Committee members may be polled on the issue of whether to reconsider an earlier District Committee action.
    5. Any reconsideration of an earlier District Committee action must occur at a District Committee meeting, whether in person or by any means of communication which allows all members participating to simultaneously hear each other.

Updated: April 4, 2014