Professional Guidelines

An agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia

The Virginia State Bar

Professional Guidelines

13-7 District Committees

  1. Powers: Each District Committee and Section thereof shall have the power to:
    1. Elect a Chair, Vice Chair and Secretary, and such other officers as it considers appropriate;
    2. Conduct hearings and adjudicate Charges of Misconduct as provided in this Paragraph;
    3. Examine witnesses under oath to be administered by any member of the District Committee;
    4. Issue, through Bar Counsel, any summons or subpoena necessary to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents or evidence necessary or material to any Investigation or Disciplinary Proceeding, or through its Chair, any summons or subpoena permitted under subparagraph 13-16.E.  Any such summons or subpoena issued to a non-Attorney shall have the force of and be enforced as a summons or subpoena issued by a Circuit Court.  A subpoena duces tecum which compels the Respondent to produce documents may be served upon the Respondent by certified mail at the Respondent's last address of record for membership purposes with the Bar or, if service cannot be effected at the Respondent’s last address on record, or if the Respondent is a Foreign Lawyer, or a lawyer engaged pro hac vice in the practice of law in Virginia, or a lawyer not admitted in Virginia, by first class mail to the Clerk of this Court.
    5. Direct Bar Counsel to file a notice of noncompliance requesting the Board to suspend an Attorney’s License until such time as the Attorney fully complies with a subpoena requiring production of trust account, estate account, fiduciary account, operating account or other records maintained by the Attorney or the Attorney’s law firm;
    6. Rule on the admissibility of evidence and other matters relating to the conduct of a Disciplinary Proceeding;
    7. Rule on motions to limit or quash any summons or subpoena;
    8. Maintain order in all its proceedings through its Chair; and
    9. Approve an Agreed Disposition of a Complaint or Charge of Misconduct submitted by Bar Counsel and the Respondent, either through a Subcommittee acting by a unanimous vote, or, once a Charge of Misconduct is placed on the public District Committee hearing docket, a Panel of the District Committee acting by a majority vote.  No appeal will lie from any sanction to which Respondent has agreed.  If the Agreed Disposition is not accepted by a Panel of the District Committee, no member of the Panel which considered the Agreed Disposition shall be assigned to the Panel that hears the Complaint or Charge of Misconduct.
  2. Creation of Subcommittees.The Chair shall appoint one or more Subcommittees of each District Committee. Where a District Committee is divided into two or more Sections, there shall be one or more Subcommittees of each Section, as determined by the respective District Committee Section Chair. Each Subcommittee shall consist of three members of that District Committee or that Section of the District Committee. Two members of a Subcommittee shall be members of the Bar, one of whom shall be appointed by the District Committee or Section Chair to act as Chair of that Subcommittee, and one member of the Subcommittee shall be a nonlawyer member.
  3. Subcommittee Quorums. A quorum of a Subcommittee shall consist of three members, who may act in a meeting in person or through any means of communication by which all three members participating may simultaneously hear each other during the meeting.
  4. District Committee Jurisdiction. A District Committee shall have jurisdiction over all Complaints referred to it.
  5. Limitation on Private Discipline. Private Discipline shall be imposed only in cases of minor Misconduct, when there is little or no injury to any of the following: a client, the public, the legal system or the profession, and when there is little likelihood of repetition by the Respondent. When any Respondent has received two determinations of Private Discipline, excepting only de minimis Dismissals, during any ten-year period, it shall be presumed that further Private Discipline is not an appropriate disposition. Any Respondent who has received two determinations of Private Discipline within the ten-year period immediately preceding the Bar’s receipt of the oldest Complaint that the Subcommittee is considering, shall receive public discipline for any violation of the Disciplinary Rules, unless there are sufficient facts and circumstances to rebut such presumption.
  6. Venue. Venue shall not be jurisdictional, but venue shall lie with the District Committee, in the following order of preference, where:
    1. Any portion of the alleged Misconduct occurred;
    2. The Respondent resides;
    3. The Respondent maintains an office;
    4. The Respondent has an address on record with the Bar as the Respondent’s address for membership purposes; or
    5. The Complainant resides.
  7. Preferred Venue. If preferred venue does not lie with any District Committee able to adjudicate the Complaint against a Respondent, such Complaint may be filed with and adjudicated by a District Committee designated by the Clerk.  In determining to which District Committee a Complaint should be referred, the Clerk shall consider the volume of Complaints pending before the District Committee and the inconvenience imposed upon the Respondent and the witnesses by the location of the District Committee.
  8. Objections to Venue. Either the Respondent or Bar Counsel may object to venue by filing a notice of objection with the Clerk within ten days of notification of the referral of the Complaint to a District Committee.  Objections to venue shall be deemed waived unless made within this ten-day time period.  Upon receipt of a timely filed notice of objection, the Clerk shall forward the notice of objection to the Chair of the Board for decision.
  9. Complaints Referred to District Committee or Subcommittee. A District Committee or Subcommittee shall consider, adjudicate and dispose of Complaints referred to the District Committee pursuant to this Paragraph. Where appropriate, the District Committee or Subcommittee shall also counsel Respondents concerning their conduct. In addition, members of a District Committee, other than nonlawyer members, may participate in the Investigation of Complaints, provided that a member participating in such Investigation shall not participate in a District Committee’s consideration, adjudication and disposition of such Complaint or Charge of Misconduct.
  10. Service by a Member of the Bar and Professional Relationship. Service by a member of the Bar on a District Committee shall be deemed to be a professional relationship within the meaning of Rules of Professional Conduct 1.6, 1.7, 1.9, 1.10 and 3.7.  Such service shall be deemed the holding of public office within the meaning of Rules of Professional Conduct 1.11 and 1.12.
  11. Consent by Bar Counsel. Consent under Rules of Professional Conduct 1.6, 1.7 and 1.9 shall be deemed to include Bar Counsel’s consent on behalf of the Bar.
  12. Recusal or Disqualification of District Committee Members. In the event of recusal or disqualification of so many District Committee members that the District Committee is unable to discharge its responsibilities under this Rule, the District Committee may supplement its membership with members from other District Committees to achieve a quorum.  If every member of a District Committee is recused or is disqualified from considering Charges of Misconduct, the Clerk shall assign the Charges of Misconduct to another District Committee.

The amendments effective July 16, 2021revised Paragraph 13 to promote greater fairness, efficiency, consistency, and transparency in bar proceedings.

The amendments effective December 1, 2019revised Paragraph 13-7 to clarify and simplify language.

The amendments effective February 17, 2011, revised Paragraph 13 regarding multijurisdictional practice.

Updated: July 14, 2021