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Following are resources for filing a complaint and searching for lawyers who have a record with the New Mexico Disciplinary Board.
File a Complaint
File a complaint against a lawyer or unauthorized practice.
Search Attorney or Discipline
Search our public records for a lawyer or a disciplinary action.
Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ:
How do I file a complaint?
See our File a Complaint page and select the correct form for your complaint. Forms are available in English and Spanish.
What happens after I file a complaint?
- The Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) sends a copy of your complaint to the attorney for his or her response. The response is confidential; you will not receive a copy.
- Once the attorney has responded, the file is assigned to one of the attorneys of the ODC.
- If the response reveals that there was no misconduct, or that the misconduct was a minor isolated instance, ODC will dismiss the complaint and you will receive a letter of the reason(s) for dismissal. The letter will explain how you can request review if you so choose.
- If it appears that a Rule of Professional Conduct was violated:
- ODC will conduct further investigation, such as interviewing witnesses by telephone; reviewing the case docket if the alleged misconduct involves litigation; and/or researching legal issues.
- If after investigation, the evidence shows a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct:
- If the violation was minor, ODC may offer the attorney a non-disciplinary “diversion agreement”—analogous to a plea agreement—under which the attorney agrees to remedial action, OR ODC may issue a confidential and non-disciplinary educational letter to the attorney, and then dismiss the complaint (you will receive only the letter explaining the dismissal).
- If the violation was not minor the investigating attorney may seek to “settle” the matter with the complaint through a “consent agreement” which calls for the attorney to admit the allegations that the evidence supports and to accept discipline.
- Alternatively, if the attorney denies misconduct, formal charges may be filed.
What are formal charges?
A Specification of Charges details the factual allegations against the attorney and sets forth the Rules of Professional Conduct ODC that appear to have been violated.
What happens when formal charges are filed?
- A “Hearing Committee” of three volunteer members—typically, two attorneys and one non-attorney—is assigned to the case.
- Within 45 days of the filing of formal charges, the Hearing Committee, the ODC attorney and the Respondent attorney will convene for a trial for presentation of the evidence; you may be asked to testify.
- If the Hearing Committee finds after trial that the preponderance of the evidence shows that the attorney’s conduct was improper, it will issue its recommended Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, with a recommended discipline (types of discipline explained below).
- After the Hearing Committee issues its recommendation, the case will be assigned to three members of the Disciplinary Board; the “Board Panel” reviews the record of the case and may either accept or reject or modify the Hearing Committee’s recommendations.
- If the recommended discipline is for an informal admonition or a formal reprimand, the Disciplinary Board will issue the admonition or reprimand and the case concludes.
- If the recommended discipline is for suspension or disbarment, the case goes to the New Mexico Supreme Court, which makes the final decision, often after a hearing.
What if the Office of Disciplinary Counsel wants me to testify, but I don’t want to?
- If your testimony is crucial to the case, the case is unlikely to go further.
- However, some cases can be decided based on the Respondent’s testimony and other evidence, in which case, you will not be asked to testify.
What are the types of discipline an attorney may receive?
- An informal admonition is the lowest form of discipline and may be issued by the ODC without formal charges; it is confidential a letter—you will not see it—and will be maintained by ODC.
- A formal reprimand requires the filing of formal charges and is a written account of the attorney’s misconduct which will be read to the attorney at a Disciplinary Board meeting and then published in the New Mexico Bar Bulletin.
- A suspension may be deferred or actual; if it is actual, the attorney may not practice law for the entire period of the suspension.
- Disbarment is a permanent revocation of the attorney’s license to practice law; only the most serious misconduct, such as improperly taking the client’s money which the attorney had not earned, will result in disbarment.
What are some common Rules violation for which an attorney may be disciplined?
- Neglecting a client’s case;
- Mishandling client money or money that belongs to a third party, or not paying money owed to a client or owed to a third party;
- Failing to safeguard a client’s property;
- Dishonesty to a client, a court, or others;
- Criminal conduct; and
- Unreasonably failing to communicate.
What kind of conduct will NOT result in discipline?
- Every case is determined based on the particular facts, but some allegations will lead to dismissal, such as an attorney’s rudeness; while we do not condone rudeness, it does not concern any Rules.
- The Disciplinary Board does not involve itself in ordinary fee disputes without evidence that the fee was clearly excessive. The State Bar offers a voluntary fee dispute program (the attorney must but does not have to agree). Also, if your lawyer was dishonest and took your money, you may apply to the Client Protection Fund for a partial or full reimbursement.
We’ve created a comprehensive step-by-step guide so you can know what happens when a complaint is filed.
View our quarterly reports to learn about the activity of the Disciplinary Board of the New Mexico Supreme Court.