Complaints About Lawyers
Do you have a complaint or concern about your attorney? If so, it is the Grievance Committee of the Ninth Judicial District to which you will direct your complaint.
What is the Grievance Committee of the Ninth Judicial District?
The Committee investigates complaints against attorneys with offices in Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam and Rockland Counties (the Ninth Judicial District, 9th JD, or NJD). In certain cases, they will investigate other complaints if the conduct occurred in our area, but usually such complaints will be referred to other grievance committees.
The Committee consists of a Chairperson and 19 members, 15 of whom are attorney members and four of whom are non-attorney members. They are appointed by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York for terms of up to four years. Each attorney is experienced in a different area of law (criminal, divorce, landlord- tenant, taxation, estates, etc.) and each lay person has a varied background in areas other than the law.
What You Can Do to Help Yourself Before and After You Bring the Complaint to the Grievance Committee:
When you bring the complaint to the Grievance Committee, you help preserve the honor of the legal profession and you render a public service. To help yourself, you should:
Try to work out a solution with your attorney before you file a complaint. If the problem is that he/she does not speak to you, write him/her a letter and keep a copy to show the Committee.
If you cannot solve your problem by communicating, you may need to get another attorney to finish the work that your first attorney had been doing and to give you any further advice you may need. If you do not know of another attorney experienced in that area of law, you can call the County Bar Lawyer Referral Service at 914-761-5151 and they can refer you to an experienced attorney or click here for to be taken to the LRS page.
How to File a Complaint
Making a complaint is a very serious matter. However, you need not to have any special legal knowledge to file one. If you believe your attorney has operated unethically, tell the Grievance Committee the facts either by filling out a complaint form, available at the Committee’s office, or by writing a letter to the Committee that fully explains your problem. Remember, it takes evidence of unethical conduct to justify disciplinary action against a lawyer. You should, therefore, submit copies of all letters and papers that explain your complaint.
The address for the Committee is:
Grievance Committee of the Ninth Judicial District
399 Knollwood Road, Suite 200
White Plains, NY 10603
What Happens to Your Complaint?
After you give the Committee your complaint, its staff and members will examine it. Certain complaints may be transferred to grievance committees run by the local bar associations in Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam or Rockland Counties, because they are in a position to do a more effective job. [ See below for information on the WCBA Grievance Committee.] If the complaint only concerns the size of the legal fee, it may be sent to a special service of the local bar association that specializes in fee disputes.
If your complaint does not describe something that would be considered improper conduct by an attorney, even if everything you have told them is true, it is possible it may be rejected for that reason.
If you do have a valid complaint, the Committee will ask the attorney to answer it, and, after the Committee receives the attorney’s answer, it will give you a chance to reply to it. The Committee will also investigate the complaint by looking at any papers or court records that may help, speaking to witnesses, and speaking further, if necessary, to you and the attorney.