Overview of Michigan Disciplinary System for Lawyers and Judicial Officers
All lawyers licensed to practice law in Michigan must be a member of the State Bar of Michigan (SBM), but the SBM is not involved in attorney or judicial discipline. Rather, it is the official record-keeper of its membership and provides programs and services to its members and the public they serve.
The Michigan Supreme Court (MSC) regulates the practice of law in Michigan. It created the attorney disciplinary system, composed of the Attorney Grievance Commission (AGC) and the Attorney Discipline Board (ADB), to provide regulatory oversight of the professional conduct of attorneys licensed and admitted to practice law in Michigan.
There is a separate disciplinary system for Michigan judges, referees, and magistrates (judicial officers). The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC) provides oversight of the professional conduct of judicial officers. The JTC was created under the state constitution and empowered to operate by the MSC.
Profile of Michigan’s Disciplinary Bodies
Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission
The AGC is the clearinghouse for complaints about the alleged misconduct of attorneys licensed or admitted to practice in Michigan. It investigates and prosecutes such complaints under the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct. Complaints are submitted using AGC’s Request for Investigation form. Anyone may submit a complaint.
535 Griswold, Suite 1700
Detroit, MI 48226
Michigan Attorney Discipline Board
The ADB decides whether formal misconduct complaints filed by the AGC have been proven and, if so, what discipline to impose. Possible discipline includes contractual probation, reprimand, license suspension, and license revocation. ADB orders of discipline are posted here.
333 West Fort Street, Suite 1700
Detroit, MI 48226
Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission
The JTC investigates complaints of alleged judicial misconduct and judicial incapacity under the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct. It also recommends discipline of judicial officers by the Michigan Supreme Court. Possible discipline includes censure, suspension with or without pay, retirement, and removal from the bench. Complaints are submitted using the JTC’s request for investigation form. Anyone may submit a complaint.
3034 West Grand Boulevard, Suite 8-450
Detroit, MI 48202
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I confirm that my lawyer is an active and good standing member of the State Bar of Michigan? You may use the State Bar of Michigan’s free online directory, which lists each attorney’s current status.
Can I file a complaint against my lawyer if I believe he or she has committed misconduct or wronged me in some way, or if I believe he or she may have committed a crime? Yes. You may submit a request for investigation with the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission (see details above).
How can I check to see if a lawyer has been disciplined? You can check the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board database.
What can I do if I disagree with my lawyer about fees? The Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission offers a free dispute resolution service, if both you and your attorney agree to binding arbitration.
What do I do if my lawyer overcharged me? A good first step is to ask your lawyer to sit down with you and explain the charges in detail. If you still disagree, and the lawyer is unwilling to adjust his or her fee, you can consider using the AGC’s dispute resolution service.
What if I paid my lawyer for services he or she never performed? Is there a way I can get reimbursed? Yes. The State Bar of Michigan Client Protection Fund (CPF) reimburses losses caused by lawyers who misappropriate estate and trust assets, settlement funds, and unearned fees. Please note that the CPF will not reimburse losses attributable to legal malpractice, fee disputes, or consequential damages.
How do I file a complaint against a judge? You can submit a request for investigation to the JTC (see details above).
How do I file a complaint against a non-lawyer who harmed my case by providing deficient legal services? You can submit an unauthorized practice of law complaint to the State Bar of Michigan.
Where do I go if I don’t like a ruling in my case? Your best recourse is typically an appeal. If your lawyer does not provide appellate services and cannot refer you to an appropriate appellate lawyer, you can contact the SBM’s Lawyer Referral Service.
What do I do if my lawyer is not responding? If you tried contacting your attorney and believe you have given him or her ample time to respond, you can consider contacting another attorney who can help you facilitate a change of representation. If you believe the situation is more egregious, you can submit a Request for Investigation with the AGC (see details above).