ELC 2.7 - Conflicts Review OfficerComments for ELC 2.7 must be received no later than October 9, 2009.
GR 9 COVER SHEET
RULES FOR ENFORCEMENT OF LAWYER CONDUCT (ELC)
Submitted by the Board of Governors of the Washington State Bar Association
Purpose: The Conflicts Review Officer position was created in October 2002 with the adoption of Rule for Enforcement of Lawyer Conduct (ELC) 2.7. Pursuant to the Rule, the Conflicts Review Officer reviews grievances filed against disciplinary counsel, hearing officers, other lawyers employed by the Association, and members of the Disciplinary Board, the Board of Governors, and the Supreme Court. The CRO is not a WSBA employee and operates at “arm’s length” of the WSBA and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. CROs are appointed by the Supreme Court on recommendation of the Board of Governors.
When reviewing a grievance, the CRO essentially performs the intake screening function that would otherwise be performed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. The CRO reviews the grievance and the response of the lawyer and determines whether the grievance should be dismissed, deferred, or referred to special disciplinary counsel for investigation. CROs perform intake screening only, not investigation, and are expected to comply with the 60-day aspirational timeline applicable to grievance intake. CRO files are unique. Unlike “regular” grievances, which can be dismissed at the intake level without requiring a response from the Respondent lawyer, the CRO is required, under ELC 2.7(a), to obtain a response before performing the intake review on a grievance. This includes grievances which are a direct result of a lawyer’s work within the discipline system (e.g., grievances filed against a disciplinary counsel or review committee members because they dismissed a grievance).
The Rule currently provides for one Conflicts Review Officer, and allows for appointment of CROs pro tem as needed for a specific case; however, this has resulted in the appointment of an inordinate number of CROs pro tem, which in turn has interfered with the ability to process such grievances in a timely fashion. The proposed amendments to the ELC would establish a panel of three Conflicts Review Officers while preserving the ability to appoint a CRO pro tem where all three CROs were unable to serve on a particular matter. The proposed amendments set forth with greater specificity what grievances are to be assigned to CROs, and would allow a CRO to dismiss a baseless or frivolous grievance without requiring the attorney to file a response.
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