The Disciplinary Board serves two (2) important functions: to protect the public and to maintain the integrity of the legal profession. The Supreme Court appoints twelve (12) members to the Board, eight (8) of whom are attorneys and four (4) of whom are members of the public.
It is the goal of the Board to process disciplinary complaints filed against Rhode Island attorneys as expeditiously and fairly as possible. The Board oversees the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which reviews and investigates all allegations of attorney misconduct. The Board may also petition the Supreme Court to place an attorney on inactive status if he or she becomes mentally or physically incapacitated.
When appropriate, the Board authorizes the filing of formal charges against an attorney and then conducts hearings and makes recommendations to the court for the imposition of discipline. While disciplinary investigations are confidential, formal charges are heard in proceedings open to the public. Notice of these hearings is posted in the Supreme Court Clerk's Office and on this page.
The Supreme Court Disciplinary Counsel is the investigative arm of the Board. Staff attorneys are easily accessible to the public, and any person who has a complaint about a Rhode Island lawyer may call the office and speak to a staff attorney prior to filing a complaint. Each year, thousands of Rhode Islanders contact the office and receive information. Staff attorneys can refer callers to other appropriate agencies, bring serious matters to the immediate attention of the board, and screen out those matters which do not allege any misconduct. Staff attorneys cannot provide legal advice.
The Disciplinary Board and Counsel also work with the members of the Rhode Island Bar to improve legal ethics in this state. Staff attorneys are frequent presenters at continuing legal education seminars designed to inform attorneys of their ethical obligations to their clients and to the legal system. The goal of the board is to reduce the number of complaints filed by increasing awareness of and compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct.