The State Bar seeks public comment regarding proposed new and amended Rules of Procedure of the State Bar governing the designation of vexatious complainants.
Deadline: August 26, 2019
Existing law requires OCTC to acknowledge receipt of a written complaint of attorney misconduct and to inform the complainant of the reasons for the disposition of the complaint. OCTC’s current practice is a multi-step process to acknowledge, review and analyze the complaint, and send an individualized closing letter in response to every complaint, regardless of the number of complaints an individual submits. Some complainants have filed large numbers of meritless complaints, requiring that OCTC dedicate significant staff resources to reviewing and processing frivolous complaints. The Complaint Review Unit within the Office of General Counsel has also been negatively impacted by the volume of complaints from vexatious complainants. The number of vexatious complainants is expected to rise with the recent launch of the online complaint submission process.
The State Bar does not currently have a formal procedure for handling complainants who file excessive numbers of meritless or frivolous complaints. Continued processing of those complaints unduly burdens the State Bar’s limited resources and hampers its ability to serve the general public.
On July 11, 2019, the Regulation and Discipline Committee of the Board of Trustees authorized a 45-day public comment period for (1) proposed new Rule of Procedure 2605, which would set forth the procedure for OCTC designation of a vexatious complainant and State Bar Court review of such designations, and (2) proposed amended Rule of Procedure 5.10, which would provide that vexatious complainant proceedings in State Bar Court are confidential.
Proposed Rule of Procedure 2605 would grant the Office of Chief Trial Counsel (“OCTC”) authority to apply a vexatious complainant designation to complainants who have filed 10 or more complaints in the preceding two-year period that were closed at the inquiry stage due to a finding that the complaints lacked sufficient factual or legal grounds to warrant investigation. Upon such a designation, OCTC would not be required to review or process subsequent complaints from the vexatious complainant unless the complaint is verified under penalty of perjury and submitted on the complainant’s behalf by an active licensed attorney.
OCTC’s decision to apply the vexatious complainant designation would be reviewable by the State Bar Court. The State Bar Court’s scope of review would be to confirm that OCTC properly applied the criteria necessary to invoke the vexatious complainant designation. Proposed amended Rule of Procedure 5.10 would add vexatious complainant proceedings to the list of State Bar Court proceedings that are confidential.
Adoption of the proposed rule would conserve OCTC personnel resources currently dedicated to processing repeat complaints from complainants who meet the criteria to be deemed vexatious under the proposed rule.
Board Agenda ItemAttachment A: Proposed Rule 2605. Vexatious Complainants (clean version)Attachment B: Proposed Rule 5.10. Confidential Proceedings (clean version)
Regulation and Discipline Committee
August 26, 2019
Office of General Counsel
180 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94105