The Grievance Commission holds fact-finding hearings on ethical complaints not able to be resolved through the ADB process. It is physically and operationally separate from the Attorney Disciplinary Board. It accepts complaints only from the ADB ethics counsel:
it does not accept complaints directly from the public (complaints need to be filed with the attorney disciplinary board);
it does not reimburse victims of theft or conversion by Iowa attorneys (claims need to be filed with the client security commission);
it does not handle complaints of non-lawyers practicing law (those are filed with the UPL Commission).
Makeup of the Grievance Commission
Membership is geographically and gender-balanced. There are 105 lawyers currently serving on the Grievance Commission. 25 lawyers are appointed from district 5C, 15 lawyers from 5A, 10 lawyers from 6, and 5 lawyers from each other judicial election district. There are also 35 lay members are also appointed from across the state. All grievance commission members are unpaid volunteers appointed by the Supreme Court for three year terms.
Clerk of the Grievance Commission maintains the case docket, serves as the “trial court” clerk. The Chair of the Grievance Commission appoints a Division consisting of 5 members and 2 alternates to hear the case. One of the members and one of the alternates are lay members, the others are lawyers. The Chair also designates the Division President. The Division President rules on motions and issues orders. Grievance Commission hearings are closed to the public and its filings are confidential. Division panels are appointed after the Attorney Disciplinary Board has filed a complaint against an attorney similar to that filed in a civil or criminal lawsuit.
Hearings in grievance commission matters typically last a single day although much depends upon the nature and extent of the alleged misconduct. Parties may agree to waive formal hearing. The burden is on the Attorney Disciplinary Board to prove attorney misconduct by a convincing preponderance of the evidence, which is a burden greater than a preponderance of the evidence but less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
After the hearing the Division will issue a Findings of Fact and Recommendation. The Division may dismiss; issue private admonishment; or recommend public reprimand, suspension or revocation of the attorney’s license. The Division may also recommend additional sanctions consistent with the purposes of lawyer discipline. The Finding of Fact and Recommendation is filed with the Grievance Commission Clerk.
Supreme Court Review & Action
If neither party appeals, Supreme Court will review the case de novo without oral argument, briefs or further notice. If either side appeals, Rules of Appellate Procedure apply, with abbreviated time limits; see Rule 35.11(3). The Supreme Court may impose a lesser or greater sanction than recommended by the division.
Attorney Discipline Orders
Information on specific attorneys who have been publicly disciplined may be found here. Copies of the Supreme Court orders pertinent to the disciplined attorney is also available on the site.
Each year the Grievance Commission and the Attorney Disciplinary Board publish a joint report concerning the attorney disciplinary process. The 2018 ADB & Grievance Commission Annual Report is available here. The 2017 ADB/GC Annual Report is available here.