All investigations must be initiated through a written complaint to the Board. The Supreme Court of Iowa has approved a form that must accompany all complaints of ethical misconduct against Iowa attorneys. This form allows the Board to ensure that all pertinent contact information is received and that the complaining party (“complainant”) has waived applicable attorney-client confidentiality protections.
Any person with knowledge of the relevant facts may file a complaint. The Board receives complaints from clients, members of the public, other attorneys, and judges. The Board also receives and investigates self-reports of misconduct by attorneys who fall within its jurisdiction.
There is no fee to file a written complaint. Upon receipt of the complaint, the Board will assign the matter a case number and the attorney (“respondent”) will be notified and given an opportunity to respond to the allegations of ethical misconduct.
Attorneys are required to respond to ethical complaints. Failure to respond may result in a suspension of the attorney’s license to practice law. After the attorney has responded, the matter is assigned to a Board investigator, who will review the complaint and the response and conduct further investigation into the alleged misconduct. Investigators often review court files, communicate with judges or other attorneys, interview witnesses (including, frequently, the complainant), and gather pertinent documentation. The investigative process may take several months.
After investigation, the Board will consider the matter as part of its regular case-processing business (which includes weekly mailings and quarterly in-person meetings). If the Board decides that no further action is warranted, the matter will be dismissed and the complainant will be informed of the reasons for the Board’s decision. If the Board decides that a private admonition or public discipline is appropriate, further procedural requirements may delay notification of the complainant of the final disposition of the case. However, once the matter is completely resolved, every complainant will be informed. If public discipline is imposed, the complainant will receive a copy of the Supreme Court’s order imposing the sanction.