Johnson v. Office of Professional Conduct, 2014 UT 57, -P.3d- (Dec. 12, 2014)-
Dec 12, 2014
The Office of Professional Conduct (OPC) investigated allegations of professional misconduct against an attorney, and referred the matter to a screening panel of the Ethics and Discipline Committee of the Utah Supreme Court (Committee). The screening panel provided a notice of informal complaint (NOIC) to the attorney notifying him that the OPC believed he may have violated certain rules. At the hearing, the screening panel determined that the attorney had violated another rule (Rule 1.2-representation), which the attorney was unprepared to address because it was not listed in the NOIC. The attorney filed an exception to the screening panel’s determination and presented additional evidence that he had not violated Rule 1.2, but did not request a hearing. The Committee chair did not consider the additional evidence in ruling on the exception, and affirmed the screening panel’s determination. On appeal, the Supreme Court considered the additional evidence and reversed the Committee’s determination that the attorney violated the rules, finding that it was not supported by substantial evidence. The Court instructed the rules committee to propose changes to the rules to address its concerns over the procedural fairness and efficiency of new charges arising in screening panel hearings.