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North Carolina Professional Responsibility Research

A guide to researching legal ethics in North Carolina

North Carolina State Bar

The North Carolina State Bar

  • A list of client rights and responsibilities can be found on the State Bar's website at the For the Public tab, along with other helpful links concerning finding a lawyer, when there is a dispute with your attorney (alternatives to filing a grievance), the grievance process, and the opportunity to search prior disciplinary orders by attorney name.

  • It is the State Bar's duty "to investigate and, when appropriate, prosecute lawyers for violating those rules. The purposes of the State Bar’s disciplinary process are to protect the public from harm that could result from unethical conduct of lawyers, and to protect the integrity of the justice system."


Exploring Client and Public Resources at the North Carolina State Bar

  • The home page of the NC State Bar website contains information of special interest to clients regarding the lawyer-client relationship and attorney professional responsibilities.

    • ​The form for filing a complaint against an attorney can be accessed directly from that page (see below), as well as forms for reporting the unauthorized practice of law, and requesting assistance through the state's dispute resolution process:

Image of side column entitled "Disciplinary Forms"

  • For the Public:  This tab (see below) brings up a page that gathers together links intended for use by current clients and the public in their interaction with members of the legal profession:

Image of topic bar from NC State Bar website

 

  • Searching for an attorney through the Find a Lawyer button will also provide notice of any final decision or order of discipline entered concerning the attorney:

Image of NC State Bar action buttons from home page

  • The Lawyer Discipline button provides links to past and current disciplinary actions against attorneys, the Roadmap of the Disciplinary Process, and related information for clients who are having a dispute with their attorney.


Ethics Opinions, North Carolina State Bar

American Bar Association

American Bar Association ("ABA") Resources

 

  • The ABA page When You Need a Lawyer includes links to resources for clients, including brief answers to key questions and a link to a national list of state bar associations.  In case the above link is not accessible, information for clients can be found as follows:

  1. Follow the links from the ABA Groups drop-down menu, as shown

 

  1. To the Public Education option ...                                             

 

 

  1. Access the Resources tab and then the Public Portal , as shown below

 

                 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 


Ethics Opinions, American Bar Association

Judges - State Courts

North Carolina Judicial Branch

Información en Español.  Información en español sobre el sistema judicial de Carolina del Norte

  • The Judicial Standards Commission (the "Commission") was established in 1973 to "consider complaints against judges of the state’s General Court of Justice,"  chiefly district court judges, superior court judges and appellate court judges and justices.  One of its purposes is the "consideration and investigation of citizen complaints that a judge violated the Code of Judicial Conduct."  

    • Not covered by the Commission's authority: administrative law judges, federal judges, magistrates, district attorneys, clerks of court, court employees or personnel, or private attorneys.

    • Form for filing a complaint can be found on the state court website.  Note that a complaint against the judge on a case is not the same as appealing that judge's ruling(s) in the case.


Exploring Client Resources at the North Carolina Judicial Branch Website

  • ​​Locating Information about Judicial Ethics and Regulation

    • The Judicial Standards Commission Fact Sheet provides complete information on the Commission's purpose and function.  In the event that the above links no longer work, Judicial Standards Commission information (including the fact sheet) can be found as follows:

 

  1. Beginning at the home page, in the dropdown menu for "Courts," 

 

  1. Click on the "Commissions" option, near the bottom.               undefined                  

 

  1. In the first section of options, you should see the "Judicial Standards Commission" link

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  • To File a Complaint
  1. On the North Carolina Judicial Branch home page, follow the drop down menu for "Services"

 

  1. Click on the "See All Services" link at the bottom.                            undefined

 

  1. Scroll down to the "Additional Services" portion of the page, where there is a link to "File a Complaint," which links to the form.

 

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Judges - Federal Courts

Federal Court System

The Federal Court System is mainly composed of U.S. District Courts located in regions within each state, the U.S. Courts of Appeals organized by circuits, each composed of a number of states, and the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court in the United States.  In addition, there are a number of federal courts having limited or specialized jurisdiction, such as the Court of International Trade and the U.S. Tax Court.  An informational map of the U.S. Circuits can be found at the Federal Bar Association's website. 

 

The Judicial Conference of the United States is the national policy-making body for the federal courts, ad0pting rules such as the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges (the "Code") in order to maintain standards of ethical behavior.  The Conference also oversees the Circuit Conference, which manages the circuit courts.


Fourth Judicial Circuit

Judicial complaints are to be filed with the "clerk’s office of the United States court of appeals for the regional circuit in which the judge serves."  See, FAQ page.   Since North Carolina is part of the Fourth Circuit, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals hears complaints against federal judges in North Carolina.

 

Federal District Courts

All North Carolina Federal District Courts provide access to a form for filing a complaint of judicial misconduct or disability, with further information largely provided by linking to the U.S. Courts official website.  

 

 

  • Middle District

    • Included on the court's Judicial Conduct and Disability webpage are links to the Judicial Complaint Form (for filing a complaint of judicial misconduct or disability), as well as the Judicial Complaint Rules, which details the rules for filing a judicial complaint and a discussion of what judicial conduct may or may not be the subject of a judicial complaint.  Specifically, the Notice to the Judicial Complaint Rules distinguishes between conduct properly the subject of a complaint and conduct that must be raised in an appeal through the judicial appellate process (to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals).