You Cannot Sue Disciplinary Authorities For Refusing to Prosecute

The case comes from Vermont, captioned In re John Paul Faignant, Esq., 2019 VT 19. In attorney discipline proceedings, a client may decide to institute a grievance against a lawyer by filing with the appropriate state agency. That agency then may investigate and has absolute discretion as to whether it wishes to bring a formal complaint agains the lawyer. Here, a lawyer, presumably Mr. Faignant, requested that the Vermont Bar discipline another attorney. T

In this case, a lawyer made a request for an investigation of another attorney. Vermont Bar Counsel chose to dismiss the close the file. The petitioner then filed a Petition for Extraordinary Relief with the Vermont Supreme Court requesting that it order Bar Counsel to reopen the case. The Vermont Supreme Court, like all other courts which have considered such claims, denied the request and dismissed the Petition for Extraordinary Relief on the ground that the petitioner lacked standing to pursue the matter.

The Petitioner does not have standing because the only party who could be harmed by the outcome of the case is the lawyer subjected to discipline.

Simply put, Bar Counsel had absolute discretion as to whether to proceed further with the grievance and chose not to do so.

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