Missouri Broadens Access|to Probes of Attorneys

     JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) – Missouri residents have more access to disciplinary actions against attorneys under investigation for legal misconduct, under a state Supreme Court order that took effect Sunday.
     The order grants public access to misconduct cases when the state Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel files a disciplinary charge with an advisory panel.
     The information will be available only after the attorney in question has responded, according to The Associated Press.
     The rule also allows the public to find out when the Missouri Supreme Court issues written admonitions, and requires Missouri to publicize sanctions in The Missouri Bar’s bimonthly journal and local newspapers where the attorney practices.
     The state also must alert the presiding judge in the judicial circuit where the attorney is based.
     Lawyers who oppose the release of their disciplinary files still may petition for protective orders to seal their records.
     The state’s Legal Ethics Counsel on Monday released the names of 28 attorneys with pending disciplinary hearings. The list can be found at www.mo-legal-ethics.org.
     The changes are in response to an American Bar Association report several years ago that recommended that Missouri open up its attorney discipline process.
     Before the court order, the public had access only when the disciplinary office filed an administrative charge with the Supreme Court, which oversees attorney discipline in Missouri.
     Forty other states have similar rules, according to The Associated Press.

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