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About the Disciplinary Board of the Hawai’i Supreme Court

The Disciplinary Board of the Hawai`i Supreme Court is an 18-member body appointed by the Supreme Court to supervise the attorney discipline system.  Board members are both lawyers and non-lawyers, all serving without compensation.[1] The Disciplinary Board sets policy guidelines and procedural rules for handling disciplinary matters; acts as a reviewing body for all complaints that the Office of Disciplinary Counsel recommends for summary disposition and all cases in which formal disciplinary proceedings have been instituted; issues formal opinions on ethics issues; and oversees the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.[2]

There is a clear separation between duties and functions of the Disciplinary Board and the ODC with respect to attorney discipline.  The ODC is the “prosecutorial arm” of the attorney discipline process. It investigates all complaints and makes recommendations whether to pursue formal disciplinary proceedings.[3]  The hearing officer, and in some cases, a hearing committee, listens to the evidence and makes a recommendation regarding attorney. [4]The Disciplinary Board then acts as a reviewing body.[5] These three functions (ODC, hearing officer/committee and the Board) are not permitted to engage in ex parte communications except in special circumstances. Such separation ensures that parties and attorney respondents are given fair and impartial review of their cases.

The Hawai`i lawyer discipline system is funded solely by annual registration fees paid by Hawai`i’s lawyers.

[1] RSCH Rule 2.4(a)
[2] RSCH Rule 2.4(d),(e)
[3] RSCH Rules 2.6, 2.7
[4] RSCH Rule 2.5
[5] RSCH Rules 2.7(c), (d)

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