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Metropolitan New York, Long Island, and the Mid-Hudson Region
How to Complain about Lawyers and Judges

Complaints about Professional Misconduct
Lawyers admitted to practice in New York State are held to the standards in the Code of Professional Responsibility. These are high standards. A lawyer who violates the Code may be charged with professional misconduct. Some examples of professional misconduct are:

  • Neglect – A lawyer fails to pursue your case and the action is dismissed or barred because of your lawyer's delay.
  • Mishandling of Money – A lawyer takes your money and uses it for a purpose that was not agreed to by you or mingles it with someone else's money.
  • Fraud – A lawyer lies to you about any aspect of your case.
  • Conflict of Interest – A lawyer represents both sides and does not explain fully what problems may result.

How to Complain
One need not have been a client of a lawyer in order to complain about the lawyer's conduct. Telephone the appropriate committee to determine whether it uses a form for filing complaints. If the committee uses a form, it will mail one to you. If the grievance committee does not use a form for filing complaints, you should include:

  • full name and address of the lawyer;
  • a brief summary of the facts which you believe show misconduct by the lawyer;
  • date(s) of the action(s) complained of;
  • copies of any records, such as letters, documents, etc., which help explain the complaint you are making.

The grievance committees are appointed by the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court. They operate on a regional basis, and their jurisdiction is based upon the location of the office of the attorney against whom a complaint is being made. You should make your complaint or inquiry known to the grievance committee that covers the county in which the attorney’s office is located. The following is a list of the grievance committees and the counties over which they have jurisdiction.

New York and Bronx Counties:
Departmental Disciplinary Committee for the First Department
61 Broadway, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10006
(212) 401-0800

Kings, Queens and Richmond Counties:
Grievance Committee for the Second and Eleventh Judicial Districts
Renaissance Plaza
335 Adams Street, Suite 2400
Brooklyn, NY 11201-3745
(718) 923-6300

Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester Counties:
Grievance Committee for the Ninth Judicial District
399 Knollwood Road, Suite 200
White Plains, NY 10603
(914) 949-4540

Nassau and Suffolk Counties:
Grievance Committee for the Tenth Judicial District
6900 Jericho Turnpike
Syosset, NY 11791
(516) 364-7344

Albany, Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Clinton, Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Hamilton, Madison, Montgomery, Otsego, Rensselaer, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Schuyler, Sullivan, Tioga, Tompkins, Ulster, Warren and Washington Counties:
Committee on Professional Standards
40 Steuben Street
Albany, NY 12207
(518) 474-8816

Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Onondaga and Oswego Counties:
Grievance Committee for the Fifth Judicial District
Syracuse Square
465 South Salina Street
Syracuse, NY 13202
(315) 471-1835

Cayuga, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne and Yates Counties:
Grievance Committee for the Seventh Judicial District
Attorney Grievance Committee
50 East Avenue, Suite 404
Rochester, NY 14604-2206
(585) 530-3180
Fax: (585) 530-3191

Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genessee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming Counties:
Grievance Committee for the Eighth Judicial District
1036 Ellicott Square Building
Buffalo, NY 14203
(716) 858-1190

What Happens After You File A Complaint?

Review and Investigation
The Committee will do an initial review of the case in order to determine whether it describes a possible violation of the law. If it is determined that no law has been broken, you will be notified by a letter.

If the Committee determines that your case does contain a violation of the law, it will begin an investigation. The review and investigation process should take about 3-4 months.

After the investigation, the Committee may do the following:

Dismiss the Complaint
A complaint is dismissed when there is not enough evidence to prove misconduct.

Send the lawyer a Letter of Caution
If the violation is found to be a minor or technical one, the lawyer may be sent a Letter of Caution. This letter is not a formal disciplinary action and remains confidential. However, the letter indicates disapproval of the lawyer’s conduct and may be considered if other complaints are made against the lawyer.

Send the lawyer a Letter of Admonition
If the violation is more serious, the lawyer may be sent a Letter of Admonition, stating that any further misconduct will result in formal charges. This letter is a formal disciplinary action but remains confidential. However, if the lawyer is found guilty of professional misconduct at a later time, the fact that a Letter of Admonition was issued in response to an earlier complaint will be considered in determining punishment.

Conduct a Hearing
If the investigation reveals the possibility of serious misconduct, a hearing is held before a panel of lawyers and non-lawyers. Currently, these hearings are not open to the public. After the hearing, the outcome may be:

  • Dismissal of the case
  • Letter of Caution*
  • Letter of Admonition*
  • Reprimand issued to the lawyer**
  • Referral of the case to the court (the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court)

* Applicable to Grievance Committee

** Applicable to DDC. A Reprimand, issued by a hearing panel of the DDC, is a formal disciplinary action, but it remains confidential. However, if professional misconduct, the Reprimand will be considered in punishing the lawyer.

Action by the Appellate Division
When a case is referred to the Court, the Court may order a new hearing or decide the matter on the record already established. The Court may dismiss the case, or in the Second Department may refer it back to the Grievance Committee for issuance of a Letter of Admonition, or take one of the following disciplinary actions against the lawyer:

  • Censure (this is a public reprimand, but the lawyer may continue to practice law)
  • Suspension (this means the lawyer cannot practice law for a period of time)
  • Disbarment (this means the lawyer can no longer practice law)

The punishment imposed by the Court is disclosed to the public.

Fee Disputes
If your problem with your lawyer is a dispute about the fee, you may get help from the bar association in the county in which your lawyer’s office is located. In the event of a fee dispute between an attorney and client, in most civil matters, where the representation began on or after January 1, 2002, the client may seek to resolve the dispute by arbitration. The attorney's participation is mandatory at the client’s election. Arbitration awards become final and binding by operation of law if neither party seeks a trial de novo within 30 days. In cases where the representation began before January 1, 2002, the lawyer is not required to participate in the fee conciliation processes or arbitration processes described below, except in matrimonial cases.

  • Manhattan & The Bronx

Joint Committee on Fee Disputes and Conciliation
14 Vesey Street
New York, NY 10007
(212) 267-6646 ext. 132
9:00 am - 5:00 pm

The Joint Committee is supervised by The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, the New York County Lawyers’ Association and the Bronx County Bar Association.

To file a complaint about a fee, call the Joint Committee. You will be sent a form to fill out, sign and return. A copy will be sent to the lawyer for a response. The Committee will try to bring you and your lawyer together to achieve a voluntary settlement of the fee dispute.

  • Brooklyn, Queens & Staten Island

State of New York Grievance Committee for the 2nd and 11th Judicial Districts
335 Adams Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
phone number: 718-923-6300
open M-F from 9am -4:30pm

Should you have a complaint regarding the fee charged by a lawyer, you should contact the Grievance Committee, which will supply you with a set of forms to make a formal complaint. After the Grievance Committee has established a file, if appropriate, the Committee will refer a fee dispute for voluntary arbitration to the appropriate bar association. At that time you will be contacted for a hearing, which is purely voluntary. The arbitration process is not binding and the attorney may refuse to appear before the Arbitration Committee.

  • Queens

Committee on Conciliation and Fee Disputes
Queens County Bar Association
90-35 148th Street
Jamaica, NY 11435
(718) 291-4500

The Queens County Bar Association will contact the lawyer. If you and the lawyer agree, you may submit the dispute to the Committee on Conciliation and Fee Disputes for a hearing and determination.

  • Staten Island

Fee Arbitration Committee
Richmond County Bar Association
2012 Victory Boulevard
Staten Island, NY 10314
(718) 442-4500

The Bar Association will contact you and your lawyer. If you both agree, the matter will be submitted for arbitration by a panel of members of the Arbitration Committee. The panel will make an award resolving the dispute.

  • Nassau

Nassau County Bar Association
15th and West Street
Mineola, NY 11501
(516) 747-4070

  • Suffolk

Suffolk County Bar Association
560 Wheeler Road
Hauppauge, New York 11788-4357
(631) 234-5511 ext. 222

  • Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Dutchess and Putnam

Grievance Committee for the Ninth Judicial District
399 Knollwood Road, Suite 200
White Plains, NY 10603
(914) 949-4540

  • All other Counties

Attorney-Client Fee Dispute Resolution Program
Board of Governors
Office of Court Administration
25 Beaver Street, Room 855
New York, New York 10004
(212) 428-2862

Lawyer Referral Service
If you originally found your lawyer through a lawyer referral service, you should contact that referral service. Often there are requirements that any fee disputes be resolved through arbitration by the organization that sponsors the service.

Claims for Reimbursement
The Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection is an organization that was created by the State Legislature in 1981 to reimburse losses caused by the dishonest conduct of New York attorneys in the course of their practice. An individual need not be represented by a lawyer in order to submit a claim to the Fund. For more information on the operations of the Fund and the filing of a claim with the Fund, you may write to the Fund at

119 Washington Avenue
Albany, New York 11210
(800) 442-FUND
http://www.nylawfund.org

Complaints Against State Court Judges and Court Officers

Complaints against New York State judges may be filed with the

Commission on Judicial Conduct
801 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017
(212) 949-8860.

Complaints against other court personnel may be filed with the

Inspector General
Office of Court Administration
270 Broadway, Room 1005
New York, NY 10007
(212) 417-5832.

Complaints against Judges and Other Court Personnel in Federal Court
If you have a complaint against a judge in a federal court in New York City, you should contact:

Clerk of the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit
United States Courthouse, Room 1702
Foley Square
New York, NY 10007
(212) 791-0103

The Clerk’s office will tell you the procedure for filing a written complaint.

If you have a complaint against court personnel in a federal court, write a letter to the Chief Judge of that court. You may simply address the letter to the Chief Judge at the address of the courthouse, even if you do not know the name of the Chief Judge.