Friday, November 8, 2013
In a significant case involving the rights of witnesses in a bar disciplinary proceeding, the Iowa Supreme Court has held that a complaining witness has a right to be represented at a hearing by counsel "for the limited purpose of protecting rights personal to the witness in the proceeding."
The complaint alleged that a client was the subject of sexual misconduct on the part of the attorney. The Attorney Disciplinary Board filed a complaint based on the allegations and a hearing was scheduled before the Grievance Commission.
Counsel for the complainant entered an appearance and sought a continuance. The commission president invoked Iowa rules making bar procedings confidential and concluded that "the absence of her attorney from the hearing would cause no unfairness to [complainant."
The president thus quashed the attorney's entry of appearance in the matter.
The court here granted interlocutory review and reversed the order. The court held that a witness may have counsel present only when testifying.
Counsel cannot make objections or question the witness, other than to prevent a mistatement from entering the record.
The Board supported the position of the witness. Only the accused attorney objected.
I applaud this decision, although I think that all disciplinary proceedings should be public. (Mike Frisch)