Why did it take so long to suspend Rudy Giuliani’s law license?

That is the question a number of people on Twitter were asking today.

Really, given the quality, experience and education of the people I follow, well, they should know better. Apparently their impatience overwhelmed their common sense.

However, lookie here! I just uncovered one of my files containing the record of my own legal complaint against a lawyer who represented me in a personal injury case. So I am ready to explain why this process takes so long. Or, in common parlance, I’ve got the receipts.

First, let’s correct a common error: in New York, where Rudy is licensed, it is not a bar association which suspends or removes a lawyer’s license to practice. It is the administrative division of the state appellate court. In Manhattan, this administrative division is called the Departmental Disciplinary Committee.

A grievance filed against a lawyer must be by someone or some entity in a position to be aggrieved. An ex-client, for instance. Several complaints against Rudy were supported by New York bar associations and filed by heads of several bar associations.

The grievance itself takes time to prepare. You don’t simply send a “this lawyer is a POS disgrace to his profession!” letter. The grievance must contain: (1) an overview of the problem; (2) a chronology of the problem, specifying the things the lawyer did or didn’t do to cause the grievance; (3) a summary; and (4) attached relevant exhibits.

And before I, personally, did anything, I read the entire Rules of Professional Conduct because I had to complain about actual breaches of the actual Rules, not my general irritations.

My really simple complaint consisted of 7 single-spaced pages and 8 exhibits. Doesn’t sound like much but it took me time to compile it.

Now, think about Rudy Giuliani. Think about the months it must have taken to compile all the TV appearances, articles quoting him, court filings he made, all the times he may have violated the Rules…and on and on and on. Thousands of pages of exhibits (including videos, I’m sure).

What happens after the grievance is filed (if I remember, nine copies of it)? Well, the accused lawyer gets to respond! To do so, he probably hires a law firm to do the work. And the law firm has to make a statement and compile exhibits which can dispute the statements in the initial filings.

Then the Disciplinary Committee sends the respondent’s answer to the complainer, with a cover letter saying:

If you disagree with the attorney’s statement, please write us, telling us specifically how and why; if you have any documents substantiating your points of disagreement, forward them to us. Also, please tell us what has happened in regard to this matter since the time you filed the complaint.

If we do not hear from you within twenty (20) days, we may conclude that you agree with the attorney’s statement.

Oh, I had disagreements! So I wrote another statement (24 pages), citing specific disagreements, with another bunch of exhibits (seventeen of ’em) and a table of contents. (My favorite was exhibit 11, a Daily News story with around ten arrest photos, about a bust of an ambulance-chasing ring based at a local hospital. One of the photos was of the lawyer I first met when I signed the retainer.)

Here is the time span over which my grievance proceeded: initial filing, April 18, 2012. The response was dated July 2, 2012. My reply was dated July 18, 2012.

The decision of the Disciplinary Committee (more than fifty people are on it but I assume grievances are assigned, possibly at random, to a select small group) was dated March 13, 2013.

My dinky little grievance, which did not succeed, took over a year.

The complaints against Giuliani are not dinky.

And that’s why it took so long to suspend Rudy’s law license.








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