METAIRIE — The Louisiana Supreme Court recently appointed Carl A. Butler as chairman of the Louisiana Attorney’s Disciplinary Board (LADB).
The LADB is responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct by lawyers and for making recommendations to the Louisiana Supreme Court about disciplinary action.
“There’s a lot of responsibility,” Butler told the Louisiana Record. “Legal careers can be materially altered.”
It’s a responsibility that Butler knows well. Butler is two years into his second three-year term on the LADB and has served as vice chairman. He will take over leadership of the 14-member disciplinary board in January.
The volunteer board is a diverse group. Four members are from the general public. The board is divided into a nine-member adjudicative committee and a five-member administrative committee. The chair plays an administrative role to coordinate the appointment of hearing committees, and manage financial, facility, and human resources aspects of the committee.
“I am comforted in knowing that I have the support of some very dedicated board members and some very dedicated staff members,” Butler said. “It’s a team effort all the way.”
His goal is to maintain the efficiency of the board.
“If it’s not broke, I’m not going to try to fix it,” he said. “My job is going to be made a lot easier because I’ve had a succession of prior chairpersons who have made the board efficient.”
To handle as many cases as the LADB does, the board has to stay efficient. In 2014, it investigated 3,011 written complaints of misconduct and responded to more than 10,000 calls from members of the public.
Butler hopes to see the same level of community engagement during his leadership. “We want to be sure that the public understands that we’re there as a resource for the public in terms of holding lawyers accountable,” he said.
Louisiana lawyers are expected to follow the Rules of Professional Conduct as laid out by the Louisiana Supreme Court. Founded in 1990, LADB was the first attorney disciplinary system in the nation to incorporate the Model Rules for Disciplinary Enforcement as laid out by the American Bar Association.
“An attorney should be acting in the client’s best interest,” Butler said. “When we make a decision that a lawyer has not acted in the best interest of their client, sometimes consequences are dire.”
While the board does not leverage disciplinary action itself, it can make recommendations to the court that range from admonishment to disbarment.
“The biggest challenge being faced by the board is making sure that we’re being fair both to the complainant and the lawyer,” Butler said.
This year, the board celebrates its 25th year. The existence of the board is paid for by lawyers in Louisiana, who contribute a portion of their annual dues to the Louisiana Attorney's Disciplinary Board.
“I think it makes all lawyers better lawyers,” Butler said.
Butler is the principal owner of Butler Law Firm, LLC of LaPlace, Louisiana. He has been practicing law for more than 30 years, specializing in civil and commercial litigation.