NEW ORLEANS — The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 15 to the suspend Baton Rouge attorney J. Renee Martin from the practice of law.
According to the court documents available on the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board’s website, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a petition for the suspension based on the “threat of harm” the attorney allegedly poses.
Martin has been disciplined by the state Supreme Court previously for failure to provide a client with their legal documents at the client's request. The suspension is on an interim basis, pending more court orders.
Cases of attorney misconduct are handled by the LADB, which was established in 1990 as a branch of the Louisiana Supreme Court, according to the board's website. The LADB is comprised of 14 members whose purpose is to investigate claims of attorney misconduct brought before the state Supreme Court. Once an investigation is completed, the LADB recommends disciplinary proceedings.
When a member of the public — or in some cases attorneys and judges — wishes to file a complaint against a member of the Louisiana Bar Association, they must submit a completed complaint form or formal letter to the ODC. Upon receipt, the ODC reviews and investigates the complaints and provides the attorney with a copy of the complaint and a request for response. A copy of the attorney’s response is typically sent to the complainant, who is then asked to provide further comments. This cycle can repeat several times. If the matter is determined to not be within the ODC’s jurisdiction, the ODC will submit the complaint to the Louisiana State Bar Association Practice Assistance Program for Diversion or dismiss the claims.
If the matter requires further evaluation, the ODC will collect the necessary facts of the case for investigation. If sufficient evidence of rule violation is found, the ODC will either impose a private admonition, which is a confidential form of discipline on an attorney’s record that can be taken into consideration if the lawyer is again accused of misconduct. This is the least-severe form of discipline handed down by the ODC.
If a harsher discipline is warranted, the ODC will mark the case for commencement of formal disciplinary proceeding. Formal charges will then be filed against the attorney after probable cause is presented to the Hearing Committee, which has the authority to “approve, modify, or disapprove” the charges against an attorney. If a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct can be proven, the committee will notify the attorney.
A hearing similar to trial will take place where the attorney will have the opportunity to provide a defense against the charges. Witnesses may be called to either attest to the attorney’s good character for mitigation, or to testify to the lawyer’s misconduct. The findings of the hearing are recorded and submitted to the LABD for review and a recommendation for discipline is determined. This recommendation is given to the Louisiana Supreme Court, which will ultimately determine culpability and discipline.