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CALL FOR COMMENTS - Proposed Revisions to Disciplinary Code

As you all know, the decision was recently made to go to full-time Bar Counsel as the demands of the position have been found to exceed the time and resources that can be given on a part-time basis. Earlier this month, a committee drawn from various bodies interviewed applicants for the new Bar Counsel position. The interview team was comprised of elected officers of the Wyoming State Bar, two members of the Wyoming Supreme Court, two members of the Peer Review Panel (the three-lawyer committee which oversees the office of Bar Counsel) and outgoing Bar Counsel Mark W. Gifford. That process culminated in the selection of James C. Anderson, Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Wyoming, as full-time Bar Counsel. Jim will begin the new position in June 2013.

The developments that led to the hiring of full-time Bar Counsel also prompted discussion of how the office should best be structured. On April 18, 2013, a meeting was held at the behest of Chief Justice Marilyn S. Kite to consider changes and improvements in the office of Bar Counsel. In attendance were Chief Justice Kite, elected officers of the Wyoming State Bar, members of the Peer Review Panel and the Board of Professional Responsibility, several past Bar presidents, members of Bar staff, and Mark Gifford and Jim Anderson. A consensus was reached as to restructuring of the office. The proposed revisions to the Disciplinary Code" reflect that group’s recommendations.

Overview of Changes:
Historically (at least in recent history), Bar Counsel has been employed by the Officers and Commissioners of the Wyoming State Bar. Bar Counsel’s budget has been set by Bar staff and approved by the Officers and Commissioners on an annual basis as part of the overall Wyoming State Bar budget.

Because of the confidential nature of Bar Counsel’s work, very few people have access to information about the function of the office. Bar Counsel has an administrative assistant who maintains the files. Bar Counsel interacts with the Peer Review Panel (PRP) on specific items, and the PRP oversees and evaluates Bar Counsel’s work performance. The Board of Professional Responsibility (BPR) is the hearing panel that sits on contested case proceedings and approves stipulated disciplines. In the past, neither the PRP nor the BPR has been involved in the hiring or firing of Bar Counsel or the setting of the office’s budget. Those functions have been left to the Bar Officers and Commissioners, who have very little information about the office, its performance and its needs.

It is proposed that in the future decisions regarding Bar Counsel’s retention, compensation and termination be made by the PRP, in consultation with the Wyoming State Bar's elected officers and the Wyoming Supreme Court. The PRP will work with Bar Counsel to develop an annual budget, which will be presented to the Officers and Commissioners for approval. If there are disagreements about the budget that cannot be resolved, the Wyoming Supreme Court will decide.

Finally, it is proposed that the title “Bar Counsel” be changed to “Disciplinary Counsel” to more accurately reflect the duties of the office.

At its April 19, 2013, meeting, the Board of Officers and Commissioners approved putting the following proposed revisions to the Disciplinary Code of the Wyoming State Bar out for comment to Bar members.

Proposed Revisions to the Disciplinary Code

Please submit your comments to Mark Gifford. Comments must be received by May 22, 2013.