Attorney disciplinary proceedings in New York are before the Appellate Divisions of the Supreme Court. Each Appellate Division has one or more grievance committees assigned to specific jurisdictions.
Committees include attorneys as well as non-attorneys who volunteer to help uphold the standards of the legal profession. Each committee office has a professional staff of attorneys and investigators to investigate grievance complaints and prosecute disciplinary matters.
A person who submits a grievance about a lawyer must file their complaint formally, in writing. Committees also have sua sponte authority to institute their own investigations. The appropriate committee will review the allegations and evaluate their validity, as well as the severity of the accusations.
Each complaint is reviewed and, where appropriate, the subject attorney will be notified and have the opportunity to respond to the claims. More serious cases can result in formal disciplinary proceedings before the Appellate Division. These matters are tried before a special referee appointed by the court and are akin to Article 4 special proceedings.
Ultimate decisions can be either public or private. Public decisions issuing a sanction can be devastating to an attorney's career as they are searchable online indefinitely. Even a private sanction can have severe consequences, as they are considered notice to change your practice and will increase any future sanction issued. They can also have a negative impact on future judicial hopes and result in an increase in your malpractice policy costs.