HBA-DMH H.B. 792 77(R) BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 792 By: Wolens Civil Practices 8/7/2001 Enrolled BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE Currently, a grievance may be filed against an attorney with the State Bar of Texas (state bar). The grievance system is designed to sanction attorneys for misconduct. Prior to the 77th Legislature, it became apparent that there were various problems with the state bar's administration of the lawyer discipline and disability system. For example, a lawyer against whom a disciplinary action had been brought could be required by the state bar or the court to disclose privileged attorney-client information even if the client did not initiate the complaint. House Bill 792 sets forth provisions for the membership and voting disclosure of a panel of a district grievance committee of the state bar and requires the state bar to conduct a study of disciplinary and disability procedures. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, department, agency, or institution. ANALYSIS House Bill 792 amends the Government Code to set forth provisions for the membership, including public membership, of a panel of a district grievance committee (committee panel) of the State Bar of Texas (state bar) for the purpose of convening a meeting. The bill requires a committee panel that votes on a grievance matter to disclose to the complainant and the respondent in the matter the number of members voting for or against a finding of just cause or abstaining from voting on the matter. A member of a committee panel may only vote on a grievance matter if the member is present at the hearing at which the vote takes place. The bill prohibits the state bar or a court from requiring an attorney against whom a disciplinary action has been brought to disclose information protected by the attorney-client privilege if the client did not initiate the complaint that is the subject of the action. Whenever a grievance is either dismissed as an inquiry or dismissed as a complaint after an investigatory hearing in accordance with the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure and that dismissal has become final, the bill authorizes a respondent attorney to deny that a grievance was pursued. In any disciplinary action which is tried to verdict before an evidentiary panel or a district court and there is a take-nothing judgment entered which becomes final, the bill authorizes the respondent attorney to file a motion with the tribunal seeking expunction of the tribunal's file on the matter. In the event an expunction is granted, the bill requires an evidentiary panel or district court to order that all records be destroyed other than statistical or identifying information maintained by the chief disciplinary counsel pertaining to any grievance which formed the basis of the disciplinary action and authorizes the respondent attorney thereafter to deny any grievance which formed the basis of the disciplinary action. The bill requires the state bar, not later than September 1, 2002, to study the state bar rules governing attorney disciplinary and disability procedure and the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure to determine the extent to which the rules conform to the requirements of state law governing attorney disciplinary and disability procedure and to submit to the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the house of representatives a report of the study, including recommendations for revisions to the state bar rules and the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure that conflict with the requirements of state law. EFFECTIVE DATE September 1, 2001.