Grievance: Complaints against Lawyers and Judges

The information below is general in nature and not intended to give specific advice for an individual legal problem. The Toledo Bar Association, as an organization, does not represent you and cannot provide you with legal advice. If you need legal advice or representation, please contact the Lawyer Referral Service of the TBA.

What Rules Do Ohio Lawyers and Judges Have to Follow?

All Ohio lawyers take an oath to effectively represent their clients without compromise and conflict. The Supreme Court of Ohio regulates the conduct of lawyers and judges through a "Code of Professional Responsibility" and a "Code of Judicial Conduct." Ohio lawyers and judges must obey their oaths of office and the rules outlined in the Codes. These Codes include ethical standards that each lawyer must follow.

For example, an Ohio lawyer is not allowed to: 

  • knowingly mislead or lie to a client or a court
  • reveal a client's confidence or secret without the client's permission
  • misuse or take money or property that belongs to a client
  • settle, file or dismiss a case without the client's permission
  • repeatedly neglect a client's legal problems after the lawyer has agreed to represent the client.

May I File a Complaint?

If you have an ethical complaint against a Lucas County lawyer or judge for violating a rule of professional conduct, you may report it for investigation. When you file a written complaint, an investigation is made to determine if the attorney or judge did or did not violate the ethical rules.

Where Do I File a Complaint?

The Ohio Supreme Court has certified the Grievance Committee of the Toledo Bar Association, as well as two statewide offices and several other local bar associations to investigate and prosecute ethical misconduct by lawyers and judges. An ethics complaint against a Lucas County lawyer must be in writing and filed with one of the following organizations:

The Toledo Bar Association
Attn: Grievance Committee
311 N. Superior Street
Toledo, OH 43604-1454


Office of Disciplinary Counsel
250 Civic Center Dr., Suite 325
Columbus, OH 43215-5454
(614) 461-0256 or (800) 589-5256

An ethics complaint against a Lucas County judge must be in writing and filed with the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel (see above) or with the Ohio State Bar Association (see below).

Complaints against judges only may be filed with:
Ohio State Bar Association
1700 Lake Shore Drive
P.O. Box 16562
Columbus, OH 43216-6562
(614) 487-2050 or (800) 282-6556 

Should I File More Than One Complaint?

You may choose the office to file with, but a complaint should be filed with only one office.

What Should My Complaint Include?

Your complaint should include your name, address, and telephone number, the name of the attorney involved, and a brief statement (usually a page or less) as to what the attorney did or failed to do that forms the basis of your complaint. A typewritten complaint is preferred. You may attach copies of relevant documents if you wish. Grievance form

What Can I Expect?

If you file with the Toledo Bar Association, your complaint will be studied by a screening committee. If it claims an ethical violation, a member of the Grievance Investigation committee will gather the facts about your complaint, both from you and the attorney, and prepare a report, which will be sent to the Grievance Committee. That Committee will decide whether the lawyer or judge violated the ethical rules. If the Committee finds enough evidence of wrongdoing, it will file a formal complaint charging misconduct against the lawyer or judge. The Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, which is an independent board appointed by the Supreme Court of Ohio, will then hold a public hearing, and you may be required to testify. Based on the results of this hearing, the Supreme Court of Ohio may take action against the lawyer or judge to protect the public by limiting or prohibiting the lawyer from practicing law or serving as a judge. If there is not enough evidence of misconduct after the hearing is held, the charges will be dismissed by the Board.

What Is Not Covered by the Complaint Procedure?

  1. Disputes between you and your lawyer over fees are not ordinarily a basis for an ethics complaint. The Toledo Bar Association has a fee arbitration program (LINK) to help resolve fee disputes.
  2. If you believe that you did not receive a proper result in a civil or criminal case, the ethics complaint process will not affect the outcome of your case. The lawyers investigating your ethics complaint cannot represent you or appeal the outcome of any case for you or recover money for you. The recovery of money damages or losses is not the purpose of the ethics complaint procedure.
  3. If you disagree with your lawyer on matters of evidence, tactics, timing, or judgment on how to handle a case, these are not generally ethical issues. A lawyer may ethically use his professional judgment in such matters.

How Do I Recover Money, Damages, or Losses?

Filing an ethics complaint against a lawyer will not result in a recovery of the money you lost. If you suffer money damages or out of pocket losses as a result of your lawyer's mistakes or negligence, you may have a legal malpractice claim. Malpractice lawsuits require a client to sue the lawyer within one year. If you wish to file a malpractice claim against a lawyer, you should immediately consult with a different lawyer about the one year limitation and the damages you believe you have suffered.

Can I Recover Money if I Don't Sue My Lawyer?

If your lawyer has illegally taken or misused your money or property, you may be eligible to recover the loss caused by the dishonest conduct through filing a claim with the Client's Security Fund of Ohio, 175 South Third Street, Suite 285, Columbus, OH 43215-5134, telephone 1-800-231-1680 or (614) 221-0562. You do not need the assistance of a lawyer to file this claim. You may file it yourself.

Contact Grievance