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Bar Docket and Attorney Discipline

The Supreme Judicial Court Clerk's Office for the County of Suffolk maintains the bar docket caseload that comprises attorney discipline and administrative matters.

During the COVID-19 Health Crisis

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's has adopted a variety of emergency measures in response to coronavirus (COVID-19) that have impacted the business processes of the Court. Before taking any actions related to the Bar Docket during the time of this emergency, you are encouraged to consult the SJC Clerk's Office for the County of Suffolk FAQs during the COVID-19 Crisis: Bar Docket Matters.

Learn more about the Bar Docket

The bar docket is the name of the county court docket that deals with attorney discipline and purely administrative attorney matters. Administrative matters concerning the bar can include:

  • the appointment of a commissioner in the event of death or disappearance pursuant to SJC Rule 4:01 §14;
  • the transfer of an attorney to disability inactive status pursuant to SJC Rule 4:01, §13(1) or 13(2); and
  • the enforcing or quashing of a subpoena in connection with investigative proceedings before the Board of Bar Overseers

Attorney discipline matters are governed by SJC Rule 4:01:

SJC Rule 4:01 of the Supreme Judicial Court grants the county court jurisdiction over bar discipline matters involving any lawyer or foreign legal consultant admitted to, or engaging in, the practice of law in the Commonwealth and empowers the Board of Bar Overseers (board) with the responsibility to investigate and prosecute such matters. Those actions most frequently filed by the Office of Bar Counsel (bar counsel) are petitions for suspension (temporary, term or indefinite), disbarment and reciprocal discipline. The grounds upon which bar counsel may petition the single justice for disciplinary action against an attorney include:

  • misuse or loss of client funds
  • neglect of client interests
  • fraudulent conduct
  • sanction in another jurisdiction
  • conviction of a crime
  • misrepresentation to the court

In addition, the rule gives the single justice discretion to accept an attorney's resignation or to place an attorney on disability inactive status.

A final order or judgment of the single justice in a bar discipline case entered on the county court docket before April 1, 2009, is appealable to the full court and is governed by the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure. The standard by which the sanction is imposed is reviewed is whether the sanction is "markedly disparate from those ordinarily entered in similar cases." Matter of Kerlinsky, 428 Mass. 656, 664 (1999).

In 2015, the Supreme Judicial Court adopted SJC Rule 2:23 establishing a modified procedure for appeals from decisions of the court's single justices in bar discipline cases entered on the county court docket. Any final order or judgment of the single justice in a bar discipline case entered after April 1, 2009, may be appealed to the full court by filing a notice of appeal with the clerk for the single justice within ten days of the decision being appealed. The record on appeal consists of the papers before the single justice and preliminary memorandum from the appellant in which he or she must demonstrate, i.e., "that there has been an error of law or abuse of discretion by the single justice; that the decision is not supported by substantial evidence; that the sanction is markedly disparate from the sanctions imposed in other cases involving similar circumstances; or that for other reasons the decision will result in a substantial injustice." The appellee is required to file a memorandum only if requested.

The appellant must file a memorandum limited to no more than twenty pages. The appellee may not file a memorandum, unless requested by the court. Nine copies of the memorandum and the record appendix must be filed with the clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court for the Commonwealth. The court may decide the case without oral argument. Three justices may decide that the case should instead proceed in the regular course, pursuant to the Rules of Appellate Procedure.


Electronic filing of Bar Docket Cases

All Bar Docket cases filed in the Clerk's Office of Supreme Judicial Court for the County of Suffolk after January 1, 2016 are electronically filed by the Office of Bar Counsel/Board of Bar Overseers. Lawyer's representing respondent/attorney, are strongly encouraged to electronically file any response or further pleadings.

The following information has been prepared by the Clerk's Office to provide basic information to guide you through the registration process for electronically filing. Please read the information carefully to avoid errors that could prevent you from electronically filing. Electronic filing is not mandatory, and the Clerk's office will accept paper filings. Impounded documents cannot be electronically filed.

  • You have to register for e-fileMA here: The registration page has a variety of helpful resources and information about how to use the service.
  • You do not have to file a paper copy once you have e-filed your document.
  • Include a certificate of service with your e-filed document.
  • Redact any personal identifying and confidential data.
  • Enter the correct Bar Docket number and select from the drop down the correct document you wish to electronically file.
  • Cover letters are not necessary and should not be included as part of your response/pleading.
  • Be certain to select the Clerk's Office of the Supreme Judicial Court-Suffolk from the e-filing location drop down.
  • Any limited guidance contact the Clerk's Office of the Supreme Judicial Court for the County of Suffolk at 617-557-1100.