Two complaints against Jose Baez have gone to a grievance committee, Florida Bar confirms.
The Florida Bar confirmed Tuesday that two complaints over professional conduct filed against Casey Anthony attorney Jose Baez have progressed to a grievance committee.
This means the complaints have not closed without discipline and moved from staff level to the next point in the process.
The volunteer grievance committee is the rough equivalent of a grand jury. The nine-member panel will ultimately help determine whether to bring charges against Baez under Florida Bar rules of conduct.
It is not exactly clear what the two complaints involve, but they do cover Baez’s representation of Casey Anthony, according to Francine Walker with the Bar.
On Tuesday, Baez issued a statement saying there is nothing new regarding his two complaints because they are still pending.
“I look forward to the Florida Bar investigating these matters because they, like the many others that came before them, have no merit,” Baez said in a statement emailed to the Sentinel.
“When an attorney takes on an unpopular cause, especially one in the spotlight, he or she will face criticism,” Baez added. “It is a small price to pay for our individual rights under our criminal justice system.”
The progress of the complaints comes in the aftermath of Casey Anthony’s acquittal on the most serious charges against her, including first-degree murder, in the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee Marie.
They also come at a delicate time for Baez, who grew from a relatively obscure local attorney before the case to a national legal figure after the trial. As Anthony’s lead attorney, Baez is associated with dogged advocacy and he ended up on the winning end of a hard-fought, six-week trial.
The outcome of the Bar inquiries could undermine any professional gains Baez might be enjoying as a result of the Anthony case, or they could allow him to have his name cleared and avoid formal discipline.
The Bar’s lawyer discipline system is designed to address claims of lawyer misconduct.
“If a Bar counsel determines that the allegations in question could constitute a rule violation warranting further proceedings, the matter may be referred to a grievance committee for further consideration,” the Florida Bar website states. “The type of investigation varies with the…case.”
If probable cause is found in either complaint in the coming weeks and months, Baez would likely face a trial handled by a “referee.”
In such a scenario, the Bar would present a case against Baez, and he would have the opportunity to defend himself.
The cases would become much more public if probable cause is found.
The process is meant to determine if Baez violated any rules, such as ethical or professional practices, governing attorney behavior.
If probable cause were found and a trial occurred, the referee would ultimately make findings of fact, file a report and make a recommendation with the Florida Supreme Court. The high court would then decide whether the attorney is guilty and determine the discipline, ranging from admonishment to suspension of the practice of law to disbarment.
Any lawyer accused of misconduct could enter a guilty plea and consent to discipline.
Baez was fined early this year by Chief Judge Belvin Perry for willfully violating a court order to turn over discovery information to the prosecution.
Soon after that courtroom- based punishment, the Bar in early February confirmed a new complaint had been filed against Baez.
Perry also threatened possible sanctions during the Anthony trial due to some of Baez’s actions in court at that time.
But it is not clear whether those two episodes form the basis for the current complaints.
A number of earlier Bar complaints filed against Baez were dismissed without formal punishment, prompting Baez to say earlier this year, “I have been cleared of all Bar complaints filed against me.”