In recent years, as many as one-third of the published disciplinary opinions of the Supreme Court have specifically mentioned substance abuse or mental health issues on the part of the respondent. Staff members at the Attorney Disciplinary Board and the Grievance Commission estimate that the majority of founded disciplinary matters in Iowa involve lawyers with a substance abuse issue, a mental health issue, or both. As a preventive measure designed to reduce lawyer discipline matters and harm to clients, the definition of what constitutes legal ethics for the purposes of the biennial ethics continuing legal education (CLE) attendance requirement is amended to include instruction specifically designed for lawyers regarding substance abuse and mental health. The biennial ethics attendance requirement is increased from two to three hours.
Substance abuse prevention programs and those courses dealing with mental health issues and treatments may now qualify for ethics CLE in Iowa. These credits will count toward the three credits (up from two credits ) now required every two years.
The three-hour requirement applies to the 2012-2013 and subsequent ethics reporting periods. Thus, attorneys must first report a minimum of three hours of ethics for the 2012-2013 reporting period in the CLE report due no later than March 1, 2014.