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Once a month the ACPE Professional Ethics Commission (PEC) posts a couple of statements from our Code of Professional Ethics for ACPE Members.  Each posting is accompanied by a brief personal reflection from a commissioner of the PEC sharing some ways this person lives these commitments*.  December’s statements are:

Explaining Differences Between Legal Process and Ethical Complaint Process

For December, Rabbi Michael Tevya Cohen, J.D., ACPE Certified Educator, Dallas, TX comments:

ACPE members of our community may wonder what the differences are between the ACPE Ethics Process and that which one would find in a court of law. There are quite a few differences, including the following:


  1. An individual can contest jurisdiction when a case is brought to a court of law. However, as a condition of our membership in ACPE, each of us consents to participate and cooperate in the ethics process overseen by the Professional Ethics Commission (“PEC”). This includes abiding by our ethics code and responding to any ethics claim that may be filed against us.  This would include our obligation to share all relevant information from one ACPE process (such as Certification or Wellness) to another ACPE Process (such as Professional Ethics).


  2. The determination of whether the PEC has jurisdiction over an ethics complaint follows a meeting of the Initial Review Panel that makes the following inquiry:
    1. Whether the respondent is a member of ACPE; 
    2. Whether the respondent is alleged to have violated one of the ACPE Ethics Standards;
    3. Whether the time limits for filing have been met; and
    4. Whether the allegation(s), if proven, would violate the standards of ACPE or APC (note: the Ethics Process is a joint one for our two associations).


  3. ACPE Ethical Standards require respect and sensitivity for others, and appropriate professional conduct.  Allegations of violation of these Standards may be brought in an Ethics proceeding. In contrast, being disrespectful or insensitive is typically not actionable and does not subject an offender to a proceeding in court.


  4. Unlike civil cases, monetary awards are not available from our ethics process.


  5. In an ethics proceeding, respondents do not have the right to confront or cross examine witnesses, unlike in a court proceeding. In the ACPE ethics process the Hearing Panel (members of the PEC) meet with the complainant and respondent separately after reviewing an investigator’s report.


The foregoing is not an exhaustive list of the differences between an ACPE Ethics proceeding and one in a court of law, but offer some ideas of the differences between them.


*Every situation is unique, and any member should not act based solely on the comments in the article but to base action on an independent review of the ethical standards applicable to his/her situation.