Can a respondent “plead the Fifth” to the panel’s questions during a Code of Ethics hearing? Only if the answer might implicate the respondent in a criminal matter.

Refusing to answer the panel’s questions could violate Article 14 of the Code of Ethics, which states that respondents shouldn’t disrupt or obstruct professional standards proceedings or investigations and must place all pertinent facts before the panel. Since most ethics cases
don’t involve criminal matters, Article 14 often controls.

If you face an ethics complaint, take the opportunity to prepare your defense. The panel’s job is to make an objective decision, and it will be able to do so if you present detailed information about your side of the case.