Attorney Ethics Rules: Sharper Teeth Needed

Many parents are detailing misconduct on the part of their former family law attorneys and also actions taken by GALs (also attorneys) that are in violation of Georgia’s ethics rules.

The public believes that other attorneys on the case must report violations to the State Bar, and become very frustrated over the fact that things like lying to clients, withholding evidence from the Court, lying to peace officers and more are just being ignored by state leadership. 

Thankfully the Daily Report shared this letter to the Editor which explains why we don’t see more accountability.

Excerpt:

“Georgia Rule of Professional Conduct 8.3 requires nothing of a lawyer who knows another lawyer has acted unethically: “A lawyer having knowledge that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, should inform the appropriate professional authority.”

Use of the word “should” renders Rule 8.3 a non-Rule—it is, at best, an exhortation. If that’s not enough, Georgia’s ethics rules establish maximum penalties for violations. The maximum penalty for violating non-Rule 8.3 is no penalty.

In other words, there is no penalty for not doing what has not been made mandatory to start with.

Contrast Georgia’s non-Rule 8.3 with Model Rule 8.3: “a lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the appropriate professional authority.” Furthermore, unlike Georgia’s gutted non-rule, the penalty for violating Model Rule 8.3 is left to the judgment of a disciplinary authority.

The Comment to Georgia non-Rule 8.3 reminds us, in lofty language, that self-regulation requires lawyers to initiate disciplinary investigations when we know of a violation. Yet the rule itself is hortatory, requiring nothing. The irony would be humorous in a work of fiction.

The Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct—written and enforced by attorneys—seem designed to protect attorneys from the consequences of their actions more than to provide a meaningful framework for discipline and accountability. Is it any wonder that lawyers are held in such low regard by a large percentage of the American public?

Georgia needs to rethink its ethics rules. A good start would be to eliminate the limits on disciplinary penalties and give serious consideration to adopting a set of rules based on the ABA’s Model Rules.
Read more: http://www.dailyreportonline.com 

http://bit.ly/14O9FwH

by Grady O. “Jed” Morton Jr. Atlanta

Thank you, Jed for submitting this accurate report of the situation.