ETHICS QUESTION OF THE MONTH
This content is generated by the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and is for informational purposes only. Look for the reasoning behind the answers at legalethicstexas.com.
Bob and Ray are solo practitioners who have known each other for many years and have litigated against each other numerous times. They have a friendly personal and professional relationship, and both have high regard for the other’s legal skills. In a case they are currently litigating against one another, Bob has become increasingly concerned about Ray and his ability to practice law. Ray has uncharacteristically missed deadlines, failed to take basic steps to protect his client’s interests in the proceeding, and made some bizarre and illogical legal arguments.
Additionally, Bob believes he has smelled alcohol on Ray’s breath on multiple occasions. He recently saw Ray at a local restaurant drinking several glasses of wine at lunch before he encountered Ray at a docket call that afternoon. Bob is alarmed by what he is witnessing and is convinced that Ray is sufficiently impaired by alcohol—and perhaps mental health issues as well—to the point that he is unable to competently represent clients in his current condition. Bob considers whether he should report Ray to either the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel or the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program or both.
Which of these is most accurate?
A. Bob is required to report the ethics violation to CDC, but contacting
TLAP regarding Ray’s apparent alcohol problems is discretionary.
B. Bob must notify both CDC and TLAP of Ray’s behavior.
C. Bob is not required to report Ray’s behavior because he does not know for certain whether Ray has an alcohol problem and reporting Ray’s behavior could disadvantage Bob’s client in the current litigation.
D. Bob must report Ray’s behavior, but he can choose whether to report it to either CDC or TLAP.
The correct answer is D. For the reasoning behind the answer, go to legalethicstexas.com.TBJ
ABOUT THE CENTER
The Texas Center for Legal Ethics was created by three former chief justices of the Supreme Court of Texas to educate lawyers about ethics and professionalism. Lawyers can access the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, the Texas Lawyer’s Creed, and a variety of other online ethics resources by computer or smart device at legalethicstexas.com.
The information contained in Ethics Question of the Month is intended to illustrate an ethics issue of general interest in the Texas legal community; it is not intended to provide ethics advice that applies regardless of particular facts. For specific legal ethics advice, readers are urged to consult the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct (including the official comments) and other authorities and/or a qualified legal ethics adviser.