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The Rule on Confidentiality Of Complaints and Disciplinary Proceedings Has Been Amended, Effective February 19, 2004

The Supreme Court, on February 19, 2004, published for public comments a proposed and interim confidentiality rule relating to ethical complaints and disciplinary proceedings. The public comment period has been extended by the Court to August 2, 2004.

The interim rule, Section 25 of Rule 9, Tenn. S. Ct. R., provides that proceedings involving allegations of misconduct shall be kept confidential until and unless:

(a) A recommendation for informal public discipline is filed with the Court; or
(b) A petition of formal charges is filed; or
(c) The respondent-attorney requests that the matter be public; or
(d) The investigation is predicated upon conviction of the respondent-attorney for a crime; or
(e) An order is entered by the Court transferring the respondent-attorney to disability inactive status.

Section 25.3 of the interim rule provides that complainants, respondent-attorneys or witnesses are not prohibited from disclosing the existence or substance of a complaint or proceeding or from disclosing any documents or correspondence filed by, served on, or provided to them. All other participants are required to maintain the confidentiality of the proceedings.

Prior to the interim rule, proceedings remained confidential until public discipline was imposed, even after the filing of a petition of formal charges. In addition, under the previous rule all parties, including complainants and witnesses, were subject to the confidentiality of all proceedings.

The Court’s amendment to the confidentiality rule was precipitated by the case of Doe v. Doe, 127 S.W.3d 728 (Tenn. 2004). This case involved a petition for contempt filed with the Supreme Court by attorney John Doe, alleging violations of the confidentiality requirement of Rule 9, Section 25 by attorney Jane Doe. The Court held, on February 19, 2004, that the confidentiality requirement of the rule violates the free speech requirements of federal and state constitutions. The current and interim confidentiality rule was filed simultaneously with the Court’s opinion in Doe v. Doe.

The public comments filed with the Court concerning the interim rule may be viewed at

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Ethics Opinion Spotlight - By Laura Chastain
Disciplinary Actions - By William W. "Tripp" hunt, III


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