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Ethics Opinion Spotlight

By Laura L. Chastain
Deputy Chief Disciplinary Counsel

Do you know whether “ghost-writing” is ethically permitted in Tennessee? Cases appearing increasingly in Tennessee Courts resulted in requests from the judiciary to clarify the Board of Professional Responsibility’s position on undisclosed lawyer participation in drafting pleadings. The Board of Professional Responsibility issued Formal Ethics Opinion 2007-F-153, on March 23, 2007, which analyzed the issue of whether attorneys must disclose their involvement in preparation of pleadings for pro se litigants. The Board concluded that attorneys could prepare pleadings for a pro se litigant without disclosing the name of the attorney in the limited circumstances where doing so allows the pro se litigant to protect his or her claim from being barred by the statute of limitations, administrative rule or other proscriptive rule and where the assisting attorney will not provide further assistance.

An attorney may not prepare pleadings and other legal documents to assist a pro se litigant in the conduct of his or her litigation where doing so creates the false impression that the litigant is without substantial legal assistance. Formal Ethics Opinion 2007-F-153 is available in its entirety here.

The Board’s Formal Ethics Opinions are available on-line at the Board’s web site, They are searchable by word, phrase or opinion number.

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