82-F-29 - Disciplinary counsel interviewing respondent's family

 

BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE

FORMAL ETHICS OPINION 82-F-29

 

Pursuant to Section 26 of Rule 9 of the Rules of the Supreme Court, the Board has been asked for a Formal Opinion as to the propriety of Disciplinary Counsel interviewing Respondent's wife, secretary, clerk, investigator, employee, partner, associate, or member of a professional corporation, either before formal charges are filed, or after, with or without
a subpoena, without the knowledge and consent of the Respondent, when there has been a complaint filed against the Respondent attorney.

It appears to this Committee that the question raised falls within an interpretation of DR 1-102(A)(4) which states: "A lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation." Once charges have been filed against a Respondent attorney, notice would not be required to be given to such Respondent regarding the persons to be interviewed; however, such investigation, while conducted within the realm of confidentiality, to the full extent that the same may be maintained, shall be conducted with no deceit or misrepresentation. The investigating counsel does owe to the Respondent's wife, secretary, partner, associate, etc., a high degree of candor on an interview. If an investigatory interview was held with any such persons holding a confidential relationship with the Respondent attorney, it is incumbent upon such investigator to reveal the thrust of this interrogation, and failure so to do would be deceitful or misrepresentative, and in violation of Disciplinary Rule set forth above.

EC 1-5 places upon the attorney the onus of maintaining high standards of professional conduct and encouragement of fellow attorneys to do likewise. Further, such theme is recited throughout other ethical considerations, to wit: 7-1; 9-2; 9-6.

The Code of Professional Responsibility places upon the practicing attorney a higher degree of personal conduct and an avoidance of appearances of dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation and, certainly, Counsel for the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court in all of their professional conduct would be held to the highest standards in such regard.

This 18th day of June, 1982.

ETHICS COMMITTEE:

William R. Willis, Chairman
F. Evans Harvill
John R. Rucker, Senator

APPROVED AND ADOPTED BY THE BOARD