End-of-life notice: American Legal Ethics Library
As of March 1, 2013, the Legal Information Institute is no longer maintaining the information in the American Legal Ethics Library. It is no longer possible for us to maintain it at a level of completeness and accuracy given its staffing needs. It is very possible that we will revive it at a future time. At this point, it is in need of a complete technological renovation and reworking of the "correspondent firm" model which successfully sustained it for many years.
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Connecticut Legal Ethics
1.14:100 Comparative Analysis of Connecticut Rule
There is no counterpart to this Rule in the Model Code. EC 7-11 stated that the "responsibilities of a lawyer may vary according to the intelligence, experience, mental condition or age of a client . . . . Examples include the representation of an illiterate or an incompetent." EC 7-12 stated that "[a]ny mental or physical condition of a client that renders him incapable of making a considered judgment on his own behalf casts additional responsibilities upon his lawyer. Where an incompetent is acting through a guardian or other legal representative, a lawyer must look to such representative for those decisions which are normally the prerogative of the client to make. If a client under disability has no legal representative, his lawyer may be compelled in court proceedings to make decisions on behalf of the client. If the client is capable of understanding the matter in question or of contributing to the advancement of his interests, regardless of whether he is legally disqualified from performing certain acts, the lawyer should obtain from him all possible aid. If the disability of a client and the lack of a legal representative compel the lawyer to make decisions for his client, the lawyer should consider all circumstances then prevailing and act with care to safeguard and advance the interests of his client. But obviously a lawyer cannot perform any act or make any decision which the law requires his client to perform or make, either acting for himself if competent, or by a duly constituted representative if legally incompetent."
1.14:200 Problems in Representing a Partially or Severely Disabled Client
Informal Opinion 00-5 (2000), which revised Informal Opinion 99-5 (1999), held that Conn. Rule 1.14(b) permits a lawyer to, without the client's consent, disclose the client's intent to commit suicide in order to prevent the suicide from occurring, even if the communication reveals information that would be confidential under Conn. Rule 1.6. In the Committee's judgment, a client's expression of intent to commit suicide is a reasonable basis for believing that the client is not able to act in his or her own interest. Also, this disclosure is permitted, not required, by Conn. Rule 1.14(b).
Informal Opinion 98-17 (1998) discussed the situation where a lawyer suspected that his elderly client, who owned and managed a mobile home park, was abusing alcohol. The Committee cited Conn. Rule 1.14 in stating that a lawyer may take protective action only when the lawyer reasonably believes that the client cannot adequately act in the client's own interest. The Committee recommended speaking with the client about her concern, so that she may inform herself of the specific facts of the client's health and his ability to act in his own interest.
Informal Opinion 97-35 (1997) held that a lawyer representing a child, who is unable to make informed decisions and whose parents are at odds, must act to protect the best interest of the child regardless of who may be paying the legal fees.
1.14:300 Maintaining Client-Lawyer Relationship with Disabled Client
Informal Opinion 97-19 (1997) cited ABA Formal Opinion 96-404 (August 2, 1996) in stating that a lawyer's obligation, first and foremost, is to maintain a normal attorney-client relationship, which includes maintaining communications with one's client. If the lawyer has difficulty maintaining communications with the client and suspects that she suffers from a disability, the lawyer should consider solutions available. If filing for a protective action is the only available avenue, it should be as limited as possible.
Informal Opinion 94-29 (1994) answers hypothetical scenarios involving a lawyer's representation of a minor child. The Committee stated that so long as the attorney-client relationship continues, the attorney may not use the child's confidences to advocate to the court a position in conflict with the child's expressed wishes. If after diligent inquiry, a conflict arises between the attorney's view of the child's best interests and the child's expressed instruction, the lawyer should seek appointment of a guardian ad litem, and take other protective action as Conn. Rule 1.14 allows.
Informal Opinion 92-26 (1992) responded to a lawyer's opinion that his client suffered from a mental disability because she was unable to communicate lucidly with him in regard to an offer of settlement and she was hostile as evidenced by her screaming profanity and accusations that he was a participant in a conspiracy against her. The fact that this client may suffer from a disability did not diminish the lawyer's obligation to treat her with attention and respect. Conn. Rule 1.14(b) permits the lawyer to appoint a conservator or guardian ad litem, however this is not mandatory and may cause the defendant to remove its offer to settle this slip and fall case. The Committee recommended that the lawyer write a letter to the client to spell out his evaluation of her case, recommend that she seek other counsel and inform her of his intention to seek court permission to withdraw from representing her because of his difficulties communicating with her.
1.14:400 Appointment of Guardian or Other Protective Action
The court in Schult v. Schult, 40 Conn. App. 675, 672 A.2d 979 (1996); affÁd, 241 Conn. 767, 699 A.2d 134 (1997), held that the trial court was obligated to hear the position of the attorney for the child, as long as the court deemed that opinion to be relevant to the best interests of the child. This case involved a dissolution of marriage proceeding, in which the trial court granted sole physical and legal custody of the child to a maternal grandmother, who was intervenor. The child's counsel offered her opinion as to custody, and her opinion contrasted from that of the guardian ad litem. The court stated that it did not need to "examine the parameters of the roles of the two court-appointed persons, but rather, must decide whether the trial court should have allowed the counsel to offer her opinion when it differed from that of the guardian ad litem."