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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.

Many people have contributed time and effort to the project over the years, and we would like to thank them. In particular, Roger Cramton and Peter Martin not only conceived ALEL but gave much of their own labor to it. We are also grateful to Brad Wendel for his editorial contributions, to Brian Toohey and all at Jones Day for their efforts, and to all of our correspondents and contributors. Thank you.

We regret any inconvenience.

Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.

District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct

Comment - Rule 8.4

[1] Many kinds of illegal conduct reflect adversely on fitness to practice law, such as offenses involving fraud and the offense of willful failure to file an income tax return. However, some kinds of offenses carry no such implication. Traditionally, the distinction was drawn in terms of offenses involving "moral turpitude." That concept can be construed to include offenses concerning some matters of personal morality, such as adultery and comparable offenses, that have no specific connection to fitness for the practice of law. Although a lawyer is personally answerable to the entire criminal law, a lawyer should be professionally answerable only for offenses that indicate lack of those characteristics relevant to law practice. Offenses involving violence, dishonesty, breach of trust, or serious interference with the administration of justice are in that category. A pattern of repeated offenses, even ones of minor significance when considered separately, can indicate indifference to legal obligation.

[2] Paragraph (d)'s prohibition of conduct that "seriously interferes with the administration of justice" includes conduct proscribed by the previous Code of Professional Responsibility under DR 1-102(A)(5) as "prejudicial to the administration of justice." The cases under paragraph (d) include acts by a lawyer such as: failure to cooperate with Bar Counsel; failure to respond to Bar Counsel’s inquiries or subpoenas; failure to abide by agreements made with Bar Counsel; failure to appear in court for a scheduled hearing; failure to obey court orders; failure to turn over the assets of a conservatorship to the court or to the successor conservator; failure to keep the Bar advised of respondent’s changes of address, after being warned to do so; and tendering a check known to be worthless in settlement of a claim against the lawyer or against the lawyer’s client. Paragraph (d) is to be interpreted flexibly and includes any improper behavior of an analogous nature to these examples.

[3] A lawyer violates paragraph (d) by offensive, abusive, or harassing conduct that seriously interferes with the administration of justice. Such conduct may include words or actions that manifest bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status.