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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.

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Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct

Comment - 4.1


[1] A lawyer is required to be truthful when dealing with others on a client’s behalf. A misrepresentation can occur if the lawyer incorporates or affirms a statement of another person that the lawyer knows is false. Misrepresentations can also occur by partially true but misleading statements or omissions that are the equivalent of affirmative false statements. For dishonest conduct that does not amount to a false statement or for misrepresentations by a lawyer other than in the course of representing a client, see Rule 8.4.

Statements of Fact

[2] This rule refers to statements of fact. Whether a particular statement should be regarded as one of fact can depend on the circumstances. Under generally accepted conventions in negotiation, certain types of statements ordinarily are not taken as statements of material fact. Estimates of price or value placed on the subject of a transaction and a party’s intentions as to an acceptable settlement of a claim are ordinarily in this category, and so is the existence of an undisclosed principal except where nondisclosure of the principal would constitute fraud. Lawyers should be mindful of their obligations under applicable law to avoid criminal and tortious misrepresentation.

Disclosure to Prevent Illegal or Fraudulent Client Acts

[3] Under Rule 1.2(d), a lawyer is prohibited from counseling or assisting a client in conduct that the lawyer knows is illegal or fraudulent. Rule 4.1(b) requires a lawyer to disclose a material fact, including one that may be protected by the attorney-client privilege, when the disclosure is necessary to avoid the lawyer’s assistance in the client’s illegal or fraudulent act. See also Rule 8.4(c). The client can, of course, prevent such disclosure by refraining from the wrongful conduct. If the client persists, the lawyer usually can avoid assisting the client’s illegal or fraudulent act by withdrawing from the representation. If withdrawal is not sufficient to avoid such assistance, division (b) of the rule requires disclosure of material facts necessary to prevent the assistance of the client’s illegal or fraudulent act. Such disclosure may include disaffirming an opinion, document, affirmation, or the like, or may require further disclosure to avoid being deemed to have assisted the client’s illegal or fraudulent act. Disclosure is not required unless the lawyer is unable to withdraw or the client is using the lawyer’s work product to assist the client’s illegal or fraudulent act.

[4] Division (b) of this rule addresses only ongoing or future illegal or fraudulent acts of a client. With respect to past illegal or fraudulent client acts of which the lawyer later becomes aware, Rule 1.6(b)(3) permits, but does not require, a lawyer to reveal information reasonably necessary to mitigate substantial injury to the financial or property interests of another that has resulted from the client's commission of an illegal or fraudulent act, in furtherance of which the client has used the lawyer's services.

Comparison to former Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility

Rule 4.1 addresses the same issues contained in several provisions of the Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility. Division (a) of the rule is virtually identical to DR 7-102(A)(5). Division (b) parallels DR 7-102(A)(3) and the “fraud on a person” portion of DR 7-102(B)(1). The “fraud on a tribunal” portion of DR 7-102(B)(1) is now found in Rule 3.3.

No Ohio case has construed DR 7-102(B) in the context of a lawyer failing to disclose a fraud on a person. Nevertheless, revealing such an ongoing or future fraud is justified under Rule 4.1(b) when the client refuses to prevent it, and the lawyer’s withdrawal from the matter is not sufficient to prevent assisting the fraud.

The mitigation of past fraud on a person, addressed in DR 7-102(B), is now found in Rule 1.6(b)(3).

Comparison to ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct

Rule 4.1 incorporates two changes in Model Rule 4.1(b) that are intended to track Ohio law. First, division (b) prohibits lawyers from assisting “illegal” and fraudulent acts of clients, (rather than “criminal” and fraudulent acts) consistent with proposed Rule 1.2(d) and DR 7-102(A)(7). Second, the “unless” clause at the end of division (b), which conditions the lawyer’s duty to disclose on exceptions in Rule 1.6, is deleted. Deleting this phrase results in a clearer stand alone anti-fraud rule because it does not require reference to Rule 1.6, and also because such a provision is more consistent with DR 7-102(B)(1).

Comment [3] is rewritten and Comment [4] inserted to clarify the scope and meaning of division (b), and to add appropriate cross-references to other rules.