Informal Opinion Number: 2018-07

Adoption Date: 2018

Rules: 4-8.3; 4-1.1
Maintaining the Integrity of the Profession
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Reporting Professional Misconduct
Subject: Competence; Reporting Misconduct of Another Lawyer
Summary: duty to report possible impairment of another lawyer

Question: Does Attorney have an obligation to report opposing counsel to the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel (OCDC), where Attorney and opposing counsel had phone conversations about the representation during which opposing counsel had slurred speech and exhibited significant memory problems, where opposing counsel made a court appearance a few hours later smelling strongly of alcohol, and where Attorney knows another person has reported opposing counsel’s conduct to OCDC?
Answer: Rule 4-8.3 requires Attorney to report opposing counsel to OCDC if Attorney “knows” opposing counsel was under the influence of alcohol while representing a client and if Attorney has the informed consent of his or her own client to disclose information related to the representation as required by Rule 4-1.6. Rule 4-1.0(f) defines “knows” as “actual knowledge of the fact in question,” and actual knowledge may be inferred from circumstances. An attorney’s duty per Rule 4-1.1 to provide competent representation to a client is impaired if attorney is intoxicated while engaging in activities related to the representation. The violation raises a substantial question as to the attorney’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects. If Attorney’s suspicions do not rise to the level of actual knowledge, including if Attorney reasonably believes the behavior of opposing counsel may have an alternative explanation, then Attorney is not obligated by Rule 4-8.3 to report opposing counsel. If the report is mandatory under the circumstances, a similar report to OCDC by another attorney or judge does not eliminate Attorney’s duty to report under Rule 4-8.3.

Informal Opinions are ethics advisory opinions issued by the Office of Legal Ethics Counsel to members of the Bar about Rule 4 (Rules of Professional Conduct), Rule 5 (Complaints and Proceedings Thereon), and Rule 6 (Fees to Practice Law) pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 5.30(c). Written summaries of select Informal Opinions are published for informational purposes as determined by the Advisory Committee of the Supreme Court of Missouri pursuant to Rule 5.30(c). Informal opinion summaries are advisory in nature and are not binding. These opinions are published as an educational service and do not constitute legal advice.

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