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Maintaining the Integrity of the Profession

Rule 8.3 Reporting Professional Misconduct

(a) A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the North Carolina State Bar or the court having jurisdiction over the matter.

(b) A lawyer who knows that a judge has committed a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct that raises a substantial question as to the judge's fitness for office shall inform the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission or other appropriate authority.

(c) This Rule does not require disclosure of information otherwise protected by Rule 1.6.

(d) A lawyer who is disciplined in any state or federal court for a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct in effect in such state or federal court shall inform the secretary of the North Carolina State Bar of such action in writing no later than 30 days after entry of the order of discipline.

(e) A lawyer who is serving as a mediator and who is subject to the North Carolina Supreme Court Standards of Professional Conduct for Mediators (the Standards) is not required to disclose information learned during a mediation if the Standards do not allow disclosure. If disclosure is allowed by the Standards, the lawyer is required to report professional misconduct consistent with the duty to report set forth in paragraph (a).


Comment

[1] Self-regulation of the legal profession requires that members of the profession initiate disciplinary investigation when they know of a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Lawyers have a similar obligation with respect to judicial misconduct. An apparently isolated violation may indicate a pattern of misconduct that only a disciplinary investigation can uncover. Reporting a violation is especially important where the victim is unlikely to discover the offense.

[2] Although the North Carolina State Bar is always an appropriate place to report a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct, the courts of North Carolina have concurrent jurisdiction over the conduct of the lawyers who appear before them. Therefore, a lawyer's duty to report may be satisfied by reporting to the presiding judge the misconduct of any lawyer who is representing a client before the court. The court's authority to impose discipline on a lawyer found to have engaged in misconduct extends beyond the usual sanctions imposed in an order entered pursuant to Rule 11 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure.

[3] A report about misconduct is not required where it would involve violation of Rule 1.6. However, a lawyer should encourage a client to consent to disclosure where prosecution would not substantially prejudice the client's interests.

[4] If a lawyer were obliged to report every violation of the Rules, the failure to report any violation would itself be a professional offense. Such a requirement existed in many jurisdictions but proved to be unenforceable. This Rule limits the reporting obligation to those offenses that a self-regulating profession must vigorously endeavor to prevent. A measure of judgment is, therefore, required in complying with the provisions of this Rule. The term "substantial" refers to the seriousness of the possible offense and not the quantum of evidence of which the lawyer is aware. A report should be made to the North Carolina State Bar unless some other agency or court is more appropriate in the circumstances. Similar considerations apply to the reporting of judicial misconduct.

[5] The duty to report professional misconduct does not apply to a lawyer retained to represent a lawyer whose professional conduct is in question. Such a situation is governed by the Rules applicable to the client-lawyer relationship.

[6] Information about a lawyer's or judge's misconduct or fitness may be received by a lawyer in the course of that lawyer's participation in an approved lawyers' or judges' assistance program. In that circumstance, providing for an exception to the reporting requirements of paragraphs (a) and (b) of this Rule encourages lawyers and judges to seek treatment through such a program. Conversely, without such an exception, lawyers and judges may hesitate to seek assistance from these programs, which may then result in additional harm to their professional careers and additional injury to the welfare of clients and the public. For this reason, Rule 1.6 (c) includes in the definition of confidential information any information regarding a lawyer or judge seeking assistance that is received by a lawyer acting as an agent of a lawyers' or judges' assistance program approved by the North Carolina State Bar or the North Carolina Supreme Court. Because such information is protected from disclosure by Rule 1.6, a lawyer is exempt from the reporting requirements of paragraphs (a) and (b) with respect to such information. On the other hand, a lawyer who receives such information would nevertheless be required to comply with the Rule 8.3 reporting provisions to report misconduct if the impaired lawyer or judge indicates an intent to engage in illegal activity; for example, conversion of client funds to his or her use.

[7] The North Carolina Supreme Court has adopted Standards of Professional Conduct for Mediators (the Standards) to regulate the conduct of certified mediators and mediators in court-ordered mediations. Mediators governed by the Standards are required to keep confidential the statements and conduct of the parties and other participants in the mediation, with limited exceptions, to encourage the candor that is critical to the successful resolution of legal disputes. Paragraph (e) recognizes the concurrent regulatory function of the Standards and protects the confidentiality of the mediation process. Nevertheless, if the Standards allow disclosure, a lawyer serving as a mediator who learns of or observes conduct by a lawyer that is a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct is required to report consistent with the duty set forth in paragraph (a) of this Rule. In the event a lawyer serving as a mediator is confronted with professional misconduct by a lawyer participating in a mediation that may not be disclosed pursuant to the Standards, the lawyer/mediator should consider withdrawing from the mediation or taking such other action as may be required by the Standards. See, e.g., N.C. Dispute Resolution Commission Advisory Opinion 10-16 (February 26, 2010).


History Note:

Statutory Authority G. 84-23

Adopted July 24, 1997; Amended March 1, 2003; October 7, 2010

ETHICS OPINION NOTES

CPR 342. An attorney is not obligated to report violations of the law committed by nonlawyers.

RPC 17. An attorney who acquires knowledge of apparent misconduct must report the matter to the State Bar.

RPC 84. An attorney may not condition settlement of a civil dispute on an agreement not to report lawyer misconduct.

RPC 127. An attorney must report information to the State Bar concerning another attorney's disbursement of conditionally delivered settlement proceeds without satisfying all conditions precedent if the disbursement was made in knowing disregard of such conditions and if such information is not confidential.

RPC 243. Opinion analyzes whether conduct "raises a substantial question" as to a lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness so as to require reporting to the State Bar.

2001 Formal Ethics Opinion 5. Opinion rules that disclosures made during a LAP support group meeting are confidential and not reportable to the State Bar under Rule 8.3.

CASE NOTES

Knowledge of a Clear Violation. - An allegation that an attorney and a district court judge knew that the plaintiff's attorney failed to perfect an appeal did not support an inference that defendants had "knowledge of a clear violation of DR1-102" which should have been reported to the State Bar, since there are many legitimate reasons why an appeal may not be perfected. Williams v. Council of North Carolina State Bar,

46 N.C. App. 824, 266 S.E.2d 391, cert. denied , 301 N.C. 106 (1980).

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