SCREEN

Profile

Menu Style

Cpanel
Headlines:

Battling Corruption

Candidate for Congress introduces state legislation designed to reform the legal and judicial process -- Changes desperately needed -- Part 14 - Attorneys

legal-reform-judicial-reform-fulton-county-courthouse-facade-200w

William M. Windsor, candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, has introduced state legislation designed to reform the legal and judicial process.  These are changes that judge-to-be Windsor says are desperately needed.

The legal systems and judicial systems in Georgia and every state in America must be reformed.  Dishonesty and corruption have stolen the rights of every American.

This is Part 14 of a series of articles that will address the proposed legislation for Georgia.  This proposed legislation turns the Georgia Bar Association's Rules of Professional Conduct into law, and all issues related to attorneys shall henceforth be supervised by the State and the courts of the state rather than by an association of attorneys.

Judges and dishonest attorneys use a variety of techniques to break the law.  The Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct are excellent rules, but many attorneys violate the rules, and the Bar Association does not properly enforce the rules.  Attorneys hold significant power that can be devastating to citizens of the State when the rules are ignored.  Bar associations should not be anything but an association of people in the same profession.  Expecting attorneys to discipline fellow attorneys is ridiculous. 

The change is an addition to Georgia Code Title 15, Chapter 19:

TITLE 15. CIVIL PRACTICE

CHAPTER 19 - Attorneys

ARTICLE 4.

§ 15-19-4. DUTIES OF ATTORNEYS 

It is the duty of attorneys at law:

(1) 
To maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers;

(2) To employ, for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to them, such means only as are consistent with truth and never to seek to mislead the judges or juries by any artifice or false statement of the law;

(3) To maintain inviolate the confidence and, at every peril to themselves, to preserve the secrets of their clients;

(4) To abstain from all offensive personalities and to advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or a witness unless required by the justice of the cause with which they are charged;

(5) To encourage neither the commencement nor the continuance of an action or proceeding from any motives of passion or interest; and

(6) Never to reject, for a consideration personal to themselves, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed
.

(7) A lawyer is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.

(8) As a representative of clients, a lawyer performs various functions. As advisor, a lawyer provides a client with an informed understanding of the client's legal rights and obligations and explains their practical implications. As advocate, a lawyer zealously asserts the client's position under the rules of the adversary system. As negotiator, a lawyer seeks a result advantageous to the client but consistent with requirements of honest dealing with others. As intermediary between clients, a lawyer seeks to reconcile their divergent interests as an advisor and, to a limited extent, as a spokesperson for each client. A lawyer acts as evaluator by examining a client's legal affairs and reporting about them to the client or to others.

(9) In all professional functions a lawyer should be competent, prompt and diligent. A lawyer should maintain communication with a client concerning the representation. A lawyer should keep in confidence information relating to representation of a client except so far as disclosure is required or permitted by the these Rules or other law.

(10) A lawyer should use the law's procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others. A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the law, the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, other lawyers and public officials. While it is a lawyer's duty, when necessary, to challenge the rectitude of official action, it is also a lawyer's duty to uphold legal process.

(11) As a citizen, a lawyer should seek improvement of the law, the administration of justice and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession. As a member of a learned profession, a lawyer should cultivate knowledge of the law beyond its use for clients, employ that knowledge in reform of the law and work to strengthen legal education. A lawyer should be mindful of deficiencies in the administration of justice and of the fact that the poor, and sometimes persons who are not poor, cannot afford adequate legal assistance, and should therefore devote professional time and civic influence in their behalf. A lawyer should aid the legal profession in pursuing these objectives and should help the State regulate attorneys-at-law in the public interest.

(12) A lawyer's professional responsibilities are prescribed in the Georgia Code. A lawyer also is guided by conscience and the approbation of professional peers. A lawyer should strive to attain the highest level of skill, to improve the law and the legal profession, and to exemplify the legal profession's ideals of public service.

(13) In the nature of law practice, conflicting responsibilities are encountered.  Virtually all difficult ethical problems arise from conflict among a lawyer's responsibilities to clients, to the legal system and to the lawyer's own interest in remaining an upright person.  The Georgia Code prescribes terms for resolving such conflicts.  Within the framework of these statutes, many difficult issues of professional discretion can arise.  Such issues must be resolved through the exercise of sensitive professional and moral judgment guided by the basic principles underlying the statutes.

(14) The ultimate authority over the legal profession is vested in the Supreme Court of Georgia.

§ 15-19-59. SCOPE OF ATTORNEY-AT-LAW STATUTES

[1] These statutes obligatory.  Comments do not add obligations to or expand the statutes but provide guidance for practicing in compliance with the statutes.

[2] The statutes presuppose a larger legal context shaping the lawyer's role.  That context includes court rules and statutes relating to matters of licensure, laws defining specific obligations of lawyers and substantive and procedural law in general.  Compliance with the statutes, as with all law in an open society, depends primarily upon understanding and voluntary compliance, secondarily upon reinforcement by peer and public opinion and finally, when necessary, upon enforcement through disciplinary proceedings.  The statutes do not, however, exhaust the moral and ethical considerations that should inform a lawyer, for no worthwhile human activity can be completely defined by legal rules.  The statutes simply provide a framework for the ethical practice of law.

[3] Furthermore, for purposes of determining the lawyer's authority and responsibility, principles of substantive law external to these statutes determine whether a client-lawyer relationship exists.  Most of the duties flowing from the client-lawyer relationship attach only after the client has requested the lawyer to render legal services and the lawyer has agreed to do so.  But there are some duties, such as that of confidentiality that may attach when the lawyer agrees to consider whether a client-lawyer relationship will be established.  Whether a client-lawyer relationship exists for any specific purpose depends on the circumstances and may be a question of fact.

[4] Under various legal provisions, including constitutional, statutory and common law, the responsibilities of government lawyers may include authority concerning legal matters that ordinarily reposes in the client in private client-lawyer relationships.  For example, a lawyer for a government entity may have authority on behalf of the government to decide upon settlement or whether to appeal from an adverse judgment.  Such authority in various respects is generally vested in the attorney general and the state's attorney in state government, and their federal counterparts, and the same may be true of other government law officers.  Also, lawyers under the supervision of these officers may be authorized by law to represent several government entities in intergovernmental legal controversies in circumstances where a private lawyer could not represent multiple private clients.  They also may have authority to represent the "public interest" in circumstances where a private lawyer would not be authorized to do so.  These statutes do not abrogate any such authority.

[5] Failure to comply with an obligation or prohibition imposed by a statute is a basis for invoking the disciplinary process.  The statutess presuppose that disciplinary assessment of a lawyer's conduct will be made on the basis of the facts and circumstances as they existed at the time of the conduct in question and in recognition of the fact that a lawyer often has to act upon uncertain or incomplete evidence of the situation.  Moreover, the statutes presuppose that whether or not discipline should be imposed for a violation, and the severity of a sanction, depend on all the circumstances, such as the willfulness and seriousness of the violation, extenuating factors and whether there have been previous violations.

[6] The purpose of these statutes is not to give rise to a cause of action nor to create a presumption that a legal duty has been breached.  These statutes are designed to provide guidance to lawyers and to provide a structure for regulating conduct. 

[7] These statutes are not intended to govern or affect judicial application of either the attorney-client or work product privilege.  In reliance on the attorney-client privilege, clients are entitled to expect that communications within the scope of the privilege will be protected against compelled disclosure.  The attorney-client privilege is that of the client and not of the lawyer.  The fact that in exceptional situations the lawyer under the rules has a limited discretion to disclose a client confidence does not vitiate the proposition that, as a general matter, the client has a reasonable expectation that information relating to the client will not be voluntarily disclosed and that disclosure of such information may be judicially compelled only in accordance with recognized exceptions to the attorney-client and work product privileges.

§ 15-19-60. Enforcement of Attorney-at-Law Statutes.

The Courts of the State of Georgia and Special Grand Juries of the State of Georgia are authorized to maintain and enforce the statutes with all those authorized to practice law in the state of Georgia and to institute disciplinary action in the event of the violation thereof.

§ 15-19-61. Disciplinary Action; Levels of Discipline; Attorney-at-Law Statutes.

(a) These statutes are to be observed by those authorized to practice law in Georgia are set forth herein and any violation thereof; any assistance or inducement directed toward another for the purpose of producing a violation thereof; or any violation thereof through the acts of another, shall subject the offender to disciplinary action as herein provided.

(b) The levels of discipline are set forth below. The power to administer a more severe level of discipline shall include the power to administer the lesser:

(1) Disbarment: A form of public discipline removing the respondent from the practice of law in Georgia.  This level of discipline would be appropriate in cases of serious misconduct.  This level of discipline includes publication.

(2) Suspension: A form of public discipline which removes the respondent from the practice of law in Georgia for a definite period of time or until satisfaction of certain conditions imposed as a part of the suspension.  This level of discipline would be appropriate in cases that merit more than a public reprimand but less than disbarment.  This level of discipline includes publication.

(3) Public Reprimand: A form of public discipline which declares the respondent's conduct to have been improper but does not limit the right to practice.  A public reprimand shall be administered by a judge of a superior court in open court.  This level of discipline would be appropriate in cases that merit more than a review panel reprimand but less than suspension.

(4) Review Panel Reprimand: A form of public discipline which declares the respondent's conduct to have been improper but does not limit the right to practice.  A Review Panel Reprimand shall be administered by the Review Panel at a meeting of the Review Panel.  This level of discipline would be appropriate in cases that merit more than an investigative panel reprimand but less than a public reprimand.

(5) Investigative Panel Reprimand: A form of confidential discipline which declares the respondent's conduct to have been improper but does not limit the right to practice.  An Investigative Panel Reprimand shall be administered by the Investigative Panel at a meeting of the Investigative Panel.  This level of discipline would be appropriate in cases that merit more than a formal admonition but less than a review panel reprimand.

(6) Formal Admonition: A form of confidential discipline which declares the respondent's conduct to have been improper but does not limit the right to practice.  A formal admonition shall be administered by letter as provided in Rules 4-205 through 4-208.  This level of discipline would be appropriate in cases that merit the lowest form of discipline.

(c) (1) The Supreme Court of Georgia may impose any of the levels of discipline set forth above following formal proceedings against a respondent; however, any case where discipline is imposed by the Court is a matter of public record despite the fact that the level of discipline would have been confidential if imposed by the Investigative Panel of the State Disciplinary Board.

(2) The Special Grand Jury may impose any of the levels of discipline set forth above;

§ 15-19-62  TERMINOLOGY

 (a) "Belief" or "believes" denotes that the person involved actually thought the fact in question to be true.  A person's belief may be inferred from circumstances.

(b) "Confirmed in writing" when used in reference to the informed consent of a person, denotes informed consent that is given in writing by the person, or a writing that a lawyer promptly transmits to the person confirming an oral informed consent.  See paragraph (h) for the definition of "informed consent."  If it is not feasible to obtain or transmit the writing at the time the person gives informed consent, then the lawyer must obtain or transmit it within a resonable time thereafter.

(c) "Consult" or "consultation" denotes communication of information reasonably sufficient to permit the client to appreciate the significance of the matter in question.

(d) "Domestic Lawyer" denotes a person authorized to practice law by the duly constituted and authorized governmental body of any State or Territory of the United States or the District of Columbia but not authorized by the Supreme Court of Georgia or its Rules to practice law in the State of Georgia.

(e) "Firm" or "law firm" denotes a lawyer or lawyers in a private firm, law partnership, professional corporation, sole proprietorship or other association authorized to practice law pursuant to Bar Rule 1-203(4); or lawyers employed in a legal services organization or the legal department of a corporation or other organization.

(f) "Foreign Lawyer" denotes a person authorized to practice law by the duly constituted and authorized governmental body of any foreign nation but not authorized by the Supreme Court of Georgia or its Rules to practice law in the State of Georgia.

(g) "Fraud" or "fraudulent" denotes conduct that is fraudulent under the substantive or procedural law of the applicable jurisdiction and has a purpose to deceive; not merely negligent misrepresentation or failure to apprise another of relevant information.

(h) "Informed consent" denotes the agreement by a person to a proposed course of conduct after the lawyer has communicated adequate information and explanation about the material risks of and reasonably available alternatives to the proposed course of conduct.

(i) "Knowingly," "known," or "knows" denotes actual knowledge of the fact in question. A person's knowledge may be inferred from the circumstances.

(j) "Lawyer," denotes a person authorized by the Supreme Court of Georgia or its Rules to practice law in the State of Georgia including persons admitted to practice in this state pro hac vice.

(k) "Nonlawyer" denotes a person not authorized to practice law by either the:

(1) Supreme Court of Georgia or its Rules (including pro hac vice admission), or

(2) duly constituted and authorized governmental body of any other State or Territory of the United States, or the District of Columbia, or

(3) duly constituted and authorized governmental body of any foreign nation.

(l) "Partner" denotes a member of a partnership, a shareholder in a law firm organized pursuant to statute, or a member of an association authorized to practice law.

(m) "Reasonable" or "reasonably" when used in relation to conduct by a lawyer denotes the conduct of a reasonably prudent and competent lawyer.

(n) "Reasonable belief" or "reasonably believes" when used in reference to a lawyer denotes that the lawyer believes the matter in question and that the circumstances are such that the belief is reasonable.

(o) "Reasonably should know" when used in reference to a lawyer denotes that a lawyer of reasonable prudence and competence would ascertain the matter in question.

(p) "Screened" denotes the isolation of a lawyer from any participation in a matter through the timely imposition of procedures within a firm that are reasonably adequate under the circumstances to protect information that the isolated lawyer is obligated to protect under these Rules or other law.

(q) "Substantial" when used in reference to degree or extent denotes a material matter of clear and weighty importance.

(r) "Tribunal" denotes a court, an arbitrator in an arbitration proceeding or a legislative body, administrative agency or other body acting in an adjudicative capacity. A legislative body, administrative agency or other body acts in an adjudicative capacity when a neutral official, after the presentation of evidence or legal argument by a party or parties, will render a legal judgment directly affecting a party's interests in a particular matter.

(s) "Writing" or "written" denotes a tangible or electronic record of a communication or representation, including handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photography, audio or videorecording and e-mail. A "signed" writing includes an electronic sound, symbol or process attached to or logically associated with a writing and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the writing.

§ 15-19-63  COMPETENCE 

A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation as used in this statute means that a lawyer shall not handle a matter which the lawyer knows or should know to be beyond the lawyer's level of competence without associating another lawyer who the original lawyer reasonably believes to be competent to handle the matter in question. Competence requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

§ 15-19-64  SCOPE OF REPRESENTATION AND ALLOCATION OF AUTHORITY BETWEEN CLIENT AND LAWYER

(a) Subject to paragraphs (c) and (d), a lawyer shall abide by a client's decisions concerning the scope and objectives of representation and shall consult with the client as to the means by which they are to be pursued.  A lawyer may take such action on behalf of the client as is impliedly authorized to carry out the representation.  A lawyer shall abide by a client's decision whether to settle a matter.  In a criminal case, the lawyer shall abide by the client's decision, after consultation with the lawyer, as to a plea to be entered, whether to waive jury trial and whether the client will testify.

(b) A lawyer's representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client's political, economic, social, or moral views or activities.

(c) A lawyer may limit the scope and objectives of the representation if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent.

(d) A lawyer shall not counsel a client to engage in conduct that the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent, nor knowingly assist a client in such conduct, but a lawyer may discuss the legal consequences of any proposed course of conduct with a client and may counsel or assist a client to make a good faith effort to determine the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

§15-19-65  DILIGENCE

A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.  Reasonable diligence as used in this statute means that a lawyer shall not without just cause to the detriment of the client in effect willfully abandon or willfully disregard a legal matter entrusted to the lawyer.  The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

§ 15-19-66  COMMUNICATION

 (a) A lawyer shall:

(1) promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client's informed consent is required by the statutes;

(2) reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client's objectives are to be accomplished;

(3) keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter;

(4) promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; and

(5) consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer's conduct when the lawyer knows that the client expects assistance not permitted by statutes.

(b) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

§ 15-19-67  FEES

(a) A lawyer's fee shall be reasonable.  The factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of a fee include the following: 

(1) the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;

(2) the likelihood that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;

(3) the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;

(4) the amount involved and the results obtained;

(5) the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;

(6) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;
(7) the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services; and

(8) whether the fee is fixed or contingent.

(b) When the lawyer has not regularly represented the client, the basis or rate of the fee shall be communicated to the client, preferably in writing, before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation.

(c) (1) A fee may be contingent on the outcome of the matter for which the service is rendered, except in a matter in which a contingent fee is prohibited by paragraph (d) or other law. A contingent fee agreement shall be in writing and shall state the method by which the fee is to be determined, including the percentage or percentages that shall accrue to the lawyer in the event of settlement, trial or appeal, litigation and other expenses to be deducted from the recovery, and whether such expenses are to be deducted before or after the contingent fee is calculated.

(2) Upon conclusion of a contingent fee matter, the lawyer shall provide the client with a written statement stating the following:

(i) the outcome of the matter; and,

(ii) if there is a recovery, showing the:

(A) remittance to the client;

(B) the method of its determination;

(C) the amount of the attorney fee; and

(D) if the attorney's fee is divided with another lawyer who is not a partner in or an associate of the lawyer's firm or law office, the amount of fee received by each and the manner in which the division is determined.

(d) A lawyer shall not enter into an arrangement for, charge, or collect:

(1) any fee in a domestic relations matter, the payment or amount of which is contingent upon the securing of a divorce or upon the amount of alimony or support, or property settlement in lieu thereof; or

(2) a contingent fee for representing a defendant in a criminal case.

(e) A division of a fee between lawyers who are not in the same firm may be made only if:

(1) the division is in proportion to the services performed by each lawyer or, by written agreement with the client, each lawyer assumes joint responsibility for the representation;

(2) the client is advised of the share that each lawyer is to receive and does not object to the participation of all the lawyers involved; and

(3) the total fee is reasonable.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

§ 15-19-68.  CONFIDENTIALITY OF INFORMATION

(a) A lawyer shall maintain in confidence all information gained in the professional relationship with a client, including information which the client has requested to be held inviolate or the disclosure of which would be embarrassing or would likely be detrimental to the client, unless the client gives informed consent, except for disclosures that are impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation, or are required by these statutes or other law, or by order of the Court.

b) (1) A lawyer may reveal information covered by paragraph (a) which the lawyer reasonably believes necessary:

(i) to avoid or prevent harm or substantial financial loss to another as a result of client criminal conduct or third party criminal conduct clearly in violation of the law;

(ii) to prevent serious injury or death not otherwise covered by subparagraph (i) above;

(iii) to establish a claim or defense on behalf of the lawyer in a controversy between the lawyer and the client, to establish a defense to a criminal charge or civil claim against the lawyer based upon conduct in which the client was involved, or to respond to allegations in any proceeding concerning the lawyer's representation of the client;

(iv) to secure legal advice about the lawyer's compliance with these Rules.

(2) In a situation described in paragraph (b)(1), if the client has acted at the time the lawyer learns of the threat of harm or loss to a victim, use or disclosure is permissible only if the harm or loss has not yet occurred.

(3) Before using or disclosing information pursuant to paragraph (b)(1), if feasible, the lawyer must make a good faith effort to persuade the client either not to act or, if the client has already acted, to warn the victim.

(c) The lawyer may, where the law does not otherwise require, reveal information to which the duty of confidentiality does not apply under paragraph (b) without being subjected to disciplinary proceedings.

(d) The lawyer shall reveal information under paragraph (b) as the applicable law requires.

(e) The duty of confidentiality shall continue after the client-lawyer relationship has terminated.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

 Â§ 15-19-69  CONFLICT OF INTEREST: GENERAL RULE

(a) A lawyer shall not represent or continue to represent a client if there is a significant risk that the lawyer's own interests or the lawyer's duties to another client, a former client, or a third person will materially and adversely affect the representation of the client, except as permitted in (b).

(b) If client informed consent is permissible a lawyer may represent a client notwithstanding a significant risk of material and adverse effect if each affected client or former client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing, to the representation after: 

(1) consultation with the lawyer;

(2) having received in writing reasonable and adequate information about the material risks of and reasonable available alternatives to the representation, and

(3) having been given the opportunity to consult with independent counsel.

(c) Client informed consent is not permissible if the representation:

(1) is prohibited by law or these Rules;

(2) includes the assertion of a claim by one client against another client represented by the lawyer in the same or substantially related proceeding; or

(3) involves circumstances rendering it reasonably unlikely that the lawyer will be able to provide adequate representation to one or more of the affected clients.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this sttaute is disbarment.

§ 15-19-70  CONFLICT OF INTEREST: PROHIBITED TRANSACTIONS

(a) A lawyer shall neither enter into a business transaction with a client if the client expects the lawyer to exercise the lawyer's professional judgment therein for the protection of the client, nor shall the lawyer knowingly acquire an ownership, possessory, security or other pecuniary interest adverse to a client unless: 

(1) the transaction and terms on which the lawyer acquires the interest are fair and reasonable to the client and are fully disclosed and transmitted in writing to the client in a manner which can be reasonably understood by the client;

(2) the client is advised in writing of the desirability of seeking and is given a reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of independent counsel in the transaction; and

(3) the client gives informed consent, in a writing signed by the client, to the essential terms of the transaction and the lawyer's role in the transaction, including whether the lawyer is representing the client in the transaction.

(b) A lawyer shall not use information gained in the professional relationship with a client to the disadvantage of the client unless the client gives informed consent, except as permitted or required by these Rules.

(c) A lawyer shall not prepare an instrument giving the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer as parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, or spouse any substantial gift from a client, including a testamentary gift, except where the client is related to the donee. 

(d) Prior to the conclusion of representation of a client, a lawyer shall not make or negotiate an agreement giving the lawyer literary or media rights to a portrayal or account based in substantial part on information relating to the representation.

(e) A lawyer shall not provide financial assistance to a client in connection with pending or contemplated litigation, except that:

(1) a lawyer may advance court costs and expenses of litigation, the repayment of which may be contingent on the outcome of the matter; or

(2) a lawyer representing a client unable to pay court costs and expenses of litigation may pay those costs and expenses on behalf of the client.

(f) A lawyer shall not accept compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless:

(1) the client gives informed consent;

(2) there is no interference with the lawyer's independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship; and

(3) information relating to representation of a client is protected.

(g) A lawyer who represents two or more clients shall not participate in making an aggregate settlement of the claims for or against the clients, nor in a criminal case an aggregated agreement as to guilty or nolo contendere pleas, unless each client gives informed consent, in a writing signed by the client. The lawyers disclosure shall include the existence and nature of all claims or pleas involved and of the participation of each person in the settlement.

(h) A lawyer shall not make an agreement prospectively limiting the lawyer's liability to a client for malpractice unless permitted by law and the client is independently represented in making the agreement, or settle a claim for such liability with an unrepresented client or former client without first advising that person in writing that independent representation is appropriate in connection therewith.

(i) A lawyer related to another lawyer as parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling or spouse shall not represent a client in a representation directly adverse to a person whom the lawyer has actual knowledge is represented by the other lawyer unless his or her client gives informed consent regarding the relationship. The disqualification stated in this paragraph is personal and is not imputed to members of firms with whom the lawyers are associated.

(j) A lawyer shall not acquire a proprietary interest in the cause of action or subject matter of litigation the lawyer is conducting for a client, except that the lawyer may:

(1) acquire a lien granted by law to secure the lawyer's fees or expenses as long as the exercise of the lien is not prejudicial to the client with respect to the subject of the representation; and

(2) contract with a client for a reasonable contingent fee in a civil case, except as prohibited by statute.

The maximum penalty for a violation of 9-17-9 (b) is disbarment. The maximum penalty for a violation of 9-17-9 (a) and 9-17-9 (c)-(j) is a public reprimand.

 Â§ 15-19-71  CONFLICT OF INTEREST: FORMER CLIENT

(a) A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter represent another person in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person's interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client unless the former client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.

(b) A lawyer shall not knowingly represent a person in the same or a substantially related matter in which a firm with which the lawyer formerly was associated had previously represented a client: 

(1) whose interests are materially adverse to that person; and

(2) about whom the lawyer had acquired information protected by statute, that is material to the matter; unless the former client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.

(c) A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter or whose present or former firm has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter:

(1) use information relating to the representation to the disadvantage of the former client except as statutes would permit or require with respect to a client, or when the information has become generally known; or

(2) reveal information relating to the representation except as statutes would permit or require with respect to a client.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

§ 15-19-72  IMPUTED DISQUALIFICATION: GENERAL RULE

(a) While lawyers are associated in a firm, none of them shall knowingly represent a client when any one of them practicing alone would be prohibited from doing so by statutes relating to Conflict of Interest: General Rule; Conflict of Interest: Prohibited Transactions, Former Client or Intermediary.

(b) When a lawyer has terminated an association with a firm, the firm is not prohibited from thereafter representing a person with interests materially adverse to those of a client represented by the formerly associated lawyer unless:

(1) the matter is the same or substantially related to that in which the formerly associated lawyer represented the client; and

(2) any lawyer remaining in the firm has information protected by statutes regarding Confidentiality of Information and Conflict of Interest.


(c) A disqualification prescribed by this rule may be waived by the affected client under the conditions stated in statutes regarding Conflict of Interest: General Rule.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment. 

§ 15-19-73  SUCCESSIVE GOVERNMENT AND PRIVATE EMPLOYMENT

(a) Except as law may otherwise expressly permit, a lawyer shall not represent a private client in connection with a matter in which the lawyer participated personally and substantially as a public officer or employee, unless the appropriate government entity gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.  No lawyer in a firm with which that lawyer is associated may knowingly undertake or continue representation in such a matter unless:

(1) the disqualified lawyer is screened from any participation in the matter and is apportioned no part of the fee therefrom; and

(2) written notice is duly given to the client and to the appropriate government entity to enable it to ascertain compliance with the provisions of this statute.

(b) Except as law may otherwise expressly permit, a lawyer having information that the lawyer knows is confidential government information about a person acquired when the lawyer was a public officer or employee, may not represent a private client whose interests are adverse to that person in a matter in which the information could be used to the material disadvantage of that person. A firm with which that lawyer is associated may undertake or continue representation in the matter only if the disqualified lawyer is screened from any participation in the matter and is apportioned no part of the fee therefrom.

(c) Except as law may otherwise expressly permit, a lawyer serving as a public officer or employee shall not:

(1) participate in a matter in which the lawyer participated personally and substantially while in private practice or nongovernmental employment, unless under applicable law no one is, or by lawful delegation may be, authorized to act in the lawyer's stead in the matter; or

(2) negotiate for private employment with any person who is involved as a party or as lawyer for a party in a matter in which the lawyer is participating personally and substantially, except that a lawyer serving as a law clerk to a judge, other adjudicative officer or arbitrator may negotiate for private employment as permitted by statutes.

(d) As used in this statute, the term "matter" includes:

(1) any judicial or other proceeding, application, request for a ruling or other determination, contract, claim, controversy, investigation, charge, accusation, arrest or other particular matter involving a specific party or parties; and

(2) any other matter covered by the conflict of interest rules of the appropriate government entity.

(e) As used in this statute, the term "confidential government information" means information which has been obtained under governmental authority and which, at the time this rule is applied, the government is prohibited by law from disclosing to the public or has a legal privilege not to disclose, and which is not otherwise available to the public.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

 Â§ 15-19-74  FORMER JUDGE OR ARBITRATOR

(a) Except as stated in paragraph (d), a lawyer shall not represent anyone in connection with a matter in which the lawyer participated personally and substantially as a judge or other adjudicative officer, arbitrator or law clerk to such a person, unless all parties to the proceeding give informed consent.

(b) A lawyer shall not negotiate for employment with any person who is involved as a party or as lawyer for a party in a matter in which the lawyer is participating personally and substantially as a judge or other adjudicative officer or arbitrator.  A lawyer serving as a law clerk to a judge, other adjudicative officer or arbitrator may negotiate for employment with a party or lawyer involved in a matter in which the clerk is participating personally and substantially, but only after the lawyer has notified the judge, other adjudicative officer or arbitrator. In addition, the law clerk shall promptly provide written notice of acceptance of employment to all counsel of record in all such matters in which the prospective employer is involved.

(c) If a lawyer is disqualified by paragraph (a), no lawyer in a firm with which that lawyer is associated may knowingly undertake or continue representation in the matter unless:

(1) the disqualified lawyer is screened from any participation in the matter and is apportioned no part of the fee therefrom; and

(2) written notice is promptly given to the appropriate tribunal to enable it to ascertain compliance with the provisions of this Rule.

(d) An arbitrator selected as a partisan of a party in a multimember arbitration panel is not prohibited from subsequently representing that party.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

 Â§ 15-19-75  ORGANIZATION AS CLIENT

(a) A lawyer employed or retained by an organization represents the organization acting through its duly authorized constituents.

(b) If a lawyer for an organization knows that an officer, employee or other person associated with the organization is engaged in action, intends to act or refuses to act in a matter related to the representation that is a violation of a legal obligation to the organization, or a violation of law that reasonably might be imputed to the organization, and that is likely to result in substantial injury to the organization, then the lawyer shall proceed as is reasonably necessary in the best interest of the organization. Unless the lawyer reasonably believes that it is not necessary in the best interest of the organization to do so, the lawyer shall refer the matter to higher authority in the organization, including, if warranted by the circumstances, to the highest authority that can act on behalf of the organization as determined by applicable law.

(c) Except as provided in paragraph (d), if

(1) despite the lawyer's efforts in accordance with paragraph (b) the highest authority that can act on behalf of the organization insists upon or fails to address in a timely and appropriate manner an action, or a refusal to act, that is clearly a violation of law, and

(2) the lawyer reasonably believes that the violation is reasonably certain to result in substantial injury to the organization, then the lawyer may reveal information relating to the representation whether or not Rule 1.6 permits such disclosure, but only if and to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to prevent substantial injury to the organization.


(d) Paragraph (c) shall not apply with respect to information relating to a lawyer's representation of an organization to investigate an alleged violation of law, or to defend the organization or an officer, employee or other constituent associated with the organization against a claim arising out of an alleged violation of law.

(e) A lawyer who reasonably believes that he or she has been discharged because of the lawyer's actions taken pursuant to paragraphs (b) or (c ), or who withdraws under circumstances that require or permit the lawyer to take action under either of those paragraphs, shall proceed as the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to assure that the organization's highest authority is informed of the lawyer's discharge or withdrawal.

(f) In dealing with an organization's directors, officers, employees, members, shareholders or other constituents, a lawyer shall explain the identity of the client when the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the organization's interests are adverse to those of the constituents with whom the lawyer is dealing.

(g) A lawyer representing an organization may also represent any of its directors, officers, employees, members, shareholders or other constituents, subject to the provisions of statutes.  If the organization's consent to the dual representation is required by statute, the consent shall be given by an appropriate official of the organization other than the individual who is to be represented, or by the shareholders.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.  

§ 15-19-76  CLIENT WITH DIMINISHED CAPACITY

(a) When a client's capacity to make adequately considered decisions in connection with a representation is diminished, whether because of minority, mental impairment or for some other reason, the lawyer shall, as far as reasonably possible, maintain a normal client-lawyer relationship with the client.

(b) When the lawyer reasonably believes that the client has diminished capacity, is at risk of substantial physical, financial or other harm unless action is taken and cannot adequately act in the client's own interest, the lawyer may take reasonably necessary protective action, including consulting with individuals or entities that have the ability to take action to protect the client and, in appropriate cases, seeking the appointment of a guardian ad litem, conservator or guardian.

(c ) Information relating to the representation of a client with diminished capacity is protected by statute.  When taking protective action pursuant to paragraph (b), the lawyer is impliedly authorized under statute to reveal information about the client, but only to the extent reasonably necessary to protect the client's interests.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.
 

§ 15-19-77  SAFEKEEPING PROPERTY - GENERAL

(a) A lawyer shall hold funds or other property of clients or third persons that is in a lawyer's possession in connection with a representation separate from the lawyer's own funds or other property.   Funds shall be kept in a separate account maintained in an approved institution as defined by statute.  Other property shall be identified as such and appropriately safeguarded.  Complete records of such account funds and other property shall be kept by the lawyer and shall be preserved for a period of six years after termination of the representation.

(b) For the purposes of this statute, a lawyer may not disregard a third person's interest in funds or other property in the lawyer's possession if:

(1) the interest is known to the lawyer, and

(2) the interest is based upon one of the following: 

(i). A statutory lien;

(ii). A final judgment addressing disposition of those funds or property; or

(iii). A written agreement by the client or the lawyer on behalf of the client guaranteeing payment out of those funds or property.

The lawyer may disregard the third person's claimed interest if the lawyer reasonably concludes that there is a valid defense to such lien, judgment, or agreement.

(c) Upon receiving funds or other property in which a client or third person has an interest, a lawyer shall promptly notify the client or third person.  Except as stated in this statute or otherwise permitted by law or by agreement with the client, a lawyer shall promptly deliver to the client or third person any funds or other property that the client or third person is entitled to receive and, upon request by the client or third person, shall promptly render a full accounting regarding such property.

(d) When in the course of representation a lawyer is in possession of funds or other property in which both the lawyer and a client or a third person claim interest, the property shall be kept separate by the lawyer until there is an accounting and severance of their interests.  If a dispute arises concerning their respective interests, the portion in dispute shall be kept separate by the lawyer until the dispute is resolved.  The lawyer shall promptly distribute all portions of the funds or property as to which the interests are not in dispute.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

  Â§ 15-19-78  SAFEKEEPING PROPERTY- TRUST ACCOUNT AND IOLTA

(a) Every lawyer who practices law in Georgia, whether said lawyer practices as a sole practitioner, or as a member of a firm, association, or professional corporation, and who receives money or property on behalf of a client or in any other fiduciary capacity, shall maintain or have available a trust account as required by these Rules.  All funds held by a lawyer for a client and all funds held by a lawyer in any other fiduciary capacity shall be deposited in and administered from such account.

(b) No personal funds shall ever be deposited in a lawyer's trust account, except that unearned attorney's fees may be so held until the same are earned.  Sufficient personal funds of the lawyer may be kept in the trust account to cover maintenance fees such as service charges on the account.  Records on such trust accounts shall be so kept and maintained as to reflect at all times the exact balance held for each client or third person.  No funds shall be withdrawn from such trust accounts for the personal use of the lawyer maintaining the account except earned attorney's fees debited against the account of a specific client and recorded as such.

(c) All client's funds shall be placed in either an interest-bearing account with the interest being paid to the client or an interest-bearing (IOLTA) account with the interest being paid to the State of Georgia Attorney Fund as hereinafter provided.

(1) With respect to funds which are not nominal in amount, or are not to be held for a short period of time, a lawyer shall, with notice to the clients, create and maintain an interest-bearing trust account in an approved institution as defined by statute, with the interest to be paid to the client.  No earnings from such an account shall be made available to a lawyer or law firm.

(2) With respect to funds which are nominal in amount or are to be held for a short period of time, a lawyer shall, with or without notice to the client, create and maintain an interest-bearing, government insured trust account (IOLTA) in compliance with the following provisions:

(i) No earnings from such an IOLTA account shall be made available to a lawyer or law firm.

(ii) The account shall include all clients' funds which are nominal in amount or which are to be held for a short period of time.

(iii) An interest-bearing trust account may be established with any approved institution as defined by statute.  Funds in each interest-bearing trust account shall be subject to withdrawal upon request and without delay.

(iv) The rate of interest payable on any interest-bearing trust account shall not be less than the rate paid by the depositor institution to regular, non-lawyer depositors.  Higher rates offered by the institution to customers whose deposits exceed certain time or quantity minimum, such as those offered in the form of certificates of deposit, may be obtained by a lawyer or law firm on some or all of the deposit funds so long as there is no impairment of the right to withdraw or transfer principal immediately.

(v) Lawyers or law firms shall direct the depository institution:

(A) to remit to the State of Georgia Attorney Fund interest or dividends, net of any charges or fees on that account, on the average monthly balance in that account, or as otherwise computed in accordance with a financial institution's standard accounting practice, at least quarterly.  Any bank fees or charges in excess of the interest earned on that account for any month shall be paid by the lawyer or law firm in whose names such account appears, if required by the bank;

(B) to transmit with each remittance to the Fund a statement showing the name of the lawyer or law firm for whom the remittance is sent, the rate of interest applied, the average monthly balance against which the interest rate is applied, the service charges or fees applied, and the net interest remittance;

(C) to transmit to the depositing lawyer or law firm at the same time a report showing the amount paid to the Fund, the rate of interest applied, the average account balance of the period for which the report is made, and such other information provided to non-lawyer customers with similar accounts.

(3) No charge of ethical impropriety or other breach of professional conduct shall attend the determination that such funds are nominal in amount or to be held for a short period of time, or to the decision to invest clients' funds in a pooled interest-bearing account.

(4) Whether the funds are designated short-term or nominal or not, a lawyer or law firm may elect to remit all interest earned, or interest earned net of charges, to the client or clients.

The maximum penalty for a violation of statute (II)(a) and statute (II)(b) is disbarment. The maximum penalty for a violation of statute (II)(c) is a public reprimand.

 Â§ 15-19-79  RECORD KEEPING; TRUST ACCOUNT OVERDRAFT NOTIFICATION; EXAMINATION OF RECORDS

(a) Required Bank Accounts: Every lawyer who practices law in Georgia and who receives money or other property on behalf of a client or in any other fiduciary capacity shall maintain, in an approved financial institution as defined by this statute, a trust account or accounts, separate from any business and personal accounts.  Funds received by the lawyer on behalf of a client or in any other fiduciary capacity shall be deposited into this account.  The financial institution shall be in Georgia or in the state where the lawyer's office is located, or elsewhere with the written consent and at the written request of the client or third person.

(b) Description of Accounts:

(1) A lawyer shall designate all trust accounts, whether general or specific, as well as all deposit slips and checks drawn thereon, as an "Attorney Trust Account," "Attorney Escrow Account" "IOLTA Account" or "Attorney Fiduciary Account."  The name of the attorney or law firm responsible for the account shall also appear on all deposit slips and checks drawn thereon.

(2) A lawyer shall designate all business accounts, as well as all deposit slips and all checks drawn thereon, as a "Business Account," a "Professional Account," an "Office Account," a "General Account," a "Payroll Account," "Operating Account" or a "Regular Account."

(3) Nothing in this statute shall prohibit a lawyer from using any additional description or designation for a specific business or trust account including fiduciary accounts maintained by the lawyer as executor, guardian, trustee, receiver, agent or in any other fiduciary capacity. 

(c) Procedure:

(1) Approved Institutions:

(i) A lawyer shall maintain his or her trust account only in a financial institution approved by the State of Georgia, which shall annually publish a list of approved institutions. S uch institutions shall be located within the State of Georgia, within the state where the lawyer's office is located, or elsewhere with the written consent and at the written request of the client or fiduciary.  The institution shall be authorized by federal or state law to do business in the jurisdiction where located and shall be federally insured.  A financial institution shall be approved as a depository for lawyer trust accounts if it abides by an agreement to report to the State Disciplinary Board whenever any properly payable instrument is presented against a lawyer trust account containing insufficient funds, and the instrument is not honored.  The agreement shall apply to all branches of the financial institution and shall not be canceled except upon thirty days notice in writing to the State Disciplinary Board.  The agreement shall be filed with the Office of General Counsel on a form approved by the State Disciplinary Board.   The agreement shall provide that all reports made by the financial institution shall be in writing and shall include the same information customarily forwarded to the depositor when an instrument is presented against insufficient funds. If the financial institution is located outside of the State of Georgia, it shall also agree in writing to honor any properly issued State of Georgia subpoena.

(ii) The State Disciplinary Board shall establish procedures for a lawyer or law firm to be excused from the requirements of this statute if the lawyer or law firm has its principal office in a county where no bank, credit union, or savings and loan association will agree to comply with the provisions of this Rule.

(2) Timing of Reports:

(i) The financial institution shall file a report with the Office of General Counsel of the State of Georgia in every instance where a properly payable instrument is presented against a lawyer trust account containing insufficient funds and said instrument is not honored within three business days of presentation.

(ii) The report shall be filed with the Office of General Counsel within fifteen days of the date of the presentation of the instrument, even if the instrument is subsequently honored after the three business days provided in (2)(i) above.

(3) Nothing shall preclude a financial institution from charging a particular lawyer or law firm for the reasonable cost of producing the reports and records required by this Rule.

(4) Every lawyer and law firm maintaining a trust account as provided by these Rules is hereby and shall be conclusively deemed to have consented to the reporting and production requirements mandated by this Rule and shall indemnify and hold harmless each financial institution for its compliance with the aforesaid reporting and production requirements.

(d) Effect on Financial Institution of Compliance: The agreement by a financial institution to offer accounts pursuant to this statute shall be a procedure to advise the State Disciplinary Board of conduct by attorneys and shall not be deemed to create a duty to exercise a standard of care or a contract with third parties that may sustain a loss as a result of lawyers overdrawing attorney trust accounts.

(e) Availability of Records: A lawyer shall not fail to produce any of the records required to be maintained by these Standards at the request of the Investigative Panel of the State Disciplinary Board or the Supreme Court. This obligation shall be in addition to and not in lieu of the procedures contained in these statutes for the production of documents and evidence.

(f) Audit for Cause: A lawyer shall not fail to submit to an Audit for Cause conducted by the State Disciplinary Board pursuant to the statutes.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

 Â§ 15-19-80  DECLINING OR TERMINATING REPRESENTATION

(a) Except as stated in paragraph (c), a lawyer shall not represent a client or, where representation has commenced, shall withdraw from the representation of a client if:

(1) the representation will result in violation of these statutes or other law;

(2) the lawyer's physical or mental condition materially impairs the lawyer's ability to represent the client; or

(3) the lawyer is discharged.

(b) except as stated in paragraph (c), a lawyer may withdraw from representing a client if withdrawal can be accomplished without material adverse effect on the interests of the client, or if:

(1) the client persists in a course of action involving the lawyer's services that the lawyer reasonably believes is criminal or fraudulent;

(2) the client has used the lawyer's services to perpetrate a crime or fraud;

(3) the client insists upon pursuing an objective that the lawyer considers repugnant or imprudent;

(4) the client fails substantially to fulfill an obligation to the lawyer regarding the lawyer's services and has been given reasonable warning that the lawyer will withdraw unless the obligation is fulfilled;

(5) the representation will result in an unreasonable financial burden on the lawyer or has been rendered unreasonably difficult by the client; or

(6) other good cause for withdrawal exists.

(c) When a lawyer withdraws it shall be done in compliance with applicable laws and rules. When ordered to do so by a tribunal, a lawyer shall continue representation notwithstanding good cause for terminating the representation.

(d) Upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client's interests, such as giving reasonable notice to the client, allowing time for employment of other counsel, surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled and refunding any advance payment of fee that has not been earned.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

 Â§ 15-19-81  SALE OF LAW PRACTICE

A lawyer or a law firm may sell or purchase a law practice, including good will, if the following conditions are satisfied:

(a) Reserved.

(b) The practice is sold as an entirety to another lawyer or law firm;

(c) Actual written notice is given to each of the seller's clients regarding:

(1) the proposed sale;

(2) the terms of any proposed change in the fee arrangement authorized by paragraph (d);

(3) the client's right to retain other counsel or to take possession of the file; and

(4) the fact that the client's consent to the sale will be presumed if the client does not take any action or does not otherwise object within ninety (90) days of receipt of the notice.


If a client cannot be given notice, the representation of that client may be transferred to the purchaser only upon entry of an order so authorizing by a court having jurisdiction. The seller may disclose to the court in camera information relating to the representation only to the extent necessary to obtain an order authorizing the transfer of a file.

(d) The fees charged clients shall not be increased by reason of the sale. The purchaser may, however, refuse to undertake the representation unless the client consents to pay the purchaser fees at a rate not exceeding the fees charged by the purchaser for rendering substantially similar services prior to the initiation of the purchase negotiations.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

§ 15-19-82.  ATTORNEY AS COUNSELOR

(a) ADVISOR

In representing a client, a lawyer shall exercise independent professional judgment and render candid advice.  A lawyer should not be deterred from giving candid advice by the prospect that the advice will be unpalatable to the client.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

(b) INTERMEDIARY

Reserved.

(c) EVALUATION FOR USE BY THIRD PERSONS

(1) A lawyer may undertake an evaluation of a matter affecting a client for the use of someone other than the client if:

(a) the lawyer reasonably believes that making the evaluation is compatible with other aspects of the lawyer's relationship with the client; and

(b) the client gives informed consent.

(2) Except as disclosure is required in connection with a report of an evaluation, information relating to the evaluation is otherwise protected by statute.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

(d) LAWYER SERVING AS THIRD PARTY NEUTRAL

(a) A lawyer serves as a third-party neutral when the lawyer assists two or more persons who are not clients of the lawyer to reach a resolution of a dispute or other matter that has arisen between them.  Service as a third-party neutral may include service as an arbitrator, a mediator or in such other capacity as will enable the lawyer to assist the parties to resolve the matter.

(b) A lawyer serving as a third-party neutral shall inform unrepresented parties that the lawyer is not representing them.  When the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that a party does not understand the lawyer's role in the matter, the lawyer shall explain the difference between the lawyer's role as a third-party neutral and a lawyer's role as one who represents a client.

(c) When one or more of the parties in a mediation is a current or former client of the neutral lawyer or the neutral's law firm, a lawyer may serve as a neutral only if the matter in which the lawyer serves as a neutral is not the same matter in which the lawyer or law firm represents or represented the party and all parties give informed consent, confirmed in writing.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

§ 15-19-83.  ADVOCATE

(a) MERITORIOUS CLAIMS AND CONTENTIONS

In the representation of a client, a lawyer shall not:

(a) file a suit, assert a position, conduct a defense, delay a trial, or take other action on behalf of the client when the lawyer knows or when it is obvious that such action would serve merely to harass or maliciously injure another;

(b) knowingly advance a claim or defense that is unwarranted under existing law, except that the lawyer may advance such claim or defense if it can be supported by good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

(b) EXPEDITING LITIGATION

A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to expedite litigation consistent with the interests of the client.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

(c) CANDOR TOWARD THE TRIBUNAL

(a) A lawyer shall not knowingly: 

(1) make a false statement of material fact or law to a tribunal;

(2) fail to disclose a material fact to a tribunal when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by the client;

(3) fail to disclose to the tribunal legal authority in the controlling jurisdiction known to the lawyer to be directly adverse to the position of the client and not disclosed by opposing counsel; or

(4) offer evidence that the lawyer knows to be false. If a lawyer has offered material evidence and comes to know of its falsity, the lawyer shall take reasonable remedial measures.


(b) The duties stated in paragraph (a) continue to the conclusion of the proceeding, and apply even if compliance requires disclosure of information otherwise protected by statute.

(c) A lawyer may refuse to offer evidence that the lawyer reasonably believes is false.

(d) In an ex parte proceeding, other than grand jury proceedings, a lawyer shall inform the tribunal of all material facts known to the lawyer that the lawyer reasonably believes are necessary to enable the tribunal to make an informed decision, whether or not the facts are adverse.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

(d) FAIRNESS TO OPPOSING PARTY AND COUNSEL

A lawyer shall not:

(a) unlawfully obstruct another party's access to evidence or unlawfully alter, destroy or conceal a document or other material having potential evidentiary value.  A lawyer shall not counsel or assist another person to do any such act;

(b)

(1) falsify evidence;

(2) counsel or assist a witness to testify falsely; or

(3) pay, offer to pay, or acquiesce in the payment of compensation to a witness contingent upon the content of the testimony or the outcome of the case. But a lawyer may advance, guarantee, or acquiesce in the payment of:

(i) expenses reasonably incurred by a witness in preparation, attending or testifying; or

(ii) reasonable compensation to a witness for the loss of time in preparing, attending or testifying; or

(iii) a reasonable fee for the professional services of an expert witness;

(c) Reserved.;

(d) Reserved.;

(e) Reserved.;

(f) request a person other than a client to refrain from voluntarily giving relevant information to another party unless:

(1) the person is a relative or an employee or other agent of a client; or the lawyer reasonably believes that the person's interests will not be adversely affected by refraining from giving such information; and

(2) the information is not otherwise subject to the assertion of a privilege by the client; and


(g) use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of the opposing party or counsel; or

(h) present, participate in presenting or threaten to present criminal charges solely to obtain an advantage in a civil matter.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

(e) IMPARTIALITY AND DECORUM OF THE TRIBUNAL

A lawyer shall not, without regard to whether the lawyer represents a client in the matter:

(a) seek to influence a judge, juror, prospective juror or other official by means prohibited by law;

(b) communicate ex parte with such a person except as permitted by law; or

(c) engage in conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal.

The maximum penalty for a violation of part (a) of this statute is disbarment. The maximum penalty for a violation of part (b) or part (c) of this statute is a public reprimand.

(f) TRIAL PUBLICITY

(a) A lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that a person would reasonably believe to be disseminated by means of public communication if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that it will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.

(b) Reserved.

(c) Notwithstanding paragraph (a), a lawyer may make a statement that a reasonable lawyer would believe is required to protect a client from the substantial undue prejudicial effect of recent publicity not initiated by the lawyer or the lawyer's client. A statement made pursuant to this paragraph shall be limited to such information as is necessary to mitigate the recent adverse publicity.

(d) No lawyer associated in a firm or government entity with a lawyer subject to paragraph (a) shall make a statement prohibited by paragraph (a).

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

(g) LAWYER AS WITNESS

(a) A lawyer shall not act as advocate at a trial in which the lawyer is likely to be a necessary witness except where:

(1) the testimony relates to an uncontested issue;

(2) the testimony relates to the nature and value of legal services rendered in the case; or

(3) disqualification of the lawyer would work substantial hardship on the client.


(b) A lawyer may act as advocate in a trial in which another lawyer in the lawyer's firm is likely to be called as a witness unless precluded from doing so by statute.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this Rule is a public reprimand.

(h) SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF A PROSECUTOR

The prosecutor in a criminal case shall:

(a) refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause;

(b) refrain from making any effort to prevent the accused from exercising a reasonable effort to obtain counsel;

(c) Reserved.

(d) make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or that mitigates the offense;

(e) exercise reasonable care to prevent persons who are under the direct supervision of the prosecutor from making an extrajudicial statement that the prosecutor would be prohibited from making under subsection (g) of this Rule;

(f) not subpoena a lawyer in a grand jury or other criminal proceeding to present evidence about a past or present client unless the prosecutor reasonably believes:

(1) the information sought is not protected from disclosure by any applicable privilege;

(2) the evidence sought is essential to the successful completion of an ongoing investigation or prosecution; and

(3) there is no other feasible alternative to obtain the information; and


(g) except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor's action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

(i) ADVOCATE IN NONADJUDICATIVE PROCEEDINGS

A lawyer representing a client before a legislative or administrative tribunal in a nonadjudicative proceeding shall disclose that the appearance is in a representative capacity and shall conform to the provisions of the applicable statutes.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

§ 15-19-84.  TRANSACTIONS WITH PERSONS OTHER THAN CLIENTS

(a) TRUTHFULNESS IN STATEMENTS TO OTHERS

In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly:

(a) make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person; or

(b) fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client, unless disclosure is prohibited by statute.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

(b) COMMUNICATION WITH PERSON REPRESENTED BY COUNSEL

(a) A lawyer who is representing a client in a matter shall not communicate about the subject of the representation with a person the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter, unless the lawyer has the consent of the other lawyer or is authorized to do so by law or court order.

(b) Attorneys for the State and Federal Government shall be subject to this statute in the same manner as other attorneys in this State.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

(c) DEALING WITH UNREPRESENTED PERSON

In dealing on behalf of a client with a person who is not represented by counsel, a lawyer shall not:

(a) state or imply that the lawyer is disinterested; when the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the unrepresented person misunderstands the lawyer's role in the matter, the lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to correct the misunderstanding; and

(b) give advice other than the advice to secure counsel, if a lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the interests of such a person are or have a resonable possiblity of being in conflict with the interests of a client.  

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

(d) RESPECT FOR RIGHTS OF THIRD PERSONS

In representing a client, a lawyer shall not use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person, or use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of such a person.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.


§15-19-85. LAW FIRMS AND ASSOCIATIONS

(a) RESPONSIBILITIES OF PARTNERS, MANAGERS AND SUPERVISORY LAWYERS

(a) A law firm partner as defined in these statutes, and a lawyer who individually or together with other lawyers possesses comparable managerial authority in a law firm, shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that all lawyers in the firm conform to the statutes.

(b) A lawyer having direct supervisory authority over another lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the other lawyer conforms to the statutes.

(c) A lawyer shall be responsible for another lawyer's violation of the statutes if:

(1) the lawyer orders or, with knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct involved; or

(2) the lawyer is a partner or has comparable maganerial authority in the law firm in which the other lawyer practices or has direct supervisory authority over the other lawyer, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action.


The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

(b) RESPONSIBILITIES OF A SUBORDINATE LAWYER

(a) A lawyer is bound by the Georgia statutes notwithstanding that the lawyer acted at the direction of another person.

(b) A subordinate lawyer does not violate the Georgia statutes if that lawyer acts in accordance with a supervisory lawyer's reasonable resolution of an arguable question of professional duty.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

(c) RESPONSIBILITIES REGARDING NONLAWYER ASSISTANTS

With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer:

(a) a partner, and a lawyer who indiviually or together with other lawyers possesses managerial authority in a law firm, shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that the person's conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer;

(b) a lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person's conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer;

(c) a lawyer shall be responsible for conduct of such a person that would be a violation of the Georgia statutes if engaged in by a lawyer if:

(1) the lawyer orders or, with the knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct involved; or

(2) the lawyer is a partner in the law firm in which the person is employed, or has direct supervisory authority over the person, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action; and

(d) a lawyer shall not allow any person who has been suspended or disbarred and who maintains a presence in an office where the practice of law is conducted by the lawyer, to:

(1) represent himself or herself as a lawyer or person with similar status;

(2) have any contact with the clients of the lawyer either in person, by telephone or in writing; or

(3) have any contact with persons who have legal dealings with the office either in person, by telephone or in writing.


The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

(d) PROFESSIONAL INDEPENDENCE OF A LAWYER

(a) A lawyer or law firm shall not share legal fees with a nonlawyer, except that: 

(1) an agreement by a lawyer with the lawyer's firm, partner, or associate may provide for the payment of money, over a reasonable period of time after the lawyer's death, to the lawyer's estate or to one or more specified persons;

(2) a lawyer or law firm who purchases the practice of a deceased, disabled, or disappeared lawyer may, pursuant to the provisions of statutes, pay to the estate or other representative of that lawyer the agreed-upon purchase price; and

(3) a lawyer or law firm may include nonlawyer employees in a compensation or retirement plan, even though the plan is based in whole or in part on a profit-sharing arrangement; and

(4) a lawyer who undertakes to complete unfinished business of a deceased lawyer may pay to the estate of the deceased lawyer that proportion of the total compensation which fairly represents the services rendered by the deceased lawyer.

(5) a lawyer may pay a referral fee to a bar-operated non-profit lawyer referral service where such fee is calculated as a percentage of legal fees earned by the lawyer to whom the service has referred a matter pursuant to the statutes. Direct Contact with Prospective Clients.

(b) A lawyer shall not form a partnership with a nonlawyer if any of the activities of the partnership consist of the practice of law.

(c) A lawyer shall not permit a person who recommends, employs, or pays the lawyer to render legal services for another to direct or regulate the lawyer's professional judgment in rendering such legal services.

(d) A lawyer shall not practice with or in the form of a professional corporation or association authorized to practice law for a profit, if:

(1) a nonlawyer owns any interest therein, except that a fiduciary representative of the estate of a lawyer may hold the stock or interest of the lawyer for a reasonable time during administration;

(2) a nonlawyer is a corporate director or officer thereof; or

(3) a nonlawyer has the right to direct or control the professional judgment of a lawyer.


The maximum penalty for a violation of this statutee is disbarment.

(e) UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE OF LAW; MULTIJURISDICTIONAL PRACTICE OF LAW

(a) A lawyer shall not practice law in a jurisdiction in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction, or assist another in doing so.

(b) A Domestic Lawyer shall not:

(1) except as authorized by these Rules or other law, establish an office or other systematic and continuous presence in this jurisdiction for the practice of law; or

(2) hold out to the public or otherwise represent that the Domestic Lawyer is admitted to practice law in this jurisdiction.

(c) A Domestic Lawyer, who is not disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction, may provide legal services on a temporary basis in this jurisdiction that:

(1) are undertaken in association with a lawyer who is admitted to practice in this jurisdiction and who actively participates in the matter; 
(2) are in or reasonably related to a pending or potential proceeding before a tribunal in this or another jurisdiction, if the Domestic Lawyer, or a person the Domestic Lawyer is assisting, is authorized by law or order to appear in such proceeding or reasonably expects to be so authorized;

(3) are in or reasonably related to a pending or potential arbitration, mediation, or other alternative dispute resolution proceeding in this or another jurisdiction, if the services arise out of or are reasonably related to the Domestic Lawyer's practice in a jurisdiction in which the Domestic Lawyer is admitted to practice and are not services for which the forum requires pro hac vice admission; or

(4) are not within paragraphs (c)(2) or (c)(3) and arise out of or are reasonably related to the Domestic Lawyer's practice in a jurisdiction in which the Domestic Lawyer is admitted to practice.
(d) A Domestic Lawyer, who is not disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction, may provide legal services in this jurisdiction that:
(1) are provided to the Domestic Lawyer's employer or its organizational affiliates and are not services for which the forum requires pro hac vice admission; or 
(2) are services that the Domestic Lawyer is authorized to provide by federal law or other law of this jurisdiction.
(e) A Foreign Lawyer shall not, except as authorized by this Rule or other law, establish an office or other systematic and continuous presence in this jurisdiction for the practice of law, or hold out to the public or otherwise represent that the lawyer is admitted to practice law in this jurisdiction. Such a Foreign Lawyer does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law in this jurisdiction when on a temporary basis the Foreign Lawyer performs services in this jurisdiction that:

(1) are undertaken in association with a lawyer who is admitted to practice in this jurisdiction and who actively participates in the matter;

(2) are in or reasonably related to a pending or potential proceeding before a tribunal held or to be held in a jurisdiction outside the United States if the Foreign Lawyer, or a person the Foreign Lawyer is assisting, is authorized by law or by order of the tribunal to appear in such proceeding or reasonably expects to be so authorized;

(3) are in or reasonably related to a pending or potential arbitration, mediation, or other alternative dispute resolution proceedings held or to be held in this or another jurisdiction, if the services arise out of or are reasonably related to the Foreign Lawyer's practice in a jurisdiction in which the Foreign Lawyer is admitted to practice;

(4) are not within paragraphs (2) or (3) and

(i) are performed for a client who resides or has an office in a jurisdiction in which the Foreign Lawyer is authorized to practice to the extent of that authorization; or

(ii) arise out of or are reasonably related to a matter that has a substantial connection to a jurisdiction in which the lawyer is authorized to practice to the extent of that authorization; or

(iii) are governed primarily by international law or the law of a non-United States jurisdiction.
(f) For purposes of this grant of authority, the Foreign Lawyer must be a member in good standing of a recognized legal profession in a foreign jurisdiction, the members of which are admitted to practice as lawyers or counselors at law or the equivalent and subject to effective regulation and discipline by a duly constituted professional body or a public authority.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment. 
(f) RESTRICTIONS ON RIGHT TO PRACTICE
A lawyer shall not participate in offering or making:

(a) a partnership or employment agreement that restricts the right of a lawyer to practice after termination of the relationship, except an agreement concerning benefits upon retirement; or

(b) an agreement in which a restriction on the lawyer's right to practice is part of the settlement of a controversy between private parties.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

(g) RESPONSIBILITIES REGARDING LAW-RELATED SERVICES

(a) A lawyer shall be subject to the Georgia statutes with respect to the provision of law-related services, as defined in paragraph (b), if the law-related services are provided: 

(1) by the lawyer in circumstances that are not distinct from the lawyer's provision of legal services to clients; or

(2) by a separate entity controlled by the lawyer individually or with others if the lawyer fails to take reasonable measures to assure that a person obtaining the law-related services knows that the services of the separate entity are not legal services and that the protections of the client-lawyer relationship do not exist.

(b) The term "law-related services" denotes services that might reasonably be performed in conjunction with and in substance are related to the provision of legal services, and that are not prohibited as unauthorized practice of law when provided by a nonlawyer.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

§ 15-19-86.  PUBLIC SERVICE

(a) VOLUNTARY PRO BONO PUBLIC SERVICE

A lawyer should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono publico legal services per year. In fulfilling this responsibility, the lawyer should:

(a) provide a substantial portion of the (50) hours of legal services without fee or expectation of fee to: 

(1) persons of limited means; or

(2) charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters which are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means; and

(b) provide any additional services through:

(1) delivery of legal services at no fee or substantially reduced fee to individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties or public rights, or charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters in furtherance of their organizational purposes, where the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization's economic resources or would be otherwise inappropriate;

(2) delivery of legal services at a substantially reduced fee to persons of limited means; or

(3) participation in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession.

In addition, a lawyer should voluntarily contribute financial support to organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means.

No reporting rules or requirements may be imposed without specific permission of the Supreme Court granted through amendments to these Rules.

There is no disciplinary penalty for a violation of this statute.

(b) ACCEPTING APPOINTMENTS

For good cause a lawyer may seek to avoid appointment by a tribunal to represent a person.

There is no disciplinary penalty for a violation of this statute.

(c) MEMBERSHIP IN LEGAL SERVICES ORGANIZATION

A lawyer may serve as a director, officer or member of a legal services organization, apart from the law firm in which the lawyer practices, notwithstanding that the organization serves persons having interests adverse to a client of the lawyer. The lawyer shall not knowingly participate in a decision or action of the organization:

(a) if participating in the decision or action would be incompatible with the lawyer's obligations to a client under the statutes; or

(b) where the decision or action could have a material adverse effect on the representation of a client of the organization whose interests are adverse to a client of the lawyer.

There is no disciplinary penalty for a violation of this statute.

(d) LAW REFORM ACTIVITIES AFFECTING CLIENT INTERESTS

A lawyer may serve as a director, officer or member of an organization involved in reform of the law or its administration notwithstanding that the reform may affect the interests of a client of the lawyer. When the lawyer knows that the interests of a client may be materially benefited by a decision in which the lawyer participates, the lawyer shall disclose that fact but need not identify the client.

There is no disciplinary penalty for a violation of this statute.

§ 15-19-87.  INFORMATION ABOUT LEGAL SERVICES

(a) COMMUNICATIONS CONCERNING A LAWYER'S SERVICES

(a) A lawyer may advertise through all forms of public media and through written communication not involving personal contact so long as the communication is not false, fraudulent, deceptive or misleading. By way of illustration, but not limitation, a communication is false, fraudulent, deceptive or misleading if it:

(1) contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading;

(2) is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, or states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the Georgia statutes;

(3) compares the lawyer's services with other lawyers' services unless the comparison can be factually substantiated;

(4) fails to include the name of at least one lawyer responsible for its content; or

(5) contains any information regarding contingent fees, and fails to conspicuously present the following disclaimer:

"Contingent attorneys' fees refers only to those fees charged by attorneys for their legal services. Such fees are not permitted in all types of cases. Court costs and other additional expenses of legal action usually must be paid by the client."

(6) contains the language 'no fee unless you win or collect' or any similar phrase and fails to conspicuously present the following disclaimer: 

"No fee unless you win or collect" [or insert the similar language used in the communication] refers only to fees charged by the attorney.

Court costs and other additional expenses of legal action usually must be paid by the client. Contingent fees are not permitted in all types of cases. 

(b) A public communication for which a lawyer has given value must be identified as such unless it is apparent from the context that it is such a communication. 

(c) A lawyer retains ultimate responsibility to insure that all communications concerning the lawyer or the lawyer's services comply with the Georgia statutes.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

 

(b) ADVERTISING

 

(a) Subject to the requirements of these statutes, a lawyer may advertise services through:

(1) public media, such as a telephone directory, legal directory, newspaper or other periodical;

(2) outdoor advertising;

(3) radio or television;

(4) written, electronic or recorded communication.


(b) A copy or recording of an advertisement or communication shall be kept for two years after its last dissemination along with a record of when and where it was used.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

(c) DIRECT CONTACT WITH PROSPECTIVE CLIENTS

(a) A lawyer shall not send, or knowingly permit to be sent, on behalf of the lawyer, the lawyer's firm, lawyer's partner, associate, or any other lawyer affiliated with the lawyer or the lawyer's firm, a written communication to a prospective client for the purpose of obtaining professional employment if:

(1) it has been made known to the lawyer that a person does not desire to receive communications from the lawyer;

(2) the communication involves coercion, duress, fraud, overreaching, harassment, intimidation or undue influence;

(3) the written communication concerns an action for personal injury or wrongful death or otherwise relates to an accident or disaster involving the person to whom the communication is addressed or a relative of that person, unless the accident or disaster occurred more than 30 days prior to the mailing of the communication; or

(4) the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the physical, emotional or mental state of the person is such that the person could not exercise reasonable judgment in employing a lawyer.

(b) Written communications to a prospective client, other than a close friend, relative, former client or one whom the lawyer reasonably believes is a former client, for the purpose of obtaining professional employment shall be plainly marked "Advertisement" on the face of the envelope and on the top of each page of the written communication in type size no smaller than the largest type size used in the body of the letter.

(c) A lawyer shall not compensate or give anything of value to a person or organization to recommend or secure the lawyer's employment by a client, or as a reward for having made a recommendation resulting in the lawyer's employment by a client; except that the lawyer may pay for public communications permitted by statute and except as follows:

(1) A lawyer may pay the usual and reasonable fees or dues charged by a bona fide lawyer referral service operated by an organization authorized by law and qualified to do business in this state; provided, however, such organization has filed with the State Disciplinary Board, at least annually, a report showing its terms, its subscription charges, agreements with counsel, the number of lawyers participating, and the names and addresses of lawyers participating in the service;


(2) A lawyer may pay the usual and reasonable fees or dues charged by a bar-operated non-profit lawyer referral service, including a fee which is calculated as a percentage of the legal fees earned by the lawyer to whom the service has referred a matter, provided such bar-operated non-profit lawyer referral service meets the following criteria:

(i) the lawyer referral service shall be operated in the public interest for the purpose of referring prospective clients to lawyers, pro bono and public service legal programs, and government, consumer or other agencies who can provide the assistance the clients need. Such organization shall file annually with the State Disciplinary Board a report showing its rules and regulations, its subscription charges, agreements with counsel, the number of lawyers participating and the names and addresses of the lawyers participating in the service;

(ii) the sponsoring bar association for the lawyer referral service must be open to all lawyers licensed and eligible to practice in this state who maintain an office within the geographical area served, and who meet reasonable objectively determinable experience requirements established by the bar association;

(iii) The combined fees charged by a lawyer and the lawyer referral service to a client referred by such service shall not exceed the total charges which the client would have paid had no service been involved; and,

(iv) A lawyer who is a member of the qualified lawyer referral service must maintain in force a policy of errors and omissions insurance in an amount no less than $100,000 per occurrence and $300,000 in the aggregate.

(3)  A lawyer may pay the usual and reasonable fees to a qualified legal services plan or insurer providing legal services insurance as authorized by law to promote the use of the lawyer's services, the lawyer's partner or associates services so long as the communications of the organization are not false, fraudulent, deceptive or misleading;

(4)  A lawyer may pay the usual and reasonable fees charged by a lay public relations or marketing organization provided the activities of such organization on behalf of the lawyer are otherwise in accordance with these Rules.

(5) A lawyer may pay for a law practice in accordance with the statutes: Sale of Law Practice.

(d) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment as a private practitioner for the lawyer, a partner or associate through direct personal contact or through live telephone contact, with a non-lawyer who has not sought advice regarding employment of a lawyer.

(e) A lawyer shall not accept employment when the lawyer knows or it is obvious that the person who seeks to employ the lawyer does so as a result of conduct by any person or organization prohibited under the statutes: Direct Contact with Prospective Clients.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

(d) COMMUNICATION OF FIELDS OF PRACTICE

A lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice in particular fields of law. A lawyer who is a specialist in a particular field of law by experience, specialized training or education, or is certified by a recognized and bona fide professional entity, may communicate such specialty or certification so long as the statement is not false or misleading.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

(e) FIRM NAMES AND LETTERHEADS

(a) A lawyer shall not use a firm name, letterhead or other professional designation that violates the statutes.

(b) A law firm with offices in more than one jurisdiction may use the same name in each jurisdiction, but identification of the lawyers in an office of the firm shall indicate the jurisdictional limitations on those not licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the office is located.

(c) The name of a lawyer holding public office shall not be used in the name of a law firm, or in communications on its behalf, during any substantial period in which the lawyer is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm.

(d) Lawyers may state or imply that they practice in a partnership or other organization only when that is the fact.

(e) A trade name may be used by a lawyer in private practice if:

(1) the trade name includes the name of at least one of the lawyers practicing under said name. A law firm name consisting solely of the name or names of deceased or retired members of the firm does not have to include the name of an active member of the firm; and

(2) the trade name does not imply a connection with a government entity, with a public or charitable legal services organization or any other organization, association or institution or entity, unless there is, in fact, a connection.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

§ 15-19-88.  MAINTAINING THE INTEGRITY OF THE PROFESSION

(a) BAR ADMISSION AND DISCIPLINARY MATTERS

An applicant for admission to the bar, or a lawyer in connection with a bar admission application or in connection with a disciplinary matter, shall not:

(a) knowingly make a false statement of material fact; or

(b) fail to disclose a fact necessary to correct a misapprehension known by the person to have arisen in the matter, or knowingly fail to respond to a lawful demand for information from an admissions or disciplinary authority, except that this rule does not require disclosure of information otherwise protected by statute.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

(b) JUDICIAL AND LEGAL OFFICIALS

(a) Reserved.

(b) A lawyer who is a candidate for judicial office shall comply with the applicable provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

(c) REPORTING PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT

(a) A lawyer having knowledge that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Georgia statutes that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, should inform the appropriate professional authority.

(b) A lawyer having knowledge 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 should inform the appropriate authority.

There is no disciplinary penalty for a violation of this statute.

(d) MISCONDUCT

(a) It shall be a violation of the Georgia statutes for a lawyer to: 

(1) violate or knowingly attempt to violate the Georgia statutes, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another;

(2) be convicted of a felony;

(3) be convicted of a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude where the underlying conduct relates to the lawyer's fitness to practice law;

(4) commit a criminal act that relates to the lawyer's fitness to practice law or reflects adversly on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer, where the lawyer has admitted in judicio the commission of such act; 

(5) engage in professional conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;

(6) fail to pay any final judgment or rule absolute rendered against such lawyer for money collected by him or her as a lawyer within ten (10) days after the time appointed in the order or judgment;

(7)

(i) state an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official by means that violate the Georgia statutes,

(ii) state an ability to achieve results by means that violate the Georgia statutes or other law,

(iii) achieve results by means that violate the Georgia statutes; or

(8) knowingly assist a judge or judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct or other law
(b)    (1) For purposes of this Rule, conviction shall include any of the following accepted by a court, whether or not a sentence has been imposed:

(i) a guilty plea;

(ii) a plea of nolo contendere;

(iii) a verdict of guilty; or

(iv) a verdict of guilty but mentally ill.

(2) The record of a conviction or disposition in any jurisdiction based upon a guilty plea, a plea of nolo contendere, a verdict of guilty, or a verdict of guilty but mentally ill, or upon the imposition of first offender probation shall be conclusive evidence of such conviction or disposition and shall be admissible in proceedings under these disciplinary rules.

(c) This Rule shall not be construed to cause any infringement of the existing inherent right of Georgia Superior Courts to suspend and disbar lawyers from practice based upon a conviction of a crime as specified in paragraphs (a)(1), (a)(2) and (a)(3) above.

(d) (a)(1) does not apply to Part Six of the Georgia Statutes.

The maximum penalty for a violation of (a)(1) is the maximum penalty for the specific statute violated. The maximum penalty for a violation of the other terms in this section is disbarment.

(e) DISCIPLINARY AUTHORITY; CHOICE OF LAW

(a) Disciplinary Authority. A lawyer admitted to practice in this jurisdiction is subject to the disciplinary authority of this jurisdiction, regardless of where the lawyer's conduct occurs. A Domestic or Foreign Lawyer is also subject to the disciplinary authority of this jurisdiction if the Domestic or Foreign Lawyer provides or offers to provide any legal services in this jurisdiction. A lawyer or Domestic or Foreign Lawyer may be subject to the disciplinary authority of both this jurisdiction and another jurisdiction for the same conduct.

(b) Choice of Law. In any exercise of the disciplinary authority of this jurisdiction, the rules of professional conduct to be applied shall be as follows:

(1) for conduct in connection with a matter pending before a tribunal, the rules of the jurisdiction in which the tribunal sits, unless the rules of the tribunal provide otherwise; and


(2) for any other conduct, the rules of the jurisdiction in which the lawyer or Domestic or Foreign Lawyer's conduct occurred, or, if the predominant effect of the conduct is in a different jurisdiction, the rules of that jurisdiction shall be applied to the conduct. A lawyer or Domestic or Foreign Lawyer shall not be subject to discipline if the lawyer's or Domestic or Foreign Lawyer's conduct conforms to the rules of a jurisdiction in which the lawyer or Domestic or Foreign Lawyer reasonably believes the predominant effect of the lawyer or Domestic or Foreign Lawyer's conduct will occur.
§ 15-19-89.  MISCELLANEOUS
(a) REPORTING REQUIREMENTS Members of the State Bar of Georgia shall notify the State Bar of Georgia of:

(a) Members of the State Bar of Georgia shall, within sixty days, notify the State Bar of Georgia of:

(1) being admitted to the practice of law in another jurisdiction and the dates of admission;

(2) being convicted of any felony or of a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude where the underlying conduct relates to the lawyer's fitness to practice law; or

(3) the imposition of discipline by any jurisdiction other than the Supreme Court of Georgia.

(b) For the purposes of this statute the term "discipline" shall include any sanction imposed as the result of conduct that would be in violation of the Georgia statutes if occurring in Georgia.

(c) For the purposes of this statute the term "jurisdiction" shall include state, federal, territorial and non-United States courts and authorities.


The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

(b) RESTRICTIONS ON FILING DISCIPLINARY COMPLAINTS A lawyer shall not enter into an agreement containing a condition that prohibits or restricts a person from filing a disciplinary complaint, or that requires the person to request dismissal of a pending disciplinary complaint.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

(c) COOPERATION WITH DISCIPLINARY AUTHORITY During the investigation of a grievance filed under these statutes, the lawyer complained against shall respond to disciplinary authorities in accordance with the Georgia statutes.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is a public reprimand.

(d) JURISDICTION AND RECIPROCAL DISCIPLINE

(a) Jurisdiction. Any lawyer admitted to practice law in this jurisdiction, including any formerly admitted lawyer with respect to acts committed prior to resignation, suspension, disbarment, or removal from practice on any of the grounds provided in the statutes, or with respect to acts subsequent thereto which amount to the practice of law or constitute a violation of the Georgia statutest or any Rules or Code subsequently adopted by the court in lieu thereof, and any Domestic or Foreign Lawyer specially admitted by a court of this jurisdiction for a particular proceeding and any Domestic or Foreign Lawyer who practices law or renders or offers to render any legal services in this jurisdiction, is subject to the disciplinary jurisdiction of the Georgia State Disciplinary Board.

(b) Reciprocal Discipline. Upon being suspended or disbarred in another jurisdiction, a lawyer admitted to practice in Georgia shall promptly inform the Office of General Counsel of the State of Georgia of the discipline. Upon notification from any source that a lawyer within the jurisdiction of the State Bar of Georgia has been suspended or disbarred in another jurisdiction, the Office of General Counsel shall obtain a certified copy of the disciplinary order and file it with the Clerk of the State Disciplinary Board. Nothing in the Rule shall prevent a lawyer suspended or disbarred in another jurisdiction from filing a petition for voluntary discipline under Rule 4-227.

(1) Upon receipt of a certified copy of an order demonstrating that a lawyer admitted to practice in Georgia has been disbarred or suspended in another jurisdiction, the Clerk of the State Disciplinary Board shall docket the matter and forthwith issue a notice directed to the lawyer containing:

(i) A copy of the order from the other jurisdiction; and

(ii) A notice approved by the Review Panel that the lawyer must inform the Office of General Counsel and the Review Panel, within thirty days from service of the notice, of any claim by the lawyer predicated upon the grounds set forth in paragraph (b)(3) below, that the imposition of the substantially similar discipline in this jurisdiction would be unwarranted and the reasons for that claim.

(2) In the event the discipline imposed in the other jurisdiction has been stayed there, any reciprocal discipline imposed in this jurisdiction shall be deferred until the stay expires.

(3) Upon the expiration of thirty days from service of the notice pursuant to the provisions of paragraph (b)(1), the Review Panel shall recommend to the Georgia Supreme Court substantially similar discipline, or removal from practice on the grounds provided in Rule 4-104, unless the Office of General Counsel or the lawyer demonstrates, or the Review Panel finds that it clearly appears upon the face of the record from which the discipline is predicated, that:

(i) The procedure was so lacking in notice or opportunity to be heard as to constitute a deprivation of due process; or

(ii) There was such infirmity of proof establishing the misconduct as to give rise to the clear conviction that the court could not, consistent with its duty, accept as final the conclusion on that subject; or

(iii) The discipline imposed would result in grave injustice or be offensive to the public policy of the jurisdiction; or

(iv) The reason for the original disciplinary status no longer exists; or

(v)

(a) the conduct did not occur within the state of Georgia; and,

(b) the discipline imposed by the foreign jurisdiction exceeds the level of discipline allowed under these statutes.

(vi) the discipline would if imposed in identical form be unduly severe or would require action not contemplated by these statutes.
If the Review Panel determines that any of those elements exists, the Review Panel shall make such other recommendation to the Georgia Supreme Court as it deems appropriate. The burden is on the party seeking different discipline in this jurisdiction to demonstrate that the imposition of the same discipline is not appropriate.

(4) The Review Panel may consider exceptions from either the Office of General Counsel or the Respondent on the grounds enumerated at Part (b)(3) of this Rule, and may in its discretion grant oral argument. Exceptions in briefs shall be filed with the Review Panel within 30 days from notice of the Notice of Reciprocal Discipline. The responding party shall have 10 days after service of the exceptions within which to respond.

(5) In all other aspects, a final adjudication in another jurisdiction that a lawyer, whether or not admitted in that jurisdiction, has been guilty of misconduct, or has been removed from practice on any of the grounds provided in the statutes, shall establish conclusively the misconduct or the removal from practice for purposes of a disciplinary proceeding in this state.

(6) Discipline imposed by another jurisdiction but of a lesser nature than disbarment or suspension may be considered in aggravation of discipline in any other disciplinary proceeding.

(7) For purposes of this statute, the word "jurisdiction" means any state, territory, country or federal court.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is disbarment.

(e) LAWYER AS A PUBLIC OFFICIAL

(a) A lawyer who is a public official and represents the State, a municipal corporation in the State, the United States government, their agencies or officials, is bound by the provisions of these Rules.

(b) No provision of these statutes shall be construed to prohibit such a lawyer from taking a legal position adverse to the State, a municipal corporation in the State, the United States government, their agencies or officials, when such action is authorized or required by the U. S. Constitution, the Georgia Constitution or statutes of the United States or Georgia.

(f) Multiple Violations

A finding of a third or subsequent disciplinary infraction under these statutes shall, in and of itself, constitute discretionary grounds for suspension or disbarment. The Review Panel may exercise this discretionary power when the question is appropriately before that Panel. Any discipline imposed by another jurisdiction as contemplated by the statutes may be considered a disciplinary infraction for the purpose of this statute.

(g) Mental Incapacity and Substance Abuse (a) Want of a sound mind, senility, habitual intoxication or drug addiction, to the extent of impairing competency as an attorney, when found to exist under the procedure outlined in these statutes, shall constitute grounds for removing the attorney from the practice of law. Notice of final judgment taking such action shall be given by the Review Panel as provided in these statutes.

(b) Upon a finding by either panel of the State Disciplinary Board that an attorney may be impaired or incapacitated to practice law due to mental incapacity or substance abuse, that panel may, in its sole discretion, make a confidential referral of the matter to the Committee on Lawyer Impairment for the purposes of confrontation and referral of the attorney to treatment centers and peer support groups. Either panel may, in its discretion, defer disciplinary findings and proceedings based upon the impairment or incapacitation of an attorney pending attempts by the Committee on Lawyer Impairment to afford the attorney an opportunity to begin recovery. In such situations the committee shall report to the referring panel and Bar counsel concerning the attorney's progress toward recovery.

(c) In the event of a finding by the Supreme Court of Georgia that a lawyer is impaired or incapacitated, the Court may refer the matter to the Committee on Lawyer Impairment, before or after its entry of judgment under these statutes, so that rehabilitative aid may be provided to the impaired or incapacitated attorney. In such situations the committee shall be authorized to report to the Court and the State Disciplinary Board concerning the attorney's progress toward recovery. (h) Deceased, Incapacitated, Imprisoned and Disappearing Attorneys

When it appears to the Investigative Panel that an attorney's death, incapacity, imprisonment or disappearance poses a substantial threat of harm to his clients or the public, the Investigative Panel shall immediately investigate the matter. If the Investigative Panel determines that such threat exists and that no partner, associate or other appropriate representative is available to prevent the harm, it shall file its findings and recommendation of action in the Supreme Court and shall seek judgment as provided in these statutes.

(i) Conviction of a Crime; Suspension and Disbarment (a) Upon receipt of information or evidence that an attorney has been convicted of any felony or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, whether by verdict, plea of guilty, plea of nolo contendere or imposition of first offender probation, the Office of the General Counsel shall immediately assign the matter a State Disciplinary Board docket number and petition the Georgia Supreme Court for the appointment of a Special Master to conduct a show cause hearing.

(b) The petition shall show the date of the verdict or plea and the court in which the Respondent was convicted, and shall be served upon the Respondent pursuant to these statutes.

(c) Upon receipt of the Petition for Appointment of Special Master, the Clerk of the Georgia Supreme Court shall file the matter in the records of the Court, shall give the matter a docket number and notify the Court that appointment of a Special Master is appropriate.

(d) The Court will appoint a Special Master, pursuant to these statutes.

(e) The show cause hearing should be held within fifteen (15) days after service of the Petition for Appointment of Special Master upon the Respondent or appointment of a Special Master, whichever is later. Within thirty days of the hearing, the Special Master shall file a recommendation with the Supreme Court of Georgia which shall be empowered to order such discipline as deemed appropriate.

(f) (1) If the Supreme Court of Georgia orders the respondent suspended pending the appeal of the conviction, upon the termination of the appeal a Special Master may conduct a hearing for the purpose of determining whether the circumstances of the termination of the appeal indicate that the suspended Respondent should:

(i) be disbarred under Rule 8.4, or
(ii) be reinstated, or

(iii) remain suspended pending retrial as a protection to the public, or

(iv) be reinstated while the facts giving rise to the conviction are investigated and, if proper, prosecuted under regular disciplinary procedures in these statutes.

(2) Reports of the Special Master shall be filed with the Clerk of the State Disciplinary Board and the matter shall proceed thereafter as outlined in these statutes.

(g) For purposes of this rule, a certified copy of a conviction in any jurisdiction based upon a verdict, plea of guilty or plea of nolo contendere or the imposition of first offender treatment shall be prima facie evidence of an infraction of these statutes and shall be admissible in proceedings under the disciplinary statutes.

(j) Conduct Constituting Threat of Harm to Clients or Public; Emergency Suspension

(a) Upon receipt of sufficient evidence demonstrating that an attorneyÂ’s conduct poses a substantial threat of harm to his clients or the public and with the approval of the Immediate Past President of the State Bar of Georgia and the Chairperson of the Review Panel, or at the direction of the Chairperson of the Investigative Panel, the Office of General Counsel shall petition the Georgia Supreme Court for the suspension of the attorney pending disciplinary proceedings predicated upon the conduct causing such petition.

(b) The petition for emergency suspension shall state the evidence justifying the emergency suspension.

(c) The petition for emergency suspension shall be served upon the Respondent pursuant to Bar Rule 4-203.1.

(d) Upon receipt of the petition for emergency suspension, the Clerk of the Georgia Supreme Court shall file the matter in the records of the Court, shall assign the matter a docket number and shall notify the Court that appointment of a Special Master is appropriate.

(e) The Court will nominate a Special Master pursuant to Rule 4-209.2 to conduct a hearing where the State Bar shall show cause why the Respondent should be suspended pending disciplinary proceedings.

(f) Within fifteen days after service of the petition for emergency suspension upon the Respondent or appointment of a Special Master, whichever is later, the Special Master shall hold a hearing on the petition for emergency suspension.

(g) Within twenty days of the hearing, the Special Master shall file his or her recommendation with the Supreme Court of Georgia. The Court sitting en banc may suspend the Respondent pending final disposition of disciplinary proceedings predicated upon the conduct causing the emergency suspension, or order such other action as it deems appropriate.

(k) Refusal or Failure to Appear for Reprimand; Suspension Either panel of the State Disciplinary Board based on the knowledge or belief that a respondent has refused, or failed without just cause, to appear in accordance with Bar Rule 4-220 before a panel or the superior court for the administration of a reprimand may file in the Supreme Court a motion for suspension of the respondent. A copy of the motion shall be sent to the respondent by registered mail. The Supreme Court may in its discretion, ten days after the filing of the motion, suspend the respondent until such time as the reprimand is administered.

(l) Definitions (a) Respondent: A person whose conduct is the subject of any disciplinary investigation or proceeding.

(b) Confidential proceedings: Any proceeding under these rules which occurs prior to a filing in the Supreme Court of Georgia.

(c) Public proceedings: Any proceeding under these rules which has been filed with the Supreme Court of Georgia.

(d) Grievance/Memorandum of Grievance: An allegation of unethical conduct filed against an attorney.

(e) Probable cause: A finding by the Investigative Panel that there is sufficient evidence to believe that the respondent has violated one or more of the provisions of Part IV, Chapter 1 of the Bar Rules.

(f) Petition for Voluntary Surrender of License: A Petition for Voluntary Discipline in which the respondent voluntarily surrenders his license to practice law in this State. A voluntary surrender of license is tantamount to disbarment.

(g) He, him or his: Generic pronouns including both male and female.

(h) Attorney: A person authorized by law to practice law in the State of Georgia.

(i) Notice of Discipline: A Notice by the Investigative Panel that the respondent will be subject to a disciplinary sanction for violation of one or more Standards of Conduct unless the respondent affirmatively rejects the notice.

(m) Audit for Cause Upon receipt of sufficient evidence that a lawyer who practices law in this State poses a threat of harm to his clients or the public, the State Disciplinary Board may conduct an Audit for Cause with the written approval of the Chairman of the Investigative Panel of the State Disciplinary Board and the President-elect of the State Bar. Before approval can be granted, the lawyer shall be given notice that approval is being sought and be given an opportunity to appear and be heard. The sufficiency of the notice and opportunity to be heard shall be left to the sole discretion of the persons giving the approval. The State Disciplinary Board must inform the person being audited that the audit is an Audit for Cause. The failure of a lawyer to submit to an Audit for Cause shall be grounds for discipline pursuant to Standard 65.5.

 

§ 15-19-90.  DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS (a) State Disciplinary Board The powers to investigate and discipline those authorized to practice law in Georgia for violations of the Standards of Conduct set forth in Bar Rule 4-102 are hereby vested in a State Disciplinary Board and a Consumer Assistance Program. The State Disciplinary Board shall consist of two panels. The first panel shall be the Investigative Panel of the State Disciplinary Board (Investigative Panel). The second panel shall be the Review Panel of the State Disciplinary Board (Review Panel). The Consumer Assistance Program shall operate as described in Part XII of these Rules.

(a) The Investigative Panel shall consist of the President-elect of the State Bar of Georgia and the President-elect of the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia, one member of the State Bar of Georgia from each judicial district of the State appointed by the President of the State Bar of Georgia with the approval of the Board of Governors of the State Bar of Georgia, one member of the State Bar of Georgia from each judicial district of the State appointed by the Supreme Court of Georgia, one at-large member of the State Bar of Georgia appointed by the Supreme Court, one at-large member of the State Bar of Georgia appointed by the President with the approval of the Board of Governors, and six public members appointed by the Supreme Court to serve as public members of the Panel.

(1) All members shall be appointed for three-year terms subject to the following exceptions:

(i) any person appointed to fill a vacancy caused by resignation, death, disqualification or disability shall serve only for the unexpired term of the member replaced unless reappointed;

(ii) ex-officio members shall serve during the term of their office; and shall not increase the quorum requirement; and

(iii) certain initial members as set forth in paragraph (2) below.

(2) It shall be the goal of the initial appointments that one-third (1/3) of the terms of the members appointed will expire annually.

(3) A member may be removed from the Panel pursuant to procedures set by the Panel for failure to attend regular meetings of the Panel. The vacancy shall be filled by appointment of the current President of the State Bar of Georgia.

(4) The Investigative Panel shall annually elect a chairperson, a vice-chairperson, or a vice-chairperson for any subcommittee for which the chairperson is not a member to serve as chairperson for that subcommittee, and such other officers as it may deem proper. The Panel shall meet in its entirety in July of each year to elect a chairperson. At any time the Panel may decide to divide itself into subcommittees or to consolidate after having divided. A majority shall constitute a quorum and a majority of a quorum shall be authorized to act. However, in any matter in which one or more Investigative Panel members are disqualified, the number of members constituting a quorum shall be reduced by the number of members disqualified from voting on the matter.

(5) The Investigative Panel is authorized to organize itself into as many subcommittees as the Panel deems necessary to conduct the expeditious investigation of disciplinary matters referred to it by the Office of General Counsel. However, no subcommittee shall consist of fewer than seven (7) members of the Panel and each such subcommittee shall include at least one (1) of the public members.

(b) The Review Panel shall consist of the Immediate Past President of the State Bar, the Immediate Past President of the Young Lawyers Division or a member of the Young Lawyers Division designated by its Immediate Past President, nine (9) members of the State Bar, three (3) from each of the three (3) federal judicial districts of the State appointed as described below, and four (4) public members appointed by the Supreme Court of Georgia.

(1) The nine (9) members of the Bar from the federal judicial districts shall be appointed for three (3) year terms so that the term of one Panel member from each district will expire each year. The three (3) vacant positions will be filled in odd years by appointment by the President, with the approval of the Board of Governors, and in even years by appointment by the Supreme Court of Georgia.

(2) The Panel members serving at the time this Rule goes into effect shall continue to serve until their respective terms expire. New Panel members shall be appointed as set forth above.

(3) Any person appointed to fill a vacancy caused by resignation, death, disqualification or disability shall serve only for the unexpired term of the member replaced unless reappointed.

(4) Ex-officio members shall serve during the term or terms of their offices and shall not increase the quorum requirement.

(5) The Review Panel shall elect a chairperson and such other officers as it may deem proper in July of each year. The presence of six (6) members of the Panel shall constitute a quorum. Four (4) members of the Panel shall be authorized to act except that a recommendation of the Review Panel to suspend or disbar shall require the affirmative vote of at least six (6) members of the Review Panel, with not more than four (4) negative votes. However, in any case in which one or more Review Panel members are disqualified, the number of members constituting a quorum and the number of members necessary to vote affirmatively for disbarment or suspension, shall be reduced by the number of members disqualified from voting on the case. No recommendation of disbarment or suspension may be made by fewer than four (4) affirmative votes. For the purposes of this Rule the recusal of a member shall have the same effect as disqualification.

(b) Receipt of Grievances; Initial Review by Bar Counsel (a) All grievances other than those initiated by the Supreme Court of Georgia, the Investigative Panel or inquiries which may be filed with the Consumer Assistance Program under Part XII of these Rules shall be first filed with the Office of the General Counsel of the State Bar of Georgia. The Office of the General Counsel shall require that oral grievances, and grievances illegibly or informally drawn, be reduced to a memorandum of grievance in such form as may be prescribed by the Investigative Panel.

(b) Upon receipt of a grievance in proper form, the Office of the General Counsel shall screen it to determine whether the grievance is unjustified, frivolous, patently unfounded or fails to state facts sufficient to invoke the disciplinary jurisdiction of the State Bar of Georgia. The Office of the General Counsel shall be empowered to collect evidence and information concerning any grievance and to add the findings and results of its investigation to the file containing such grievance. The screening process may include forwarding a copy of the grievance to the respondent in order that the respondent may respond to the grievance.

(c) Upon completion of its screening of a grievance, the Office of the General Counsel shall be empowered to dismiss those grievances which are unjustified, frivolous, patently unfounded or which fail to state facts sufficient to invoke the disciplinary jurisdiction of the State Bar of Georgia; provided, however, that a rejection of such grievances by the Office of the General Counsel shall not deprive the complaining party of any right of action he might otherwise have at law or in equity against the respondent. Those grievances which appear to allege any violation of Part IV, Chapter 1 of the State Bar Rules shall be forwarded to the Investigative Panel or a subcommittee of the Investigative Panel according to Rule 4-204.1. (c) Powers and Duties (a) In accordance with these rules, the Investigative Panel shall have the following powers and duties:

(1) To receive and evaluate any and all written grievances against members of the State Bar and to frame such charges and grievances as shall conform to the requirements of these rules. A copy of any grievance serving as the basis for investigation or proceedings before the Panel shall be furnished to the respondent by the procedures set forth in Rule 4-204.2;

(2) To initiate grievances on its own motion, to require additional information from a complainant, where appropriate, and to dismiss and reject such grievances as to it may seem unjustified, frivolous, or patently unfounded. However, the rejection of a grievance by the Investigative Panel shall not deprive the complaining party of any right of action he or she might otherwise have at law or in equity against the respondent;

(3) To issue letters of instruction when dismissing a grievance;

(4) To delegate the duties of the Panel enumerated in subparagraphs (1), (2), (11) and (12) hereof to the chairperson of the Panel or chairperson of any subcommittee of the Panel or such other members as the Panel or its chairperson may designate subject to review and approval by the Investigative Panel or subcommittee of the Panel;

(5) To conduct probable cause investigations, to collect evidence and information concerning grievances, to hold hearings where provided for in these rules, and to certify grievances to the Supreme Court for hearings by special masters as hereinafter provided;

(6) To pass upon petitions for protection of the clients of deceased, disappearing or incapacitated members of the State Bar;

(7) To adopt forms for formal complaints, subpoenas, notices, and any other written instruments necessary or desirable under these rules;

(8) To prescribe its own rules of conduct and procedure;

(9) To receive, investigate, and collect evidence and information; and to review and accept or reject such Petitions for Voluntary Discipline which request the imposition of confidential discipline and are filed with the Investigative Panel prior to the time of issuance of a formal complaint by Bar counsel. Each such petition shall contain admissions of fact and admissions of conduct in violation of Part IV, Chapter 1 of these rules sufficient to authorize the imposition of discipline. Bar counsel shall, upon filing of such petition, file with the Panel its recommendations as to acceptance or rejection of the petition by the Panel, giving the reasons therefor, and shall serve a copy of its recommendation upon the respondent presenting such petition;

(10) To sign and enforce, as hereinafter described, subpoenas for the appearance of persons and for the production of things and records at investigations and hearings;

(11) To extend the time within which a formal complaint may be filed;

(12) To issue letters of formal admonition and Investigative Panel Reprimands as hereinafter provided;

(13) To enter a Notice of Discipline providing that unless the respondent affirmatively rejects the notice, the respondent shall be sanctioned as ordered by the Investigative Panel;

(14) To use the investigators, auditors, and/or staff of the Office of the General Counsel in performing its duties.

(b) In accordance with these rules, the Review Panel or any subcommittee of the Panel shall have the following powers and duties:

(1) To receive reports from special masters, and to recommend to the Supreme Court the imposition of punishment and discipline;

(2) To adopt forms for subpoenas, notices, and any other written instruments necessary or desirable under these rules;

(3) To prescribe its own rules of conduct and procedure;

(4) (Reserved).

(5) Through the action of its chairperson or his or her designee and upon good cause shown, to allow a late filing of the respondent's answer where there has been no final selection of a special master within thirty days of service of the formal complaint upon the respondent;

(6) Through the action of its chairperson or his or her designee, to receive and pass upon challenges and objections to special masters.

(d) Uniform Service Rule

(a) Attorneys authorized to practice law in Georgia shall inform the Membership Department of the State Bar of Georgia, in writing, of their current name, official address and telephone number. The Supreme Court of Georgia and the State Bar of Georgia may rely on the official address on file with the Membership Department in all efforts to contact, communicate with, and perfect service upon an attorney. The choice of an attorney to provide only a post office box or equivalent commercial address to the Membership Department of the State Bar of Georgia shall constitute an election to waive personal service. Notification of a change of address given to any department of the State Bar of Georgia other than the Membership Department shall not satisfy the requirement herein.

(b) In all matters requiring personal service under Part IV of the Bar Rules, service may be perfected in the following manner:

(1) Acknowledgment of Service: An acknowledgment of service from the Respondent shall constitute conclusive proof of service and shall eliminate the need to utilize any other form of service.

(2) Written Response from Respondent: A written response from the Respondent or Respondent's counsel shall constitute conclusive proof of service and shall eliminate the need to utilize any other form of service.

(3) In the absence of an acknowledgment of service, or a written response from the Respondent or Respondent's counsel, and subject to the provisions of paragraph (4) below, the Respondent shall be served in the following manner:

(i) Personal service: Service may be accomplished by the Sheriff, or a Court approved agent for service of process, or any person approved by the Chairperson of the Investigative Panel or the Chair's designee. Receipt of a Return of Service Non Est Inventus from the Sheriff or any other person approved for service of the service documents, shall constitute conclusive proof that service cannot be perfected by personal service.

(ii) Service by publication: In the event that personal service cannot be perfected, or when the Respondent has only provided a post office box to the Membership Department and Respondent has not acknowledged service within twenty (20) days of a mailing to Respondent's post office box, service may be accomplished by publication once a week for two weeks in the legal organ of the county of Respondent's address, as shown on the records of the Membership Department of the State Bar of Georgia, and, contemporaneously with the publication, mailing a copy of the service documents by first class mail to Respondent's address as shown on the records of the Membership Department of the State Bar of Georgia.

(4) When it appears from an affidavit made by the Office of General Counsel that the Respondent has departed from the state, or cannot, after due diligence, be found within the state, or seeks to avoid the service, the Chairperson of the Investigative Panel, or the chair's designee, may authorize service by publication without the necessity of first attempting personal service. The affidavit made by the Office of General Counsel must demonstrate recent unsuccessful attempts at personal service upon the Respondent regarding other or related disciplinary matters and that such personal service was attempted at Respondent's address as shown on the records of the Membership Department of the State Bar of Georgia.


(c) Whenever service of pleadings or other documents subsequent to the original complaint is required or permitted to be made upon a party represented by an attorney, the service shall be made upon the attorney unless service upon the party himself is otherwise required by these Rules. Service upon the attorney or upon a party shall be made by delivering a copy to him or by mailing it to him at his last known address. As used in this Rule, the term "delivery of a copy" means handing it to the attorney or to the party, or leaving it at his office with his clerk or other person in charge thereof or, if the office is closed or the person to be served has no office, leaving it at his dwelling house or usual place of abode with some person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein. Service by mail is complete upon mailing. Proof of service may be made by certificate of an attorney or of his employee, by written admission, by affidavit, or by other proof satisfactory to the court. Failure to make proof of service shall not affect the validity of service.

(e) Preliminary Investigation by Investigative Panel-Generally (a) Each grievance alleging conduct which appears to invoke the disciplinary jurisdiction of the State Disciplinary Board of the State Bar of Georgia shall be referred in accordance with Rule 4-204.1 by the Office of the General Counsel to the Investigative Panel or a subcommittee of the Investigative Panel for investigation and disposition in accordance with its rules. The Investigative Panel shall appoint one of its members to be responsible for the investigation. The Office of the General Counsel shall simultaneously assign a staff investigator to assist in the investigation. If the investigation of the Panel establishes probable cause to believe that the respondent has violated one or more of the provisions of Part IV, Chapter 1 of these rules, it shall:

(1) issue a letter of admonition;
(2) issue an Investigative Panel Reprimand;
(3) issue a Notice of Discipline; or
(4) refer the case to the Supreme Court of Georgia for hearing before a special master and file a formal complaint with the Supreme Court of Georgia, all as hereinafter provided.
All other cases may be either dismissed by the Investigative Panel or referred to the Fee Arbitration Committee or the Committee on Lawyer Impairment.

(b) The primary investigation shall be conducted by the staff investigators, the staff lawyers of the Office of the General Counsel, and the member of the Investigative Panel responsible for the investigation. The Board of Governors of the State Bar of Georgia shall fund the Office of the General Counsel so that the Office of the General Counsel will be able to adequately investigate and prosecute all cases.

(f) Notice of Investigation (a) Upon completion of its screening of a grievance under Rule 4-202, the Office of the General Counsel shall forward those grievances which appear to invoke the disciplinary jurisdiction of the State Bar of Georgia to the Investigative Panel, or subcommittee of the Investigative Panel by serving a Notice of Investigation upon the Respondent.

(b) The Notice of Investigation shall accord the respondent reasonable notice of the charges against him and a reasonable opportunity to respond to the charges in writing and shall contain:

(1) a statement that the grievance is being transmitted to the Investigative Panel, or subcommittee of the Investigative Panel;

(2) a copy of the grievance;

(3) a list of the Standards of Conduct which appear to have been violated;

(4) the name and address of the Panel member assigned to investigate the grievance and a list of the Panel, or subcommittee of the Panel, members;

(5) a statement of respondent's right to challenge the competency, qualifications or objectivity of any Panel member;

(c) The form for the Notice of Investigation shall be approved by the Investigative Panel.

(g) Service of the Notice of Investigation

The Office of the General Counsel shall cause the Notice of Investigation to be served upon the respondent pursuant to Bar Rule 4-203.1.

(h) Answer to Notice of Investigation Required (a) The respondent shall file a written response under oath to the Notice of Investigation with the panel member assigned to investigate the grievance within thirty (30) days of service.

(b) The written response must address specifically all of the issues set forth in the Notice of Investigation.

(c) The panel member assigned to investigate the grievance may in the panel memberÂ’s discretion grant extensions of time for respondentÂ’s answer. Any request for extension of time must be made in writing on or before the date on which the response was due and the grant of an extension of time must also be in writing. Extensions of time shall be reasonable in length and should not be routinely granted.

(d) In cases where the maximum sanction is disbarment or suspension, failure to respond by the respondent may authorize the Investigative Panel or subcommittee of the Panel to suspend the respondent until a response is filed.

(1) The determination that an adequate response has been filed is within the discretion of the Investigative Panel or subcommittee of the Panel.

(2) When the Investigative Panel or subcommittee of the Panel determines that a respondent has failed to respond in accordance with the rules of the Panel and that the respondent should be suspended, the Office of the General Counsel shall notify the Supreme Court of Georgia that the Panel has made such a recommendation. The Supreme Court shall enter an appropriate Order.

(3) When the Investigative Panel or subcommittee of the Panel determines that a respondent who has been suspended for failure to respond in accordance with the rules of the Panel has filed an appropriate response and should be reinstated, the Office of the General Counsel shall notify the Supreme Court of Georgia that the Panel has made such a recommendation. The Supreme Court shall enter an appropriate Order.

(i) Finding of Probable Cause; Referral to Special Master (a) In all cases wherein the Investigative Panel, or subcommittee of the Panel, finds probable cause of the respondentÂ’s violation of one or more of the provisions of Part IV, Chapter 1 of these rules and refers the matter to the Supreme Court for appointment of a special master, it shall file with the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Georgia the following documents in duplicate:

(1) notice of its finding of probable cause;

(2) a petition for the appointment of a special master and proposed order thereon;

(3) a formal complaint, as herein provided.

(b) The documents specified in paragraph (a) above shall be filed with the Clerk of the Supreme Court within thirty (30) days of the finding of probable cause unless the Investigative Panel, or subcommittee of the Panel, or its Chairperson grants an extension of time for the filing of the documents.

(j) Letters of Instruction (a) In addition to dismissing a complaint, the Investigative Panel, or subcommittee of the Panel, may issue a letter of instruction in any disciplinary case upon the following conditions:

(1) the case has been thoroughly investigated, the respondent has been notified of and has had an opportunity to answer the charges brought against him, and the case has been reported to the entire Panel, or subcommittee of the Panel, assembled at a regularly scheduled meeting; and

(2) the Investigative Panel, or subcommittee of the Panel, as evidenced through the majority vote of its members present and voting, is of the opinion that the respondent either:

(i) has not engaged in conduct which is in violation of the provisions of Part IV, Chapter 1 of these rules; or

(ii) has engaged in conduct that although technically in violation of such rules is not reprehensible, and has resulted in no harm or injury to any third person, and is not in violation of the spirit of such rules; or

(iii) has engaged in conduct in violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility of Part III of these rules or any recognized voluntary creed of professionalism;


(b) Letters of instruction shall contain a statement of the conduct of the respondent which may have violated Part III of these rules or the voluntary creed of professionalism.

(c) A letter of instruction shall not constitute a finding of any disciplinary infraction.

(k) Confidential Discipline; In General In lieu of the imposition of any other discipline, the Investigative Panel or a subcommittee of the Investigative Panel may issue letters of formal admonition or an Investigative Panel Reprimand in any disciplinary case upon the following conditions:

(a) the case has been thoroughly investigated, the respondent has been notified of and has had an opportunity to answer, the charges brought against him, and the case has been reported to the entire Panel or a subcommittee of the Panel assembled at a regularly scheduled meeting;

(b) the Panel or a subcommittee of the Panel, as evidenced through the majority vote of its members present and voting, is of the opinion that the respondent has engaged in conduct which is in violation of the provisions of Part IV, Chapter 1 of these rules;

(c) the Panel or a subcommittee of the Panel, as evidenced through the majority vote of its members present and voting, is of the opinion that the conduct referred to in subpart (b) hereof was engaged in:

(1) inadvertently; or

(2) purposefully, but in ignorance of the applicable disciplinary rule or rules; or

(3) under such circumstances that it is the opinion of the Investigative Panel or a subcommittee of the Investigative Panel that the protection of the public and rehabilitation of the respondent would be best achieved by the issuance of a letter of admonition or an Investigative Panel Reprimand rather than by any other form of discipline.

(l) Confidential Discipline; Contents (a) Letters of formal admonition and Investigative Panel Reprimands shall contain a statement of the specific conduct of the respondent which violates Part IV, Chapter 1 of these rules, shall state the name of the complainant and shall state the reasons for issuance of such confidential discipline.

(b) A letter of formal admonition shall also contain the following information:

(1) the right of the respondent to reject the letter of formal admonition under Rule 4-207;

(2) the procedure for rejecting the letter of formal admonition under Rule 4-207; and

(3) the effect of an accepted letter of formal admonition in the event of a third or subsequent imposition of discipline.


(c) An Investigative Panel Reprimand shall also contain information concerning the effect of the acceptance of such reprimand in the event of a third or subsequent imposition of discipline.

(m) Letters of Formal Admonition and Investigative Panel Reprimands; Notification and Right of Rejection In any case where the Investigative Panel, or a subcommittee of the Panel, votes to impose discipline in the form of a letter of formal admonition or an Investigative Panel Reprimand, such vote shall constitute the PanelÂ’s finding of probable cause. The respondent shall have the right to reject, in writing, the imposition of such discipline. A written rejection shall be deemed an election by the respondent to continue disciplinary proceedings under these rules and shall cause the Investigative Panel to proceed under Rule 4-204.4

(a) Notification to respondent shall be as follows:

(1) in the case of letters of formal admonition, the letter of admonition;

(2) in the case of an Investigative Panel Reprimand, the letter notifying the respondent to appear for the administration of the reprimand;

(3) sent to the respondent at his address as reflected in State Bar records, via certified mail, return receipt requested.

(b) Rejection by respondent shall be as follows:

(1) in writing, within thirty days of notification;

(2) sent to the Investigative Panel via certified mail, return receipt requested, directed to the Office of the General Counsel of the State Bar of Georgia at the current headquarters address of the State Bar.


(c) If the respondent rejects the imposition of a formal admonition or Investigative Panel Reprimand, the Office of the General Counsel shall file a formal complaint with the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Georgia within thirty days of receipt of the rejection unless the Investigative Panel or its Chairperson grants an extension of time for the filing of the formal complaint.

(d) Investigative Panel Reprimands shall be administered before the Panel by the Chairperson or his or her designee.

(n) Confidential Discipline; Effect in Event of Subsequent Discipline An accepted letter of formal admonition or an Investigative Panel Reprimand shall be considered as a disciplinary infraction for the purpose of invoking the provisions of Bar Rule 4-103. In the event of a subsequent disciplinary proceeding, the confidentiality of the imposition of confidential discipline shall be waived and the Office of the General Counsel may use such information as aggravation of discipline.

(o) Notice of Discipline (a) In any case where the Investigative Panel or a subcommittee of the Panel finds probable cause, the Panel may issue a Notice of Discipline imposing any level of public discipline authorized by these rules.

(b) Unless the Notice of Discipline is rejected by the respondent as provided in Rule 4-208.3, (1) the respondent shall be in default; (2) the respondent shall have no right to any evidentiary hearing; and (3) the respondent shall be subject to such discipline and further proceedings as may be determined by the Supreme Court. (p) Notice of Discipline; Contents; Service (a) The Notice of Discipline shall state the following:

(1) The Standards which the Investigative Panel found that the respondent violated,

(2) The facts, which if unrefuted, support the finding that such Standards have been violated,

(3) The level of public discipline recommended to be imposed,

(4) The reasons why such level of discipline is recommended, including matters considered in mitigation and matters considered in aggravation, and such other considerations deemed by the Investigative Panel to be relevant to such recommendation,

(5) The entire provisions of Rule 4-208.3 relating to rejection of Notice of Discipline. This may be satisfied by attaching a copy of the Rule to the Notice of Discipline and referencing same in the Notice,

(6) A copy of the Memorandum of Grievance,

(7) A statement of any prior discipline imposed upon the respondent, including confidential discipline under Rules 4-205 to 4-208.


(b) The original Notice of Discipline shall be filed with the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Georgia, and a copy of the Notice of Discipline shall be served upon the respondent pursuant to Bar Rule 4-203.1.

(c) This subparagraph is reserved.

(d) This subparagraph is reserved.

(e) This subparagraph is reserved.

(f) This subparagraph is reserved.

(g) The Office of General Counsel shall file the documents by which service was accomplished with the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Georgia.

(h) The level of disciplinary sanction in any Notice of Discipline rejected by the respondent or the Office of General Counsel shall not be binding on the Special Master, the Review Panel or the Supreme Court of Georgia.

(q) Rejection of Notice of Discipline (a) In order to reject The Notice of Discipline the Respondent or the Office of General Counsel must file a Notice of Rejection of the Notice of Discipline with the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Georgia within thirty (30) days following service of the Notice of Discipline. See Rule 4-203.1.

(b) Any Notice of Rejection by the Respondent shall be served upon the Office of General Counsel of the State Bar of Georgia. Any Notice of Rejection by the Office of General Counsel of the State Bar of Georgia shall be served upon the Respondent. No rejection by the Respondent shall be considered valid unless the Respondent files a written response to the pending grievance at or before the filing of the rejection. A copy of such written response must also be filed with the Clerk of the Supreme Court at the time of filing the Notice of Rejection.

(c) The timely filing of a Notice of Rejection shall constitute an election for the Supreme Court to appoint a Special Master and the matter shall thereafter proceed pursuant to Rules 4-209 through 4-225. (r) Formal Complaint Following Notice of Rejection of Discipline
(a) The Office of the General Counsel shall file a formal complaint within thirty days following the filing of a Notice of Rejection. At the same time a Petition for Appointment of Special Master and proposed order thereon shall be filed. The Notice of Discipline shall operate as the notice of finding of probable cause by the Investigative Panel.

(b) The Office of the General Counsel may obtain extensions of time for the filing of the formal complaint from the Chairperson of the Investigative Panel or his or her designee.

(c) After the rejection of a Notice of Discipline and prior to the time of the filing of the formal complaint, the Investigative Panel may consider any new evidence regarding the grievance and take appropriate action.

(s) Docketing by Supreme Court; Appointment of Special Master; Challenges to Special Master

(a) Upon receipt of a finding of probable cause, a petition for appointment of a special master and proposed order thereon and a formal complaint from the Investigative Panel, the Clerk of the Georgia Supreme Court shall file the matter in the records of the Court, give the matter a docket number and notify the Court that appointment of a special master is appropriate. In those proceedings where a Notice of Discipline has been filed, the finding of probable cause need not be filed.

(b) Upon receipt of a petition/motion for appointment of a special master or notification that a special master previously appointed has been disqualified, the Court will nominate a special master to conduct formal disciplinary proceedings in such complaint within fourteen days. The Court shall select as special masters experienced members of the State Bar of Georgia who possess a reputation in the Bar for ethical practice; provided, that a special master may not be appointed to hear a complaint against a respondent who resides in the same circuit as that in which the special master resides.

(c) Upon being advised of appointment of a special master by the Court, the Clerk of the Court shall return the original notice of discipline, rejection of notice of discipline, if applicable, formal complaint, probable cause finding, petition for appointment of special master and the signed order thereon to the Office of General Counsel of the State Bar of Georgia. Upon notification of the appointment of a special master, the State Bar shall immediately serve the respondent with the order of appointment of a special master and with its formal complaint as hereinafter provided.

(d) Within ten days of service of the notice of appointment of a special master, the respondent and the State Bar shall lodge any and all objections or challenges they may have to the competency, qualifications or impartiality of the Special Master with the chairperson of the Review Panel. A copy of the objections or challenges shall be served upon the opposing counsel and the Special Master, who may respond to such objections or challenge. The chairperson of the Review Panel shall, within fifteen days, consider the challenges, the responses of counsel and of the Special Master, if any, determine whether the Special Master is disqualified and notify the parties and the Special Master of his decision. Exceptions to the chairperson's denial of disqualification are subject to review by the entire Review Panel and, thereafter, by the Supreme Court when exceptions arising during the evidentiary hearing and exceptions to the report of the Special Master and the Review Panel are properly before the Court. In the event of disqualification of a Special Master by the chairperson of the Review Panel, the Clerk of the Supreme Court, the Special Master and the parties shall be notified of the disqualification and nomination of a successor Special Master shall proceed as provided in this rule.

(t) Special Masters (a) The Supreme Court shall select and maintain a limited pool of qualified lawyers to serve as Special Masters. The names of those so selected shall be placed on a list maintained by the Supreme Court and shall be published annually in a regular State publication. Although not mandatory, it is preferable that a lawyer so selected shall only remain on such list for five years, so that the term may generally be considered to be five years. Any lawyer whose name is removed from such list shall be eligible to be selected and placed on the list at any subsequent time.

(b) Training for Special Masters is required, subject to the terms of this Rule. Special Masters shall attend one Special Master training session within twelve months after selection by the Supreme Court to serve as Special Master. The Special Master training shall consist of a minimum of a six hour planned session conducted by ICJE or ICLE with input from the Office of General Counsel, the RespondentÂ’s Bar and the Supreme Court of Georgia. Special Masters who fail to attend such a minimum training session shall periodically be removed from consideration for appointment in future cases. Failure to attend such a training session shall not be the basis for a disqualification of any Special Master, as such qualifications shall remain in the sole discretion of the Supreme Court. Attorneys who are serving as Special Masters at the time this Rule is amended to require Special Master training shall be exempt from the provisions of this subparagraph; however, they are encouraged to participate in such training sessions.

(c) The Special Masters may be paid by the State Bar of Georgia from the general operating funds on a per case rate to be set by the Supreme Court.

(d) On or before the first day of March of each year, the Supreme Court may set the amount to be paid to the Special Masters during the fiscal year beginning the first day of July of that year, which rate shall continue until the conclusion of the fiscal year of the State Bar. (u) Special Masters in Emergency Suspension Proceedings; Qualifications, Training, Terms, Powers and Duties (a) In addition to the pool of Special Masters described in Rule 4-209.1, the Supreme Court shall appoint six members of the State Bar, and such additional number of members as the Court may feel to be desirable or necessary from time to time, to serve as Special Masters in emergency suspension show cause hearings and in such other matters as may be designated by the Supreme Court. Two (2) bar members shall be selected from each of the three federal judicial districts in Georgia, additional members shall be selected from appropriate federal judicial districts in Georgia as determined by the Court, and all appointees shall serve for five-year terms. A Special Master shall be eligible for reappointment.

(b) Training for Special Masters who serve in emergency suspension proceedings is required as provided in Bar Rule 4-209.1(b).

(c) A Special Master in an emergency suspension proceeding shall have the following powers and duties:

(1) to exercise general supervision over proceedings assigned to him or her and to perform all duties specifically enumerated in these Rules;

(2) to permit negotiations between the State Bar of Georgia and the Respondent;

(3) to receive and evaluate any Petition for Voluntary Discipline filed by a Respondent, to receive and evaluate responses to such petition from the Office of General Counsel and to make recommendations to the Supreme Court on such petition;

(4) to grant continuances and to extend any time limit provided for herein as to any matter pending before him or her;

(5) to apply to the Supreme Court of Georgia for an order naming a successor in the event that the Special Master becomes incapacitated to perform his or her duties;

(6) to sign subpoenas and exercise the powers described in Rule 4-221(b);

(7) to preside over evidentiary hearings and to decide questions of law and fact raised during such hearings; and

(8) to make a recommendation as to whether the Respondent should be suspended pending further disciplinary proceedings.

(v) Powers and Duties of Special Masters

In accordance with these rules a duly appointed Special Master shall have the following powers and duties:

(a) to exercise general supervision over disciplinary proceedings assigned to him and to perform all duties specifically enumerated in these Rules;

(b) to pass on all questions concerning the sufficiency of the formal complaint;

(c) to conduct the negotiations between the State Bar of Georgia and the Respondent, whether at a pretrial meeting set by the special master or at any other time;

(d) to receive and evaluate any Petition for Voluntary Discipline;

(e) to grant continuances and to extend any time limit provided for herein as to any matter pending before him;

(f) to apply to the Supreme Court of Georgia for an order naming his successor in the event that he becomes incapacitated to perform his duties or in the event that he learns that he and the respondent reside in the same circuit;

(g) to defer action on any complaint pending before him when he learns of the docketing of another complaint against the same respondent and believes that the new complaint will be assigned to him by the Supreme Court;

(h) to hear and determine action on the complaints, where there are multiple complaints against a respondent growing out of different transactions, whether they involve one or more complainants, as separate counts, and may proceed to make recommendations on each count as constituting a separate offense;

(i) to sign subpoenas and exercise the powers described in Rule 4-221(b);

(j) to preside over evidentiary hearings and to decide questions of law and fact raised during such hearings;

(k) to make findings of fact, conclusions of law and the recommendation of discipline as hereinafter provided and to submit his findings for consideration by the Review Panel or the Supreme Court; and

(l) to exercise general supervision over discovery by parties to disciplinary proceedings and to conduct such hearings and sign all appropriate pleadings and orders pertaining to such discovery as are provided for by the law of Georgia applicable to discovery in civil cases.

(w) Formal Complaint; Service

(a) Within thirty days after a finding of probable cause, a formal complaint shall be prepared which shall specify with reasonable particularity the acts complained of and the grounds for disciplinary action. A formal complaint shall include the names and addresses of witnesses so far as then known. A copy of the formal complaint shall be served upon the respondent after nomination of a Special Master by the Supreme Court. In those cases where a Notice of Discipline has been filed and rejected, the filing of the formal complaint shall be governed by the time period set forth in Rule 4-208.4. The formal complaint shall be served pursuant to Bar Rule 4-203.1.

(b) This subparagraph is reserved.

(c) At all stages of the proceeding both the respondent and the State Bar of Georgia may be represented by counsel. Counsel representing the State Bar of Georgia shall be authorized to prepare and sign notices, pleadings, motions, complaints, and certificates for and in behalf of the State Bar of Georgia and the State Disciplinary Board.

(x) Dismissal after Formal Complaint At any time after the Investigative Panel finds probable cause, the Office of General Counsel may dismiss the proceeding with the consent of the Chairperson or Vice Chairperson of the Investigative Panel or with the consent of any three members of the Investigative Panel.
(y) Answer of Respondent; Discovery (a) The respondent shall serve his answer to the formal complaint of the State Bar within thirty days after service of the formal complaint. In the event that respondent fails to answer or to obtain an extension of time for his answer, the facts alleged and violations charged in the formal complaint shall be deemed admitted. In the event the respondentÂ’s answer fails to address specifically the issues raised in the formal complaint, the facts alleged and violations charged in the formal complaint and not specifically addressed in the answer shall be deemed admitted. A respondent may obtain an extension of time not to exceed fifteen days to file the answer from the special master, or, when a challenge to the special master is pending, from the chairperson of the Review Panel. Extensions of time for the filing of an answer shall not be routinely granted.

(b) The pendency of objections or challenges to one or more special masters shall provide no justification for a respondentÂ’s failure to file his answer or for failure of the State Bar or the respondent to engage in discovery.

(c) Both parties to the disciplinary proceeding may engage in discovery under the rules of practice and procedure then applicable to civil cases in the State of Georgia.

(d) In lieu of filing an answer to the formal complaint of the State Bar, the respondent may submit to the special master a Petition for Voluntary Discipline; provided, however, that each such petition shall contain admissions of fact and admissions of conduct in violation of Part IV, Chapter 1 of these rules sufficient to authorize the imposition of discipline. As provided in Rule 4-210(d), the special master may solicit a response to such petition from Bar counsel.
(z) Evidentiary Hearing
(a) Within ninety (90) days after the filing of Respondent's answer to the formal complaint or the time for filing of the answer, whichever is later, the Special Master shall proceed to hear the case. The evidentiary hearing shall be stenographically reported and may be transcribed at the request and expense of the requesting party. When the hearing is complete, the Special Master shall proceed to make findings of fact, conclusions of law and a recommendation of discipline and file a report with the Review Panel or the Supreme Court as hereinafter provided. Alleged errors in the trial may be reviewed by the Supreme Court when the findings and recommendations of discipline of the Review Panel are filed with the Court. There shall be no direct appeal from such proceedings of the Special Master.

(b) Upon a showing of necessity and a showing of financial inability by the respondent to pay for the transcription, the Special Master shall order the State Bar of Georgia to provide the transcript.

(aa) Report of the Special Master to the Review Panel

(a) Within thirty (30) days from receipt of the transcript of the evidentiary hearing, the Special Master shall prepare a report which shall contain the following:

(1) findings of fact on the issues raised by the formal complaint, and

(2) conclusions of law on the issues raised by the pleadings of the parties; and

(3) a recommendation of discipline.

(b) The Special Master shall file his or her original report and recommendation with the Clerk of the State Disciplinary Board and shall serve a copy on the Respondent and counsel for the State Bar pursuant to Rule 4-203.1.

(c) Thirty (30) days after the Special MasterÂ’s report and recommendation is filed, the Clerk of the State Disciplinary Board  shall file the original record in the case directly with the Supreme Court unless either party requests review by the Review Panel as provided in paragraph (d) of this Rule. In the event neither party requests review by the Review Panel and the matter goes directly to the Supreme Court, both parties shall be deemed to have waived any right they may have under the Rules to file exceptions with or make request for oral argument to the Supreme Court. Any review undertaken by the Supreme Court shall be solely on the original record.

(d) Upon receipt of the Special MasterÂ’s report, either party may request review by the Review Panel as provided in Rule 4-218. Such party shall file the request and exceptions with the Clerk of the State Disciplinary Board in accordance with Bar Rule 4-221(f) and serve them on the opposing party within thirty (30) days after the Special MasterÂ’s report is filed with the Clerk of the State Disciplinary Board. Upon receipt of a timely written request and exceptions, the Clerk of the State Disciplinary Board shall prepare and file the record and report with the Review Panel. The responding party shall have ten (10) days after service of the exceptions within which to respond.
(bb) Findings by the Review Panel (a) Upon receipt of the report from a Special Master pursuant to Rule 4-217(d), the Review Panel shall consider the record, make findings of fact and conclusions of law and determine whether a recommendation of disciplinary action will be made to the Supreme Court and the nature of such recommended discipline. The findings of fact and conclusions of law made by a Special Master shall not be binding on the Panel and may be reversed by it on the basis of the record submitted to the Panel by the Special Master.

(b) The Respondent shall have the right to challenge the competency, qualifications, or objectivity of any member of the Review Panel considering the case against him under a procedure as provided for in the rules of the Panel.

(c) There shall be no de novo hearing before the Review Panel except by unanimous consent of the Panel.

(d) The Review Panel may grant rehearings, or new trials, for such reasons, in such manner, on such issues and within such times as the ends of justice may require.

(e) The Review Panel may consider exceptions to the report of the Special Master and may in its discretion grant oral argument. Exceptions and briefs shall be filed with the Clerk of the State Disciplinary Board, in accordance with Bar Rules 4-217(d) and 4-221(f). The responding party shall have ten (10) days after service of the exceptions within which to respond.

(f) The Review Panel shall file its report and the complete record in the disciplinary proceeding with the Clerk of the Supreme Court. A copy of the PanelÂ’s report shall be served upon the Respondent.
(cc) Judgments and Protective Orders (a) After either the Review Panel's report or the Special Master's report is filed with the Supreme Court, the respondent and the State Bar may file with the Court any written exceptions, supported by written argument, each may have to the report subject to the provisions of Rule 4-217(c). All such exceptions shall be filed with the Court within twenty days of the date that the report is filed with the Court and a copy served upon the opposing party. The responding party shall have an additional twenty days to file its response with the Court. The court may grant oral argument on any exception filed with it upon application for such argument by a party to the disciplinary proceedings. The Court will promptly consider the report of the Review Panel or the Special Master, any exceptions, and any responses filed by any party to such exceptions, and enter judgment upon the formal complaint. A copy of the Court's judgment shall be transmitted to the State Bar and the respondent by the Court.

(b) In cases in which the Supreme Court orders disbarment, voluntary surrender of license or suspension, or the respondent is disbarred or suspended on a Notice of Discipline, the Review Panel shall publish in a local newspaper or newspapers and on the official State Bar website, notice of the discipline, including the Respondent's full name and business address, the nature of the discipline imposed and the effective dates.

(c) (1) After a final judgment of disbarment or suspension, including a disbarment or suspension on a Notice of Discipline, the respondent shall immediately cease the practice of law in Georgia and shall, within thirty days, notify all clients of his inability to represent them and of the necessity for promptly retaining new counsel, and shall take all actions necessary to protect the interests of his clients. Within forty-five days after a final judgment of disbarment or suspension, the respondent shall certify to the Court that he has satisfied the requirements of this Rule. Should the respondent fail to comply with the requirements of this Rule, the Supreme Court, upon its own motion or upon motion of the Office of the General Counsel, and after ten days notice to the respondent and proof of his failure to notify or protect his clients, may hold the respondent in contempt and order that a member or members of the State Bar of Georgia take charge of the files and records of the respondent and proceed to notify all clients and to take such steps as seem indicated to protect their interest. Motions for reconsideration may be taken from the issuance or denial of such protective order by either the respondent or by the State Bar of Georgia.

(2) After a final judgment of disbarment or suspension under Part IV of these Rules, including a disbarment or suspension on a Notice of Discipline, the respondent shall take such action necessary to cause the removal of any indicia of the respondent as a lawyer, legal assistant, legal clerk or person with similar status. In the event the respondent should maintain a presence in an office where the practice of law is conducted, the respondent shall not:

(i) have any contact with the clients of the office either in person, by telephone or in writing; or

(ii) have any contact with persons who have legal dealings with the office either in person, by telephone, or in writing.

(d) Upon a final determination by the Court that an attorney has disappeared, died, or become physically or mentally incapacitated, or poses a substantial threat of harm to his clients or the public, and that no partner, associate or other appropriate representative is available to notify his clients of this fact the Supreme Court may order that a member or members of the State Bar of Georgia be appointed as receiver to take charge of the attorney's files and records. Such receiver shall review the files, notify the attorney's clients and take such steps as seem indicated to protect the interests of the clients, the attorney and the public. A motion for reconsideration may be taken from the issuance or denial of such protective order by the respondent, his partners, associates or legal representatives or by the State Bar of Georgia.

(e) Any member of the State Bar of Georgia appointed by the Supreme Court as receiver to take charge of the files and records of a disciplined, deceased, incapacitated, imprisoned or disappearing attorney under these rules shall not be permitted to disclose any information contained in the files and records in his care without the consent of the client to whom such file or record relates, except as clearly necessary to carry out the order of the Court, or upon application by order of the Supreme Court.

(f) Any person serving as a receiver under these rules shall be immune from suit for any conduct in the course of their official duties.
(dd) Notice of Punishment or Acquittal; Administration of Reprimands
(a) Upon a final judgment of disbarment or suspension, notice of the action taken shall be given by the Office of the General Counsel of the State Bar of Georgia to the clerks of all courts of record in this State and to the Secretary of the State Bar of Georgia, and the name of the respondent in question shall be stricken from the rolls of said courts and from the rolls of the State Bar of Georgia either permanently, in case of disbarment, or for the prescribed period in case of suspension.

(b) Review Panel Reprimands shall be administered before the Panel by the chairperson or his or her designee.

(c) Public Reprimands shall be prepared by the Review Panel, the Chairperson of the Review Panel or his or her designee, and shall be read in open court, in the presence of the respondent, by the judge of the superior court in the county in which the respondent resides or in the county in which the disciplinary infraction occurred, with the location to be specified by the Review Panel, subject to the approval of the Supreme Court.

(d) After a Public or Review Panel Reprimand has been administered, a certificate reciting the fact of the administration of the reprimand and the date of its administration shall be filed with the Supreme Court. There shall be attached to such certificate a copy of the reprimand. Both the certificate and the copy of the reprimand shall become a part of the record in the disciplinary proceeding.

(e) In the event of a final judgment of acquittal, the State Bar of Georgia shall, if directed by the respondent, give notice thereof to the clerk of the superior court of the county in which the respondent resides. The respondent may give reasonable public notice of the judgment or acquittal.
(ee) Procedures (a) Oaths. Before entering upon his duties as herein provided each member of the State Disciplinary Board and each Special Master shall subscribe to an oath to be administered by any person authorized to administer oaths under the laws of this State, such oath to be in writing and filed with the Executive Director of the State Bar of Georgia. The form of such oath shall be:

"I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all of the duties incumbent upon me as a member of the State Disciplinary Board of the State Bar of Georgia/Special Master according to the best of my ability and understanding and agreeable to the laws and Constitution of this State and the Constitution of the United States so help me God."

(b) Witnesses and Evidence; Contempt.

(1) The respondent and the State Bar shall have the right to require the issuance of subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses to testify or to produce books and papers. The State Disciplinary Board or a special master shall have power to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of books, papers, and documents, relevant to the matter under investigation, by subpoena, and as further provided by law in civil cases under the laws of Georgia.

(2) The following shall subject a person to rule for contempt of the Special Master or Panel:

(i) disregard, in any manner whatever, of a subpoena issued pursuant to Rule 4-221(b) (1),

(ii) refusal to answer any pertinent or proper question of a Special Master or Board member, or

(iii) wilful or flagrant violation of a lawful directive of a Special Master or Board member.

It shall be the duty of the chairperson of the affected Panel or Special Master to report the fact to the Chief Judge of the superior court in and for the county in which said investigation, trial or hearing is being held. The superior court shall have jurisdiction of the matter and shall follow the procedures for contempt as are applicable in the case of a witness subpoenaed to appear and give evidence on the trial of a civil case before the superior court under the laws in Georgia.

(3) Any member of the State Disciplinary Board and any Special Master shall have power to administer oaths and affirmations and to issue any subpoena herein provided for.

(4) Depositions may be taken by the respondent or the State Bar in the same manner and under the same provisions as may be done in civil cases under the laws of Georgia, and such depositions may be used upon the trial or an investigation or hearing in the same manner as such depositions are admissible in evidence in civil cases under the laws of Georgia.

(5) All witnesses attending any hearing provided for under these rules shall be entitled to the same fees as now are allowed by law to witnesses attending trials in civil cases in the superior courts of this State under subpoena, and said fees shall be assessed against the parties to the proceedings under the rule of law applicable to civil suits in the superior courts of this State.

(6) Whenever the deposition of any person is to be taken in this State pursuant to the laws of another state, territory, province or commonwealth, or of the United States or of another country for use in attorney discipline, fitness or disability proceedings there, the chairperson of the Investigative Panel, or his or her designee upon petition, may issue a summons or subpoena as provided in this section to compel the attendance of witnesses and production of documents at such deposition.

(c) Venue of Hearings.

(1) The hearings on all complaints and charges against resident respondents shall be held in the county of residence of the respondent unless he otherwise agrees.

(2) Where the respondent is a nonresident of the State of Georgia and the complaint arose in the State of Georgia, the hearing shall be held in the county where the complaint arose.

(3) When the respondent is a nonresident of the State of Georgia and the offense occurs outside the State, the hearing may be held in the county of the State Bar of Georgia headquarters.

(d) Confidentiality of Investigations and Proceedings.

(1) The State Bar shall maintain as confidential all disciplinary investigations and proceedings pending at the screening or investigative stage, unless otherwise provided by these rules.

(2) After a proceeding under these rules is filed with the Supreme Court, all evidentiary and motions hearings shall be open to the public and all reports rendered shall be public documents.

(3) Nothing in these rules shall prohibit the complainant, respondent or third party from disclosing information regarding a disciplinary proceeding, unless otherwise ordered by the Supreme Court or a Special Master in proceedings under these rules.

(4) The Office of the General Counsel of the State Bar or the Investigative Panel of the State Disciplinary Board may reveal or authorize disclosure of information which would otherwise be confidential under this rule under the following circumstances:

(i) In the event of a charge of wrongful conduct against any member of the State Disciplinary Board or any person who is otherwise connected with the disciplinary proceeding in any way, either Panel of the Board or its Chairperson or his or her designee, may authorize the use of information concerning disciplinary investigations or proceedings to aid in the defense against such charge.

(ii) In the event the Office of General Counsel receives information that suggests criminal activity, such information may be revealed to the appropriate criminal prosecutor.

(iii) In the event of subsequent disciplinary proceedings against a lawyer, the Office of General Counsel may, in aggravation of discipline in the pending disciplinary case, reveal the imposition of confidential discipline under Rules 4-205 to 4-208 and facts underlying the imposition of discipline.

(iv) A complainant or lawyer representing the complainant may be notified of the status or disposition of the complaint.

(v) When public statements that are false or misleading are made about any otherwise confidential disciplinary case, the Office of General Counsel may disclose all information necessary to correct such false or misleading statements.

(5) The Office of General Counsel may reveal confidential information to the following persons if it appears that the information may assist them in the discharge of their duties:

(i) The Committee on the Arbitration of Attorney Fee Disputes or the comparable body in other jurisdictions;

(ii) The Trustees of the Clients' Security Fund or the comparable body in other jurisdictions;

(iii) The Judicial Nominating Commission or the comparable body in other jurisdictions;

(iv) The Lawyer Assistance Program or the comparable body in other jurisdictions;

(v) The Board to Determine Fitness of Bar Applicants or the comparable body in other jurisdictions;

(vi) The Judicial Qualifications Commission or the comparable body in other jurisdictions;

(vii) The Executive Committee with the specific approval of the following representatives of the Investigative Panel of the State Disciplinary Board: the chairperson, the vice-chairperson and a third representative designated by the chairperson;

(viii) The Formal Advisory Opinion Board;

(ix) The Consumer Assistance Program;

(x) The General Counsel Overview Committee;

(xi) An office or committee charged with discipline appointed by the United States Circuit or District Court or the highest court of any state, District of Columbia, commonwealth or possession of the United States; and


(xii) The Unlicensed Practice of Law Department.

(6) Any information used by the Office of the General Counsel in a proceeding under Rule 4-108 or in a proceeding to obtain a Receiver to administer the files of a member of the State Bar, shall not be confidential under this rule.

(7) The Office of General Counsel may reveal confidential information when required by law or court order.

(8) The authority or discretion to reveal confidential information under this rule shall not constitute a waiver of any evidentiary, statutory or other privilege which may be asserted by the State Bar or the State Disciplinary Board under Bar Rules or applicable law.

(9) Nothing in this rule shall prohibit the Office of the General Counsel or the Investigative Panel from interviewing potential witnesses or placing the Notice of Investigation out for service by sheriff or other authorized person.

(10) Members of the Office of General Counsel and State Disciplinary Board may respond to specific inquiries concerning matters that have been made public by the complainant, respondent or third parties but are otherwise confidential under these rules by acknowledging the existence and status of the proceeding.

(11) The State Bar shall not disclose information concerning discipline imposed on a lawyer under prior Supreme Court Rules that was confidential when imposed, unless authorized to do so by said prior rules.

(e) Burden of Proof; Evidence.

(1) In all proceedings under this Chapter the burden of proof shall be on the State Bar of Georgia, except for proceedings under Bar Rule 4-106.

(2) In all proceedings under this chapter occurring after a finding of probable cause as described in Rule 4-204.4, the procedures and rules of evidence applicable in civil cases under the laws of Georgia shall apply, except that the quantum of proof required of the State Bar shall be clear and convincing evidence.

(f) Pleadings and Copies. Original pleadings shall be filed with the Clerk of the State Disciplinary Board at the headquarters of the State Bar of Georgia and copies served upon the Special Master and all parties to the disciplinary proceeding. Depositions and other original discovery shall be retained by counsel and shall not be filed except as permitted under the Uniform Superior Court Rules.

(g) Pleadings and Communications Privileged. Pleadings and oral and written statements of members of the State Disciplinary Board, members and designees of the Committee on Lawyer Impairment, Special Masters, Bar counsel and investigators, complainants, witnesses, and respondents and their counsel made to one another or filed in the record during any investigation, intervention, hearing or other disciplinary proceeding under this Part IV, and pertinent to the disciplinary proceeding, are made in performance of a legal and public duty, are absolutely privileged, and under no circumstances form the basis for a right of action.
(ff) Limitation (a) No proceeding under Part IV, Chapter 2, shall be brought unless a Memorandum of Grievance has been received at State Bar of Georgia headquarters or instituted by the Investigative Panel within four years after the commission of the act. Provided, however, this limitation shall be tolled during any period of time, not to exceed two years, that the offender or the offense is unknown, the offender's whereabouts are unknown, or the offender's name is removed from the roll of those authorized to practice law in this State.

(b) Referral of a matter to the Investigative Panel by the Office of the General Counsel shall occur within twelve months of the receipt of the Memorandum of Grievance at State Bar of Georgia headquarters or institution of a Memorandum of Grievance by the Investigative Panel.

(gg) Advisory Opinions

(a) Any Formal Advisory Opinion issued pursuant to Rule 4-403 which is not thereafter disapproved by the Supreme Court of Georgia shall be binding on the State Bar of Georgia, the State Disciplinary Board, and the person who requested the opinion, in any subsequent disciplinary proceeding involving that person. Formal Advisory Opinions which have been approved or modified by the Supreme Court pursuant to Rule 4-403 shall also be binding in subsequent disciplinary proceedings which do not involve the person who requested the opinion. (b) It shall be considered as mitigation to any grievance under these rules that the respondent has acted in accordance with and in reasonable reliance upon a written Informal Advisory Opinion requested by the respondent pursuant to Rule 4-40 1 or a Formal Advisory Opinion issued pursuant to Rule 4-403, but not reviewed by the Supreme Court of Georgia. (hh) Expungement of Records (a) The record of any grievance against a respondent under these rules which does not result in discipline against the respondent shall be expunged by the State Disciplinary Board in accordance with the following:

(1) those grievances closed by the Office of the General Counsel after screening pursuant to Rule 4-202(c) shall be expunged after one year;

(2) those grievances dismissed by the Investigative Panel of the State Disciplinary Board after a probable cause investigation pursuant to Rule 4-204 (a) shall be expunged after two years; and

(3) those complaints dismissed by the Supreme Court after formal proceedings shall be expunged after two years.

(b) Definition. The terms "expunge" and "expunction" shall mean that all records or other evidence of the existence of the complaint shall be destroyed.

(c) Effect of Expungement. After a file has been expunged, any agency response to an inquiry requiring a reference to the matter shall state that any record the agency may have had of such matter has been expunged pursuant to court rule and, in addition, shall state that no inference adverse to the respondent is to be drawn on the basis of the incident in question. The respondent may answer any inquiry requiring a reference to an expunged matter by stating that the grievance or formal complaint was dismissed and thereafter expunged pursuant to court rule.

(d) Retention of Records. Upon application to the State Disciplinary Board by bar counsel, for good cause shown and with notice to the respondent and opportunity to be heard, records which should otherwise be expunged under this Rule may be retained for such additional period of time not exceeding three years as the State Disciplinary Board deems appropriate. Counsel may seek a further extension of the period for which retention of the records is authorized whenever a previous application has been granted for the maximum period permitted hereunder.

(e) A lawyer may respond in the negative when asked if there are any complaints against the lawyer if the matter has been expunged pursuant to this rule. Before making a negative response to any such inquiry, the lawyer shall confirm the expunction of the record and shall not presume that any matter has been expunged.

(f) A lawyer may respond in the negative when asked if he has ever been professionally disciplined or determined to have violated any professional disciplinary rules if all grievances filed against the lawyer have either been dismissed or dismissed with a letter of instruction.

 

(ii) Jurisdiction

 

The State Disciplinary Board and any person who is connected with disciplinary proceedings in any way shall not be subject to the jurisdiction of any court other than the Supreme Court with respect thereto, except as provided in Rules 4-214, 4-215 and 4-216.

 

(jj) Petitions for Voluntary Discipline

 

(a) A petition for voluntary discipline shall contain admissions of fact and admissions of conduct in violation of Part IV, Chapter 1 of these rules sufficient to authorize the imposition of discipline.

(b) Prior to the issuance of a formal complaint, a respondent may submit a petition for voluntary discipline seeking any level of discipline authorized under these rules.

(1) Those petitions seeking private discipline shall be filed with the Office of General Counsel and assigned to a member of the Investigative Panel. The Investigative Panel of the State Disciplinary Board shall conduct an investigation and determine whether to accept or reject the petition as outlined at Bar Rule 4-203(a)(9).

(2) Those petitions seeking public discipline shall be filed directly with the Clerk of the Supreme Court. The Office of General Counsel shall have 30 days within which to file a response. The court shall issue an appropriate order.

(c) After the issuance of a formal complaint a Respondent may submit a petition for voluntary discipline seeking any level of discipline authorized under these rules.

(1) The petition shall be filed with the Special Master who shall allow bar counsel 30 days within which to respond. The Office of General Counsel may assent to the petition or may file a response, stating objections and giving the reasons therefore. The Office of General Counsel shall serve a copy of its response upon the respondent.

(2) The Special Master shall consider the petition, the BarÂ’s response and, the record as it then exists and may accept or reject the petition for voluntary discipline.

(3) The Special Master may reject a petition for such cause or causes as seem appropriate to the Special Master. Such causes may include but are not limited to a finding that:

(i) the petition fails to contain admissions of fact and admissions of conduct in violation of Part IV, Chapter 1 of these rules sufficient to authorize the imposition of discipline;

(ii) the petition fails to request appropriate discipline;

(iii) the petition fails to contain sufficient information concerning the admissions of fact and the admissions of conduct;

(iv) the record in the proceeding does not contain sufficient information upon which to base a decision to accept or reject.

 


(4) The Special Master's decision to reject a petition for voluntary discipline does not preclude the filing of a subsequent petition and is not subject to review by either the Review Panel or the Supreme Court. If the Special Master rejects a petition for voluntary discipline, the disciplinary case shall proceed as provided by these rules.

(5) If the Special Master accepts the petition for voluntary discipline, s/he shall enter a report making findings of fact and conclusions of law and deliver same to the Clerk of the State Disciplinary Board. The Clerk of the State Disciplinary Board shall file the report and the complete record in the disciplinary proceeding with the Clerk of the Supreme Court. A copy of the Special Master's report shall be served upon the respondent. The Court shall issue an appropriate order.

(6) Pursuant to Bar Rule 4-210(e), the Special Master may in his or her discretion extend any of the time limits in these rules in order to adequately consider a petition for voluntary discipline.

All attorney misconduct complaints will be handled by a Special Grand Jury. The association of attorneys (Bar Association) will cease being the sole means of “policing” attorneys. All attorney complaints will be made public.  [Just as with judges as discussed immediately above, expecting the association of attorneys to discipline their members isn't the independent way that complaints should be handled.  Citizens probably are not aware that the Bar Association is nothing but an association; it isn't a government entity.  Attorneys do massive damage to people, and the way to minimize this is to make attorneys accountable to a jury of citizens from the county.] Parties may present claims of attorney misconduct, judicial misconduct, clerk’s office misconduct, and law enforcement misconduct to a Special Grand Jury. [Attorneys, judges, judicial staff, clerks of court, and law enforcement all commit misconduct, and a Special Grand Jury provides the independent tribunal that the citizens need.] Attorneys must go by the letter of every law and every professional rule.  Judges must subject attorneys to onerous consequences for violations. [There are rules that will make the legal process infinitely more fair and less expensive.  Judges must honor and enforce the rules.  It is one of the only ways to get attorneys and judges to be honest.] Attorneys who violate their Code of Professional Conduct shall be referred to a Special Grand Jury. [Attorneys are a big part of the problem with the legal system. 

Notes:  If attorneys followed their Code of Professional Conduct, the legal system would be much fairer, and the expense of litigation would be dramatically reduced.  Accountability by an independent Special Regulatory Grand Jury should have amazing impact.

All Bar documents must be public record.

Notes:  Nothing in the legal world should be secret, especially complaints about participants in the legal process.

(kk) All attorneys and judges must pass a competency exam on constitutional principles, particularly rights.

Notes: State must ensure that qualified people are in place.

 

NOTE: I STILL HAVE SOME EDITING TO DO OF THE ABOVE INFORMATION TO COMPLETE CONVERSION FROM BAR ASSOCIATION TO STATE.

* Changes and addirtions to existing statutes are shown in yellow.

Proposed Legislation - Part 1

Proposed Legislation - Part 2

Proposed Legislation - Part 3

Proposed Legislation - Part 4

Proposed Legislation - Part 5

Proposed Legislation - Part 6

Proposed Legislation - Part 7

Proposed Legislation - Part 8

Proposed Legislation - Part 9

Proposed Legislation - Part 10

Proposed Legislation - Part 11

Proposed Legislation - Part 12

Proposed Legislation - Part 13

Proposed Legislation - Part 14

Proposed Legislation - Part 15

Proposed Legislation - Part 16

Proposed Legislation - Part 17

This legislation is authored by William M. Windsor and GRIP -- Government Reform & Integrity Platform, a coalition of those fighting government corruption and judicial corruption.


William M. Windsor

I, William M. Windsor, am not an attorney.  This website expresses my OPINIONS.   The comments of visitors or guest authors to the website are their opinions and do not therefore reflect my opinions.  Anyone mentioned by name in any article is welcome to file a response.   This website does not provide legal advice.  I do not give legal advice.  I do not practice law.  This website is to expose government corruption, law enforcement corruption, political corruption, and judicial corruption.   Whatever this website says about the law is presented in the context of how I or others perceive the applicability of the law to a set of circumstances if I (or some other author) was in the circumstances under the conditions discussed.  Despite my concerns about lawyers in general, I suggest that anyone with legal questions consult an attorney for an answer, particularly after reading anything on this website.  The law is a gray area at best.  Please read our Legal Notice and Terms.


{jcomments on}

Judges

Judicial Corruption is rampant.  Our rights to a fair trial are a myth.  Many judges are totally corrupt.

Constitution

Our fundamental rights have been taken away by a government of wrongs. Stolen by corruption.

Attorneys

Misconduct is everywhere. Dishonesty abounds. Perjury, subornation of perjury, corruption!

Police

Abuse, Dishonesty, Corruption.  It's all common with Police and Law Enforcement.

Government

Government Dishonesty is Bad.
We must find honest people
and make them accountable
to We the People.