Judicial Reporting of Lawyer Misconduct
32 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2009
Date Written: March 19, 2009
It has long been recognized that judges can and should play a central role in the lawyer disciplinary process by reporting substantial lawyer misconduct they observe to disciplinary authorities. Despite the nearly 20-year existence of a mandatory reporting rule in such instances, the conventional wisdom suggests that the rule often is not followed. While the 2007 revision of the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct provided a golden opportunity to address this problem, the process resulted in little more than a hortatory reaffirmation of the basic principle. There is a better path.
In this essay, I thoroughly analyze the costs and benefits of mandatory judicial reporting, the outcome of which reaffirms the importance of having a rule that works, set forth the case for why we can realistically expect judges, more so than lawyers, to carry out that duty, and provide concrete steps to achieve that promise.
Keywords: legal ethics, professional responsibility, judges
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