The Short History of Arizona Legal Ethics

45 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2013 Last revised: 4 Sep 2013

See all articles by Keith Swisher

Keith Swisher

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law

Date Written: August 10, 2013


This Essay provides a history of Arizona legal ethics: its substance and procedure. A hundred years ago, legal ethics barely existed in Arizona. Fortunately, a century permits significant progress, as captured in this work. Following the lead of the ABA (among others), Arizona slowly but surely adopted a modernized system of ethical regulation. And today, Arizona shows increasing signs of autonomy in legal ethics. These signs can be seen in Arizona’s independent approach to lawyer screening, prosecutorial ethics, and inadvertent disclosure -- to focus on just a few of many examples in this “short history.”

In Part I of this Essay, beginning in Arizona’s final territorial days, I discuss the (slow) transition from no legal ethics to a critical step toward modern legal ethics: the adoption of a legal ethics code and an official body to interpret it. In Part II, I note some still-relevant conceptions of the Arizona Supreme Court’s authority to admit and discipline Arizona lawyers. I then discuss in more detail the discipline of yesterday’s lawyers - the process, substance, faults, and progress. The accompanying Appendix, moreover, summarizes the ethical allegations and dispositions of the first fifty years of disciplinary cases. In Part III, I show that Arizona has emerged from the nasty, brutish, and short legal ethics of the Arizona territory and early statehood to a modern, professionalized system. Further, I suggest that Arizona has evolved into a leader in legal ethics, or at a minimum, a state that prides itself on its autonomy and its identity in legal ethics and professional regulation.

Keywords: Legal Ethics, Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct, Canons of Professional Ethics, Arizona History, Inherent Powers, Lawyer Screening, Rule 1.10, Prosecutorial Ethics, Rule 3.8, Inadvertent Disclosure, Rule 4.4, Bates v. State Bar of Arizona

Suggested Citation

Swisher, Keith, The Short History of Arizona Legal Ethics (August 10, 2013). Arizona State Law Journal, Vol. 45, 2013, Available at SSRN:

Keith Swisher (Contact Author)

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States

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