Reporting Professional Misconduct

Rule 8.3 of the Model Rule of Professional Conduct is the model from which many states have taken their rule for lawyers to report misconduct.

(a) A lawyer having knowledge that another lawyer has committed a violation of these rules that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects shall ….(inform the appropriate professional authority; initiate proceedings under the North Dakota Rules of Disciplinary Procedure; etc.]

As an example of how this is interpreted in practice, the New York State Bar says that each of the following four prerequisites must be met before a lawyer needs to report a violation:

  • 1. the lawyer must have a ‘clear belief, or possess actual knowledge, as to the pertinent facts.
  • 2. the lawyer cannot have received his knowledge as a result of a confidence.
  • 3. the conduct must have violated a disciplinary rule.
  • 4. the violation must raise a substantial question as to the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness to practice law in other matters than the one involved in the violation.