February 18, 2019

Conduct Unbecoming: When Knowing the Rules Isn’t Enough

It is common knowledge among attorneys that violation of one of the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct (Rules) can result in sanctions against the attorney, ranging from private admonition to disbarment. But many attorneys are not aware that they can also face disciplinary proceedings for conduct that is not specifically barred by the Rules.

Under C.R.C.P. 251.5, grounds for discipline include:

1)            Any act or omission that violates the Rules of Professional Conduct;
2)            Any act or omission that violates criminal laws of Colorado or the United States;
3)            Any act or omission that violates the Rules of Civil Procedure;
4)            Any act or omission that violates a previous disciplinary order; and
5)            Absent good cause, failure to respond to a request by one of several disciplinary bodies.

The rule goes on to specify that the list of conduct constituting grounds for discipline is not exhaustive. Therefore, if an attorney engages in conduct that does not fall into one of the above categories, he or she may still face disciplinary proceedings.

There is plenty of case law from Colorado and other jurisdictions that proves attorneys can face discipline for more than outright violations of the Rules. In re Sather, 3 P.3d 403 (Colo. 2000), is one such case. Sather had charged his client a non-refundable fee, which, at the time, was not prohibited. Using case law from other jurisdictions, and a secondary source article, the Colorado Supreme Court characterized Sather’s behavior as “dishonest” and therefore a violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(d).

Another example is In re Foster, No. 10SA89, 2011 Colo. LEXIS 429 (Colo. May 23, 2011). In that case, Foster, during a divorce, filed several post-dissolution proceedings. The disciplinary hearing board determined that these proceedings constituted harassment, and charged Foster with violations of Colo. RPC 3.1 and 8.4(d). So, although it is legal and ethical to file post-dissolution proceedings, it is unethical to do so during a drawn out court battle with an ex-spouse.

This is only a small sampling of the case law available on this topic. For more information, there will be a one-hour CLE program at noon on Tuesday, June 14, “Conduct Unbecoming: When Knowing the Rules Isn’t Enough,” presented by George S. Meyer, Esq.

June 14: Conduct Unbecoming: When Knowing the Rules Isn’t Enough

This CLE presentation will take place at noon on June 14, 2011. Participants may attend live in our classroom or watch the live webcast.

If you can’t make the live program or webcast, the program will also be available as a homestudy in two formats: video on-demand and mp3 download.

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