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North Carolina

ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) Efforts in North Carolina


Status of Action in North Carolina

No known active consideration of ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) at this time. We are actively monitoring the situation and will post updates as they become available.

 


Current Rule 8.4 Misconduct
It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:

(a) violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another;

(b) commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects;

(c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s fitness as a lawyer;

(d) engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice;

(e) state or imply an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official;

(f) knowingly assist a judge or judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct or other law; or

(g) intentionally prejudice or damage his or her client during the course of the professional relationship, except as may be required by Rule 3.3.

Current Comment
[1] Lawyers are subject to discipline when they violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so or do so through the acts of another, as when they request or instruct an agent to do so on the lawyer's behalf. Paragraph (a), however, does not prohibit a lawyer from advising a client or, in the case of a government lawyer, investigatory personnel, of action the client, or such investigatory personnel, is lawfully entitled to take.

[2] Many kinds of illegal conduct reflect adversely on a lawyer's fitness to practice law, such as offenses involving fraud and the offense of willful failure to file an income tax return. However, some kinds of offenses carry no such implication. Although a lawyer is personally answerable to the entire criminal law, a lawyer should be professionally answerable only for offenses that indicate lack of those characteristics relevant to law practice. Offenses involving violence, dishonesty, breach of trust, or serious interference with the administration of justice are in that category. A pattern of repeated offenses, even ones of minor significance when considered separately, can indicate indifference to legal obligation. A lawyer's dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation is not mitigated by virtue of the fact that the victim may be the lawyer's partner or law firm. A lawyer who steals funds, for instance, is guilty of a serious disciplinary violation regardless of whether the victim is the lawyer's employer, partner, law firm, client, or a third party.

[3] The purpose of professional discipline for misconduct is not punishment, but to protect the public, the courts, and the legal profession. Lawyer discipline affects only the lawyer's license to practice law. It does not result in incarceration. For this reason, to establish a violation of paragraph (b), the burden of proof is the same as for any other violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct: it must be shown by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence that the lawyer committed a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer. Conviction of a crime is conclusive evidence that the lawyer committed a criminal act although, to establish a violation of paragraph (b), it must be shown that the criminal act reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer. If it is established by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence that a lawyer committed a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer, the lawyer may be disciplined for a violation of paragraph (b) although the lawyer is never prosecuted or is acquitted or pardoned for the underlying criminal act.

[4] A showing of actual prejudice to the administration of justice is not required to establish a violation of paragraph (d). Rather, it must only be shown that the act had a reasonable likelihood of prejudicing the administration of justice. For example, in State Bar v. DuMont, 52 N.C. App. 1, 277 S.E.2d 827 (1981), modified on other grounds, 304 N.C. 627, 286 S.E.2d 89 (1982), the defendant was disciplined for advising a witness to give false testimony in a deposition even though the witness corrected his statement prior to trial. Conduct warranting the imposition of professional discipline under paragraph (d) is characterized by the element of intent or some other aggravating circumstance. The phrase “conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice” in paragraph (d) should be read broadly to proscribe a wide variety of conduct, including conduct that occurs outside the scope of judicial proceedings. In State Bar v. Jerry Wilson, 82 DHC 1, for example, a lawyer was disciplined for conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice after forging another individual’s name to a guarantee agreement, inducing his wife to notarize the forged agreement, and using the agreement to obtain funds.

[5] Threats, bullying, harassment, and other conduct serving no substantial purpose other than to intimidate, humiliate, or embarrass anyone associated with the judicial process including judges, opposing counsel, litigants, witnesses, or court personnel violate the prohibition on conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. When directed to opposing counsel, such conduct tends to impede opposing counsel’s ability to represent his or her client effectively. Comments “by one lawyer tending to disparage the personality or performance of another...tend to reduce public trust and confidence in our courts and, in more extreme cases, directly interfere with the truth-finding function by distracting judges and juries from the serious business at hand.” State v. Rivera, 350 N.C. 285, 291, 514 S.E.2d 720, 723 (1999). See Rule 3.5, cmt. [10] and Rule 4.4, cmt. [2].

[6] A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law.

[7] Lawyers holding public office assume legal responsibilities going beyond those of other citizens. A lawyer's abuse of public office can suggest an inability to fulfill the professional role of lawyers. The same is true of abuse of positions of private trust such as trustee, executor, administrator, guardian, agent and officer, director or manager of a corporation or other organization.

History Note: Statutory Authority G.S. 84-23

Adopted by the Supreme Court: July 24, 1997

Amendments Approved by the Supreme Court: March 1, 2003; March 5, 2015; September 28, 2017