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Bar Journal - December 1, 2002

Bar's Ethics Committee Provides Guidance to Vexing Questions
 

Attorneys looking for answers to difficult questions on the interpretation of their ethical obligations can seek help through the Bar's Ethics Committee.

The Committee regularly publishes opinions or "Practical Ethics" articles responding to fact-specific inquiries or generally discussing ethical issues. Ethics Committee opinions or articles are published in Bar News; a complete library of past publications is posted on the Bar's web site at www.nhbar.org. Click on "NH Practice Guidelines" button to the left on the home page.

The following is a series of commonly asked questions about the Ethics Committee:

How can I request an opinion from the Ethics Committee?

Requests for opinions should be in the form of a written fact pattern or hypothetical and sent to the attention of Denice DeStefano, staff liaison to the Ethics Committee, at ddestefano@nhbar.org or c/o NH Bar Association, 112 Pleasant Street, Concord, NH 03301.

Correspondence with the Ethics Committee on questions is confidential, and published opinions are written so that readers cannot identify the inquirer.

Members are encouraged to visit the web site first to see if there is an opinion on point before requesting an opinion from the committee.

While exceptions may be made in appropriate circumstances, the Ethics Committee will not generally render opinions pertaining to past conduct, or conduct which is an issue of pending litigation or disciplinary action. The identity of inquirers is always kept confidential.

Is the index of opinions up to date on the web?

Yes. The index includes titles of all opinions to date including Practical Ethics Opinions.

I haven't seen any new published opinions for awhile. Why not?

The Committee's primary focus at present is on a comprehensive revision of the NH Rules of Professional Conduct. The proposed revision arises from the American Bar Association's Ethics 2000 project. It will include revision of the commentary accompanying New Hampshire Rules of Professional Conduct. The draft will be made available, including through the Bar's web site, for comment from the Bar and public before being proposed to the Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Rules. During this process, however, the Committee welcomes inquiries about the existing rules and will issue opinions as appropriate.

What if I need immediate guidance on a question. Can someone help me?

If inquirers need an immediate response, they should contact Marilyn Barbetta, the staff liaison, and she will direct the query to the most appropriate individual on the Committee. Such responses are not binding on the Ethics Committee and generally represent off-the-cuff "reality checks," primarily helpful in directing the further research of the inquirer. The Committee prefers written/emailed inquiries which allow time for more thoughtful responses.

I want to complain about another attorney's unethical conduct. Does the Ethics Committee ever intervene?

The Ethics Committee has no disciplinary function. To register complaints of violations of the Ethics Rules by members of the New Hampshire Bar, contact the Supreme Court's Committee on Professional Conduct at (603) 224-5828.

Another option is available if you have concerns about the conduct of a lawyer that could be remedied in an alternative manner by contacting the Bar's Dispute Resolution Committee (for liaison, contact Denice DeStefano at ddestefano@nhbar.org). As a member service, members of this committee provide voluntary no-cost mediation of disputes between Bar members, or between Bar members and their clients.

 

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