Bar Rules

RULE 4.2 COMMUNICATION WITH PERSON REPRESENTED BY COUNSEL

Ethics & Discipline / Current Rules / Part IV (After January 1 / 2001) - Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct (also includes Disciplinary Proceedings and Advisory Opinion rules) / CHAPTER 1 GEORGIA RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT AND ENFORCEMENT THEREOF

  1. A lawyer who is representing a client in a matter shall not communicate about the subject of the representation with a person the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter, unless the lawyer has the consent of the other lawyer or is authorized to do so by law or court order.
  2. Attorneys for the State and Federal Government shall be subject to this Rule in the same manner as other attorneys in this State.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this Rule is disbarment.

Comment

[1] This Rule does not prohibit communication with a represented person, or an employee or agent of such a person, concerning matters outside the representation. For example, the existence of a controversy between a government entity and a private party, or between two organizations, does not prohibit a lawyer for either from communicating with nonlawyer representatives of the other regarding a separate matter. Nor does this Rule preclude communication with a represented person who is seeking advice from a lawyer who is not otherwise representing a client in the matter. A lawyer having independent justification or legal authorization for communicating with a represented person is permitted to do so. Communications authorized by law include, for example, the right of a party to a controversy with a government entity to speak with government officials about the matter.

[2] Communications authorized by law also include constitutionally permissible investigative activities of lawyers representing governmental entities, directly or through investigative agents, prior to the commencement of criminal or civil enforcement proceedings, when there is applicable judicial precedent that either has found the activity permissible under this Rule or has found this Rule inapplicable. However, the Rule imposes ethical restrictions that go beyond those imposed by constitutional provisions.

[3] This Rule applies to communications with any person, whether or not a party to a formal adjudicative proceeding, contract or negotiation, who is represented by counsel concerning the matter to which the communication relates.

[4A] In the case of an organization, this Rule prohibits communications with an agent or employee of the organization who supervises, directs or regularly consults with the organization's lawyer concerning the matter or has authority to obligate the organization with respect to the matter, or whose act or omission in connection with the matter may be imputed to the organization for purposes of civil or criminal liability. See Formal Advisory Opinion 87-6. If an agent or employee of the organization is represented in the matter by his or her own counsel, the consent by that counsel to a communication will be sufficient for purposes of this Rule. Compare Rule 3.4(f). Communication with a former employee of a represented organization is discussed in Formal Advisory Opinion 94-3.

[4B] In administering this Rule it should be anticipated that in many instances, prior to the beginning of the interview, the interviewing lawyer will not possess sufficient information to determine whether the relationship of the interviewee to the entity is sufficiently close to place the person in the "represented" category. In those situations the good faith of the lawyer in undertaking the interview should be considered. Evidence of good faith includes an immediate and candid statement of the interest of the person on whose behalf the interview is being taken, a full explanation of why that person's position is adverse to the interests of the entity with which the interviewee is associated, the exploration of the relationship issue at the outset of the interview and the cessation of the interview immediately upon determination that the interview is improper.

[5] The prohibition on communications with a represented person only applies, however, in circumstances where the lawyer knows that the person is in fact represented in the matter to be discussed. This means that the lawyer has actual knowledge of the fact of the representation; but such actual knowledge may be inferred from the circumstances. See 1.0. Such an inference may arise in circumstances where there is substantial reason to believe that the person with whom communication is sought is represented in the matter to be discussed. Thus, a lawyer cannot evade the requirement of obtaining the consent of counsel by ignoring the obvious.

[6] In the event the person with whom the lawyer communicates is not known to be represented by counsel in the matter, the lawyer's communications are subject to Rule 4.3.

[6A] A lawyer who is uncertain whether a communication with a represented person is permissible may seek a court order. A lawyer may also seek a court order in exceptional circumstances to authorize a communication that would otherwise be prohibited by this Rule, for example, where communication with a person represented by counsel is necessary to avoid reasonably certain injury.

[7] The anti-contact rule serves important public interests which preserve the proper functioning of the judicial system and the administration of justice by a) protecting against misuse of the imbalance of legal skill between a lawyer and layperson; b) safe-guarding the client-lawyer relationship from interference by adverse counsel; c) ensuring that all valid claims and defenses are raised in response to inquiry from adverse counsel; d) reducing the likelihood that clients will disclose privileged or other information that might harm their interests; and e) maintaining the lawyers ability to monitor the case and effectively represent the client.

[8] Parties to a matter may communicate directly with each other because this Rule is not intended to affect communications between parties to an action entered into independent of and not at the request or direction of counsel.



GO TO RULE 4.1 TRUTHFULNESS IN STATEMENTS TO OTHERS
GO TO RULE 4.3 DEALING WITH UNREPRESENTED PERSON
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