Bar Rules

RULE 3.5 IMPARTIALITY AND DECORUM OF THE TRIBUNAL

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

A lawyer shall not, without regard to whether the lawyer represents a client in the matter:

  1. seek to influence a judge, juror, prospective juror or other official by means prohibited by law;
  2. communicate ex parte with such a person except as permitted by law; or
  3. engage in conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal.

The maximum penalty for a violation of part (a) of this Rule is disbarment. The maximum penalty for a violation of part (b) or part (c) of this Rule is a public reprimand.

Comment

[1] Many forms of improper influence upon the tribunal are proscribed by criminal law. All of those are specified in the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct with which an advocate should be familiar. Attention is also directed to Rule 8.4: Misconduct, which governs other instances of improper conduct by a lawyer/candidate.

[2] If we are to maintain the integrity of the judicial process, it is imperative that an advocate's function be limited to the presentation of evidence and argument, to allow a cause to be decided according to law. The exertion of improper influence is detrimental to that process. Regardless of an advocate's innocent intention, actions which give the appearance of tampering with judicial impartiality are to be avoided. The activity proscribed by this Rule should be observed by the advocate in such a careful manner that there be no appearance of impropriety.

[3A] The Rule with respect to ex parte communications limits direct communications except as may be permitted by law. Thus, court rules or case law must be referred to in order to determine whether certain ex parte communications are legitimate. Ex parte communications may be permitted by statutory authorization.

[3B] A lawyer who obtains a judge's signature on a decree in the absence of the opposing lawyer where certain aspects of the decree are still in dispute, may have violated Rule 3.5: Impartiality and Decorum of the Tribunal regardless of the lawyer's good intentions or good faith.

[4] A lawyer may communicate as to the merits of the cause with a judge in the course of official proceedings in the case, in writing if the lawyer simultaneously delivers a copy of the writing to opposing counsel or to the adverse party if the party is not represented by a lawyer, or orally upon adequate notice to opposing counsel or to the adverse party if the party is not represented by a lawyer.

[5] If the lawyer knowingly instigates or causes another to instigate a communication proscribed by Rule 3.5: Impartiality and Decorum of the Tribunal, a violation may occur.

[6] Direct or indirect communication with a juror during the trial is clearly prohibited. A lawyer may not avoid the proscription of Rule 3.5: Impartiality and Decorum of the Tribunal by using agents to communicate improperly with jurors. A lawyer may be held responsible if the lawyer was aware of the client's desire to establish contact with jurors and assisted the client in doing so.

[7] Reserved.

[8] While a lawyer may stand firm against abuse by a judge, the lawyer's actions should avoid reciprocation. Fairness and impartiality of the trial process is strengthened by the lawyer's protection of the record for subsequent review and this preserves the professional integrity of the legal profession by patient firmness.



GO TO RULE 3.4 FAIRNESS TO OPPOSING PARTY AND COUNSEL
GO TO RULE 3.6 TRIAL PUBLICITY
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