Issued January 30, 2003
¶ 1 Issue: May a Utah Assistant Attorney General serve as a hearing officer or other adjudicator for a Utah government agency on a matter for which the Office of Attorney General, which employs the attorney, may eventually undertake an advocacy role?
¶ 2 Conclusion: Yes. Under the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct, a lawyer’s employment by the Office of Attorney General does not, by itself and without the lawyer’s personal involvement in the matter before him, preclude the lawyer from serving as a hearing officer for a governmental agency in a matter the Office of Attorney General may later undertake as an advocate for the agency. (more…)
Issued April 23, 2003
¶1 Issue: What are the ethical responsibilities of a plaintiff’s lawyer who reasonably believes a health-care provider that he deals with on a recurring basis may be charging his clients and prospective clients for services not actually rendered?
¶2 Facts: An attorney (“Attorney”) represents tort plaintiffs. A health-care provider (“Provider”) regularly treats patients with injuries arising from motor vehicle accidents, including some of Attorney’s clients. Attorney expects to encounter Provider repeatedly as she maintains her practice in this area.
¶3 A client (“Client”) engages Attorney to represent him in connection with injuries suffered in an auto accident. In the course of the representation, Client complains about Provider’s bills, adamant that they were for services never rendered. Attorney reasonably believes Client’s claims. (more…)
Issued June 23, 2003
¶ 1 Issue: Is it ethical for a lawyer to advertise to provide legal services in Social Security Administration hearings to claimants who have been denied benefits, where nonlawyers are used by the lawyer in providing these services?
¶ 2 Opinion: With due consideration for the rules governing advertising and supervision of nonlawyers assistants, it is not unethical for a lawyer to use nonlawyer paraprofessionals to provide representation of clients in hearings before a government agency that authorizes nonlawyer representation. In particular, the lawyer does not assist the nonlawyer paraprofessional in the unauthorized practice of law under these circumstances.1 (more…)
Issued October 14, 2003
¶1 Issue: May a lawyer threaten to present criminal charges against an opposing party or witness during negotiations in a private civil matter?
¶2 Opinion: In the course of representing a client in a civil matter, it is not per se unethical for a lawyer to threaten that the client may pursue criminal charges against an adverse party where the civil and criminal matters are related. However, such a threat will be a violation of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct if it constitutes “extortion,” if the lawyer does not have a reasonable belief that such charges are warranted by the law and the facts, or if it involves “abusive treatment” of a witness. (more…)