New Judicial Ethics Committee Opinion Discusses Recent Amendments to MCJC
JI-139 discusses ethical limitations on a judge’s involvement with a nonprofit entity that fundraises to support the work of a problem-solving court under the revised Canons 2 and 4 of the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct.
New Opinion Proscribes Paying a Referral Fee to a Nonlawyer-owned For Profit Entity
In RI-365, the Professional Ethics Committee affirms that a lawyer ethically cannot pay for client leads received from a nonlawyer-owned for profit entity that provides leads through its website, concluding that the payment does not qualify as payment for advertising and can only be viewed as giving something of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services.
New Opinion Discusses Lawyer Billing Practices with Clients
In RI-364, the Professional Ethics Committee amends and rescinds in part RI-241, discusses how a lawyer may ethically charge clients for expenses, and addresses services provided by third parties, in-house costs in contingent fee cases, interest, and late charges.
Changes to the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct Became Effective August 1
New and modified language related to fundraising for judicial candidates, whether incumbent judges or lawyers, reinforces the concept that judges cannot directly solicit funds and addresses a judge's receipt of funds. Additional language clarifies the types of activities associated with noncampaign-related fundraising events in which judges ethically may participate. A modification of MRPC 8.2 cross-references language in the Code of Judicial Conduct applicable to lawyers who are judicial candidates. View a redlined version of the new language. View a clean copy of the revised Code here.
New Opinion Discusses Personal Injury Lawyer's Charging for Basic Administrative Services
In RI-363, the Professional Ethics Committee determines that a personal injury lawyer's proposal to charge clients for outsourced basic administrative services must be examined from the standpoint of whether such charges would be deemed "clearly excessive" under MRPC 1.5(a), taking into consideration MCR 8.121, and concludes that a lawyer's treatment of the provision of basic administrative services as case costs chargeable to the client in a personal injury or wrongful death case in which the contingency fee agreement provides for the maximum permissible fee would be unethical.
Out-of-state attorneys seeking to appear in a Michigan case or proceeding, whether before a court, administrative tribunal or agency, or arbitration proceeding, must comply with Michigan's pro hac vice rule. Lawyers seeking temporary admission should review MCR 8.126, MCR 9.108, and Rule 15 of the Rules Concerning the State Bar of Michigan to fully understand the requirements and procedure. Every lawyer seeking admission under the pro hac vice rule subjects himself or herself to the jurisdiction of Michigan's attorney discipline system.
MCR 8.126 provides that an out-of-state attorney is permitted to appear and practice in no more than five cases in a 365-day period. For the privilege of practicing in Michigan, the out-of-state attorney must pay a fee of $125 for each motion filed. That fee is payable to the State Bar of Michigan, 306 Townsend St., Lansing, MI 48933, and should be sent to the attention of the Finance Department, with a notation that it is a pro hac vice fee being paid on behalf of the out-of-state attorney, and include that attorney's name and address. The State Bar will provide a letter acknowledging receipt of payment within three business days from receipt of payment.
A Michigan attorney who is associated with the out-of-state attorney must file the pro hac vice motion, to which must be attached a current certificate of good standing from a jurisdiction where the out-of-state attorney is licensed and eligible to practice; an affidavit by the out-of-state lawyer verifying certain information set forth in the rule pertaining to licensure, disciplinary history, and verifying a current familiarity with Michigan court rules; and a copy of an acknowledgment letter from the State Bar of Michigan evidencing payment of the required fee. The Michigan attorney must attest that he or she has read the affidavit, has made a reasonable inquiry concerning its contents, believes the out-of-state attorney's representations are true, and agrees to ensure that the procedures in the rule are followed.
A copy of the motion and attachments must also be submitted to the Attorney Grievance Commission by mail to Attn: Pro Hac Vice, Attorney Grievance Commission, 535 Griswold, Suite 1700, Detroit, MI 48226 or by e-mail to ProHacVice@agcmi.com. The Attorney Grievance Commission must, within seven days of receipt of the motion and affidavit, notify the tribunal, the Michigan attorney, and the out-of-state attorney whether that out-of-state attorney has been admitted in Michigan in the past 365 days, if so, how many times.
For additional questions regarding this process, call the Attorney Grievance Commission at (313) 961-6585 or e-mail questions to ProHacVice@agcmi.com.
View the Court Rule PDF
For additional questions about how and where to file the fee, contact Carol Peterson at the State Bar of Michigan by phone at (517) 346-6377 or e-mail at email@example.com.
- Informal Opinion JI-138 discusses a judge’s ethical obligations when a lawyer who is an announced candidate for the judge’s bench appears as an advocate before the judge.
- Informal Opinion RI-361 addresses the facts presented in JI-138 from the lawyer's perspective.
- Informal Opinion RI-358 reviews what is ethically required for a lawyer to determine if the scope of representation to another client can be limited to accommodate conditions placed on the granting of a waiver of conflict of interests by a current client.
- Informal Opinion RI-359 modifies RI-193 in part in concluding that a lawyer may charge a contingent fee in representing clients seeking to obtain funds escheated to the State of Michigan, and that, like hourly or flat fees, it is subject to scrutiny for reasonableness.
- Informal Opinion RI-360 addresses circumstances under which a lawyer representing a party may directly contact a former employee of another party not known to be represented in the matter in order to conduct an interview.
- Informal Opinion RI-362 discusses a lawyer's reference to a past judicial position, including the years the position was held, in communications subject to scrutiny under the ethical rules.
The State Bar of Michigan is pleased to provide this service to our membership to assist Michigan lawyers in researching ethics inquiries free of charge. This service provides the full index to Michigan ethics opinions, both professional and judicial, with links to all ethics opinions released since October 1988.
There are four ways to search for Michigan ethics opinions using our online service. If you know the opinion number, click on Quick Find by opinion number and enter it in the "get opinion" box. If you would like to search the text of the ethics opinions, click on Search full text of ethics opinion collection and insert key word text in the search criteria box. If you would like to search for ethics opinions by subject matter click on online index to review the topic index and tables of opinions. If you would like to search for ethics opinions interpreting specific rules of the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC) or specific canons of the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct, click on Opinions interpreting MRPC or Opinions interpreting MCJC to review the tables of opinions.
If you would like to request a written ethics opinion regarding a particular issue, click on written Ethics Opinion to obtain instructions for submitting your written request.
Notice to Lawyers:
State Bar of Michigan ethics opinions are advisory and non-binding in nature. This index is a complete historical catalog. Some of the listed ethics opinions, though not expressly superseded in subsequent ethics opinions, may be nonetheless outmoded or no longer sound due to subsequent changes in case law, statutes, or court rules. Practitioners are urged to thoroughly research all sources to determine the current validity of any given ethics opinion.
Members may contact the SBM Ethics Helpline at (877) 558-4760 to receive an informal, advisory opinion from a staff attorney regarding an ethics issue pertaining to the inquirer's prospective conduct. This number is reserved for lawyers and judges only. Staff counsel will not advise on past conduct of the inquirer, the conduct of another attorney or judge, on questions of law, or hypotheticals. The opinions of staff counsel are non-binding and advisory only.