Ethics Opinion Topic Index

Abuse of Judicial Office

Abuse of contempt power
  •  Matter of Hague,
  •  412 Mich 532 (1982),
  •  In Re Seitz,
  •  441 Mich 590 (1993),
Advancing business interests of others
Advancing personal interests of others
Family relationships influencing judicial judgment
  •  Matter of Tschirhart,
  •  420 Mich 1201 (1984),
Humiliating Chief Judge Pro Tem and other court personnel
  •  In Re Seitz,
  •  441 Mich 590 (1993),
Improper termination of public defender contract
  •  Matter of Bennett,
  •  403 Mich 178 (1978),
Jury records used for judges election mailings
Perpetual recusal due to animosity toward advocate
Vulgar and discourteous behavior while serving as judge
  •  Matter of Frankel,
  •  414 Mich 1109 (1982) in Re Seitz,
  •  441 Mich 590 (1993),

Administration of Justice, Conduct Prejudicial to

Abuse of contempt power
  •  Matter of Hague,
  •  412 Mich 532 (1982),
  •  In Re Seitz,
  •  441 Mich 590 (1993),
Accepting and soliciting bribes
  •  Matter of Jenkins,
  •  437 Mich 15 (1991),
Disobeying orders of higher court
  •  Matter of Hague,
  •  412 Mich 532 (1982),
Humiliating another judge and other court personnel
  •  In Re Seitz,
  •  441 Mich 590 (1993),
Improper disqualification of advocates
  •  Matter of Hague,
  •  412 Mich 532 (1982),
Irascibility and irrational behavior
  •  In Re Crowell,
  •  379 So2d 107 (Fla 1979),
  •  In Re Seitz,
  •  441 Mich 590 (1993),
Public comment by judge about arrest and acquittal
  •  Matter of Tschirhart,
  •  420 Mich 1201 (1984),
Recusal in order to negotiate employment
Unauthorized practice of law, duty to prevent
Administrative proceedings, lawyer's truthfulness concerning professional status
Agreement not to report misconduct
Appearance of collusion between parties
Contacts with presiding judge off the record
Copying presiding judge on substantive matters
Inconsistent testimony of client
Negotiating settlement with represented party
Pretrial discovery proceedings, lawyer's duty to reveal false nature of evidence
Rejecting court appointment
Substantive contacts with presiding judge off the record
Withdrawal as next friend when sued by ward
Judge consulting with other judges about pending case

Administrative Agency Practice

City attorney acting as hearing officer
Confidentiality of consultation under agency program
Contacting employees and former employees of opposing party in workers' compensation case
Duties of nonlawyer advocates
File data not in official record
Government program advocate
Interference with advocate's independent professional judgment
Judge representing or consulting for party
  •  A/O 10,
Lawyer appearing as nonlawyer representative of party
Lawyer's duties when employee legal assistant appears on behalf of parties
Lawyer's spouse elected to municipality
Lawyer's truthfulness as to professional status
Legal assistant appearing on behalf of party
Nonlawyer advocates held to lawyer ethics rules
Nonlawyer assistance to party
  •  RI-103,
  •  C-239,
  •  State Bar of Mi v. Galloway,
  •  124 Mich App 271 (1983),
  •  422 Mich 188 (1985),
Nonlawyer representative before agency
  •  RI-103,
  •  C-239,
  •  State Bar of Mi v. Galloway,
  •  124 Mich App 271 (1983),
  •  422 Mich 188 (1985),
Person appearing on behalf of party disclosing lawyer status
Prejudice to case when hearing officer exposed to data outside the official record

Administrative Duties of Judicial Officers

Administrative Hearing Officer

File data not in official record, effect on disqualification
Grievance filing necessitates recusal
"Issuing support order—subsequent representation"
Law practice by
Letterhead showing public office
"Matters" affecting ability to negotiate employment
Negotiating employment with firm which is a party before hearing officer
"Personal and substantial" participation in matter limits private practice
"Personal and substantial" participation in matter results in disqualification
Presiding in cases in which employee of law firm's client appear
  •  In Re Schlossberg v. State Bar Grievance Bd.,
  •  388 Mich 389 (1972),
Preventing unauthorized practice of law
Recusal when officer files grievance against lawyer
"Representing client—issued support order"
Tainted by access to data outside the record
Withdrawal from case to negotiate employment

Admission to the Bar

Character and fitness determinations
  •  75 MBJ 682 (Jul 1996),
Discipline imposed when admission misconduct discovered
  •  Matter of Del Rio,
  •  407 Mich 336 (1979),
Duty to report law student misconduct
False information submitted to admission authority
  •  Matter of Del Rio,
  •  407 Mich 336 (1979),
Imputed disqualification of hiring firm when transferring from nonlaw employment
Pro hac vice admission for a particular matter
  •  70 MBJ 1074 (Oct 1991),
  •  Yashinsky v. Board of Law Exam'Rs,
  •  539 Nw2d 378 (1995),
Reporting law student activity
Representing bar applicants while serving on admissions committee
Unlicensed graduates
  •  71 MBJ 1061 (Oct 1992),
Out-of-state lawyer located in Michigan who has applied for a Michigan license and is practicing in jurisdiction where licensed
Temporary legal services

Advancing Funds to Client

Advancing client proceeds from operating account
Advancing court-imposed fines and costs
Agreement with venture capital company
Allocating attorney fees to class action clients
Attorney fees allocated to class action clients
By lawyers employed in legal service organizations
Charging lien
Departing lawyer's responsibility for
Disbursement from operating account to avoid trust account
Financing costs via loan
Fines and costs advanced by law
Indigent client
Living and medical expenses to indigent client
Loan from third-party vendor
Referring client to third-party lender
Security for court costs for indigent client
Venture capital company advancing funds

Adverse Parties

Client contact with opposing party
Complaining witness in criminal case contacted by defense attorneys
Contact with former corporate employees
Contact with lower level corporate employees
Contacting by letter with copy to lawyer
Copy of letter to lawyer
Counseling client to contact opposing party
Defense attorney contacting complaining witness
Duty to reveal assistance of pro se litigant without appearance is limited
Interviewing employees of corporate party
Judge presiding in unrelated matter in which party opponent appears as advocate
Lawyer as witness for
Prosecutor not allowing complaining witness to talk with defense attorneys
Public defender may ethically establish separate offices to represent defendants with adverse interests
Scope of corporation "party"
Settlement discussions between parties


City employees displaying campaign signs
  •  A/O 57,
Criticism of sitting judges
Criticism of existing law
Discussing position on political or legal issues
Endorsement from sitting judge
Incumbency, inference when not fact
  •  A/O 51,
  •  A/O 104,
In political party ad book
Listing in non-approved directories
  •  C-209,
Literature at political candidate's event
Misleading campaign ad placing decision-making blame
Name recognition
Picture in robes when not incumbent
  •  A/O 51,
Placing advertisement in nonjudicial candidate's literature
  •  A/O 20,
Pledges in judicial campaign
Political candidate's literature at judicial candidate event
Political endorsement of judge's candidacy
Space donated in nonjudicial candidate's literature
  •  A/O 20,
Sponsorship of youth sports team
"Strict sentencing philosophy" slogan
Academic credentials
"Affiliation" must be defined for clarity
"Affordable" services
Ancillary services
Announcements sent to former firm's clients
  •  RI-049,
  •  76 MBJ 84 (Jan 1997),
  •  69 MBJ 154 (Feb 1990),
Areas of practice
Bankruptcy specialty designation
Booth outside co-sponsored seminar
Computer technology
Consultation charges
Coupons for legal services
Credentials of lawyers
Direct mail
Discounts for special services
Donation of fee for charitable service
Dual professions
Duty to review referral service marketing plan
Failure to remove lawyer listings from phone directory after discipline
  •  In The Matter of Freedman,
  •  406 Mich 256 (1979),
Fee information
Firm name as part of franchise
Firm name including historical building where firm located
Firm name including out-of-state lawyer
Firm name including retired shareholder
Firm name inferring multiple offices
Firm name, PLLC designation
Former judge status, description of
Free legal seminar
Group advertising plan
Internet use
"Law Offices" inferring more than one office
Lawyer communications regarding "specialties"
  •  70 MBJ 72 (Jan 1991),
Lawyer named “Super Lawyer” may advertise it
Lawyer Referral Service vs. advertising
lawyer's name not required in ad
Letter regarding lawyer's services in "newcomer" packets
Listing on out-of-state firm website for referrals as advertising
Marketing by independent contractor
Misleading ads
Misleading ads, inferring more than one lawyer
Name of lawyer in group ad
"No fee unless recovery"
"Of counsel" relationships
Office presence without staffing
Patent law practice
Prosecutor's appearance as public official in pro bonocase
Public official in law firm
Referral service participation
  •  70 MBJ 146 (Feb 1991),
Status as former judge
Telephone directory listings after discipline imposed
  •  In The Matter of Freedman,
  •  406 Mich 256 (1979),
Television ads
Third party advertising lawyer's services as incentive to members
Trade name
Welcome Wagon participation
Unassociated lawyers
Advertising lawyer discount as incentive for membership
Ancillary services
Announcement of nonlawyer appraiser joining law firm
Appraiser employed at law firm
Chamber of Commerce advertising lawyer discount
Church advertising lawyer discount
Duty to review advertising
Lawyer discount used as membership incentive
Insurance customers
Recommending services of particular lawyer
Telephone listing separate from law firm prohibited
Domain Name

Advice to Client

Alternate dispute resolution options
Asking for appointment as personal representative
Discharge of lawyer
  •  74 MBJ 822 (Aug 1995),
Duties owed when assisting pro se litigant
Duty to advise of judicial candidacy
Duty to advise on ADR options
Initial consultation triggering disqualification
Lawyer fiduciary making legal decisions for ward
lawyer's nonlaw business agent
Legal services staff reduction
Limited by lawyer's contract with presiding court
Limited by third party payor of fee
"Living will" and health care directive information presented at seminar
Not to discuss litigation with adverse party
On advisability of arbitration clause in fee agreement
Pursuit of cause of action for minor
Representing client on unrelated matters when client is fugitive
Successor counsel's conduct

Advice to Third Person

Advising interested persons to seek independent counsel
Corporate employees not to discuss litigation
Duty to convey offer to resolve through
Negotiating settlement with opposing party
Parent consulted when representing minor child
Requesting employees not to discuss litigation

Alcohol Abuse

By judicial officer
  •  N Re Somers,
  •  384 Mich 320 (1971),
  •  In The Matter of Sobotka,
  •  421 Mich 1201 (1985),

Alternate Dispute Resolution

Adjudicators representing former parties in matter
Advising unrepresented party
Advocacy by adjudicator
Arbitrator is retired judge
Conciliation proceedings handled by judge
Conflicts of arbitrators
Disclosures to parties
Ex parte contacts with adjudicators
Judge participating
Judge serving on "Commission to Take Testimony"
  •  A/O 2,
Mediator drafting parties' agreement
Mediator subsequently representing party
Mediator subsequently serving as arbitrator in same matter
Party-nominated adjudicator
Retired judge serving as arbitrator
Duty to advise on ADR option
Duty to convey offer to resolve through ADR
Limiting liability of lawyer
Party represented by matter's former mediator
Testimony from
Withdrawal when clients dispute acceptance of mediation award
Calculation of mediation sanctions
  •  Bennett,
  •  et al v. Weitz et al (Dec 1996),
  •  73 MBJ 1085 (Oct 1994),
Coercing civil settlements
Decisions about settlement
Forcing settlement on disabled client
Mediation award, multiple clients
Multiple clients, accepting mediation award
Negotiating settlement of merits and attorney fee concurrently
Plea bargain, defense counsel duty to remind prosecutor