Model Rule 3.4 of the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct addresses the ethical obligations of lawyers in dealing with opposing parties and their counsel during legal proceedings. This rule emphasizes the importance of fairness and integrity in the practice of law.
Fairness and Respect
Lawyers are prohibited from unlawfully obstructing another party's access to evidence, or unlawfully altering, destroying, or concealing documents or other materials having potential evidentiary value. They must also refrain from engaging in conduct intended to harass or burden an opposing party.
Duty to Counsel Against Criminal Conduct
Lawyers have a duty to counsel their clients against illegal or fraudulent conduct. They should not advise or assist clients in engaging in conduct that they know or reasonably should know is criminal or fraudulent.
Untruthful Statements and False Evidence
Lawyers are prohibited from knowingly making false statements of fact or law to a tribunal or offering false evidence. They also have a duty to rectify any false statements or evidence they have previously presented to the tribunal.
Ex Parte Communications
Lawyers should not communicate with a judge or juror during a proceeding unless authorized by law or court order. Ex parte communications with a judge are generally discouraged, as they can undermine the fairness of the proceedings.
Obstructing Access to Evidence
Lawyers must not unlawfully obstruct another party's access to evidence or destroy or conceal documents or materials that may be relevant to a legal matter. This provision ensures that all parties have an equal opportunity to present their case.
Duty to Correct False Evidence
If a lawyer becomes aware that they have presented false evidence or false testimony, they have a duty to take reasonable remedial measures, including disclosure to the tribunal, to correct the situation. This duty upholds the integrity of the legal process.
Model Rule 3.4 underscores the fundamental principles of fairness, integrity, and respect for the legal process. It imposes ethical obligations on lawyers to ensure that they do not engage in conduct that obstructs access to evidence, presents false information, or undermines the integrity of the judicial system. By adhering to these principles, lawyers contribute to the fair and just resolution of legal disputes.