Page images

The following general rules are adopted by the Virginia State Bar Association for the guidance of its members:

Duties of Attorneys to Courts and Judicial Officers.

1. The respect enjoined by law for courts and judicial officers is exacted for the sake of the office, and not for the individual who administers it. Bad opinion of the incumbent, however well founded, cannot excuse the withholding of the respect due to the office while administering its functions.

2. The proprieties of the judicial station, in a great measure, disable the judge from defending himself against strictures upon his official conduct. For this reason, and because such criticisms tend to impair public confidence in the administration of justice, attorneys should, as a rule, refrain from published criticism of judicial conduct, especially in reference to causes in which they have been of counsel, otherwise than in courts of review, or when the conduct of the judge is necessarily involved in determining his removal from or continuance in office.

3. Marked attention and unusual hospitality to a judge, when the relations of the parties are such that they would not otherwise be extended, subject both judge and attorney to misconstruction, and should be sedulously avoided. A self-respecting independence in the discharge of the attorney's duties, which, at the same time, does not withhold the courtesy and respect due the judge's station, is the only just foundation for cordial, personal and official relations between Bench and Bar. All attempts by means beyond these to gain special personal consideration and favor of a judge are disreputable.

4. Courts and judicial officers, in the rightful exercise of their functions, should always receive the support and countenance of attorneys against unjust criticism and popular clamor; and it is an attorney's duty to give them his moral support in all proper ways, and particularly by setting a good example in his own person of obedience to law.

5. The utmost candor and fairness should characterize the dealings of attorneys with the courts and with each other.


Knowingly citing as authority an overruled case, or reading repealed statute as in existence; knowingly misquoting the language

of a decision or text-book; knowingly misstating the contents of a paper, the testimony of a witness, or the language or arguments of the opposite counsel; offering evidence which it is known the court must reject as illegal, to get it before a jury under guise of arguing its admissibility, and all kindred practices, are deceits and evasions unworthy of attorneys.

Purposely concealing or withholding in the opening arguments positions intended finally to be relied on, in order that opposite counsel may not discuss them, is unprofessional. Courts and juries look with disfavor on such practices, and are quick to suspect the weakness of the cause which has need to resort to them.

In the argument of demurrers, admission of evidence, and other questions of law, counsel should carefully refrain from “side-bar” remarks and sparring discourse to influence the jury or by-standers. Personal colloquies between counsel tend to delay, and promote unseemly wrangling, and ought to be discouraged.

6. Attorneys owe it to the courts, and the public whose business the courts transact, as well as to their own clients, to be punctual in attendance on their causes; and whenever an attorney is late, he should apologize, or explain his absence.

7. One side must always lose the cause; and it is not wise or respectful to the court for attorneys to display temper because of an adverse ruling.

Duty of Attorneys to Each Other, to Clients and the Public.

8. An attorney should strive, at all times, to uphold the honor, maintain the dignity and promote the usefulness of the profession; for it is so interwoven with the administration of justice, that whatever redounds to the good of one, advances the

other; and the attorney thus discharges, not merely an obligation to his brothers, but a high duty to the State and his fellow


9. An attorney'should not speak slightingly or disparagingly of his profession, or pander in any way to the unjust popular prejudices against it, and he should scrupulously refrain at all times, and in all relations of life, from availing himself of any prejudice or popular misconception against lawyers, in order to carry a point against a brother attorney.

10. Nothing has been more potential in creating and pandering to popular prejudice against lawyers as a class, and in withholding from the profession the full measure of public esteem and confidence which belong to the proper discharge of its duties, than the false claim, often set up by the unscrupulous in defence of questionable transactions, that it is an attorney's duty to do everything to succeed in his client's cause.

An attorney "owes entire devotion to the interests of his client, warm zeal in the maintenance and defence of his cause, and the exertion of the utmost skill and ability,” to the end that nothing may be taken or withheld from him save by the rules of law, legally applied. No sacrifice or peril, even to loss of life itself, can absolve from the fearless discharge of his duty. Nevertheless, it is steadfastly to be borne in mind that the great trust is to be performed within, and not without, the bounds of the law which creates it. The attorney's office does not destroy man's accountability to his Creator, or loosen the duty of obedience to law, and the obligation to his neighbor; and it does not permit, much less demand, violation of law, or any manner of fraud or chicanery, for the client's sake.

11. Attorneys should fearlessly expose before the proper tribunals corrupt or dishonest conduct in the profession; and there should never be any hesitancy in accepting employment against an attorney who has wronged his client.

12. An attorney appearing or continuing as private counsel in the prosecution for a crime of which he believes the accused innocent, forswears himself. The State's attorney is criminal, if he presses for a conviction, when upon the evidence he believes the prisoner innocent. If the evidence is not plain enough to justify a nolle prosequi, a public prosecutor should submit the case, with such comments as are pertinent, accompanied by a candid statement of his own doubts.

13. An attorney cannot reject the defence of a person accused of a criminal offence because he knows or believes him guilty. It is his duty, by all fair and lawful means, to present such defences as the law of the land permits, to the end that no one may be deprived of life or liberty but by due process of law.

14. An attorney must decline in a civil cause to conduct a prosecution, when satisfied that the purpose is merely to harass or injure the opposite party, or to work oppression and wrong.

15. It is a bad practice for an attorney to communicate or argue privately with the judge as to the merits of his cause.

16. Newspaper advertisements, circulars and business cards, tendering professional services to the general public, are proper; but special solicitation of particular individuals to become clients is disreputable. Indirect advertisements for business, by furnishing or inspiring editorials or press notices regarding causes in which the attorney takes part, the manner in which they were conducted, the importance of his positions, the magnitude of the interests involved, and all other like self-laudation, is of evil tendency and wholly unprofessional.

17. Newspaper publications by an attorney as to the merits of pending or anticipated litigation, call for the discussion and reply from the opposite party, tend to prevent a fair trial in the courts, and otherwise prejudice the due administration of justice. It requires a strong case to justify such publications; and, when proper, it is unprofessional to make them anonymously.

18. When an attorney is witness for his client, except as to formal matters, such as the attestation or custody of an instrument and the like, he should leave the trial of the cause to other counsel. . Except when essential to the ends of justice, an attorney should scrupulously avoid testifying in court in behalf of his client as to any matter.

19. Assertions, sometimes made by counsel in argument, of a personal belief of the client's innocence, or the justice of his cause, are to be discouraged.

20. It is indecent to hunt up defects in titles, and the like, and inform thereof, in order to be employed to bring suit; or to seek out a person supposed to have a cause of action, and endeavor to get a fee to litigate about it. Except where ties of blood, relationship or trust make it an attorney's duty, it is unprofessional to volunteer advice to bring a lawsuit. Stirring up strife and litigation is forbidden by law, and disreputable in morals.

21. Communications and confidence between client and attorney are the property and secrets of the client, and cannot be divulged except at his instance; even the death of the client does not absolve the attorney from obligation of secrecy.

22. The duty not to divulge the secrets of clients extends further than mere silence by the attorney, and forbids accepting retainers or employment afterwards from others, involving the client's interest in the matters about which the confidence was reposed. When the secrets or confidence of a former client may be availed of or be material in a subsequent suit, as the basis of any judgment which may injuriously affect his rights, the attorney cannot appear in such cause without the consent of his former client.

23. An attorney can never attack an instrument or paper drawn by him for any infirmity apparent on its face; nor for any other cause where confidence has been reposed as to the facts concerning it. Where the attorney acted as a mere scrivener, and was not consulted as to the facts, and, unknown to him, the transaction amounted to a violation of the laws, he may assail it on that ground in suits between third persons, or between parties to the instrument and strangers.

24. An attorney openly, and in his true character, may render purely professional services before committees regarding proposed legislation, and in advocacy of claims before departments

« PreviousContinue »