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Pollock Commission Releases Preliminary Report on Attorney Ethics Rules

For further information contact:
Tammy Kendig, AOC
For release: Feb. 28, 2002
(609) 292-9580

After a one-year study of the report of an American Bar Association commission on its evaluation of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the New Jersey Supreme Court Commission on the Rules of Professional Conduct has released its preliminary report on its evaluation of the ethical rules governing New Jersey lawyers. In preparation of its final report, the Commission, chaired by former Justice Stewart Pollock, will hold a public meeting on the rules and related ethical issues under Commission consideration at the New Jersey State Bar Association's annual meeting in May. "I would like to thank my co-chair and members of the commission for their hard work," said former Justice Pollock. "We have made significant progress in considering pressing issues impacting lawyers in New Jersey and we look forward to hearing from them at the public meeting."

Some of the more significant areas addressed in the Commission's report are the "appearance-of-impropriety" rule, the extension of the disqualification of a municipal prosecutor from criminal defense work to others in the prosecutor's law firm, a lawyer's obligation in regard to a missent document, the use of screening to prevent the attribution of personal conflicts to other lawyers in a conflicted lawyer's firm, fee-sharing with a not-for-profit corporation, and legal advertising.

In its preliminary report, the Commission recommends that the "appearance-of-impropriety" rule be eliminated as an ethics violation, that the disqualification of a municipal prosecutor from criminal defense work not extend generally to other lawyers in the prosecutor's firm, and that a lawyer who receives a missent document be obligated to notify the sender and return the document. The report supports screening a conflicted lawyer from others in the firm as an appropriate way to negate the imputation of the lawyer's conflict to others in the firm. A rule change is recommended to permit attorneys to share fees with not-for-profit corporation. The report also makes a number of recommendations regarding legal advertising, including dropping the existing prohibition against drawings, animation, dramatization, music, or lyrics and, instead, requiring that such advertising techniques conform to the existing restrictions on false or misleading communications.

The Commission is continuing its consideration of the rules pertaining to multijurisdictional and multidisciplinary practice and the bona fide office rule. In its consideration of multijurisdictional practice, the Commission is awaiting further developments, including the responses of the ABA House of Delegates to the report of its Commission on Multijurisdictional Practice. The preliminary report includes some of the Commission's observations of multijurisdictional practice because of the complexity and significance of the issues involved.

The Commission will hold its public hearing at the annual State Bar Association meeting on Tuesday, May 21 between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. at the Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City. Persons or groups interested in making a presentation at the hearing must register by May 10, 2002, by writing to Keith M. Endo, Counsel to the Commission, Hughes Justice Complex, P.O. Box 037, Trenton, New Jersey 08625. Presentations should be limited to ten minutes, and any position papers accompanying a presentation should be forwarded to Mr. Endo by May 10. Written materials without an accompanying presentation also will be accepted. The report is available on the Judiciary Web site.

After the public hearing, the Commission will meet to consider the views presented at the hearing in preparation of the Commission's final report to the Supreme Court.
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