III. ADVOCATE

Rule 3.04 Fairness in Adjudicatory Proceedings

A lawyer shall not:

(a) unlawfully obstruct another party's access to evidence; in anticipation of a dispute unlawfully alter, destroy or conceal a document or other material that a competent lawyer would believe has potential or actual evidentiary value; or counsel or assist another person to do any such act.

(b) falsify evidence, counsel or assist a witness to testify falsely, or pay, offer to pay, or acquiesce in the offer or payment of compensation to a witness or other entity contingent upon the content of the testimony of the witness or outcome of the case. But a lawyer may advance, guarantee, or acquiesce in the payment of:

(1) expenses reasonably incurred by a witness in attending or testifying;

(2) reasonable compensation to a witness for his loss of time in attending or testifying;

(3) a reasonable fee for the professional services of an expert witness.

(c) except as stated in paragraph (d), in representing a client before a tribunal :

(1) habitually violate an established rule of procedure or of evidence;

(2) state or allude to any matter that the lawyer does not reasonably believe is relevant to such proceeding or that will not be supported by admissible evidence, or assert personal knowledge of facts in issue except when testifying as a witness;

(3) state a personal opinion as to the justness of a cause, the creditability of a witness, the culpability of a civil litigant or the guilt or innocence of an accused, except that a lawyer may argue on his analysis of the evidence and other permissible considerations for any position or conclusion with respect to the matters stated herein;

(4) ask any question intended to degrade a witness or other person except where the lawyer reasonably believes that the question will lead to relevant and admissible evidence; or

(5) engage in conduct intended to disrupt the proceedings.

(d) knowingly disobey, or advise the client to disobey, an obligation under the standing rules of or a ruling by a tribunal except for an open refusal based either on an assertion that no valid obligation exists or on the client's willingness to accept any sanctions arising from such disobedience.

(e) request a person other than a client to refrain from voluntarily giving relevant information to another party unless:

(1) the person is a relative or an employee or other agent of a client; and

(2) the lawyer reasonably believes that the person's interests will not be adversely affected by refraining from giving such information.

 

Comment - Rule 3.04

1. The procedure of the adversary system contemplates that the evidence in a case is to be marshalled competitively by the contending parties. Fair competition in the adversary system is secured by prohibitions against destruction or concealment of evidence, improperly influencing witnesses, obstructive tactics in discovery procedure, and the like.

2. Documents and other evidence are often essential to establish a claim or defense. The right of a party, including the government, to obtain evidence through discovery or subpoena is an important procedural right. The exercise of that right can be frustrated if relevant material is altered, concealed or destroyed. Applicable law in many jurisdictions, including Texas, makes it an offense to destroy material for purpose of impairing its availability in a pending proceeding or one whose commencement can be foreseen. See Texas Penal Code, 37.09(a)(1), 37.10(a)(3). See also 18 U.S.C. 1501-1515. Falsifying evidence is also generally a criminal offense. Id. 37.09(a)(2), 37.10(a)(1), (2). Paragraph (a) of this Rule applies to evidentiary material generally, including computerized information.

3. Paragraph (c)(l) subjects a lawyer to discipline only for habitual abuses of procedural or evidentiary rules, including those relating to the discovery process. That position was adopted in order to employ the superior ability of the presiding tribunal to assess the merits of such disputes and to avoid inappropriate resort to disciplinary proceedings as a means of furthering tactical litigation objectives. A lawyer in good conscience should not engage in even a single intentional violation of those rules, however, and a lawyer may be subject to judicial sanctions for doing so.

4. Paragraph (c) restates the traditional Texas position regarding the proper role of argument and comment in litigation. The obligations imposed by that paragraph to avoid seeking to influence the outcome of a matter by introducing irrelevant or improper considerations into the deliberative process are important aspects of a lawyer's duty to maintain the fairness and impartiality of adjudicatory proceedings.

5. By the same token, the advocate's function is to present evidence and argument so that the cause may be decided according to law. Refraining from abusive or disruptive conduct is a corollary of the advocate's right to speak on behalf of litigants. A lawyer may stand firm against abuse by a tribunal but should avoid reciprocation.

6. Paragraph (d) prohibits the practice of a lawyer not disclosing a client's actual or intended noncompliance with a standing rule or particular ruling of an adjudicatory body or official to other concerned entities. It provides instead that a lawyer must openly acknowledge the client's noncompliance.

7. Paragraph (d) also prohibits a lawyer from disobeying, or advising a client to disobey, any such obligations unless either of two circumstances exists. The first is the lawyer's open refusal based on an assertion that no valid obligation exists. In order to assure due regard for formal rulings and standing rules of practice or procedure, the lawyer's assertion in this regard should be based on a reasonable belief. The second circumstance is that a lawyer may acquiesce in a client's position that the sanctions arising from noncompliance are preferable to the costs of compliance. This situation can arise in criminal cases, for example, where the court orders disclosure of the identity of an informant to the defendant and the government decides that it would prefer to allow the case to be dismissed rather than to make that disclosure. A lawyer should consult with a client about the likely consequences of any such act of disobedience should the client appear to be inclined to pursue that course; but the final decision in that regard rests with the client.