OPINION 164
March 1958

NEWSPAPER DISCUSSION OF PENDING LEGISLATION—SOLICITATION-- Where newspaper articles relating the success of an attorney in securing settlements in personal injury litigation are based solely on the newspaper reporters’ observations or from sources other than the attorney mentioned therein, there is not impropriety. However, it would be improper for the attorney to write and/or approve them or instigate their publication.

Canons 1724.

Question

An article which was published in a newspaper in a city in this State with reference to a settlement made during the trial of a personal injury damage suit in which it was stated that the plaintiff received $87,500 in an agreed judgment after the trial had commenced, in which the name of the plaintiff’s attorney was given and in which it was stated that such attorney said that the agreed judgment was entered shortly after testimony had commenced in the trial after a day and a half was consumed in the selection of a jury. In the article it was stated that "The amount brought to $165,519.54 the compensation received by two clients of the _____________________ firm in cases heard in _____________________________ this week. . ." It also stated the nature of the accident involved in the suit and said that the attorney for the plaintiff stated the tests had been run by a certain institution on the alleged defective mechanism involved in the accident.

Another article appeared in the same newspaper in which it was stated that two lawyers of the city (one of those lawyers being the same one mentioned in the newspaper article referred to above) were leaving for Austin to present a workman's compensation suit before the Supreme Court of Texas. It stated that such lawyers represented the plaintiff in the suit. The article also stated the nature of the claim and that the plaintiff was awarded judgment in the trial court and such judgment was upheld by the Court of Civil Appeals.

The newspaper articles are not quoted because they are too lengthy.

1. Do such newspaper articles as written violate the Canons of Ethics?

 2. Is there a violation of the Canons of Ethics if an attorney wrote them and/or approved the story himself?

3. Is there a violation of the Canons of Ethics where the attorney named in newspaper articles of this nature allows repetition of such articles over a period of time without encouraging the use of his name or discouraging the same?

Opinion

1. If the articles were written entirely by newspaper reporters from their observation of the trials, from the facts ascertained by them the court records and from sources other than the attorney mentioned therein and such attorney had no control over the writing of the article there would not be any violation of the Canons of Ethics of the State Bar.

2. If the attorney mentioned therein wrote the articles and/or approved them or instigated their publication then he would be violating Canons 17 and 24 of the State Bar.

3. If the attorney named in such newspaper article allows repetition of such articles over a period of time without encouraging or discouraging the use of his name in connection therewith, then he would be violating Canons 17 and 24 of the State Bar.

Whether the newspaper articles in question were written by, approved, furnished or instigated by the attorney mentioned therein is a fact question which should be ascertained by a Grievance Committee. (9-0)