OPINION 415
February 1984

Question Presented

Does an attorney's pleading of a dollar amount for unliquidated damages in an original pleading which sets forth a claim for relief constitute an ethical violation?

Discussion

Rule 47 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure provides:

An original pleading which sets forth a claim for relief, whether an original petition, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third party claim, shall contain

  1. a short statement of the cause of action sufficient to give fair notice of the claim involved,
  2. in all claims for unliquidated damages only the statement that the damages sought exceed the minimum jurisdictional limits of the court, and
  3. a demand for judgment for all the other relief to which the party deems himself entitled. Relief in the alternative or of several different types may be demanded; provided, further, that upon special exception the court shall require the pleader to amend so as to specify the maximum amount claimed. TEX. R. CIV. P. 47 (emphasis added).

Disciplinary Rule (DR) 7-106(C)(7) provides that in appearing in his professional capacity before a tribunal, a lawyer shall not intentionally or habitually violate any established rule of procedure or of evidence.

An attorney's act of signing his name to any pleadings filed in a case constitutes an appearance. TEX. R. CIV. P. 10.

DR 1-102(A) prohibits lawyers from engaging in conduct which violates a disciplinary rule or in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Canon 1 provides "A lawyer should assist in maintaining the integrity and competence of the legal profession," and Ethical Consideration (EC) 1-5 provides in part, "Obedience to law exemplifies respect for law. To lawyers especially, respect for the law should be more than a platitude."

EC 7-25 is especially pertinent:

Rules of evidence and procedure are designed to lead to just decisions and are part of the framework of the law. Thus, while a lawyer may take steps in good faith and within the framework of the law to test the validity of rules, he is not justified in consciously violating such rules and he should be diligent in his efforts to guard against his unintentional violation of them. As examples, a lawyer should subscribe to or verify only those pleadings that he believes are in compliance with applicable law and rules . . . (emphasis added).

This committee has on previous occasions determined that the inclusion of improper or false allegations in pleadings is unethical. See Ethics Opinions 405 (1983), 337 (1968), and 213 (1958).

The wording in Rule 47(b) set forth herein above is clearly mandatory.

Conclusion

An attorney's intentional or habitual violation of Rule 47(b) constitutes a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility. (9-0.)