May 1965

DISRESPECT TO COURTS—It is unethical for a lawyer, who is brought before a J.P. in another State and who is charged with speeding, to give the J.P. a check for his fine and then place a "stop payment" on the check.

Canons 1, 19, 29.


A Texas attorney travelling in another State received a traffic citation for speeding late in the evening and was requesting to appear immediately before a Justice of the Peace, which he did. The Justice of the Peace gave the attorney three alternatives on the speeding ticket, i.e.: (1) A plea of guilty, at which time the Judge would set his fine; (2) a plea of not guilty, at which the Court would, at his request, grant an immediate trial and have the summoning officer appear to testify; (3) accept a plea of not guilty, take a bond from the attorney, set the matter for trial before a jury, if such pleased the attorney. The attorney, feeling that the situation was unfair, due to the distance from his home, that he was innocent of the charge of speeding, and believing that the Justice of the Peace and the traffic officer were working in collusion to create a so-called "speed trap," decided to plead guilty, let the Judge set his fine, give the Judge a check for the amount of the fine, and upon return to his home, place a "stop payment" on the check. The attorney did this, and a grievance was filed against him by the Justice of the Peace.


In the opinion of the committee, the attorney’s conduct as stated would violate Canon 1, 19 and 29. However, the proper Grievance Committee, and not this committee, should determine the facts and the intent of the attorney. This committee’s function is limited to interpretation of the Canons based on hypothetical fact situations, and it does not purport to decide specific fact issues or the guilt or innocence of any attorney. (8-0.)