January 01, 2014

Scruples: Threatening an Adversary

This discussion of the rules of professional conduct examines the border between ethical and unethical threats.

Michael Downey

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When the last column ended, Ethox reassured Paradox, “At least you didn’t write Nemesis a letter threatening ethics charges or claims you ultimately could not back up. After all, that could be a whole different ethics problem—for you.”

Paradox looked surprised. “Isn’t it always unethical to make the threat?”

“Not necessarily,” Ethox responded. “The old ABA Code of Professional Responsibility prohibited most threats. A disciplinary rule, DR 7-105, stated that a lawyer ‘shall not present, participate in presenting, or threaten to present criminal charges solely to obtain an advantage in a civil matter.’”

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