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July 16, 2020

Rule 28

Model Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement

  1. Inventory of Lawyer Files. If a respondent has been transferred to disability inactive status, or has disappeared or died, or has been suspended or disbarred and there is evidence that he or she has not complied with Rule 27, and no partner, executor or other responsible party capable of conducting the respondent's affairs is known to exist, the presiding judge in the judicial district in which the respondent maintained a practice, upon proper proof of the fact, shall appoint a lawyer or lawyers to inventory the files of the respondent, and to take such action as seems indicated to protect the interests of the respondent and his or her clients.

  2. Protection for Records Subject to Inventory. Any lawyer so appointed shall not be permitted to disclose any information contained in any files inventoried without the consent of the client to whom the file relates, except as necessary to carry out the order of the court which appointed the lawyer to make the inventory.

In any situation in which the lawyer is not available to protect clients, the agency has an obligation to protect them. When such information comes to the attention of the agency, it need not await the determination that misconduct has occurred before acting.

The cost of the inventory may be paid from the fees owing to the lawyer whose files are inventoried. The cost may also be paid by funds made available for that purpose by state and local bar associations. Often the lawyer appointed as trustee will waive all or part of his or her fee as a public service.

The trustee is appointed to inventory the files of the lawyer's clients, not to represent them. The trustee should review each file and recommend to the judge who appointed him or her a proposed disposition. The trustee may take only such action with respect to each client's file as is authorized by the judge who appointed him or her.

The lawyer-client privilege must be extended so that review of the file by the trustee is not deemed to be disclosure to a third party, which would waive the privilege.


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Center for Professional Responsibility