Former Rules

Former Rules of Professional Conduct: Rule 8.4--Misconduct

This Rule governed the practice of law in the District of Columbia from January 1, 1991, through January 31, 2007. As of February 1, 2007, the Amended Rules took effect.

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:
   (a) Violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another;
   (b) Commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects;
   (c) Engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation;
   (d) Engage in conduct that seriously interferes with the administration of justice;
   (e) State or imply an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official;
   (f) Knowingly assist a judge or judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of applicable Rules of Judicial Conduct or other law; or
   (g) Seek or threaten to seek criminal charges or disciplinary charges solely to obtain an advantage in a civil matter.

Comment

   [1] Many kinds of illegal conduct reflect adversely on fitness to practice law, such as offenses involving fraud and the offense of willful failure to file an income tax return. However, some kinds of offenses carry no such implication. Traditionally, the distinction was drawn in terms of offenses involving "moral turpitude." That concept can be construed to include offenses concerning some matters of personal morality, such as adultery and comparable offenses, that have no specific connection to fitness for the practice of law. Although a lawyer is personally answerable to the entire criminal law, a lawyer should be professionally answerable only for offenses that indicate lack of those characteristics relevant to law practice. Offenses involving violence, dishonesty, breach of trust, or serious interference with the administration of justice are in that category. A pattern of repeated offenses, even ones of minor significance when considered separately, can indicate indifference to legal obligation.
   [2] Paragraph (d)’s prohibition of conduct that "seriously interferes with the administration of justice" includes conduct proscribed by the previous Code of Professional Responsibility under DR 1-102(A)(5) as "prejudicial to the administration of justice." The extensive case law on that standard, as set forth below, is hereby incorporated into this Rule.
   [3] The majority of these cases involve a lawyer’s failure to cooperate with Bar Counsel. A lawyer’s failure to respond to Bar Counsel’s inquiries or subpoenas may constitute misconduct, see In re Cope, 455 A.2d 1357 (D.C. 1983); In re Haupt, 444 A.2d 317 (D.C. 1982); In re Lieber, 442 A.2d 153 (D.C. 1982); In re Whitlock, 441 A.2d 989 (D.C. 1982); In re Spencer, No. M-112-82 (D.C. June 4, 1982); In re L. Smith, No. M-91-82 (D.C. App. Mar. 9, 1982); In re Walsh, No. M-70 (81) (D.C. Sept. 25, 1981) en banc; In re Schattman, No. M-63-81 (D.C. June 2, 1981); In re Russell, 424 A.2d 1087 (D.C. 1980); In re Willcher, 404 A.2d 185 (D.C. 1979); In re Carter, No. D-31-79 (D.C. Oct. 28, 1979); In re Bush (Bush II), No. S-58-79 (D.C. Oct. 1, 1979); In re Tucker, No. M-13-75/S-56-78 (D.C. Nov. 15, 1978), as may the failure to abide by agreements made with Bar Counsel. In re Harmon, M-79-81 (D.C. Dec. 14, 1981) (breaking promise to Bar Counsel to offer complainant refund of fee or vigorous representation constitutes conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
   [4] A lawyer’s failure to appear in court for a scheduled hearing is another common form of conduct deemed prejudicial to the administration of justice. See In re Evans, No. M-126-82 (D.C. Dec. 18, 1982); In re Doud, Bar Docket No. 442-80 (Sept. 23, 1982); In re Bush (Bush III), No. S-58-79/D/39/80 (D.C. Apr. 30, 1980); In re Molovinsky, No. M-31-79 (D.C. Aug. 23, 1979). Similarly, failure to obey court orders may constitute misconduct under paragraph (d). Whitlock, 441 A.2d at 989-91; In re Brown, Bar Docket No. 222-78 (Aug. 4, 1978); In re Bush (Bush I), No. DP-22-75 (D.C. July 26, 1977).
   [5] While the above categories—failure to cooperate with Bar Counsel and failure to obey court orders—encompass the major forms of misconduct proscribed by paragraph (d), that provision is to be interpreted flexibly and includes any improper behavior of an analogous nature. For example, the failure to turn over the assets of a conservatorship to the court or to the successor conservator has been held to be conduct "prejudicial to the administration of justice." In re Burka, 423 A.2d 181 (D.C. 1980). In Russell, supra, the court found that failure to keep the Bar advised of respondent’s changes of address, after being warned to do so, was also misconduct under that standard. And in Schattman, supra, it was held that a lawyer’s giving a worthless check in settlement of a claim against the lawyer by a client was improper.