Inside Track: Ethical dilemmas: Bargaining against another's misconduct is a no-no:

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  • Ethical dilemmas: Bargaining against another's misconduct is a no-no

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    July 20, 2011 – Ethical dilemmas affect every lawyer’s practice. This series of questions and answers appears each month in InsideTrack. The answers, offered by State Bar’s ethics counsel org tpierce wisbar Timothy Pierce, are intended to provide guidance only and are not legal authority. Each situation will depend on the facts and circumstances involved.

    Question

    I’m representing a client in a proposed purchase of some commercial real estate from another lawyer who is representing himself. The other lawyer provided us with some records indicating that certain repairs had been done to the roof of the building. I talked to somebody else I know in the roofing business and was informed that the company in question went out of business 14 months ago, two months before the alleged repairs were done. I was able to verify this and it is now obvious that the repair documents are fraudulent. I discussed this with my client, and he wants me to use a threat to report the other lawyer to OLR unless we get substantial consideration on the purchase price. Can I do this?

    Answer

    No. The duty to report the substantial misconduct of another lawyer, like any duty under the Rules of Professional Conduct, cannot be bargained away; it is unethical to attempt to do so. 

    References: SCR 20:8.3; and State Bar of Wisconsin Formal Ethics Opinions E-89-12 and E-01-01. 

    Previous questions

    For more information, visit the Ethics webpage on WisBar.