Ethics

Sam Stretton

Criticisms of the Judicial Conduct Board are unwarranted

By Samuel C. Stretton |

There have been discussions that the Judicial Conduct Board did not do their job in recent investigations involving judges' emails. Changes have been suggested. Are they warranted?

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Don't Need to Over-Prepare Witnesses.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Some of my colleagues spend lots of time preparing witnesses for trial. I am, to some extent, bothered by that. Is it ethical?

Samuel Stretton

Lawyers Typically Bear the Burden of Copying Costs for Clients

By Samuel C. Stretton |

What happens after a lawyer is discharged is always somewhat messy. It is further complicated because usually there are bad feelings on both sides. The lawyer feels wronged and the client feels that the lawyer didn't do his or her job. Previous articles have been written on this subject, but the question continues to be asked regularly.

Sam Stretton

Games of Chance Have No Place at Judicial Campaign Rallies

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am running for a judicial office and I want to enhance fundraising for the campaign by having raffles and auctions at campaign rallies. Can I do that?

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Must Avoid Relationships of Any Kind With Clients

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a young lawyer and a sole practitioner and have a growing practice. I have handled many domestic cases. At times, I have gone out to have a drink or dinner with a client. Is there anything wrong with that?

Sam Stretton

Professionalism is the Key to being a Successful Young Lawyer

By Samuel C. Stretton |

What should young lawyers never do in litigation?

Sam Stretton

Ex Parte Communications Are Against the Rules Except in Specific Circumstances

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Is it unethical for a judge to have ex parte communications with prosecutors appearing before them?

Sam Stretton

The Rules Surrounding Judicial Iimpropriety Have Changed

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a judicial officer in a small county. Everyone knows everyone and, as a lawyer, I have represented many people. What is the standard for appearance of impropriety?

Sam Stretton

The Role of the Courts May Be Expanding Too Far

By Samuel C. Stretton |

What is the ethical role lawyers and courts should play in modern society?

Sam Stretton

Ex Parte Communications Raise the Appearance of Impropriety

By Samuel C. Stretton |

If the district attorney disagrees with the bail decision of a municipal court judge, during or after a preliminary hearing, the district attorney goes directly to a common pleas judge to get the decision stayed or reversed. Although the district attorney mentions to defense counsel that he or she is going, there is nothing filed and normally it's an ex parte request to the judge. Is that ethical?

Sam Stretton

Malpractice Insurance is in Lawyers' Best Interest

By Samuel C. Stretton |

If a lawyer has what I call an eroding malpractice policy, wherein the amount of the policy can be reduced by the legal fees of defending the lawyer, does that meet the requirements in Pennsylvania for adequate malpractice insurance coverage?

Sam Stretton

Discharged Lawyers Must Focus on the Law's Professional Aspects

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Is it ethical to include in a fee agreement the requirement that a client leaving owes substantial quantum meruit, plus costs, in order to keep clients from leaving the firm?

Sam Stretton

Criminal Defense Lawyers Should be Allowed to Make Early Pleas

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I read an opinion of the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Legal Ethics Committee concerning ethical responsibilities of both the prosecutor and defense counsel for early accountability programs. Is it correct?

Sam Stretton

Anti-Nepotism Provisions Should Have Exceptions

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Does it violate the nepotism provisions of the new Code of Judicial Conduct for a judicial officer to use a relative who is an elected constable and was elected in their jurisdiction?

Sam Stretton

Technology Presents Concerns About Protecting the Privilege

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Is it ethical for lawyers to use email with clients?

Sam Stretton

Courtroom Arrangements Have Changed Over Time

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Have there been major changes in courtroom seating and conduct of lawyers during trial in the last 75 years?

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Must Advise Unrepresented Parties to Obtain Counsel

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I filed a lawsuit against several defendants, one of whom told me he wanted to give me a statement. Can I take one?

Sam Stretton

History is an Integral Part of the Legal Profession

By Samuel C. Stretton |

In your articles, you often mention legal history and say understanding it is important for any lawyer. Why is it so important if a lawyer has clients and knows the law and is well prepared?

Samuel Stretton

Lawyers Must Be Attuned to 
the Amended Escrow Rules

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a new lawyer and I am concerned about the amendments to the escrow and financial recordkeeping requirements for lawyers. Is there a bottom line that I have to comply with?

Samuel Stretton

Lawyers Should Appropriately Raise the 
Death-Penalty Moratorium in Voir Dire

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am assigned to try a capital murder trial. May I voir dire the jury on the moratorium issued by Gov. Tom Wolf on all capital cases?

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Should Adhere to Courtroom Customs and Rituals

By Samuel C. Stretton |

When should I stand in a courtroom?

Sam Stretton

The Current Referral Fee System Benefits Everyone

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I have been reading articles about referral fees in Pennsylvania and how they should be abolished or severely restricted. Do you agree?

Sam Stretton

Motions Are Now the Usual Way to Deal With Unprofessional Opposing Counsel

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I have a case where the opposing lawyer is acting unprofessionally. The lawyer does not pass on any settlement offers or resolutions to the client, filing incorrect pleadings and incorrectly citing cases. It appears he has also not been truthful. What can I do?

Sam Stretton

Judges Cannot Serve in Any Discriminatory Organization

By Samuel C. Stretton |

As a judicial officer, can I work as the leader for my son's Boy Scouts troop?

Sam Stretton

Cooperation Is the Best Approach Before the Judicial Conduct Board

By Samuel C. Stretton |

What are some tips for representing judges before the Judicial Conduct Board?

Samuel Stretton

Lawyers Cannot Bring Up Evidence the Rules Prohibit

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am doing a prisoner's excessive force case. From an ethics standpoint, how much can a defense lawyer bring in about a police officer's background? Is it unethical for a defense lawyer to question a plaintiff in a civil rights case about the details of a prior conviction?

Sam Stretton

Young Lawyers Must Be Prepared for the Practical Aspects of the Profession

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a young lawyer and want to open my own office. What are some of the most important aspects of beginning a law practice?

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Should Never Give Up the Right to Practice in Certain Areas

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am representing a client in a very difficult matter against a major corporation. A very decent settlement proposal has been made, which I want to recommend to the client, but it requires me to agree not to handle any more of these cases. Can I agree to that?

Sam Stretton

A Proposed Rule Would Be Unfair to Third Circuit Practitioners

By Samuel C. Stretton |

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has issued revised Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement. Are there any major changes?

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Cannot Directly Invest Client Funds

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am representing an estate. Substantial money has come into the estate account. I am suggesting, because there will be some delay in distribution, that the money be invested. Can I ethically do that?

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Should Keep Clients Informed of All Settlement Offers

By Samuel C. Stretton |

My client has given me general settlement authority within a certain range and I have been negotiating with the other side. Do I have a duty to tell the client every back-and-forth offer and rejection?

Sam Stretton

All Lawyers Should Establish IOLTA and Escrow Accounts

By Samuel C. Stretton |

As a practicing lawyer, do I have to have an IOLTA/escrow account if I never receive clients' funds?

Samuel Stretton

Client Waivers Are Best Done in Writing

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Two separate clients of mine have a conflict. Both have orally consented to waive their consent to any conflict. I sent one a written consent waiver and the client has not signed it. Can I rely on the client's oral consent?

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Can Share Fees With Nonprofits

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I represented a nonprofit that referred a client to me. I received a substantial award for the client. May I give half of my legal fee to the nonprofit?

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Must Properly Handle Funds Belonging to Disappeared Clients

By Samuel C. Stretton |

In reviewing my escrow account, I noticed I am still holding a very small amount of money paid by a client many years ago as a legal retainer. The client dropped all contact with my office and I have tried numerous times but have been unable to contact him. What can I do with this money?

Sam Stretton

Retired Judges Can Use Leftover Campaign Funds for Certain Purposes

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a judicial officer who is going to retire. I still have my judicial campaign committee open and there is still money in it. Once I retire, can I use that money to contribute to other judicial campaigns and political parties?

Sam Stretton

Alternative Litigation Financing Is Becoming More Common

By Samuel C. Stretton |

My client wants to utilize an alternative litigation financing organization while his case is pending. Although I have recommended against it, the client insists. What ethical issues are involved?

Sam Stretton

Judges Should Not Comment on Jury Verdicts

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Is it unethical for an appellate judge in an opinion to severely criticize a jury verdict, particularly suggesting the jury condoned misconduct?

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Can Be Paid for Criminal Representation from a Client's Personal Injury Settlement

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am representing a client on a contingent fee personal injury case, which I believe will have a significant recovery. The client has been arrested in the interim in a criminal case. Can I agree to seek payment out of the recovery in the personal injury case for the criminal representation?

Sam Stretton

The Proposed Recordkeeping Rule Changes are Overly Harsh

By Samuel C. Stretton |

What changes are proposed to the Rules of Professional Conduct concerning maintenance of financial records and other matters?

Sam Stretton

Changes Allow Judicial Candidates to Personally Solicit Funds

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am going to be running for judicial office in 2015. Can I call potential donors and ask them for a donation to my campaign committee?

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Can Respond to Blog Inquiries About Representation

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a young, computer-literate lawyer. I am starting a blog where people can interact with me. If an individual responds to something I say in my blog and it is clear he or she needs legal representation, can I communicate and interact with him or her on the Internet regarding potential representation?

Sam Stretton

Disqualification Rules for District Judges Have Changed

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Have the new district judge standards of conduct changed the disqualification requirements for district judges?

Sam Stretton

The Judicial Discipline System Should Be Reconsidered

By Samuel C. Stretton |

After the Bruno decision, where does professional judicial discipline stand in Pennsylvania?

Sam Stretton

Sting Operations to Catch Judicial Misconduct Raise Concerns

By Samuel C. Stretton |

As a lawyer who practices in Philadelphia, I am concerned about the recent resignation of a Municipal Court judge and transfer of assignment of others. Was this done ethically?

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Should Avoid Overcommunication with Clients

By Samuel C. Stretton |

My practice has recently become unbearable. Clients text and email me constantly. Sometimes I think my entire day is spent texting and emailing. It has gotten to the point that I don't want to practice law anymore. What, ethically, can I do?

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Can Practice Temporarily in Other Jurisdictions

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Can I represent clients from other states?

Sam Stretton

The Rules in Judicial Campaigns are Still Strict

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am considering running for judicial office in Pennsylvania in 2015. Under the new Code of Judicial Conduct, what can I say or not say during the judicial campaign?

Sam Stretton

Pennsylvania Lawyers Should Be Cautious 
About Offering Legal Advice in Delaware

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Is it permissible for a Pennsylvania lawyer to represent people in Delaware if the lawyer has local counsel or an office with a Delaware lawyer in it?

Sam Stretton

Judges Must Report Misconduct to Uphold the Legal Profession's Integrity

By Samuel C. Stretton |

What are the responsibilities of a judicial officer to report another judge or lawyer for professional misconduct?

Sam Stretton

Is There Anything Unethical About Electronic Closings?

By Samuel C. Stretton |

In an electronic closing, the standard jury trial is flashed before the jurors exactly as the judge charges. All exhibits, particularly photos or videos, are displayed to the jury. The lawyer's comments are written and published to the jury. The lawyer speaks them, but many times is looking at a computer when doing so.

Samuel Stretton

A Lawyer’s Firm Can Sometimes Represent an Opposing Party of a Potential Client

By Samuel C. Stretton |

A client came to my office on a domestic case and we met for an hour. The client then chose to hire someone else. Can my firm represent the spouse of that client?

Sam Stretton

Attorneys Shouldn't Speak to Witnesses 
During Cross-Examination.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

If a party is on the witness stand, can the attorney who presents the witness speak to the witness when he or she begins cross-examination?

Samuel Stretton

Judges shouldn't express to jurors their opinions on a verdict

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I tried a jury trial recently and it is clear the judge radically disagreed with the jury's decision based on the judge's demeanor and comments. Is that a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct?

Samuel Stretton

The proposed judicial conduct rules would impact judges’ ability to serve as executor

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a district judge who also has a law practice. Can I still continue to serve as an executor?

Samuel Stretton

Lawyers should not be disqualified based on the appearance of impropriety

By Samuel C. Stretton |

It seems that more and more disqualification motions are being filed against lawyers as part of litigation strategy or tactics. Is there a problem, and why is this occurring? Should there be a better system to evaluate these disqualification motions?

Samuel Stretton

Lawyers should not warn witnesses about opposing counsel

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I have several witnesses who are being contacted by opposing counsel to interview. The witnesses have called me and I have told them not to speak to opposing counsel, since I do not trust opposing counsel. Is that proper, ethical advice?

Samuel Stretton

Judges have some flexibility in dealing with pro se litigants

By Samuel C. Stretton |

What are a judge's obligations to pro se litigants, if any?

Samuel Stretton

New rules tighten the allowances for extrajudicial compensation

By Samuel C. Stretton |

As a judicial officer, can I be paid for speaking engagements, receive royalties from a book or earn other income of that nature?

Samuel Stretton

New rules allow limited exceptions to the prohibition on judicial ex parte communications

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Can a judge consult with another judge or expert when deciding a case?

Sam Stretton

Judges Must Show No Prejudice When Performing Marriages

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a district court judge in Pennsylvania. I have seen the proposed rule changes to the rules of conduct for district judges. If passed, can I refuse to do same-sex marriages?

Sam Stretton

An ABA Opinion Says Lawyers Can Research Jurors on the Internet

By Samuel C. Stretton |

What are the limitations, if any, on investigation of potential jurors for an upcoming criminal trial?

Samuel Stretton

Attorney Discipline Must Adapt to the Changing Profession

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am looking at Disciplinary Board opinions and it appears that lawyers are now being suspended for several cases of neglect. This type of discipline seems very severe and sometimes uncalled for. Even if a lawyer does neglect one or two cases, it seems grossly unfair to take away the license to practice, particularly if the lawyer has been practicing for many years with otherwise good results.

Samuel Stretton

Recent Changes Make Charges of Criminal Contempt a Larger Concern for Lawyers

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I have been cited for criminal contempt by a judge in the court of common pleas and fined $100 due to my late appearance for a court hearing. Do I have to report this to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel?

Samuel Stretton

Attorney discipline should not be on a progressive scale.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

In attorney disciplinary matters, is there any set discipline for certain types of misconduct?

Samuel Stretton

A Line Must Be Drawn Regarding Trial Tactics

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Is it ethical to be very nasty to a witness or victim at a preliminary hearing for the purpose of having the victim overreact to the lawyer at trial when the lawyer is not treating him or her in the same mean way?

Samuel Stretton

Technology should not get in the way of professionalism

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Articles in the ABA Journal column called "The New Normal" strongly suggest change and technology are critical ingredients for the success of any future law firm. Do you disagree?

Samuel Stretton

Attorney-client privilege bars refuting a past client's comments

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I have represented a criminal defendant in the past who subsequently terminated my representation. That individual made certain statements to me about an unrelated incident. I now see that individual is testifying at a criminal trial saying exactly the opposite of what he told me. Do I have a duty to correct it?

Samuel Stretton

Lawyers must be cautious about practicing in multiple jurisdictions

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a lawyer licensed in Pennsylvania, but at times I get cases in New Jersey and Delaware from people I know. If the matter goes to litigation, I retain local counsel and then file a motion pro hac vice.

Samuel Stretton

The legal profession has undergone many changes in the recent past

By Samuel C. Stretton |

What are the major changes you have observed in the practice of law during your 40-plus years representing clients?

Samuel Stretton

Attorneys can reject any client that isn't a court appointment

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a young lawyer. Are there circumstances when I should decline representing a client?

Samuel Stretton

The U.S. Supreme Court's attorney discipline rules are not in line with other courts.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

How does the U.S. Supreme Court handle reciprocal attorney discipline?

Samuel Stretton

It is time for the state to fund indigent defense.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

What is the status of indigent defense and court-appointed counsel in Philadelphia?

Sam Stretton

Oral Argument in Appellate Court Requires Preparation.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I have my first oral argument before an appellate court in Pennsylvania. What advice would you give?

Samuel Stretton

Aging attorneys are a lurking problem in the legal profession.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a younger lawyer, and I noticed many of the older lawyers aren't retiring and are still practicing in their 70s and 80s. Is that unusual?

Sam Stretton

Judges Now Have a New Code of Conduct to Follow

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Could you highlight the changes in the new Code of Judicial Conduct adopted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court?

Samuel Stretton

Lawyers can break attorney-client privilege to protect clients facing self-harm.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am concerned about my client. The client has not been doing well and recently has been talking about suicide in the context of a domestic case. Can I reveal that information to other family members or to medical people or other authorities to get the person help?

Virtual Law Offices are Allowed But Not Ideal.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am an older member of the bar and I noticed my opposing counsel has a virtual law office. Is there anything unethical about doing that?

Lawyers Can Withdraw in the Case of Irreconcilable Differences with a Client

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I have just been appointed in a criminal case by the court of common pleas in my county. I don't want to take the case. Further, the client and I have a fairly major disagreement dealing with issues of ethics and honesty. What can I say in my withdrawal petition?

Letters to judges on the merits should be avoided

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Does a lawyer violate the prohibition against ex parte contact with a judicial officer when the letter to the judge is copied to opposing counsel?

Clients have final say regarding the reporting of a previous lawyer's unethical behavior

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I represent a client and have just taken over the case. From my review, it appears that the original lawyer acted very unethically. I wish to report this to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. The client objects. What are my obligations?

Lawyers investigating corporate misconduct must closely follow the rules

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I have been hired by a corporation to investigate misconduct within the corporation and its employees. Over the next couple of days, I will be meeting with a number of employees of the corporation.

Comments about influencing a judge's decisions are unethical

By Samuel C. Stretton |

The district attorney in my county was the campaign manager for the first assistant district attorney's election campaign for judicial office. The first assistant district attorney won the election and will serve as a common pleas judge.

A client has no authority to dictate whether a lawyer may grant opposing counsel's request for an extension

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I have a very difficult client who always wants to micromanage what I'm doing in the case. This client has forbidden me from giving any extensions of time to opposing counsel. Am I bound by this order from the client or can I provide some courtesy?

It's best to be conservative in reporting criminal 
contempt findings

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am an attorney who was found in summary criminal contempt by a common pleas judge in Pennsylvania. I was fined $500 and ordered to do some community service work. Do I have to report this conviction to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel?

Judges with attorney spouses must be aware of the occasional need for recusal

By Samuel C. Stretton |

My spouse is an attorney. I am a judicial officer. Can my spouse serve as an assistant district attorney or assistant city solicitor and, if he or she does, would I have to disqualify myself in all criminal or municipal cases?

Lawyers should only sign verifications in extreme circumstances

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I do a lot of civil litigation in my county, particularly defense work. In many of the complaints filed, the lawyers are signing the verification, not the client. At trial, clients sometimes disavow what the lawyer said in the complaint. Is this unethical and what can I do about it?

Complying with the rules when moving between the public and private sectors is critical

By Samuel C. Stretton |

If an assistant district attorney leaves the District Attorney's Office and is hired by a private firm, can that firm continue to defend criminal defendants?

Gag orders should be carefully crafted and 
sparingly used

By Samuel C. Stretton |

In a high-profile case, a judge has issued a gag order. What are the ethical considerations of a gag order and how does it affect my First Amendment rights as a lawyer?

Delaying a case to benefit a client is unethical

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am involved in civil litigation and it would be to my client's benefit to delay these matters as long as I can. For whatever reason, the opposing counsel is not being aggressive on the case. Is it ethical for me to use these delaying tactics or should I proceed?

Lawyers have no obligation to volunteer 
information learned through privilege

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I had a case where the court system did not pick up on the fact that my client had a prior DUI several years ago but within the 10-year window as set forth in the statute. No one ever asked me if my client had a prior record. The client did not have to fill anything out. Based on the record provided by the probation department, the court indicated this was a first offense and sentenced accordingly. Did I do anything unethical?

A strong, unified judicial system is important for maintaining the public's respect

By Samuel C. Stretton |

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has denied the jury commissioner challenge and many jury commissioner offices have been abolished in Pennsylvania. In what direction is the judiciary going?

What is the best way for a young lawyer to really learn the Rules of Professional Conduct and his or her ethical responsibilities?

By Samuel C. Stretton |

What is the best way for a young lawyer to really learn the Rules of Professional Conduct and his or her ethical responsibilities?

It would be a mistake to change the referral-fee arrangement

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I was at a swearing in for a judicial officer recently where there were Supreme Court justices and there was some informal talk I overheard about abolishing the rule allowing referral fees in Pennsylvania. Is there any proposed rule?

Judicial officers are always under a microscope

By Samuel C. Stretton |

As someone who is considering running for judge, what are the most serious problems a judicial officer can get into that could cause major judicial disciplinary consequences?

Judicial campaigns must strictly comply with the Election Code

By Samuel C. Stretton |

As a candidate running for common pleas court, what kind of letters can I send to supporters, contributors and volunteers?

Changes are needed in the Philadelphia court system

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a relatively young lawyer in Philadelphia. What is the current status of court appointments and is the system ending?

Representing client before 
agency requires complete truth

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I want to represent a client before an administrative agency. There is not a trial or adjudicative proceeding. Am I bound by the Rules of Professional Conduct because there are people appearing on behalf of other clients who are not lawyers and don't appear to be so bound?

Lawyers should pay close attention to self-reporting requirements for offenses

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I was just convicted of retail theft, a summary offense. I was given a fine. Do I have any reporting requirements to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel?

Retainers require well-written fee agreements

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I often hear discussion about retainers. How many different types of retainers are there?

There is confusion about who has the authority to discipline judges in Pennsylvania

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am confused as to the role of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court versus the role of the Court of Judicial Discipline. Which has the ultimate authority to discipline judges?

Questions & Answers on Professional Responsibility

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I have served on the arbitration panel as the plaintiff's arbitrator. This was a three-member panel and one member was the neutral. Subsequently, the plaintiff has come to me to represent them on issues involving this matter. Can I do so?

Take a professional approach in dealing with opponents

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a young lawyer involved in somewhat significant litigation. The opposing lawyer, who is very experienced, constantly files motions criticizing me and alleging bad conduct. How do I react to this?

Attorney advertisements should not include celebrities

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am an attorney who is trying to develop more business. Fortunately, I know a number of people who are considered celebrities. Can I run an ad with a picture of myself and my celebrity friends in the newspapers and on our website and other locations?

Requesting recusal is the best option when litigating against a family court master

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I practice in a county where there are part-time masters and conciliators in family court. Sometimes, while having cases before the master or conciliator, I am also litigating against that person in unrelated family court cases. Is that permissible?

Firms should be cautious about confidentiality when paralegals depart

By Samuel C. Stretton |

My litigation paralegal, who has worked closely with me on a number of litigation cases, has recently been hired by a law firm that opposes me in a number of cases. What steps should that law firm take — or what steps should I take — to protect confidentiality and any conflict of interest?

Questions & Answers on Professional Responsibility

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a lawyer with a master's degree in clinical psychology and I see clients in the same office where I have my law practice.

Questions & Answers on Professional Responsibility

By Samuel C. Stretton |

What are a lawyer's ethical obligations, if any, concerning sealing court records or appellate court decisions?

Questions & Answers on Professional Responsibility

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I was reinstated to the practice of law in Pennsylvania by the state Supreme Court. Can I practice in federal court? What is the procedure for being reinstated in federal court?

Judicial candidates must protect the dignity of the office.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am running for judicial office. What should a candidate for judicial office not do?

Lawyers are obligated to present 
 mitigating evidence

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I attended a seminar on capital litigation and the question posed was whether a lawyer could be ordered by his client not to present any mitigation if the client had been convicted of murder of the first degree. According to the hypothetical, the client preferred death as opposed to life imprisonment and at least appeared to be competent. Can a lawyer ethically allow a client to go to the death phase without presenting any mitigating evidence?

It is unethical for insurance defense firms to submit legal bills to third-party auditors

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Is it ethical for insurance defense law firms to submit legal bills to a third-party auditing service and participate in "legal service programs" whereby an insurer may limit an attorney's representation or defense of the client, the insured?

Bad prosecutorial behavior should not be condoned

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I do a lot of court-appointed criminal defense out of Philadelphia. At times, I see young assistant district attorneys make statements they should not make during closing and opening speeches. What is the responsibility of the District Attorney's Office in the Appellate Division when it is clear the young assistant has acted incorrectly?

Lawyers may need to adjust in the wake of budgetary issues

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a lawyer who does a lot of court-appointed work and it is a substantial part of my law practice. I see there may be cuts in federal court-appointed payments and/or delays because of budgetary issues based on what is known as the sequester statute.

Pledges to support organizations are prohibited

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I saw a candidate for the court of common pleas receive the endorsement of a county Fraternal Order of Police and in the endorsement agreed to sign a pledge to support issues involving police and other matters. Is that improper?

Judicial officers can at times show mercy

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Is it unethical for a judge, in a summary criminal case or a summary traffic case, to acquit someone, even though the judge knows the person is guilty, for the sole reason of exercising some sort of mercy or to give the person a second chance?

Lawyers cannot assist in any way someone avoiding a warrant

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am an assistant district attorney and there is a criminal defendant who has been a fugitive. I called to try to locate the fugitive and he answered the phone. He refused to state where he was.

Lawyers should avoid changing fee arrangements on clients

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a lawyer who is representing a client and it is clear to me that my fee arrangement is inadequate. Can I change the fee agreement during the middle of the representation?

As long as there is full disclosure, the decision to recuse is up to the judge

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am familiar with a case involving gas drilling in Pennsylvania. There is litigation involving the gas drilling before a judge. I discovered that the wife of the judicial officer is active in organizations that oppose drilling and fracking in Pennsylvania, particularly in the township where the issue is being raised. Should the judge recuse himself?

Seeking a referral fee from a financial adviser is unwise

By Samuel C. Stretton |

May I accept a referral fee from a financial adviser if he receives a full client disclosure statement executed by my client?

Lawyers must recognize when their skills are deteriorating

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a lawyer in the latter part of my 60s and I intend to keep practicing, hopefully for a number of years. What are the ethical considerations an older lawyer or senior member of the bar must think about?

It is unethical for an attorney to engage in ex parte communication without notifying opposing counsel

By Samuel C. Stretton |

In discussing a dispute with opposing counsel, we discussed a proposed resolution. The next day, he filed an injunction and got an ex parte order from the local trial judge without notifying either myself or my client that he intended to do so. Is that unethical?

Lawyers should not take the client's verification if they can avoid it

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am an attorney who does a fair amount of personal injury litigation. I noticed the plaintiff's attorney took the verification on answers to new matter and also the verification on the complaint. Is that ethical?

Firms must be careful to follow Rules of Professional Conduct governing interactive websites

By Samuel C. Stretton |

My firm is becoming very technologically advanced, particularly in advertising. We have now developed a very interactive website. Are there any ethical concerns?

Lawyers should seek a client's consent before pushing for memorandum opinions to be published

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I have obtained a ruling from an appellate court in a case with a memorandum opinion that is very favorable to my client and which establishes new law that will be helpful to my client and other potential clients in future cases. Is it a violation of the ethical rules of confidentiality for me to actively seek publication of the memorandum opinion? Do I need my client's consent?

Election lawyers representing nominating petitioners must keep the petitioners' best interests in mind.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am an attorney who has handled election cases in the past and anticipates this year to have a number of election cases where I am either challenging nominating petitions or defending nominating petitions.

Lawyers can't represent their clients' opponents in another matter

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I represent Client A against Business B. Business B now wishes to hire me on a matter totally unrelated to my representation of Client A. Can I do so?

A lawyer must be careful when attempting to help an unrepresented opposing party

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I was at a real estate settlement the other day where I represented the mortgage company. There was a lawyer present who was handling the settlement for the title company.

While there is no duty to disclose consultation 
with an ethics lawyer to a client, there is a duty 
to disclose any ethical breaches.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I work for a midsized law firm. In representing a client, an ethical issue arose about the firm's handling of the client's case. This firm has a lawyer the firm consults regularly on ethical issues. If I call this lawyer, do I have a duty to disclose this to the client?

A judge may not sign nominating petitions for 
political candidates

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Can a judicial officer sign nominating petitions for other candidates? Would the answer change if the judicial officer were running for election in the same year also?

A client may execute a waiver of future conflicts, but the practice is disfavored.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am representing several clients for claims of injuries resulting from a motor vehicle accident. Can I have the clients, as part of the fee agreement, sign a consent to waive future conflicts of interest that might arise in this representation?

A lawyer must be very careful before employing the tactic of introducing prior convictions against his or her client in a criminal case

By Samuel C. Stretton |

In a capital murder case, I want to question the jurors during voir dire about my client's four prior robbery convictions. I am doing so because I wish to let the jury know everything, strip the jury down, so I can get a true sense of who will oppose death and who will oppose life. My client is not testifying, so normally his prior robbery convictions would not be admissible. Can I do so?

Capital cases require give and take between the lawyer and the client

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am starting a trial in a capital murder case. I have tried many capital murder trials and have attended many seminars on voir dire in capital cases. My clients insisted on keeping one juror who I truly believe would hurt the clients' cause, particularly on the death penalty. Can I overrule the client on this issue?

Prosecutors are not exempt from the Rules of Professional Conduct

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a young attorney handling criminal cases and have seen the district attorney and other prosecutors in trial give statements of personal opinion and, at times, not turn over all discovery.

Lawyers have an obligation to inform the court of evidence of jury bias discovered through social media

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am an attorney who is about to begin a jury trial. I have obtained a list of all of the jurors and have gone on social media to learn about some of these jurors. I see information that would show that some jurors are extremely biased one way or the other. Do I have an ethical duty to advise the court if the jurors don't state the bias they are showing in social media when they are questioned?

Lawyers who represent corporations and serve on boards must be very sensitive to potential conflicts

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am an attorney who represents a corporation and also serves on the board of directors of that corporation. Is this dual role prohibited?

A lawyer may not take a contingency fee for a case before the Client Security Fund

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I have been approached by a client to sue a lawyer who misused funds of the client. I have also filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security. Can I have a contingent fee to do this?

Attorney liens should be used cautiously in Pennsylvania

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am confused about attorney liens, when I can hold a file and how I can get paid. Are attorney liens still recognized in Pennsylvania?

A lawyer has no duty to violate attorney-client privilege by informing a court that a client's financial situation has changed

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am handling a court-appointed case on appeal for a client. The client also hired me on a personal injury case. I have just gotten a nice settlement for the client. Do I have to tell the court-appointed system that the client no longer qualifies for indigent representation?

Nonrefundable fee clauses do not give attorneys license to keep large sums of money for doing nothing

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am an inmate in a state correctional institution. I hired a lawyer and he wanted a $50,000 retainer. I paid him half the retainer. I had two preliminary hearings and he did not show up. Because he didn't show up, I then fired him. I requested a refund of the fee. He refused, saying he had a nonrefundable fee clause. Does that protect him from keeping the funds?

A judge who writes a book on a nonlegal subject must still be careful about how the book is promoted

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a judicial officer writing a book on a nonlegal subject. What can I do to promote this book?

Lawyers who find themselves overextended have an ethical obligation to address the situation.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a young lawyer and find myself overextended because of the bad economic situation in the United States.

Lawyers are Obligated to Make Clear What Information is Privileged

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a corporate counsel. Most of my communication, particularly in-house, is through email. As the in-house counsel, I give both legal advice and business advice, when asked. Are my emails covered by attorney-client privilege?

Critizing opposing counsel in an appellate brief or oral argument is a big mistake

By Samuel C. Stretton |

What is the biggest mistake a lawyer handling an appeal can make in his or her appellate brief and/or oral argument?

Lawyers must be careful to avoid ethical breaches when interacting with judges in social settings

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am in a small county where oftentimes the bench and the bar socialize at various functions or see each other at restaurants, etc. What do I do if the judge, in casual conversation, raises a case where I am representing a party?

Is it permissible as a lawyer, either on a blog or Facebook, to discuss an upcoming jury trial in the local courthouse?

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Is it permissible as a lawyer, either on a blog or Facebook, to discuss an upcoming jury trial in the local courthouse?

Proposed new rules would make it unethical for lawyers to participate in court-appointed dependency cases

By Samuel C. Stretton |

As a court-appointed dependency lawyer in Philadelphia, I have become familiar with the American Bar Association's proposed model act governing the representation of children in abuse, neglect and dependency proceedings. If that is adopted, will it be ethical for lawyers to continue to participate in court-appointed dependency matters?

A lawyer may waive future conflicts with a client in certain situations

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am representing a client and I want to protect myself in case there is any future conflict. Can I, in my fee agreement, have a waiver of future conflicts for a client?

Lawyers who fail to pay their bills can face disciplinary problems

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I own a good-sized legal support service firm. My firm serves subpoenas, files pleadings, etc. I have run into situations where an attorney has been paid for services and the services are then contracted with my company, but then the attorney will not pay me. Some of the services have been depositions or service of process, and then are unpaid. Does this violate the Rules of Professional Conduct?

A lawyer must provide a copy of a client's file to the client if requested and must also pay the copying costs

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I represented a client and did a pretty good job for that person. I was paid in full. Six months later, after the representation was concluded, the client asked me for the file. I told the client I would provide the file, but only if the client would pay the copying costs. Do I have to provide the file and do I have to pay for it?

A lawyer could potentially face suspension for failing to keep proper financial records

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Can a lawyer be disciplined for not maintaining proper financial records?

Proposed ethics rule changes may render lawyers who don't embrace technology dated

By Samuel C. Stretton |

When will the ethics rules catch up to modern technology, particularly in the area of competence?

Settlement proceeds should be kept in an escrow account until any liens are resolved by the client

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I represent an insurance company that has a lien for medical bills on a personal injury case. Can the opposing counsel pay the settlement proceeds to the client and tell the client it is their responsibility to pay the lien without consequences to counsel?

The term 'black robe disease' is used to describe judges who let their own self-importance cloud their good judgment

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a young lawyer and I have heard the term "black robe disease." What does that mean?

A lawyer may bill more for a paralegal's time than the paralegal is paid

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a lawyer who employs a paralegal who is a suspended attorney. I want to bill the client for the time.

Lawyers who run nonlegal businesses must keep two professions separate

By Samuel C. Stretton |

If I have a business in several states managing other companies and at the same time have an ongoing law practice, if something goes wrong, can I be sued in my capacity as an attorney?

Lawyers have a duty to keep settlement funds in escrow until liens and medical bills are paid

By Samuel C. Stretton |

My client insists that I pay him the money out of a personal injury settlement and he will pay off whatever liens and doctors are owed money. Can I do so?

Lawyers must learn to balance their duty of zealous advocacy with their duty of candor to the court.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Lawyers must learn to balance their duty of zealous advocacy with their duty of candor to the court.

If a lawyer has no knowledge of a conflict before giving legal advice to a party on a limited basis, disqualification does not apply

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a young lawyer who participated in a program through my church to provide legal advice to low-income clients who were not able to afford a lawyer. This was done through a program with the church on a Saturday afternoon in the church basement. Later in the week, when talking to my partners, I discovered that my law firm represents the spouse of one of the persons I gave advice to. I was not aware of it at the time. Will my firm have to disqualify itself?

Lawyers may draft pleadings without signing their names

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am helping a prison inmate in his litigation. For personal reasons, I do not want to enter my appearance of record. May I draft the briefs and other pleadings for him, but allow him to sign his name?

Lawyers should keep copies of clients' wills and give clients the originals

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a lawyer who has written a number of wills over the last several years. Should I hold onto the original will and keep it in a safe place in a file cabinet, or should I give the original will and other original documents pertaining to estate planning back to the client to hold and just keep copies?

Lawyers may, within limits, obtain a security interest in a client's property to protect fees

By Samuel C. Stretton |

A potential client with a serious criminal matter has come to me. He is short of cash, but has real estate. The client is agreeable to signing over property to me or allowing me to secure a mortgage on the property as to the amount of my legal fee. Is such an arrangement permissible?

Increased emphasis on technological savvy should not overshadow the basic tenets of good lawyering

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a good lawyer, but I am not up to date on modern technology. Will that create an ethics issue for me?

More disciplinary action may be taken against veteran lawyers

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I saw in one of the Disciplinary Board's newsletters that more disciplinary action is taken against lawyers with 20 or more years at the bar than new lawyers. Why is that?

Pennsylvania is experiencing an indigent defense crisis

By Samuel C. Stretton |

You have written in the past about the lack of ethical systems for court-appointed counsel in Pennsylvania and the failure of the Gideon legacy. What is the current status, particularly in Philadelphia?

A Lawyer Must be Careful if Paying a Non-Expert Witness

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I have a witness in a case who is not an expert witness, but who has to review records to prepare for his testimony. Can I pay this individual for his time in reviewing these documents, even though he is not an expert?

Clients' notes subject to attorney-client privilege must be clearly marked as such

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am an attorney in civil litigation and there has been a request for the production of notes my client has kept. Most of these notes my client kept were during meetings with me. Is there a privilege issue that can be raised?

Pennsylvania has very limited rules recognizing privileged information in joint defenses

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am trying a case with multiple co-defendants and we have a joint defense. There have been meetings with the lawyers and the multiple clients. Is this information privileged?

The state rules governing legal advertising have not been changed in years

By Samuel C. Stretton |

What is the current status of legal advertising in Pennsylvania? I had heard there were proposed changes, but haven't seen anything.

Lawyers should avoid making large campaign contributions to judges before whom they may appear

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a lawyer and if I know I am going to have cases before a particular court or judge, is it ethical for me, during the judicial race for that position and, even more so, during the retention races, to give substantial campaign contributions to judicial candidates?

A district attorney's office must screen when an assistant district attorney's former client is being prosecuted

By Samuel C. Stretton |

A lawyer who has a private practice and represented a client in a high-profile case has now been hired by the local district attorney's office, which is prosecuting that case. Should the district attorney's office recuse itself?

There are currently no ethical rules governing judges' use of social media

By Samuel C. Stretton |

You have written an article recently about judges and social media, such as Facebook. Do any of the ethical rules specifically address this issue?

Lawyers convicted of a crime carrying a maximum sentence of one year or more must report it to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel

By Samuel C. Stretton |

A friend of mine, who is an attorney, was recently convicted of public drunkenness and disorderly conduct and paid a fine. Does he have to report these convictions to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel? He says he does not.

For young lawyers, a steady diet of trial work marks a recipe for future success

By Samuel C. Stretton |

What is your best advice to a young attorney who wants to become a trial lawyer?

Judicial officers must be very careful when using social media

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Should a judicial officer use Twitter?

When non-lawyers sign on firm letterhead, they must be clearly identified as non-lawyers.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I have been corresponding with a law firm that emphasizes collection work. The person I am corresponding with has the same last name as the lawyer in the letterhead. The person signs the letterhead and responds and sends me letters. I just discovered the person is not a lawyer. Is there anything illegal about what is going

Judges may hear cases involving people they know as long as they feel they can remain impartial.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a judicial officer and I read your article about social media. Can I hear cases involving people I know?

Lawyers must not procrastinate when terminating a relationship with an uncooperative client.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Lawyers must not procrastinate when terminating a relationship with an uncooperative client.

When challenging a statute in court, a lawyer should notify government counsel before speaking with lawmakers about changing it.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

If I bring a challenge to a statute, ordinance or government regulation while litigation is pending, may I talk to the officials to attempt to have them change the law, ordinance or statute?

It is not unethical for a lawyer to accept work product from a law student.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I saw an article in the American Bar Association's magazine about law students using their Westlaw accounts to do research for law firms

Lawyers who are discharged by a client must protect themselves with fee letters.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Lawyers who are discharged by a client must protect themselves with fee letters.

Whether or not a lawyer can charge fees beyond hourly rate depends on the fee agreement.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am an attorney and I bill at an hourly rate of $250 an hour. As part of my bill, can I also include the time for my secretaries for typing, copying documents, etc.?

A lawyer may negotiate a settlement with an unrepresented party in a domestic case.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am representing a wife in a domestic case and the husband refuses to get a lawyer. I want to meet with the husband and try to negotiate a settlement with him. Can I do so or would that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct?

Judicial officers need to exercise care when logging onto social media sites.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

As a judicial officer, should I be on Facebook and Twitter and these other social media forums?

Attorneys should never place liens on clients' properties.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am representing a lawyer in a cause of action and, to protect my fee, I want to get an interest in the property that is at issue. Can I have the client sign over interest in the property to me?

A courtroom is not a place where efficiency should be paramount

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Is the legal profession still mainly a profession, or is it purely a business?

The legal profession calls for a different standard when handling non-refundable fees

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I represented a client in a preliminary hearing and I have in my escrow account my fee for such representation. My fee agreement states the fee is non-refundable. The client said he did not like my performance at the preliminary hearing and is demanding the fee back. Can I take the fee?

A bit of exaggeration as to the extent of injuries and value of the case is acceptable

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am engaged in settlement negotiations on a personal injury case. During the negotiations, I want to that say this case has a great value. How far can I go in puffing the extent of injuries and value of the case without violating the Rules of Professional Conduct?

Judges can support political candidates privately

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a judicial officer, but I wish to contribute to a political campaign. Can I do so?

Maintaining files and giving clients copies is not quite as simple as it might seem

By Samuel C. Stretton |

A case of mine has been closed for over a year. The client now wants the file. Do I have to give the client everything? What may I retain?

A wise judge is consistently on time and rarely absent

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Every time I go to a hearing at my local courthouse at 9:30, the judge doesn't come out until 10 or 10:30. Is that a violation?

Tone is critical when contacting former clients who have left with a departed associate

By Samuel C. Stretton |

An associate of mine left the firm and I just received letters from clients of the firm for whom the associate was working, and they have indicated they wish their file to be transferred to the associate. Can I call or contact the clients to ask them to reconsider?

A lawyer who has had contact with a party may represent the other side, if key information wasn't exchanged

By Samuel C. Stretton |

A client had called and discussed a potential case with me but chose not to hire me. The other side of the case has now called me. Can I represent the other side?

Lawyering, not technology, should drive the practice

By Samuel Stretton |

With modern technology, I want to have a totally paperless office and no paper files. I want every file I have maintained electronically without a corresponding paper file. Is that ethical?

Attorneys must make an extra effort to avoid inadvertent contact with jurors during a trial

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am in the middle of a jury trial and during the lunch break, I was eating lunch at a local restaurant. Suddenly a voice said, "I'm one of the jurors on your case and you should stop talking."

A suspended or disbarred attorney is very limited in what he or she can do

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a suspended lawyer and a law firm has hired me to be their paralegal. My main job is doing the intake with clients, interviewing them about the case, and writing summaries to the managing partner, and then making recommendations to the managing partner as to what to do.

A Proposal Would Empower the Disciplinary Board to Issue Public Reprimands Without Court Approval

By Samuel C. Stretton |

A set of proposals to change the state Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement were published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin of Aug. 6. If adopted, these changes would create a whole new form of discipline in Pennsylvania.

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

By By Samuel C. Stretton |

May judges take gifts as long they report them on their annual disclosure forms? If it is not prohibited, then why is there such criticism?

Lawyers may solicit work through e-mail, albeit with restrictions.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a lawyer who was surfing the Internet and came upon a blog that talked about a potential lawsuit. I want to e-mail the person about the lawsuit and inquire if they would be interested in myself representing them. Can I do so?

Questions & Answers on Professional Responsibility

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Lawyers should always cross-examine witnesses whose testimony is hotly contested.

Questions & Answers on Professional Responsibility

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I received a DB-7 20-day letter from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. It is asking for my position. Should I respond or just say nothing?

It is a professional courtesy to grant an opposing lawyer an extension.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a young lawyer and my opponent has asked for an extension to respond to an outstanding motion. My client wants me to be very aggressive. Is there any ethical rule to give me guidance as to whether or not I should object to the extension of time request?

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Lawyers swallow bitter pills when unfairly discharged.

Respect and collegiality from the bench go a long way toward making lawyers happy

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Q: What do judges do that annoys lawyers?

Common rules of courtroom courtesy are key to a successful career as a litigator or appellate lawyer

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Q: I am just beginning to try cases. What issues seem to annoy trial judges the most?

Correcting transcripts can be done if both parties are given notice.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Is it ethical for a judge to order a court reporter to delete information and statements from a trial transcript after the trial is concluded and the transcripts are being typed since an appeal has been filed? Further, if the judge does this, shouldn't the judge advise all parties?

Accepting large gifts, though allowed, can be problematic for attorneys.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I recently secured a not guilty verdict in a criminal case. Unsolicited, my client has given me a substantial "thank you" gift. May I accept it?

Attorneys who advertise must be mindful of restrictions on what can be said.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I want to advertise aggressively. What can I state in my advertisement about myself as an attorney that will not violate the Rules of Professional Conduct?

Lawyers must educate their hires on adhering to standards of professional responsibility

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Are attorneys ethically responsible for the conduct of investigators, particularly when the investigator is attempting to contact clients who are represented by counsel?

Showing disgust has no place in a courtroom.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

At trial, my client's family told me opposing counsel was making facial expressions, such as rolling her eyes and shaking her head, during my opening statement and during questioning of witnesses. I did not see it. What should I do about it?

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

Ethics Forum

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions and Answeres on Professional Responsibility

Judges who show poor demeanor on the bench may face disciplinary charges

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Can judicial demeanor be the basis for a disciplinary complaint?

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

Ethics Forum

By Samual C. Stretton |

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions & Answers on Professional Responsibility

Lawyers need not elaborate, but they must correct judges who misstate information about their clients.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

In representing a defendant during a hearing, the judge asked a question about whether my client had any prior convictions. The pre-sentence report did not disclose any, although I know there are priors in another jurisdiction.

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

If a fee bill remains unpaid, a lawyer should withdraw from the case.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

There is no doubt that getting paid is becoming more difficult. One of the most frustrating things in practicing law is to do a good job for a client, spend a lot of time on a case and never have the courtesy of payment. All those frequent calls when the client needed the lawyer never appear again when the lawyer calls asking for payment.

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

Lawyers must be careful when using their own cases as teaching points

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I have been at seminars where lawyers, as part of their teaching, will discuss in some detail cases they have handled to get across a point to the audience. Is that ethical or does it violate the attorney-client privilege?

Insurance ads may exert an influence on jury pools

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I do a lot of plaintiffs' work and I feel some insurance company advertisements taint jury pools and the public's understanding of a person's right to recovery. Is there anything unethical about corporate advertisements that impact jury pools?

Retainers from court-appointed clients for additional work may only happen after an appointment has ended.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I handled a case as a court-appointed attorney at the PCRA level. The state Supreme Court ultimately denied allocatur and my appointment ended. The family wants to file a habeas corpus petition in federal court and wishes to retain me. Can I accept the retainer?

Criticizing an opponent is unethical and often backfires.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I have been practicing law for about 25 years. More and more, I am seeing attorneys attack the lawyer on the opposing side. Statements are made that the lawyer is not truthful or actually engaged in misconduct. It seems to be more common than it used to be. Is it ethical?

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions and answers on professional responsibility.

The legal profession is heading toward multistate practice, and ethics rules are accommodating that trend.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

A firm without a Pennsylvania office is preparing deeds and other documents and mortgages for clients in the state. Is the firm prohibited from doing so by Rule 5.5 of the Rules of Professional Conduct?

It is an attorney's duty to speak out against injustices in the criminal justice system.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

What obligations do members of the bar have to speak out and, perhaps, protest the changes being made to the criminal system in Philadelphia beginning this month?

Attorneys advising clients on federal laws and regulations should seek admission to the federal bar

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Every lawyer who is admitted to practice in the state should also apply for admission to the federal court in their state for a couple of good reasons.

Attorneys must hold funds in escrow accounts until disputes are resolved.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am holding disputed funds in my escrow account. How long am I required to hold these funds if there is no action taken?

Court approval is required to settle any case involving a minor, no matter how small

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Q: What are my ethical responsibilities as an attorney with regard to a minor's compromise? For a small settlement, like $1,000 or $2,000, some insurance carriers will pay the money without requiring any petitions to the court for a minor's compromise.

Lawyers should avoid sweeping statements of innocence in remarks to the media on behalf of a client

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Q: I have been retained by a criminal defendant in a case that has drawn media attention. May I give a public statement that my client is innocent?

Pro bono work should be a priority for every lawyer in the New Year

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Q: What should be the New Year's resolution of any young lawyer?

Lawyers must disclose to the court after-discovered adverse authority until a case reaches its conclusion

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Q: The court ruled in my favor on a motion I filed in a civil case which is proceeding. I just discovered a case that is adverse to my position, which I did not place in my brief because I was not aware of it. Is there a time limitation on my duty to disclose adverse authority?

Suspended lawyers may work as paralegals, but restrictions apply.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I ran into an old law school classmate and discovered he has been suspended. I would like to hire him as a paralegal to work in my law office. Is that ethically permissible?

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

Amended rule requires attorneys to file a report with the ODC within 20 days of a conviction

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I will probably be pleading guilty to driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident. I will serve two days in jail and the rest of the sentence on probation. Do I have to report this?

Fee arrangements between clients and attorneys are not usually discoverable.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am involved in civil litigation and the other side has requested, through discovery, the fee arrangement I have with my client. Can I ethically provide that?

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I have my own practice and also an unrelated business involving a restaurant and gift shop. What are my ethical obligations in my non-law businesses? Am I held to the Rules of Professional Conduct?

The rules on selling a law practice are not clear about when lawyers who have sold may return to private practice

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Q: About eight months ago, I sold my law practice. A firm has asked if I would work for it part-time. May I?

The rule on imputed conflicts requiring firmwide disqualification is harsh, but necessary

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Q: I am a managing partner in a fairly substantial firm. A recently hired associate turned out to have a conflict of interest that cannot be resolved due to prior representation of an adversary in current litigation. Will the firm have to disqualify itself because of his prior involvement on the opposite side?

IOLTA accounts can't be automatically converted into accounts for personal use

By By Samuel C. Stretton |

Q: Years ago, I opened an IOLTA account when I was a sole practitioner. Since then, I no longer use that account for clients' funds, but use it as my personal checking account. Will that bring any difficulties?

The rule against sex between clients and lawyers must be heeded when a relationship takes a turn toward the romantic

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Q: In representing a business over the years, I have dealt with one particular woman as my initial contact person. We have become very friendly and both she and I would like to begin dating. Would that be prohibited by the Rules of Professional Conduct?

Advertising a lawyer's results can create unjustifiable expectations.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I noted on television that some lawyers in my county are advertising their verdicts and settlements. Is this permissible? I always thought this would violate the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Good lawyers keep bluster out of the courtroom.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I read an article about a lawyer who acted badly in court during an election case and accused the judge of misconduct and running a kangaroo court. Setting aside the issue of contempt, were any ethical rules violated?

Lawyers ought not to take advantage of unintentional disclosure of an opponent's strategy

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I received in an e-mail from opposing counsel a document that was clearly not meant to be attached. This is a confidential document summarizing strategy in an unrelated case. What are my obligations with regard to this document?

Criminal defense attorneys must learn the intricacies of immigration law.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

With the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Padilla v. Kentucky, how do criminal defense attorneys fulfill ethical and constitutional obligations to defendants who are not citizens?

Supervising judges may not prevent judicial officers from public speaking.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Supervising judges may not prevent judicial officers from public speaking.

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Can a judicial officer receive a referral fee from an attorney?

Associates can stay clear of ethical issues if they agree to disagree with partners.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am an associate working in a law firm. I believe that the partner is violating a Rule of Professional Conduct in the course he is pursuing in a case. The partner strongly disagrees with me. What are my ethical obligations, if any?

Is it ethical for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to get involved in how preliminary hearings are to be held in Philadelphia?

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Is it ethical for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to get involved in how preliminary hearings are to be held in Philadelphia?

Lawyers do not need to disclose their lack of trial experience to a client

By Samuel C. Strettton |

I have been retained to represent a client in a fairly major case that will most likely go to a jury trial. I only have limited jury trial experience, although I have been practicing for 15 years and am a knowledgeable attorney. Do I have to disclose my lack of experience of jury trials to the client?

Ethics Forum

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Questions and Answers on Professional Responsibility

A lawyer should notify the court that a juror knows his or her client even when the person is not forthcoming.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

During the selection process in a criminal case, my client, the defendant told me he knew one of the jurors and wanted her on the panel because he believed she would be sympathetic to his plight. The juror did not answer when questioned whether she knew my client. Do I have an obligation to report to the court and opposing counsel that this juror knows my client?

Language pertaining to pension revocation for judges needs to be changed.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a judicial officer and a complaint has been made against me. Is it possible I could lose my judicial pension if I am found in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct?

Witness preparation should only help a person tell the truth

By SamueL C. Stretton |

Q: I have seen lawyers spend hours preparing clients and witnesses for trial. Many times the facts are not that complicated.

Attorneys should be familiar with the rules of disciplinary enforcement

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Anyone who represents attorneys who are convicted of a crime or who plead guilty have to be aware of the disciplinary consequences and reporting requirements.

A lawyer's defense strategy at trial, but not all tactical decisions must be approved by the client.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Defendants who insist on a trial are entitled to have one, even if the prosecutors have overwhelming evidence.

Changing the practice of law is the best check against judicial corruption

By Samuel C. Stretton |

The Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice's released its report last month, offering a number of suggestions on how to revise the juvenile justice system and create better oversight for judicial actions.

The Judicial Conduct Board handles complaints against anyone acting in a judicial capacity including masters

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Q: I am very upset with the conduct of a master in a divorce case. Should I report the person to the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania?

A lawyer may not rectify a client's unpaid fees by using held funds.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Recently, I was discharged by a client. I am holding several thousand dollars of escrow money for the client on an unrelated matter that involved a real estate settlement. The client also owes me several thousand dollars. Since I have been discharged, can I return the escrow money, minus my legal fee, when I return the client's file?