Opinion 89-15
(June 1989)

You have asked the Committee for an opinion concerning your obligation to report certain matters to the Disciplinary Board, in view of your belief that a former client has, with new counsel, made claims based on falsified facts. Our opinion, of course, is limited by the factual statements you have given us in your inquiry of April 18, 1989.

You have advised us that based on documents and interviews, you believe that during the time in question your former client resided in Pennsylvania. You have learned that subsequent to retaining new counsel, she has made a claim for reimbursement of expenses, based on an asserted residence in New Jersey at that time. You have advised successor counsel of the facts as you understand them, and furnished that counsel with all relevant documents that bear on the issue.

We believe that in revealing the facts to successor counsel, you have fully exercised all of your obligations under the Rules of Professional Guidance. Rule 3.3 requires candor toward the tribunal, and you have supplied information to successor counsel which would put him or her on notice.

We further consider that Rule 1.6, Confidentiality of Information, is applicable. Thus, under subsection (c) you may reveal such information to the extent that you reasonably believe necessary to prevent the client from committing a criminal act that is likely to result in substantial injury to the financial interest or property of another. Accordingly you have no obligation to reveal information, and we note the requirement of 1.6(d) which continues the client's right of privacy in information forwarded to you when acting as her counsel.

We also note the comments to the Rules, particularly those relating to disclosure adverse to the client:

A disclosure adverse to the client's interest should be no greater than the lawyer believes necessary to the purpose of prevention of harm.... A lawyer's considered decision not to make disclosures permitted by Rule 1.6(c) does not violate this Rule.

Therefore, having advised successor counsel of your understanding of the facts we believe you have fulfilled your obligation under the Rules of Professional Conduct and in fact run some risk in further disclosure.

The Philadelphia Bar Association's Professional Guidance Committee provides, upon request, advice for lawyers facing or anticipating facing ethical dilemmas. Advice is based on the consideration of the facts of the particular inquirer's situation and the Rules of Professional Conduct as promulgated by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Committee's opinions are advisory only and are based upon the facts set forth. The opinions are not binding upon the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or any other Court. They carry only such weight as an appropriate reviewing authority may choose to give it.