Ethics Counsel on www.OKbar.org

Ethics Rules Undergoing Changes

By Gina Hendryx, OBA Ethics Counsel

The Rules of Professional Conduct Committee began review of the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct in February 2003. Oklahoma’s present rules were adopted in 1988 replacing the previously controlling disciplinary rules. Over the years, various modifications have been adopted to specific rules, however, this is the first endeavor to review the entire compilation with recommendations for additions, deletions or changes.

This project was prompted by extensive updates to the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Since the current Oklahoma rules are based substantially on the ABA Model Rules, it was appropriate for there to be an examination of the latest changes in the Model Rules with an eye toward recommending which, if any, of the ABA’s amendments should be presented to the Oklahoma Supreme Court for consideration. Representatives from the ABA’s Center for Professional Responsibility and Ethics 2000 Commission met with committee members to discuss the process by which the ABA Ethics 2000 Commission reviewed and revised the ABA Model Rules. Committee members learned which rules had substantive changes, which rules were added and which ones had only clerical changes. Committee member also learned of implementation and review processes employed by other states considering adoption of the revised Model Rules.

The Ethics 2000 Subcommittee of the Rules of Professional Conduct Committee began work in April 2003 first considering rules with changes not considered as “substantive.” Then the subcommittee moved on to rule revisions that contained significant and substantial changes from the current version of the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct. Using the Model Rule as a guidepost, the committee extensively reviewed and debated all suggested changes to the corresponding current Oklahoma rule. The subcommittee was comprised of attorneys from all sectors including large and small firms, government, academic and judiciary.

The subcommittee completed its work in fall 2005. The OBA Board of Governors will begin a review of committee recommendations at its February meeting. The board expects this process to continue throughout the summer months with the proposed rules to be presented to the House of Delegates at the Annual Meeting in November 2006. A series of public hearings will be conducted this summer where members can voice any support or opposition to the suggested changes. Notice of any hearing will be given in the Oklahoma Bar Journal.

The proposed rules may be viewed at www.okbar.org/members/EthicsCounsel/RulesProfessionalConduct.aspx. At that site, you can review the current Oklahoma Rule with changes as proposed by the Ethics 2000 Subcommittee. There is also a “redlined” version showing the ABA Model Rule with proposed Oklahoma changes. Committee members that disagreed with the majority decision on a specific rule were permitted to file a “minority” report. Those reports are included on the Web site.

Members of the Oklahoma Bar Association are encouraged to submit written commentary regarding the proposed rule changes to the offices of the Oklahoma Bar Association, P.O. Box 53036, Oklahoma City, OK 73152 or by e-mail to ginah@okbar.org. Your comments will be forwarded to the Board of Governors for consideration.

Questions about the rules, changes or schedule of review? Feel free to contact Ms. Hendryx at the e-mail address listed above or (405) 416-7083.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal -- Feb.2, 2006 -- Vol. 77; No. 6