Oklahoma Legal Ethics Advisory Panel Rules
CREATION OF LEGAL ETHICS ADVISORY PANEL
AS ADOPTED BY OKLAHOMA BAR ASSOCIATION BOARD OF GOVERNORS
Effective June 1, 2006
OKLAHOMA LEGAL ETHICS ADVISORY PANEL RULES
Section 1. Creation and Duties.
There is hereby created an Oklahoma Legal Ethics Advisory Panel to serve in an advisory capacity for members of the Oklahoma Bar Association seeking written opinions concerning the compliance of an intended future course of conduct with the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct in the manner set forth in this Article. Advisory opinions will serve to give guidance to lawyers on whether particular conduct will or will not violate the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct.
Section 2. Panel Membership; Term; Divisions; Vacancies.
(a) The panel shall consist of eighteen active or senior members, who shall be in good standing, of the Oklahoma Bar Association. An active or senior member is defined by 5 O.S. ch. 1, App. 1, Art. II, § 2. The panel member shall have been an active or senior member of the Oklahoma Bar Association no less than ten years prior to appointment.
(b) The Legal Ethics Advisory Panel shall, upon its members being duly appointed and qualified, consist of two divisions. One division shall sit in Tulsa County and one division shall sit in Oklahoma County. Each division shall consist of nine panel members, at least six of whom shall concur in any opinion. A panel member who does not concur may write a dissenting opinion.
(c) Each panel member shall be appointed by the President of the Oklahoma Bar Association to serve for a term of three years, commencing on January 1 of each year, except the initial term set forth below which shall commence on June 1, 2006. The initial panel members shall be appointed to staggered terms as follows: six members shall be appointed for a term of one (1) year,; six members shall be appointed for a term of two (2) years,; and six members shall be appointed for a term of three (3) years,. Members of the panel may serve successive terms. The initial appointments shall be made six by the President, six by the President-Elect and six by the Vice-President of the Oklahoma Bar Association serving in 2006
(d) In the event a vacancy on the panel occurs for any reason, the President of the Oklahoma Bar Association shall appoint a successor to fill the unexpired term of the former panel member.
Section 3. Panel Coordinator; Opinion Requests and Limitations.
(a) A request for a legal ethics advisory opinion shall be directed to the Panel Coordinator who shall assign the request to a division of the panel, if the requirements of this Article are satisfied. The Panel Coordinator, who shall meet the member qualifications under Section 2 (a) and serve for a term of one calendar year, shall be appointed by the President of the Oklahoma Bar Association. The Panel Coordinator shall coordinate the activities of the panel and shall be responsible for initially determining whether a request meets the minimum requirements set forth in this Article and the rules adopted by the panel in accordance with Section 8. Requests for an advisory opinion will be accepted only from active members of the Oklahoma Bar Association.
(b) Requests for legal ethics advisory opinions shall relate to prospective conduct only and shall contain a complete statement of all facts pertaining to the intended conduct together with a clear, concise question of legal ethics. The identity of the active member whose proposed conduct is the subject of the request, shall be disclosed to the panel. The requesting active member may include with the request a concise memorandum setting forth the member’s own research and conclusions concerning the question. Following assignment of a request, the Panel division may, by majority vote, decline to issue an advisory opinion if the request does not raise serious ethical issues of general application or concern. If the assigned Panel division declines to address the request, the Panel Coordinator shall promptly notify the requester that the inquiry will not be answered.
(c) The Legal Ethics Advisory Panel shall effect timely disposition of legal ethics inquiries assigned to it by the Panel Coordinator. Advisory opinions shall address only whether an intended, future course of conduct would violate the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct and shall provide an interpretation of the Rules with regard to the factual situation presented. The opinion shall not address issues of law, the ethical propriety of past or present conduct, or a situation that presents an actual controversy between parties. The panel may decline to issue an opinion if the issue or question raised is the subject of collateral litigation or a pending bar grievance. The identity of the requesting member shall not be disclosed in the opinion.
(d) The Legal Ethics Advisory Panel may, on its own initiative and within the parameters set forth by this Article, address an issue related to professional conduct and promulgate an advisory opinion.
(e) Following the issuance of an advisory opinion, and before it becomes final, it shall be published in the print version of the Oklahoma Bar Journal. The text of each advisory opinion shall be preceded by the following note:
NOTICE: THIS ADVISORY OPINION IS SUBJECT TO REVISION OR WITHDRAWAL. Applications requesting its modification, correction, clarification, or withdrawal must be made in accordance with Legal Ethics Advisory Panel rules governing appeals and received by the Panel Coordinator on or before the thirtieth day of the publication date of the Oklahoma Bar Journal in which this opinion appears.
(f) Unless an application for the revision or withdrawal of an advisory opinion is timely received, it shall become final. Nothing in these Rules shall prohibit the Legal Ethics Advisory Panel, on its own motion, from reconsidering, revising or withdrawing an advisory opinion at any time. However, for purposes of notice under Section 3 (e) and appeal under Section 4 of these rules, any such action shall be deemed equivalent to the issuance of an advisory opinion.
Section 4. Appeal Process.
(a) Appeal to Panel.
(1) On written application to the Panel Coordinator, a member in good standing of the Oklahoma Bar Association may seek the modification, correction, clarification, or withdrawal of an advisory opinion issued by the Oklahoma Legal Ethics Advisory Panel. Applications must be received by the Panel Coordinator on or before the thirtieth day of the advisory opinion’s publication date. The “publication date” of an advisory opinion shall be the date on which the opinion is first published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal.
(3) Failure to comply with any of the requirements stated in this Section shall result in summary denial of the application.
(c) Final Advisory Opinions.
Unless an advisory opinion is withdrawn, it shall become final upon completion of the appeal process.
Section 5. Effect of Advisory Opinions; Publication; Distribution.
(a) The fact that a member has requested and relies upon an advisory opinion may be taken into account by the Legal Ethics Counsel of the Oklahoma Bar Association or by the General Counsel, Professional Responsibility Commission or Professional Responsibility Tribunal in their disposition of complaints and in determining whether to recommend to the Supreme Court discipline of a member. No opinion of the Legal Ethics Advisory Panel shall be binding on any lawyer disciplinary body. The opinions shall not be construed to be anything other than advisory in nature.
(b) Advisory opinions that become final shall be published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal and made available in electronic format on the Oklahoma State Courts Network and cited as: ___ OK LEG ETH ___.
(c) The Panel Coordinator shall provide a copy of each final advisory opinion to the Chief Justice, the President of the Oklahoma Bar Association, the Executive Director and Legal Ethics Counsel of the Oklahoma Bar Association, the requesting member, and the state law library. The Executive Director shall keep the original opinion in a permanent file.
Section 6. Reimbursement; Funding.
(a) Members of the panel shall receive no compensation for their services, but may be reimbursed for their travel and other reasonable expenses incidental to the performance of their duties.
(b) Funds shall be provided to the panel on an annual basis in the budget of the Oklahoma Bar Association approved by the Supreme Court, and appropriated from the revenues of the Association by the Board of Governors, to be used by members of the panel in the discharge of their responsibilities imposed herein.
Section 7. Non-Liability of Panel Members; Privilege.
(a) The members of the Legal Ethics Advisory Panel in acting in connection with their service under this Article, and all others (whether or not members of the Association) whose assistance is requested by members of the Legal Ethics Advisory Panel in connection with rendering and issuance of advisory opinions, shall be considered as acting officially on behalf of the Oklahoma Bar Association and the Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma, and shall enjoy immunity from civil liability to the fullest extent recognized by federal and state law.
(b) An inquiry submitted to the panel shall be a privileged communication.
Section 8. Panel Rules.
The Legal Ethics Advisory Panel shall make and approve rules respecting its procedure and all matters pertaining to its duties as set forth in this Article.