Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 115

Adopted September 24, 1936

The Board is in receipt of an inquiry from a member of the bar inquiring whether or not, with propriety, a member of the bar may accept retainers to aid persons in securing leaves of absence, paroles and pardons.

The Board expresses its views through Opinion 61 of the A. B. A. Committee on Professional Ethics and Grievances which is as follows:

“A member asks whether a lawyer can properly make a charge for services rendered in obtaining a pardon for a convict. It is to be assumed that the lawyer’s conduct is wholly free from objectionable tactics and that his services consist of securing letters of recommendation to the pardoning executive and the presentation of the matter to the Governor or the Board of Pardons.”

“The pardoning power is generally lodged in the executive rather than in the judicial department, yet an application for pardon and its presentation require knowledge and skill of a legal nature. The convict has the legal right vouchsafed to him to apply for the grace or right to pardon or clemency. Except where prohibited by law, it is not improper for an attorney to accept a reasonable fee from a convict in representing him in an application for pardon although the attorney’s services include the securing of letters of recommendation and the presentation of them along with the application.”

For various reasons, however, it is not amiss to observe that the Rules of Professional Conduct are as applicable to this phase of practice as they are to any other.

Solicitation of such practice is prohibited. (Rule 29).

The provisions of Rule 28 are applicable, to-wit:

“A lawyer openly, and in his true character, may render professional services * * * upon the same principle of ethics which justify his appearance before the courts; but it is unprofessional for a lawyer so engaged to conceal his attorneyship, or to employ secret personal solicitations, or to use means other than those addressed to the reason and understanding, to influence action.”

Rule 47 is likewise applicable. It provides:

“Every attorney, upon being retained in a cause pending in any court, board or commission of this State shall immediately file in the office of the Clerk of the Court, board or commission his written appearance in the cause.”

Under this rule a member of the bar accepting such retainer must file his appearance with the pardon and parole attorney.