Rule 3.2. Expediting Litigation

A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to expedite litigation consistent with the interests of the client.

Background

The Louisiana Supreme Court adopted this rule on January 20, 2004. It became effective on March 1, 2004, and has not been amended since. This rule is identical to ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 3.2 (2002).

Comment to ABA Model Rule 3.2

[1] Dilatory practices bring the administration of justice into disrepute. Although there will be occasions when a lawyer may properly seek a postponement for personal reasons, it is not proper for a lawyer to routinely fail to expedite litigation solely for the convenience of the advocates. Nor will a failure to expedite be reasonable if done for the purpose of frustrating an opposing party’s attempt to obtain rightful redress or repose. It is not a justification that similar conduct is often tolerated by the bench and bar. The question is whether a competent lawyer acting in good faith would regard the course of action as having some substantial purpose other than delay. Realizing financial or other benefit from otherwise improper delay in litigation is not a legitimate interest of the client.

Annotations

Generally

The obligation imposed by this rule is straightforward: a lawyer shall not unreasonably delay litigation. This obligation is simply a specific application of a lawyer’s more general duty to act with “reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.” See La. Rules of Prof’l Conduct R. 1.3 (2004). Lawyers charged with violating Rule 1.3 (Diligence) are often charged with violating Rule 3.2 as well. See, e.g., In re Hawkins, 90 So. 3d 377 (La. 2012); In re Schnyder, 918 So. 2d 455 (La. 2006); In re Schiro, 886 So. 2d 1117 (La. 2004); In re Beauchamp, 821 So. 2d 1281 (La. 2002); In re Harris, 818 So. 2d 741 (La. 2002); In re Collinsworth, 795 So. 2d 312 (La. 2001); In re Schnyder, 918 So.2d 455 (La. 2006); In re Sims, 994 So. 2d (La. 2008). Thus, a lawyer who fails to comply with court-imposed deadlines and to otherwise advance the progress of a case is subject to discipline. See In re White, 699 So. 2d 375 (La. 1997).

When Delay is in the Client’s Interest

Whether a lawyer can delay the progress of a matter when delay is a client goal is a more difficult issue. On the one hand, Rule 3.2 suggests that a lawyer shall expedite litigation only to the extent that doing so is “consistent with the interests of the client.” La. Rules of Prof’l Conduct R. 3.2 (2004). On the other hand, the comment to Model Rule 3.2 suggests that a lawyer should not delay litigation merely to realize a “financial or other benefit” for the client. Model Rules of Prof’l Conduct R. 3.2 cmt. Nevertheless, a lawyer should not run afoul of this rule by undertaking a nonfrivolous action that has a substantial purpose other than merely causing delay.

Disciplinary Sanctions

Absent aggravating or mitigating circumstances, the following sanctions are generally appropriate in cases involving a lawyer’s abuse of the legal process: disbarment, when the lawyer knowingly violates a court rule with the intent to obtain a benefit for the lawyer or another, and causes serious injury or potentially serious injury to a party, or causes serious or potentially serious interference with a legal proceeding; suspension, when the lawyer knows that he is violating a court rule, and there is injury or potential injury to a client or a party, or interference or potential interference with a legal proceeding; reprimand, when the lawyer negligently fails to comply with a court rule, and causes injury or potential injury to a client or other party, or causes interference or potential interference with a court proceeding; admonition, when the lawyer engages in an isolated instance of negligence in complying with a court rule, and causes little or no actual or potential injury to a party, or causes little or no actual or potential interference with a legal proceeding. See ABA Stds. for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions std. 6.2 (1986) (Abuse of Legal Process); id. stds. 6.21-6.24.

Notes

This page was updated on August 2, 2013.