A lawyer shall not seek to avoid appointment by a tribunal to represent a person except for good cause, such as:

(a) representing the client is likely to result in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law;

(b) representing the client is likely to result in an unreasonable financial burden on the lawyer; or

(c) the client or the cause is so repugnant to the lawyer as to be likely to impair the client-lawyer relationship or the lawyer’s ability to represent 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 6.2 (2002).

Comments to ABA Model Rule 6.2

Generally

[1] A lawyer ordinarily is not obliged to accept a client whose character or cause the lawyer regards as repugnant. The lawyer’s freedom to select clients is, however, qualified. All lawyers have a responsibility to assist in providing pro bono publico service. See Rule 6.1. An individual lawyer fulfills this responsibility by accepting a fair share of unpopular matters or indigent or unpopular clients. A lawyer may also be subject to appointment by a court to serve unpopular clients or persons unable to afford legal services.

Appointed Counsel

[2] For good cause a lawyer may seek to decline an appointment to represent a person who cannot afford to retain counsel or whose cause is unpopular. Good cause exists if the lawyer could not handle the matter competently, see Rule 1.1, or if undertaking the representation would result in an improper conflict of interest, for example, when the client or the cause is so repugnant to the lawyer as to be likely to impair the client-lawyer relationship or the lawyer’s ability to represent the client. A lawyer may also seek to decline an appointment if acceptance would be unreasonably burdensome, for example, when it would impose a financial sacrifice so great as to be unjust.

[3] An appointed lawyer has the same obligations to the client as retained counsel, including the obligations of loyalty and confidentiality, and is subject to the same limitations on the client-lawyer relationship, such as the obligation to refrain from assisting the client in violation of the Rules.

Annotations

Generally

This rule prohibits Louisiana lawyers from attempting to avoid being appointed by courts to represent indigent persons unless compelling reasons exist. See La. Rules of Prof’l Conduct Rule 6.2 (2004). Such compelling reasons include the following: when the representation will result in a violation of the law, when the representation places an unreasonable financial burden on the lawyer, or when the client-lawyer relationship is impaired because the client or the client’s cause is “repugnant” to the lawyer. Id; see, e.g., State v. Singleton, 2016 WL 3012793 at *17 (La. Ct. App. 4th Cir. May 25, 2016) (holding that a lawyer serving as head of the public defender’s office had good cause to avoid appointment in the lawyer’s personal capacity for prisoner’s post-conviction relief proceeding as the lawyer has extensive duties as head of an office facing increasing caseloads amid a shrinking budget).

In addition to violating this rule, unjustified attempts to avoid appointment are often futile, particularly when the appointment has been made by a determined judge. For more than a century, Louisiana courts have exercised their inherent judicial authority to appoint lawyers to represent indigent defendants. See, e.g., State v. Simmons, 43 La. Ann. 991, 994-95, 10 So. 382 (1891) (denying appointed lawyer’s request to have his fees paid by the parish). The Louisiana Supreme Court has held that,

[t]he professional obligations assumed by attorneys in this State require that a reasonable amount of time and effort be devoted to promoting the cause of justice, including the defense of indigent accused without compensation. The high purpose and traditions of the legal profession require that this burden be shouldered by its members. So long as the burden is not oppressive and is fairly shared among the members of the bar to which they belong there is no cause for complaint.

State v. Clifton, 172 So.2d 657, 667 (La. 1965); see State v. Wigley, 624 So. 2d 425, 428 (La. 1993); State v. Campbell, 324 So. 2d 395 (La.1975); see also Hurtado v. United States, 410 U.S. 578, 588-89 (1973) (holding that “the Fifth Amendment does not require the government pay for the performance of a public duty it is already owed”); State in Interest of Johnson, 475 So. 2d 340, 342 (La.1985) (asserting Louisiana courts’ inherent authority to appoint a lawyer “to represent an indigent, with or without compensation, as an obligation burdening his privileges to practice and to serve as an officer of the court”); State v. Doucet, 352 So. 2d 222, 222 (La.1977) (holding that an uncompensated lawyer’s rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments were not violated by appointment); State v. Bryant, 324 So. 2d 389, 389 (La.1975) (holding that uncompensated lawyers representing indigents are not “deprived of property without due process and equal protection” or “forced into involuntary servitude”).

Note, however, that although Louisiana courts may appoint lawyers to represent indigent clients without fee, a court-appointed lawyer is entitled to be reimbursed for reasonable case-related out-of-pocket expenses and overhead costs. State v. Wigley, 624 So. 2d 425, 429 (La.1993); State v. Citizen, 898 So. 2d 325 (La. 2005); see also State v. Jeff, 761 So. 2d 574 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir. 1999); La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:304 (addressing responsibility for paying costs of criminal prosecutions). The legislature, to satisfy its constitutional mandate to “provide for a uniform system for securing and compensating qualified counsel for indigents,” (see La. Const. art. 1, § 13) implemented statewide standards and guidelines for indigent defense through the Louisiana Public Defender Act of 2007. See La. R.S. 15:141-184, amended by La. R.S. 15:146, 162, 167 (2016); State v. Reeves, 11 So.3d 1031, 1042-43 (La. 2009).

Disciplinary Sanctions

Absent aggravating or mitigating circumstances, the following sanctions are generally appropriate in cases involving violations of Rule 6.2: disbarment, when the lawyer knowingly engages in conduct that is a violation of a duty owed to the profession with the intent to obtain a benefit for the lawyer or another, and causes serious or potentially serious injury to a client, the public, or the legal system; suspension, when the lawyer knowingly engages in conduct that is a violation of a duty owed to the profession, and causes injury or potential injury to a client, the public, or the legal system; reprimand, when the lawyer negligently engages in conduct that is a violation of a duty owed to the profession, and causes injury or potential injury to a client, the public, or the legal system; and, admonition, when the lawyer engages in an isolated instance of negligence that is a violation of a duty owed to the profession, and causes little or no actual or potential injury to a client, the public or the legal system. See ABA Stds. for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions stds. 7.0-7.4 (1992).

Notes

This page was updated on January 18, 2017.