Must I Self-Report My Own Misconduct?

WhistleblowerThis is a question that I get a lot—usually on a Monday morning from a lawyer who had the misfortune of being arrested for DWI or another misdemeanor over the weekend.

The short answer is this: A lawyer has no legal or ethical obligation to blow the whistle on himself and self-report a disciplinary violation. Louisiana Rule 8.3(a) provides that “[a] lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a question as to the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.” Self-reporting is not required by Rule 8.3(a), which applies only to a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct by “another” lawyer. Moreover, compelled self-reporting of lawyer misconduct could raise Fifth Amendment issues.

That being said, self-reporting is sometimes an advisable, prudent course of action. The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board may consider a lawyer’s self-report to be a “mitigating” factor if disciplinary sanctions are ever imposed after litigation or by consent.

The best advice? Consult with counsel experienced in dealing with disciplinary matters before making a final decision to self-report.

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