Thursday, November 16, 2006

Unauthorized Communication

by Mike Frisch

A recent Illinois Review Board decision interpreting Rule 4.2 should be of particular interest to the domestic relations bar. Matter of Peters involves a series of incidents that occured during an attempt to settle a dissolution action. The husband's lawyer was trying to finalize a settlement agreement and the wife's lawyer left to attend to other court business. Husband's lawyer asked for but was refused permission to talk to the wife. Wife then overheard discussions between husband and his lawyer concerning changes in the agreement and heard that, if they both agreed to the changes, the dissolution proceeding would end. Wife walked over, but there apparently was no substantive discussion between her and counsel.

Husband and wife then met without counsel present and wife signed off on the revised agreement. Husband's counsel submitted that agreement to the court. Wife's counsel was unable to convince her to revoke the agreement and withdrew from the representation. After the court approved it, wife felt the inevitable buyer's remorse but failed in her effort to set the agreement aside.

Did husband's lawyer violate Rule 4.2?  No with respect to the hallway encounter, according to the Review Board, because there was no direct, intentional contact between wife and husband's attorney. Yes, however, in giving the revised agreement to husband with knowledge that he would deliver it to wife directly. The interference with wife's attorney-client relationship with her lawyer in removing counsel from the settlement process was also held to constitute conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Clients, Ethics | Permalink

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