Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Ethics guidance from Ohio
The Ohio Supreme Court today adopted an amendment to the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct clarifying the ethical responsibilities of lawyers under the state’s new medical marijuana law. The amendment addresses counseling or assisting a client regarding conduct expressly permitted under the new law.
Specifically, the amendment modifies the provision in Prof. Cond. R. 1.2(d)(2) by adding a new subsection, which reads:
“A lawyer may counsel or assist a client regarding conduct expressly permitted under Sub.H.B. 523 of the 131st General Assembly authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes and any state statutes, rules, orders, or other provisions implementing the act. In these circumstances, the lawyer shall advise the client regarding related federal law.”
The need to clarify the services that attorneys can offer clients arose after an Aug. 11 non-binding advisory opinion issued by the independent Board of Professional Conduct. The Board’s advisory opinion acknowledged the state’s new law, but stated that prohibitions in federal law might create ethical problems for lawyers counseling or assisting a client with regard to the new law, depending upon the nature of the services their clients seek.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said the Court placed the rule change on an accelerated calendar for consideration, given the uncertainty surrounding Ohio law and federal law. “Ohio attorneys seeking guidance needed to know the do’s and don’ts as quickly as possible,” she said.
The amendment to the rule takes effect on Sept. 20.