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In re Amendments to Rules Regulating The Florida Bar (Biennial Petition)

Supreme Court of Florida

November 9, 2017

IN RE: AMENDMENTS TO THE RULES REGULATING THE FLORIDA BAR (BIENNIAL PETITION).

         Original Proceeding - Rules Regulating The Florida Bar

          John F. Harkness, Jr., Executive Director, Michael J. Higer, President, Michelle R. Suskauer, President-Elect, William J. Schifino, Jr., Past President, Lori S. Holcomb, Director, Division of Ethics and Consumer Protection, and Elizabeth Clark Tarbert, Ethics Counsel, The Florida Bar, Tallahassee, Florida, for Petitioner

          Thomas O. Wells of Wells & Wells, P.A., Coral Gables, Florida; and Timothy P. Chinaris, Nashville, Tennessee, Responding with Comments

          PER CURIAM.

         This matter is before the Court on the petition of The Florida Bar proposing amendments to the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar (Bar Rules). We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 15, Fla. Const.

         The Florida Bar (Bar) has filed its biennial petition proposing both new rules and amendments to a number of existing Bar Rules. The proposals were approved by the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar, and formal notice of the proposed amendments was published in The Florida Bar News. The notice directed interested persons to file their comments directly with the Court. The Court received two comments; the Bar filed a response to the comments.

         After fully considering the Bar's petition, the comments, and the response, we adopt the majority of the Bar's proposals, with some modifications, [1] as discussed in this opinion. However, as addressed below, we decline to adopt the Bar's proposed amendments to Bar Rule 4-7.14 (Potentially Misleading Advertisements) at this time, and we refer this matter back to the Bar for further consideration. We discuss the new rules and more significant rule amendments below.

         AMENDMENTS

         First, Bar Rule 1-3.2 (Membership classifications) is amended in subdivision (a) (Members in Good Standing), as proposed by the Bar, to allow members of the Bar who have voluntarily selected inactive status to be classified as "members in good standing." New subdivision (a)(2) provides that members of the Bar who have elected inactive status, paid their annual memberships fees, and who are not retired, resigned, delinquent, suspended, or inactive because of incapacity, are considered members in "good standing" for purposes of obtaining a certificate of good standing and for no other purpose.

         We amend Bar Rule 1-7.5 (Retired, Inactive, Delinquent Members), as recommended by the Bar, to authorize retired or inactive Bar members to practice law as an "emeritus lawyer" pursuant to the Emeritus Attorneys Pro Bono Participation Program in Chapter 12 of the Bar Rules. This amendment, and other amendments to the Bar Rules addressed herein, were recommended by the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice, and are intended to increase the pool of lawyers authorized to provide pro bono legal services to the community under the supervision of a legal aid organization.

         Next, we amend Bar Rule 1-12.1 (Amendment to Rules; Authority; Notice; Procedures; Comments), as proposed by the Bar-subdivision (g) (Notice of Intent to File Petition) will now require that the Bar's notice of its intent to file a petition to amend the Bar Rules, published in The Florida Bar News and on its website, identify the rules to be amended and state in general terms the nature of the proposed amendments; the full text of the Bar's proposals will be published only on the Bar's website. Also in Bar Rule 1-12.1, we amend subdivision (h) (Action by the Supreme Court of Florida) to provide that a summary of the Court's final action on a petition to amend the Bar Rules will be reported in The Florida Bar News and on the Bar's website.

         Bar Rule 3-7.16 (Limitation on Time to Bring Complaint) is renamed "Limitation on Time to Open Investigation" and is substantially amended to clarify the limitations period for opening an investigation into allegations of lawyer misconduct. Subdivision (a) is renamed "Time for Initiating Investigation of Complaints and Re-opened Cases, " and will now include three new subdivisions. Subdivision (a)(1) (Initial Complaint or Investigation) provides that a complainant must make a written "inquiry"[2] to the Bar within six years from the time the matter giving rise to the inquiry or complaint is discovered or should have been discovered. In the case of an investigation initiated by the Bar, the Bar must open the investigation within six years from the time the matter is discovered or should have been discovered. Subdivision (a)(2) (Re-opened Investigations) provides that a re-opened disciplinary investigation is not time barred if the matter is re-opened within one year after it was closed. And subdivision (a)(3) (Deferred Investigations) states that a timely disciplinary investigation that was deferred consistent with Bar policy and the Bar Rules is not time barred if the grievance committee finds probable cause and the Bar files its formal complaint within one year after notice that the civil, criminal, or other proceedings that were the basis for the deferral have concluded. The remaining subdivisions in this rule are also amended as proposed by the Bar.

         Bar Rule 4-1.8 (Conflict of Interest; Prohibited and Other Transactions) is amended in subdivision (c) (Gifts to Lawyer or Lawyer's Family) to prohibit a lawyer from soliciting any gift from a client, or from preparing an instrument that gives the lawyer or a member of the lawyer's family any gift. This change was proposed by the Bar in response to a suggestion from the Real Property Probate and Trust Law Section. We also amend the comment to rule 4-1.8 to explain this prohibition, and other subdivisions throughout rule 4-1.8 to clarify language. However, we have revised the Bar's proposal in subdivision (h) (Limiting Liability for Malpractice), as recommended in the comment from Attorney Timothy P. Chinaris, to remove the reference to "prospective" malpractice.

         We decline to adopt the Bar's proposal to amend Bar Rule 4-7.14 (Potentially Misleading Advertisements). The Bar proposes amendments to this rule in response to a decision from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, which held, in relevant part, that provisions in Bar Rule 4-7.14(a) broadly prohibiting lawyers who were not board certified from making truthful statements that they "specialize in" or "have expertise in" a particular field of practice were unconstitutional. In response to this decision, the Bar recommended amending the rule in subdivision (a) (Potentially Misleading Advertisements) to add a new subdivision (a)(5), which would prohibit lawyers from using in their advertisements the terms "specialist, " "expert, " or other variations of those terms unless the lawyer meets one of the four criteria established in subdivisions (a)(5)(A)-(a)(5)(D). The criteria in subdivisions (a)(5)(A), (a)(5)(B), and (a)(5)(C) are similar to those in other parts of rule 4-7.14. However, subdivision (a)(5)(D) would provide that a lawyer may identify as a "specialist" or "expert" if the lawyer's "experience and training demonstrate specialized competence in an area of practice that is reasonably comparable to that demonstrated by the standards of the Florida Certification Plan set forth in chapter 6 of these rules"; if the area of claimed specialization or expertise is or falls within an area of practice under the Florida Certification Plan, the advertisement must include a reasonably prominent disclaimer that the lawyer is not board certified in that area of practice by the Bar or another certification program. We are concerned that the Bar's proposal here does not sufficiently address the district court's decision, and that the language requiring that a lawyer's experience be "reasonably comparable" to the Florida Certification Plan will prove to be problematic because it could lead to differing and inconsistent applications. Because we believe that this important issue requires further study, we decline to adopt the Bar's proposed amendments to rule 4-7.14, and we refer this matter to The Florida Bar for additional consideration.

         Next, we have made several amendments to Bar Rule 4-7.18 (Direct Contact with Prospective Clients). As proposed by the Bar, subdivision (a) (Solicitation) is amended to provide that the term "solicit" includes contact in person, by telephone, by electronic means that include real-time communication face-to-face, or by any other communication directed to a specific recipient that does not meet the requirements of the rule. Additionally, we amend subdivision (b)(2) (Written Communication) to require that permitted written communications to prospective clients for the purpose of obtaining professional employment must be marked with the label "advertisement" on each separate enclosure, rather than each separate page. If the written communication is a self-mailing brochure or pamphlet, the "advertisement" mark must be included on the address panel of the brochure or pamphlet, on the inside of the brochure or pamphlet, and on each separate enclosure. Subdivision (b)(3) is also amended, as proposed by the Bar, to provide that the requirements contained in subdivision (b)(2) do not apply to communications made at a prospective client's request.

         In Bar Rule 5-1.1 (Trust Accounts), we amend subdivisions (a)(1) (Nature of Money or Property Entrusted to Attorney; Trust Account Required; Location of Trust Account; Commingling Prohibited), (a)(2) (Nature of Money or Property Entrusted to Attorney; Compliance with Client Directives), (g)(1)(D) (Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) Program; Definitions; Eligible Institution), and (g)(5) (Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) Program; Eligible Institution Participation in IOTA) to permit lawyers to maintain trust accounts in federally insured credit unions. We amend subdivision (g)(4) (Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) Program; Notice to Foundation) to direct lawyers to the Bar's website for The Florida Bar Foundation's current address. We also amend other subdivisions in Bar Rule 5-1.1, as proposed by the Bar. However, we have revised the Bar's proposal in paragraphs seven and eight of the comment to the rule, as recommended in the comment from Mr. Chinaris, to delete the parentheticals included with the citations to case law.

         We next adopt a new Bar Rule 6-3.7 (Inactive Status), to allow board certified members of the Bar to apply for a temporary inactive status in certain circumstances. Subdivision (a) (Purpose) of the new rule provides that the inactive status is available to eligible members who apply and are qualified for such status under the provisions of the rule. Subdivision (b) (Applicability) outlines six categories of eligible members. These include board certified members appointed or elected to serve as a judicial officer; we have revised the Bar's proposal in subdivision (b)(1) to include administrative law judges in the list of "judicial officers." Other categories of members eligible for inactive status include: law professors teaching in an accredited law school or graduate law course who agree not to practice if granted inactive status; professional neutrals, including mediators, arbitrators, or voluntary trial resolution judges, who agree not to practice law if granted inactive status; active duty military personnel; members who are unable to practice law due to a "unique substantial and material hardship, medical or otherwise"; and, during the two years immediately following the effective date of the rule, members who voluntarily relinquished their board certification before the effective date of the rule, but who would otherwise be eligible for inactive status may be granted such status. Subdivision (c) (Qualifications) outlines the qualifications for maintaining board certified inactive status. Any Bar member granted board certified inactive status must maintain an active membership in The Florida Bar, obtain the continuing legal education credit that would be required for recertification in their practice area, and comply with the applicable rules and policies for board certification. Subdivision (d) (Revocation or Relinquishment of Board Certified Inactive Status) provides that the Board of Legal Specialization and Education (BLSE) may revoke a member's board certified inactive status if the member fails to comply with the policies. On revocation, the member cannot use the phrase "board certified inactive"; the member also cannot use the phrase "board certified" unless he or she is reactivated to board certification. Alternatively, a board certified inactive member is required to notify the BLSE within ninety days if he or she no longer qualifies for board certified inactive status, or no longer wishes to retain that status. The member must immediately cease using the phrase "board certified inactive, " and either apply to reactivate their board certification or relinquish the certification. Finally, subdivision (e) (Reactivation to Board Certified Status and Recertification) outlines the procedures for seeking reactivation of board certification status.

         We also adopt a new Subchapter 6-31 (Standards for Board Certification in International Litigation and Arbitration), outlining standards for board certification in the field of International Litigation and Arbitration. This subchapter includes four new Bar Rules. Bar Rule 6-31.1 (Generally) provides that a member in good standing with The Florida Bar, who is eligible to practice law in Florida and meets the standards prescribed in Subchapter 6-31, may be issued a certificate identifying the lawyer as board certified in International Litigation and Arbitration. Bar Rule 6-31.2 (Definitions) provides definitions for the terms "International Litigation and Arbitration, " "Practice of Law, " and "International Litigation and Arbitration Certification Committee." Bar Rule 6-31.3 (Minimum Standards) outlines the minimum standards of practice, experience, and education required to earn a certification in International Litigation and Arbitration. And Bar Rule 6-31.4 (International Litigation and Arbitration Recertification) describes the requirements for seeking recertification in International Litigation and Arbitration at the conclusion of a five-year cycle.

         We amend Bar Rule 10-2.1 (Generally), as proposed by the Bar, first in subdivision (b) (Paralegal or Legal Assistant) to add language authorizing a paralegal to work under the supervision of an out-of-state lawyer or foreign lawyer engaged in the authorized practice of law in Florida. We also amend subdivision (e) (Bar Counsel) to include in the definition of "Bar Counsel" Unlicensed Practice of Law (UPL) counsel and UPL staff counsel.

         Bar Rule 10-9.1 (Procedures for Issuance of Advisory Opinions on the Unlicensed Practice of Law) is amended, as proposed by the Bar, to address procedures for requesting and issuing proposed advisory opinions on the unlicensed practice of law. Subdivision (b) (Requests for Advisory Opinions) is reworded to provide that a petitioner may request a formal advisory opinion concerning activity that may constitute the unlicensed practice of law by submitting a question to the Bar's UPL Department. We also amend subdivision (b) to make clear that the request must be in writing, include all of the operative facts, and ask whether the activity constitutes the unlicensed practice of law. We amend subdivision (c), renamed "Limitations on Advisory Opinions, " to include that no advisory opinion may be rendered as to any matter that is currently the subject of an unlicensed practice of law investigation or grievance investigation by the Bar. And we amend subdivision (g) (Service and Judicial Review of Proposed Advisory Opinions), pertaining to proceedings in this Court to review proposed advisory opinions issued by the Standing Committee on UPL. The petitioner or any other interested party may file either a brief or a memorandum in response to the proposed advisory opinion. The Standing Committee's response, and any reply, may also be in the form of either a brief or a memorandum.

         We amend several rules within Chapter 12 of the Bar Rules, [3] as proposed by the Bar, which, together with the amendments to Bar Rule 1-7.5 discussed herein, expand the existing eligibility requirements and allow more lawyers to serve as emeritus lawyers, providing pro bono legal services to the community under the supervision of an approved legal aid organization. The Bar proposed these changes based on recommendations from the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice. As amended, this Chapter will now permit inactive or retired Bar members, inactive or retired lawyers who practiced in any other state or territory of the United States or the District of Columbia, former judges, current or former law professors, and authorized house counsel to serve as emeritus lawyers and perform this important service.

         We also amend a number of rules within Chapter 16 of the Bar Rules (Foreign Legal Consultancy Rule), and add a new Bar Rule 16-1.7 (Annual Sworn Statement). Among other changes in this Chapter, Bar Rule 16-1.2, renamed "General Certification Regulations, " is amended to change some of the requirements for certification as a foreign legal consultant, such that a foreign lawyer applying for certification must demonstrate that he or she has engaged in the practice of law in a foreign country for not less than three of the five years immediately preceding the application; he or she must not have been disciplined for professional misconduct by the bar or courts of any jurisdiction within the last seven years; and he or she must not have been denied admission to practice before the courts in any jurisdiction based upon the applicant's character and fitness during the ten-year period immediately preceding the application. We have deleted existing language in the rule requiring applicants to be over twenty-six years of age.

         Additionally, in Bar Rule 16-1.3 (Activities), we amend subdivision (a) (Rendering Legal Advice), as recommended by the Bar; however, we decline to adopt the proposed amendments in subdivision (b) (Representing Status as Member of The Florida Bar), which would serve to delete the requirement that foreign legal consultants provide clients a letter disclosing the extent of their professional liability insurance coverage, as well as the fact that the client will not have access to the Clients' Security Fund in any discipline case against the foreign lawyer. We believe these disclosures serve an important role in protecting clients.

         Finally, we amend several rules in Chapter 17 of the Bar Rules (Authorized House Counsel Rule), as proposed by the Bar, to allow both lawyers licensed to practice law in any United States jurisdiction other than Florida, and those authorized to practice as a lawyer or counselor in a foreign jurisdiction, to serve as authorized house counsel. Within Chapter 17, we delete existing Bar Rule 17-1.7 (Immunity from Prosecution) in its entirety, because this rule is no longer necessary. However, because the rule amendments we adopt in this case will now permit foreign lawyers to serve as authorized house counsel, such foreign lawyers who are duly registered as authorized house counsel under Chapter 17 of the Bar Rules will not be subject to prosecution for the unlicensed practice of law for acting as counsel to a business organization prior to the effective date of these rule amendments.

         CONCLUSION

         Accordingly, the Court amends the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar as set forth in the appendix to this opinion. New language is indicated by underscoring; deletions are indicated by struck-through type. The comments are offered for explanation and guidance only and are not adopted as an official part of the rules. The amendments shall become effective on February 1, 2018, at 12:01 a.m.

         It is so ordered.

          LABARGA, CJ, and PARIENTE, LEWIS, QUINCE, CANADY, POLSTON, and LAWSON, JJ, concur

         THE FILING OF A MOTION FOR REHEARING SHALL NOT ALTER THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THESE AMENDMENTS.

         APPENDIX

         RULE 1-3.2 MEMBERSHIP CLASSIFICATIONS

         (a) Members in Good Standing.

         (1) Members of The Florida Bar in good standing shall means only those persons licensed to practice law in Florida who have paid annual membership fees or dues for the current year and who are not retired, resigned, delinquent, on the inactive list for incapacity, or suspended members.

         (2) Members of The Florida Bar who have elected inactive status, who have paid annual membership fees for the current year, and who are not retired, resigned, delinquent, suspended, or on the inactive list for incapacity, are considered to be in good standing only for purposes of obtaining a certificate of good standing and for no other purpose. A certificate of good standing issued to an inactive member will reflect the member's inactive status.

         (b) Conditionally Admitted Members.

         The Supreme Court of Florida may admit a person with a prior history of drug, alcohol, or psychological problems to membership in The Florida Bar and impose conditions of probation as the court deems appropriate upon that member. The period of probation shallwill be no longer than 5 years, or for suchan indefinite period of time as the court may deems appropriate by conditions in its order. The conditions may include, but not be limited to, participation in a rehabilitation program, periodic blood and urine analysis, periodic psychological examinations, or supervision by another member of The Florida Bar. The probation shallwill be monitored by The Florida Bar and the costs thereof shall be paid by the member on probation. A failure to observe the conditions of probation or a finding of probable cause as to conduct of the member committed during the period of probation may terminate the probation and subject the member to all available disciplinary sanctions. Proceedings to determine compliance with conditions of admission shallwill be processed in the same manner as matters of contempt provided elsewhere in these Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. If necessary, the court may assign a judicial referee to take testimony, receive evidence, and make findings of fact in the manner prescribed in the rule concerning procedures before a referee. The findings of the referee may be appealed as provided in the rule for procedures before the supreme court.

         (c) Inactive Members.

         Inactive members of The Florida Bar shall means only those members who have properly elected to be classified as inactive in the manner elsewhere provided.

         Inactive members shallwill:

(1) - (3) [No Change]
(4) not hold themselves out as being able to practice law in Florida or render advice on matters of Florida law unless certified as an emeritus lawyer under chapter 12 of these rules;
(5) not hold any position that requires the person to be a licensed Florida attorneylawyer;
(6)- (7) [No Change]
(8) certify upon election of inactive status that they will comply with all applicable restrictions and limitations imposed on inactive members of The Florida Bar, unless certified as an emeritus lawyer under chapter 12 of these rules.

         Failure of an inactive member to comply with all these requirements thereof shall beis cause for disciplinary action.

         An inactive member may, at any time, apply for reinstatement to active membership in good standing to become eligible to practice law in Florida in the manner provided in rule 1-3.7.

         RULE 1-7.5 RETIRED, INACTIVE, DELINQUENT MEMBERS

         A member who is retired, inactive, or delinquent shall not practiceis prohibited from practicing law in this state until reinstated as provided in these rules, except retired or inactive members who are certified as emeritus lawyers under chapter 12 of these rules.

         RULE 1-12.1 AMENDMENT TO RULES; AUTHORITY; NOTICE; PROCEDURES; COMMENTS

         (a) Authority to Amend.

         The board of governors of The Florida Bar shall havehas the authority to amend chapters 7 and 9, as well as the standards for the individual areas of certification within chapter 6 of these Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, consistent with the notice, publication, and comments requirements provided below. Only the Supreme Court of Florida shall havehas the authority to amend all other chapters of these Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

         (b) [No Change]

         (c) Board Review of Proposed Amendments.

         The board of governors shallwill review proposed amendments by referral of the proposal to an appropriate board committee thereof for substantive review. After substantive review, an appropriate committee of the board shallwill review the proposal for consistency with these rules and the policies of The Florida Bar. After completion of review, a recommendation concerning the proposal shallwill be made to the board.

         (d) Notice of Proposed Board Action.

         Notice of the proposed action of the board on a proposed amendment shallwill be given in an edition of The Florida Bar NewsNews and on The Florida Bar website that is published prior to the meeting of the board at which the board action is taken. The notice shallwill identify the rule(s) to be amended and shall state in general terms the nature of the proposed amendments.

         (e) Comments by Members.

         Any member may request a copy of the proposed amendments and may file written comments concerning them. The comments shallmust be filed with the executive director sufficiently in advance of the board meeting to allow for copying and distribution to the members of the board.

         (f) Approval of Amendments.

         Amendments to other than chapters 7 and 9, as well as the standards for the individual areas of certification within chapter 6 of these Rules Regulating The Florida Bar shallmust be by petition to the Supreme Court of Florida. Petitions to amend these Rules Regulating The Florida Bar may be filed by the board of governors or by 50 members in good standing, provided that any amendments proposed by members of the bar shallmust be filed 90 days after filing them with The Florida Bar.

         (g) Notice of Intent to File Petition.

         Notice of intent to file a petition to amend these Rules Regulating The Florida Bar shallwill be published in The Florida Bar NewsNews and on The Florida Bar website at least 30 days before the filing of the petition. The notice shall set forth the text of the proposed amendmentswill identify the rule(s) to be amended, state in general terms the nature of the proposed amendments, state the date the petition will be filed, and state that any comments or objections must be filed within 30 days of filing the petition. The full text of the proposed amendment(s) will be published on The Florida Bar website. A copy of all comments or objections shallmust be served on the executive director of The Florida Bar and any persons who may have made an appearance in the matter.

         (h) Action by the Supreme Court of Florida.

         The court shallwill review all proposed amendments filed under this rule and suchany amendments shallwill not become effective until an order is issued approving them. FinalA summary of final action of the court shallwill be reported in The Florida Bar NewsNews and on The Florida Bar website.

         (i) [No Change]

         RULE 3-2.1 GENERALLY

         Wherever used in these rules the following words or terms shall have the meaning herein set forth below unless their use thereof shall clearly indicates a different meaning:

         (a) Bar Counsel.

         ABar counsel is a member of The Florida Bar representing The Florida Bar in any proceeding under these rules.

         (b) The Board or the Board of Governors.

         The board or the board of governors is the board of governors of The Florida Bar.

         (c) Complainant or Complaining Witness.

         AnyA complainant or complaining witness is any person who has complained of the conduct of any member of The Florida Bar to any officer or agency of The Florida Bar.

         (d) This Court or the Court.

         TheThis court or the court is the Supreme Court of Florida.

         (e) Court of this State.

         ACourt of this state is a state court authorized and established by the constitution or laws of the state of Florida.

         (f) Diversion to Practice and Professionalism Enhancement Programs.

         TheDiversion to practice and professionalism enhancement programs is removal of a disciplinary matter from the disciplinary system and placement of the matter in a skills enhancement program in lieu of a disciplinary sanction.

         (g) Executive Committee.

         TheExecutive committee is the executive committee of the board of governors of The Florida Bar.

         (h) Executive Director.

         TheExecutive director is the executive director of The Florida Bar.

         (i) Inquiry. Inquiry is a written communication received by bar counsel questioning the conduct of a member of The Florida Bar.

         (ij) Practice and Professionalism Enhancement Programs.

         ProgramsPractice and professionalism enhancement programs are programs operated either as a diversion from disciplinary action or as a part of a disciplinary sanction that are intended to provide educational opportunities to members of the bar for enhancing skills and avoiding misconduct allegations.

         (jk) Probable Cause.

         AProbable cause is a finding by an authorized agency that there is cause to believe that a member of The Florida Bar is guilty of misconduct justifying disciplinary action.

         (kl) Referral to Practice and Professionalism Enhancement Programs.

         PlacementReferral to practice and professionalism enhancement programs is placement of a lawyer in skills enhancement programs as a disciplinary sanction.

         (lm) Referee.

         AReferee is a judge or retired judge appointed to conduct proceedings as provided under these rules.

         (mn) Respondent.

         ARespondent is a member of The Florida Bar or an attorneylawyer subject to these rules who is accused of misconduct or whose conduct is under investigation.

         (no) Staff Counsel.

         AStaff counsel is a lawyer employee of The Florida Bar designated by the executive director and authorized by these Rules Regulating The Florida Bar to approve formal complaints, conditional guilty pleas for consent judgments, and diversion recommendations and to make appointment of bar counsel.

         (op) Chief Branch Discipline Counsel.

         Chief branch discipline counsel is the counsel in charge of a branch office of The Florida Bar. Any counsel employed by The Florida Bar may serve as chief branch discipline counsel at the direction of the regularly assigned chief branch discipline counsel or staff counsel.

         (pq) Designated Reviewer.

         The designated reviewer is a member of the board of governors responsible for review and other specific duties as assigned with respect to a particular grievance committee or matter. The designated reviewer for a special grievance committee will be selected by the president and approved by the board.

         (qr) Final Adjudication.

         AFinal adjudication is a decision by the authorized disciplinary authority or court issuing a sanction for professional misconduct that is not subject to judicial review except on direct appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.

         RULE 3-7.5 PROCEDURES BEFORE THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS

         (a) Review by the Designated Reviewer.

         Notice of grievance committee action recommending either diversion to a practice and professionalism enhancement program or finding no probable cause, no probable cause with a letter of advice, minor misconduct, or probable cause shallwill be given to the designated reviewer for review. The designated reviewer may request grievance committee reconsideration or refer the matter to the disciplinary review committee of the board of governors within 30 days of notice of grievance committee action. The request for a grievance committee reconsideration or referral to the disciplinary review committee shallmust be in writing and shallmust be submitted to bar counsel. For purposes of this subdivision letters, memoranda, handwritten notes, facsimile documents, and e-mail shall constitute communication "in writing."

         (1) Requests for Grievance Committee Reconsideration. If the designated reviewer requests grievance committee reconsideration, bar counsel shall forwards the request to the chair of the grievance committee and shall gives notice to the respondent and complainant that the request has been made. If the grievance committee agrees to reconsider the matter, the rule prescribing procedures before a grievance committee shall applyapplies.

         (2) Referrals to Disciplinary Review Committee and Board of Governors. If the designated reviewer refers the matter to the disciplinary review committee, bar counsel shall prepares and submits a discipline agenda item for consideration by the committee. Bar counsel shallmust give notice to respondent and complainant that the designated reviewer has made the referral for review.

         (3) Nature of Disciplinary Review Committee and Board of Governors Review. The Florida Bar is a party in disciplinary proceedings and has no authority to adjudicate rights in those proceedings. Any such review on referral from a designated reviewer is in the nature of consultation on pending litigation and therefore is not subject to intervention by persons outside the relationship between the bar and its counsel.

         (4) Effect of Failure to Timely Make the Request for Reconsideration or Referral for Review. If the designated reviewer fails to make the request for reconsideration or referral within the time prescribed, the grievance committee action shall becomes final.

         (5) [No Change]

         (b) Review of Grievance Committee Matters.

         The disciplinary review committee shall reviews those grievance committee matters referred to it by a designated reviewer and shall make a reports to the board. The disciplinary review committee may confirm, reject, or amend the recommendation of the designated reviewer in whole or in part. The report of the disciplinary review committee shall beis final unless overruled by the board. Recommendations of the disciplinary review committee may include:

         (1) - (7) [No Change]

         (c) [No Change]

         (d) Notice of Board Action. Bar counsel shallmust give notice of board action to the respondent, complainant, and grievance committee.

         (e) Finding of No Probable Cause.

         A finding of no probable cause by the board shall beis final and no further proceedings shall be hadmay be conducted in the matter by The Florida Bar unless a reason arises at a later time to re-open the file.

         (f) Control of Proceedings.

         Bar counsel, however appointed, shall beis subject to the direction of the board at all times. The board, in the exercise of its discretion as the governing body of The Florida Bar, has the power to terminate disciplinary proceedings before a referee prior to the receipt of evidence by the referee, whether suchthese proceedings have been instituted upon a finding of probable cause by the board or a grievance committee.

         (g) Filing Service on Board of Governors.

         All matters to be filed with or served upon the board shallmust be addressed to the board of governors and filed with the executive director.

         (h) Custodian of Bar Records.

Bar counsel, however appointedThe executive director or his designees shall beare the custodian of the official records of The Florida Bar.

         RULE 3-7.16 LIMITATION ON TIME TO BRING COMPLAINTOPEN INVESTIGATION

         (a) Time for Inquiries, Initiating Investigation of Complaints, and Reopened Cases. Inquiries raised or complaints presented by or to The Florida Bar under these rules shall be commenced

         (1) Initial Complaint or Investigation. A complainant must make a written inquiry to The Florida Bar within 6 years from the time the matter giving rise to the inquiry or complaint is discovered or, with due diligence, should have been discovered. The Florida Bar must open an investigation initiated by The Florida Bar within 6 years from the time the matter giving rise to the investigation is discovered or, with due diligence, should have been discovered. A reopened disciplinary investigation shall not be barred by this rule if the investigation is reopened within 1 year of the date on which the matter was closed, except that reopened investigations based on deferrals made in accord with bar policy and as authorized elsewhere in these Rules Regulating The Florida Bar shall not be barred if reopened within 1 year of the conclusion of the civil, criminal, or other proceedings on which deferral was based.

         (2) Re-opened Investigations. A re-opened disciplinary investigation is not time barred by this rule if the investigation is re-opened within 1 year after the date on which the matter was closed, except that a re-opened investigation based on a deferral made in accordance with bar policy and as authorized elsewhere in these Rules Regulating The Florida Bar is not barred if reopened within 1 year after actual notice of the conclusion of the civil, criminal, or other proceedings on which the deferral was based.

         (3) Deferred Investigations. A disciplinary investigation which began with the opening of a discipline file and bar inquiries to a respondent within the 6-year time period as described in this rule and was then deferred in accordance with bar policy and the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, is not time barred under this rule if a grievance committee finds probable cause and the bar files its formal complaint within 1 year after actual notice of the conclusion of the civil, criminal, or other proceedings on which deferral was based.

         (b) Exception for Theft or Conviction of a Felony Criminal Offense.

         There shall beis no limit on the time in which to present, reopen, or bring a matter alleging theft or conviction of a felony criminal offense by a member of The Florida Bar.

         (c) Tolling Based on Fraud, Concealment, or Misrepresentation.

         In matters covered by this rule where it can be shown that fraud, concealment, or intentional misrepresentation of fact prevented the discovery of the matter giving rise to the inquiry or complaint, tThe limitation of time in which to bring or reopen an inquiry or complaint within this rule shall beis tolled. where it can be shown that fraud, concealment, or intentional misrepresentation of fact prevented the discovery of the matter giving rise to the inquiry or complaint.

         (d) Constitutional Officers.

         Inquiries raised or complaints presented by or to The Florida Bar about the conduct of a constitutional officer who is required to be a member in good standing of The Florida Bar shallmust be commenced within 6 years after the constitutional officer vacates office.

         CHAPTER 4 RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT PREAMBLE: A LAWYER'S RESPONSIBILITIES

         [No Change]

         Scope:

         [No Change]

         Terminology:

         "Belief' or "believes" denotes that the person involved actually supposed the fact in question to be true. A person's belief may be inferred from circumstances.

         "Consult" or "consultation" denotes communication of information reasonably sufficient to permit the client to appreciate the significance of the matter in question.

         "Confirmed in writing, " when used in reference to the informed consent of a person, denotes informed consent that is given in writing by the person or a writing that a lawyer promptly transmits to the person confirming an oral informed consent. See "informed consent" below. If it is not feasible to obtain or transmit the writing at the time the person gives informed consent, then the lawyer must obtain or transmit it within a reasonable time.

         "Firm" or "law firm" denotes a lawyer or lawyers in a law partnership, professional corporation, sole proprietorship, or other association authorized to practice law; or lawyers employed in the legal department of a corporation or other organization.

         "Fraud" or "fraudulent" denotes conduct having a purpose to deceive and not merely negligent misrepresentation or failure to apprise another of relevant information.

         "Informed consent" denotes the agreement by a person to a proposed course of conduct after the lawyer has communicated adequate information and explanation about the material risks of and reasonably available alternatives to the proposed course of conduct.

         "Knowingly, " "known, " or "knows" denotes actual knowledge of the fact in question. A person's knowledge may be inferred from circumstances.

         "Lawyer" denotes a person who is a member of The Florida Bar or otherwise authorized to practice in any court of the State of Florida.

         "Partner" denotes a member of a partnership and a shareholder in a law firm organized as a professional corporation, or a member of an association authorized to practice law.

         "Reasonable" or "reasonably" when used in relation to conduct by a lawyer denotes the conduct of a reasonably prudent and competent lawyer.

         "Reasonable belief" or "reasonably believes" when used in reference to a lawyer denotes that the lawyer believes the matter in question and that the circumstances are such that the belief is reasonable.

         "Reasonably should know" when used in reference to a lawyer denotes that a lawyer of reasonable prudence and competence would ascertain the matter in question.

         "Screened" denotes the isolation of a lawyer from any participation in a matter through the timely imposition of procedures within a firm that are reasonably adequate under the circumstances to protect information that the isolated lawyer is obligated to protect under these rules or other law.

         "Substantial" when used in reference to degree or extent denotes a material matter of clear and weighty importance.

         "Tribunal" denotes a court, an arbitrator in a binding arbitration proceeding, or a legislative body, administrative agency, or other body acting in an adjudicative capacity. A legislative body, administrative agency, or other body acts in an adjudicative capacity when a neutral official, after the presentation of evidence or legal argument by a party or parties, will render a binding legal judgment directly affecting a party's interests in a particular matter.

         "Writing" or "written" denotes a tangible or electronic record of a communication or representation, including handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photography, audio or video recording, and electronic communications. A "signed" writing includes an electronic sound, symbol or process attached to or logically associated with a writing and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the writing.

         COMMENT

         [No Change]

         RULE 4-1.8 CONFLICT OF INTEREST; PROHIBITED AND OTHER TRANSACTIONS

         (a) Business Transactions With or Acquiring Interest Adverse to Client.

         A lawyer shall notis prohibited from entering into a business transaction with a client or knowingly acquireacquiring an ownership, possessory, security, or other pecuniary interest adverse to a client, except a lien granted by law to secure a lawyer's fee or expenses, unless:

         (1) - (3) [No Change]

         (b) Using Information to Disadvantage of Client.

         A lawyer shall not useis prohibited from using information relating to representation of a client to the disadvantage of the client unless the client gives informed consent, except as permitted or required by these rules.

         (c) Gifts to Lawyer or Lawyer's Family.

         A lawyer shall notis prohibited from soliciting any substantial gift from a client, including a testamentary gift, or preparepreparing on behalf of a client an instrument giving the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer any substantial gift unless the lawyer or other recipient of the gift is related to the client. For purposes of this subdivision, related persons include a spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, or other relative with whom the lawyer or the client maintains a close, familial relationship.

         (d) Acquiring Literary or Media Rights.

         Prior to the conclusion of representation of a client, a lawyer shall not make or negotiateis prohibited from making or negotiating an agreement giving the lawyer literary or media rights to a portrayal or account based in substantial part on information relating to the representation.

         (e) Financial Assistance to Client.

         A lawyer shall not provideis prohibited from providing financial assistance to a client in connection with pending or contemplated litigation, except that:

         (1) - (2) [No Change]

         (f) Compensation by Third Party.

         A lawyer shall not acceptis prohibited from accepting compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless:

         (1) - (3) [No Change]

         (g) Settlement of Claims for Multiple Clients.

         A lawyer who represents 2 or more clients shall not participateis prohibited from participating in making an aggregate settlement of the claims of or against the clients, or in a criminal case an aggregated agreement as to guilty or nolo contendere pleas, unless each client gives informed consent, in a writing signed by the client. The lawyer's disclosure shallmust include the existence and nature of all the claims or pleas involved and of the participation of each person in the settlement.

         (h) Limiting Liability for Malpractice.

         A lawyer shall not makeis prohibited from making an agreement prospectively limiting the lawyer's liability to a client for malpractice unless permitted by law and the client is independently represented in making the agreement. A lawyer shall not settleis prohibited from settling a claim for such liability for malpractice with an unrepresented client or former client without first advising that person in writing that independent representation is appropriate in connection therewithmaking the agreement.

         (i) Acquiring Proprietary Interest in Cause of Action.

         A lawyer shall not acquireis prohibited from acquiring a proprietary interest in the cause of action or subject matter of litigation the lawyer is conducting for a client, except that the lawyer may:

         (1) - (2) [No Change]

         (j) Representation of Insureds.

         When a lawyer undertakes the defense of an insured other than a governmental entity, at the expense of an insurance company, in regard to an action or claim for personal injury or for property damages, or for death or loss of services resulting from personal injuries based upon tortious conduct, including product liability claims, the Statement of Insured Client's Rights shallmust be provided to the insured at the commencement of the representation. The lawyer shallmust sign the statement certifying the date on which the statement was provided to the insured. The lawyer shallmust keep a copy of the signed statement in the client's file and shallmust retain a copy of the signed statement for 6 years after the representation is completed. The statement shallmust be available for inspection at reasonable times by the insured, or by the appropriate disciplinary agency. Nothing in the Statement of Insured Client's Rights shall be deemed to augments or detracts from any substantive or ethical duty of a lawyer or affect the extradisciplinary consequences of violating an existing substantive legal or ethical duty; nor shalldoes any matter set forth in the Statement of Insured Client's Rights give rise to an independent cause of action or create any presumption that an existing legal or ethical duty has been breached.

         STATEMENT OF INSURED CLIENT'S RIGHTS

         An insurance company has selected a lawyer to defend a lawsuit or claim against you. This Statement of Insured Client's Rights is being given to you to assure that you are aware of your rights regarding your legal representation. This disclosure statement highlights many, but not all, of your rights when your legal representation is being provided by the insurance company.

         1. [No Change]

         2. [No Change]

         3. Directing the Lawyer. If your policy, like most insurance policies, provides for the insurance company to control the defense of the lawsuit, the lawyer will be taking instructions from the insurance company. Under suchthese policies, the lawyer cannot act solely on your instructions, and at the same time, cannot act contrary to your interests. Your preferences should be communicated to the lawyer.

         4. Litigation Guidelines. Many insurance companies establish guidelines governing how lawyers are to proceed in defending a claim. Sometimes those guidelines affect the range of actions the lawyer can take and may require authorization of the insurance company before certain actions are undertaken. You are entitled to know the guidelines affecting the extent and level of legal services being provided to you. UponOn request, the lawyer or the insurance company should either explain the guidelines to you or provide you with a copy. If the lawyer is denied authorization to provide a service or undertake an action the lawyer believes necessary to your defense, you are entitled to be informed that the insurance company has declined authorization for the service or action.

         5. [No Change]

         6. [No Change]

         7. [No Change]

         8. [No Change]

         9. [No Change]

         10.Reporting Violations. If at any time you believe that your lawyer has acted in violation of your rights, you have the right to report the matter to The Florida Bar, the agency that oversees the practice and behavior of all lawyers in Florida. For information on how to reach The Florida Bar call (850) 561-5839 or you may access the Barbar at www.FlaBar.orgwww.floridabar.org.

         IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE ASK FOR AN EXPLANATION.

         CERTIFICATE

         The undersigned hereby certifies that this Statement of Insured Client's Rights has been provided to ..... (name of insured/client(s)) .....

         by ..... (mail/hand delivery) ..... at ..... (address of insured/client(s) to which mailed or delivered, ) on ..... (date) ......

         [Signature of AttorneyLawyer]

         [Print/Type Name]

         Florida Bar No.:

         (k) Imputation of Conflicts.

         While lawyers are associated in a firm, a prohibition in the foregoing subdivisions (a) through (i) that applies to any one of them shall applyapplies to all of them.

         COMMENT

         Business transactions between client and lawyer

         A lawyer's legal skill and training, together with the relationship of trust and confidence between lawyer and client, create the possibility of overreaching when the lawyer participates in a business, property, or financial transaction with a client. The requirements of subdivision (a) must be met even when the transaction is not closely related to the subject matter of the representation. The rule applies to lawyers engaged in the sale of goods or services related to the practice of law. See rule 4-5.7. It does not apply to ordinary fee arrangements between client and lawyer, which are governed by rule 4-1.5, although its requirements must be met when the lawyer accepts an interest in the client's business or other nonmonetary property as payment for all or part of a fee. In addition, the rule does not apply to standard commercial transactions between the lawyer and the client for products or services that the client generally markets to others, for example, banking or brokerage services, medical services, products manufactured or distributed by the client, and utilities services. In suchthese types of transactions the lawyer has no advantage in dealing with the client, and the restrictions in subdivision (a) are unnecessary and impracticable. Likewise, subdivision (a) does not prohibit a lawyer from acquiring or asserting a lien granted by law to secure the lawyer's fee or expenses.

         Subdivision (a)(1) requires that the transaction itself be fair to the client and that its essential terms be communicated to the client, in writing, in a manner that can be reasonably understood. Subdivision (a)(2) requires that the client also be advised, in writing, of the desirability of seeking the advice of independent legal counsel. It also requires that the client be given a reasonable opportunity to obtain such advice. Subdivision (a)(3) requires that the lawyer obtain the client's informed consent, in a writing signed by the client, both to the essential terms of the transaction and to the lawyer's role. When necessary, the lawyer should discuss both the material risks of the proposed transaction, including any risk presented by the lawyer's involvement, and the existence of reasonably available alternatives and should explain why the advice of independent legal counsel is desirable. See terminology (definition of informed consent).

         The risk to a client is greatest when the client expects the lawyer to represent the client in the transaction itself or when the lawyer's financial interest otherwise poses a significant risk that the lawyer's representation of the client will be materially limited by the lawyer's financial interest in the transaction. Here the lawyer's role requires that the lawyer must comply, not only with the requirements of subdivision (a), but also with the requirements of rule 4-1.7. Under that rule, the lawyer must disclose the risks associated with the lawyer's dual role as both legal adviser and participant in the transaction, such as the risk that the lawyer will structure the transaction or give legal advice in a way that favors the lawyer's interests at the expense of the client. Moreover, theThe lawyer also must obtain the client's informed consent. In some cases, the lawyer's interest may be such that rule 4-1.7 will preclude the lawyer from seeking the client's consent to the transaction because of the lawyer's interest.

         If the client is independently represented in the transaction, subdivision (a)(2) of this rule is inapplicable, and the subdivision (a)(1) requirement for full disclosure is satisfied either by a written disclosure by the lawyer involved in the transaction or by the client's independent counsel. The fact that the client was independently represented in the transaction is relevant in determining whether the agreement was fair and reasonable to the client as subdivision (a)(1) further requires.

         Gifts to lawyers

         A lawyer may accept a gift from a client, if the transaction meets general standards of fairness and if the lawyer does not prepare the instrument bestowing the gift. For example, a simple gift such as a present given at a holiday or as a token of appreciation is permitted. If a client offers the lawyer a more substantial gift, subdivision (c) does not prohibit the lawyer from accepting it, although such athe gift may be voidable by the client under the doctrine of undue influence, which treats client gifts as presumptively fraudulent. In any event, due to concerns about overreaching and imposition on clients, a lawyer may not suggest that a substantial gift be made to the lawyer or for the lawyer's benefit, except where the lawyer is related to the client as set forth in subdivision (c). If effectuation of a substantial gift requires preparing a legal instrument such as a will or conveyance, however, the client should have the detached advice that another lawyer can provide and the lawyer should advise the client to seek advice of independent counsel. Subdivision (c) recognizes an exception where the client is related by blood or marriage to the donee or the gift is not substantial.

         This rule does not prohibit a lawyer from seeking to have the lawyer or a partner or associate of the lawyer namedfrom serving as personal representative of the client's estate or toin another potentially lucrative fiduciary position in connection with a client's estate planning. A lawyer may prepare a document that appoints the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer to a fiduciary office if the client is properly informed, the appointment does not violate rule 4-1.7, the appointment is not the product of undue influence or improper solicitation by the lawyer, and the client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.Nevertheless, such appointments will be subject to the general conflict of interest provision in rule 4-1.7 when there is a significant risk that the lawyer's interest in obtaining the appointment will materially limit the lawyer's independent professional judgment in advising the client concerning the choice of a personal representative or other fiduciary. In obtaining the client's informed consent to the conflict, the lawyer should advise the client in writing concerning the nature and extent of the lawyer's financial interest in the appointment, as well as the availability of alternative candidates for the positionwho is eligible to serve as a fiduciary, that a person who serves as a fiduciary is entitled to compensation, and that the lawyer may be eligible to receive compensation for serving as a fiduciary in addition to any attorneys' fees that the lawyer or the lawyer's firm may earn for serving as a lawyer for the fiduciary.

         Literary rights

         An agreement by which a lawyer acquires literary or media rights concerning the conduct of the representation creates a conflict between the interests of the client and the personal interests of the lawyer. Measures suitable in the representation of the client may detract from the publication value of an account of the representation. Subdivision (d) does not prohibit a lawyer representing a client in a transaction concerning literary property from agreeing that the lawyer's fee shallwill consist of a share in ownership in the property if the arrangement conforms to rule 4-1.5 and subdivision (a) and (i).

         Financial assistance

         Lawyers may not subsidize lawsuits or administrative proceedings brought on behalf of their clients, including making or guaranteeing loans to their clients for living expenses, because to do so would encourage clients to pursue lawsuits that might not otherwise be brought and because suchfinancial assistance gives lawyers too great a financial stake in the litigation. These dangers do not warrant a prohibition on a lawyer advancing a client court costs and litigation expenses, including the expenses of diagnostic medical examination used for litigation purposes and the reasonable costs of obtaining and presenting evidence, because these advances are virtually indistinguishable from contingent fees and help ensure access to the courts. Similarly, an exception allowing lawyers representing indigent clients to pay court costs and litigation expenses regardless of whether these funds will be repaid is warranted.

         Person paying for lawyer's services

         Lawyers are frequently asked to represent a client under circumstances in which a third person will compensate the lawyer, in whole or in part. The third person might be a relative or friend, an indemnitor (such as a liability insurance company), or a co-client (such as a corporation sued along with one or more of its employees). Because third-party payers frequently have interests that differ from those of the client, including interests in minimizing the amount spent on the representation and in learning how the representation is progressing, lawyers are prohibited from accepting or continuing suchthese representations unless the lawyer determines that there will be no interference with the lawyer's independent professional judgment and there is informed consent from the client. See also rule 4-5.4(d) (prohibiting interference with a lawyer's professional judgment by one who recommends, employs or pays the lawyer to render legal services for another).

         Sometimes, it will be sufficient for the lawyer to obtain the client's informed consent regarding the fact of the payment and the identity of the third-party payer. If, however, the fee arrangement creates a conflict of interest for the lawyer, then the lawyer must comply with rule 4-1.7. The lawyer must also conform to the requirements of rule 4-1.6 concerning confidentiality. Under rule 4-1.7(a), a conflict of interest exists if there is significant risk that the lawyer's representation of the client will be materially limited by the lawyer's own interest in the fee arrangement or by the lawyer's responsibilities to the third-party payer (for example, when the third-party payer is a co-client). Under rule 4-1.7(b), the lawyer may accept or continue the representation with the informed consent of each affected client, unless the conflict is nonconsentable under that subdivision. Under rule 4-1.7(b), the informed consent must be confirmed in writing or clearly stated on the record at a hearing.

         Aggregate ...


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