These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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17-Fraud on the Tribunal

73-Family Law Lawyers

A lawyer (representing a wife in a domestic relations case) who learns that someone has forged the husband's signature on a motion must report the fraud to the court, but need not report it to the police. The "determinative factor" in assessing the duty to disclose a third party's fraud on a court is "whether disclosure is necessary to prevent the court's judgment from being corrupted by a party's unlawful conduct." Although the lawyer suspects that someone in the Clerk's Office forged the signature, the lawyer has no obligation to report the individual unless the lawyer has information "clearly establishing" that the employee committed the forgery. This requires a "subjective determination" by the lawyer, guided by the Bar's indication that "at a minimum the 'clearly establishes' standard imparts a good faith belief based upon a substantial degree of certainty and not merely upon suspicion or rumor."

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn