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

31-Protecting and Disclosing Confidences and Secrets

56-Duty to Advise the Court

A lawyer who has "actual knowledge" that a client has violated a court order governing the transfer of assets (based either on "a communication by the client to the lawyer or on other information coming to the lawyer's attention that the lawyer reasonably believes to be reliable") must first review all statements the lawyer made to the court about the matter, and correct any representations the lawyer now knows to be untrue. The lawyer must also review the client's statements to the court, and take appropriate "remedial measures," which may include disclosure of the client's previous misstatements or withdrawal from the representation. If neither the lawyer nor the client has made false statements to the court, the lawyer must consider whether the continued appearance on the client's behalf amounts to assisting the client's fraud on the court. For instance, if a court order required the client to report certain transactions that the client did not report, the lawyers' continued appearance on behalf of the client "reasonably would be viewed as a continuing representation to the court that the client is in compliance with an order prohibiting disposition of assets." The same would be true if the client disposed of an asset that was the subject matter of litigation. On the other hand, the lawyer's continued representation would not violate the ethics rules if the client had disposed of a small amount of money but otherwise had adequate resources to satisfy a judgment. A lawyer who withdraws because he or she knows that the client "intends to make a false statement to the court or believes that her continued representation of the client would assist the client in a fraud on the court" may not disclose the false statement to successor counsel or the court unless the client consents. Although a lawyer must "take reasonable remedial measures" upon learning of a client's past perjury, a lawyer who withdraws from the representation before a client commits perjury may not disclose the client's intent.

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn