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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27-Litigation Tactics (Including Misrepresentations, Tape Recordings)

32-Lawyers Acting in Other Roles (Miscellaneous)

56-Duty to Advise the Court

Because "the fact that a litigant submitting papers to a tribunal on a pro se basis has received legal assistance behind the scenes is not material to the merits of litigation," a lawyer "may provide legal assistance to litigants appearing before tribunals "pro se" and help them prepare written submissions without disclosing or ensuring the disclosure of the nature or extent of such assistance." The Committee does not share the concern raised by some that pro se litigants "are the beneficiaries of special treatment" and that pro se litigants' pleadings "are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." As one commentator has noted, a court recognizing a higher quality of pro se litigants' pleadings simply refrains from applying any "liberality in construction," because "liberality is, by definition, only necessary where pleadings are obscure." A lawyer failing to disclose assistance to a pro se litigant does not violate Model Rule 8.4(c) because the lawyer is not making any statement to the forum. A lawyer might be obligated by Model Rules 1.2 and 1.6 not to disclose such assistance. A lawyer who does not sign a pleading is not assuming any responsibility for the pleading. Lawyers' obligations to disclose such assistance may be governed by a jurisdiction's law or tribunal rule. [superseding ABA Informal Opinion 1414]

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn