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According to what has been in the news, Mr. Trump’s attorney claims that he arranged this settlement on his own and advanced the settlement funds out of his own pocket. (See, Complaint at paragraph 26, p.4: 12-21.) If so, several ethical concerns come into play. While the attorney is licensed in New York and thus governed by the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (“Model Rules”) which have been adopted in all states except California, the California Rules of Professional Conduct and the California Business and Professions Code essentially cover the same conduct. As I do in my class, I will discuss both (although providing links to the Model Rules only). First and foremost is the basic principle that the attorney is the agent of the principal, the client. Thus, pursuant to Model Rule 1.2 , a lawyer is to abide by the decisions of the client and consult with the client on how to carry out the client’s wishes. This same requirement is also found in California’s Business and Professions Code Section 6104, which states that an attorney who “’’… corruptly or willfully and without authority [appears] for a party in an action or proceeding…” constitutes cause for disbarment or suspension. The Model Rules also covers communicating with a client indicating that such is mandatory. Model Rule 1.4 requires that an attorney keep the client reasonably informed. It states that a lawyer is to “keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter” as well as to “reasonably consult with the client about how the client’s objectives are to be accomplished.” Similarly, Business and Professions Code section 6103.5 provides that an attorney is to “…. Promptly communicate to the member’s client all amounts, terms, and conditions of any written offer of settlement made by or on behalf of an opposing party. California Rule of Professional Conduct 3-510 provides the same as well.
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