Supreme Court approves amendments to the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct

Earlier this week, the Vermont Supreme Court approved several amendments to the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct.  The Court’s order is here.  Last spring, I recorded this video in which I summarized the proposed amendments.  The new rules go into effect on November 14.  Here’s a recap:

Rule 1.2 – Scope of Representation and Allocation of Authority Between Client & Lawyer

Paragraph (c) has been amended to require a lawyer who assists a person to prepare documents that the lawyer knows the person will file in court to comply with any court rules that might require a seemingly self-represented litigant to disclose having received legal assistance.  For example, Second Circuit Local Rule 32.2.

Comment [5] was added. Among other things, it makes clear that civility to others is not inconsistent with a lawyer’s duty to their client.

Comment [14] was amended to reflect changes to Vermont’s cannabis laws.

Rule 1.6 – Confidentiality

The rule prohibits the disclosure of information relating to the representation of a client.

New paragraph (c)(3) creates an exception to secure guidance from bar counsel.

New paragraph (c)(5) creates a limited exception to detect conflicts of interest when changing jobs.

New paragraph (d) creates an affirmative duty to make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent disclosure of or unauthorized access to client information.

Rule 1.15A – Trust Accounting System

Only lawyers who are admitted to practice law in Vermont and people who work under their direct supervision can sign trust account checks or initiate transfers or disbursements from the trust account.

Trust account checks must be made to a named payee and cannot be made to “cash.”

Rule 4.4 – Respect for Rights of Third Persons

The duty to notify the sender upon receiving information that the lawyer knows or should know was inadvertently sent has been expanded to “information” from “document.”

Rule 5.3 – Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyers Assistants

Comments were added to clarify the scope of a lawyer’s duties to ensure that nonlawyer assistants act in a way that is compatible with the lawyer’s professional obligations.

Rule 5.5 – Unauthorized Practice of Law

Comment [22] was added to clarify that lawyers who are not admitted to practice law in Vermont do not necessarily engage in the unauthorized practice of law by working remotely from Vermont. 

Rule 8.3 – Reporting Professional Misconduct

Comment [4] was amended to clarify that an inquiry of bar counsel does not satisfy the duty to report to another lawyer’s misconduct.

Rule 8.4 – Misconduct

Paragraph (b) prohibits lawyers from engaging in conduct that involves a “serious crime.”  The amendment broadens the definition of “serious crime.”

2 thoughts on “Supreme Court approves amendments to the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct

    • Right…but…..ahem……I’d be interested in Mr. Kennedy’s response to Title 12. He’s quite an impressive and informed intellect;

      A.O. 9 and other rules have to be presented to the legislative committee and spend some time on the Green Books as proposed legislation. Theoretically coherent with Separation of Powers. A Judicial Branch does not act as a legislature.

      Title 12 : Court Procedure
      Chapter 001 : Rules Of Court
      (Cite as: 12 V.S.A. § 3)

      § 3. Legislative Committee on Judicial Rules

      (a) There is created a joint legislative committee to be known as the Legislative Committee on Judicial Rules. The Legislative Committee on Judicial Rules shall be composed of eight members of the General Assembly to be appointed for two-year terms ending on February 1 of odd-numbered years as follows: four members of the House of Representatives to be appointed by the Speaker of the House, and four members of the Senate to be appointed by the Committee on Committees. The Committee shall elect a chair and a vice chair from among its members.

      (b) The Committee shall meet as necessary for the prompt discharge of its duties and may use the staff and services of the Office of Legislative Counsel and the Office of Legislative Operations. The Committee shall adopt rules to govern its operation and organization. A quorum of the Committee shall consist of five members. For attendance at a meeting when the General Assembly is not in session, members of the Legislative Committee on Judicial Rules shall be entitled to the same per diem compensation and reimbursement for necessary expenses as provided members of standing committees under 2 V.S.A. § 23.

      (c) The Legislative Committee on Judicial Rules may hold public hearings on a proposed or previously adopted rule on its own initiative. The Committee shall give public notice of any hearing at least 10 days in advance and shall notify the Court. Any public hearing shall be scheduled at a time and place chosen to afford opportunity for affected persons to present their views.

      Like

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