NUMBER 253 1927

Question. An attorney is employed to institute civil suit to recover from another member of the Bar an amount of money procured by the latter from the client by means of forgeries committed by the defendant. The client instructs the new attorney not to inform the District Attorney of the forgeries and not to lay any complaint before any Bar Association against the offending attorney. It is not contemplated that there shall be any unlawful understanding or agreement respecting the crime. The client merely insists that the new attorney shall take no steps against the offending attorney, except civil proceedings to recover the amount of which he has been defrauded.

The attorney so employed inquires whether, notwithstanding the insistence of his client, he is, in the opinion of the Committee, under any professional duty to disclose the offense, either to the prosecuting authorities, or to a Bar Association, or to both, having thus procured knowledge of the facts. In this connection, he invites attention to Canons 15, 16, and 29 of the American Bar Association.


Answer. In the opinion of the Committee, the lawyer may not with professional propriety disclose a confidential communication from his client, but, with this qualification, the Committee is of the opinion that the lawyer cannot properly submit to the stated instructions from his client, or continue his employment subject thereto, and notwithstanding such instructions, he ought to conform with the suggestions of Canon 29, if it can be done without the disclosure of confidential communications.