A full house was in attendance at the fifth of nine public education hearings held at the Belo Mansion in Dallas. After a 30-minute presentation by Supreme Court Rules Attorney Kennon Peterson highlighting the proposed changes in the rules, the floor was opened to comments. While initial comments were limited to five minutes, the time constraints were suspended to ensure that questions were addressed and that comments were adequately expressed. Click here to listen to an audio recording of the hearing.

A sample of some of the comments from the hearing:

Linda Turley, a lawyer with a six-person firm in Dallas, expressed concern with proposed DR 1.15 regarding safekeeping of property. She said she was alarmed that the rule “has the effect of making substantive law changes,” which should not be the purpose of disciplinary rules. According to Turley, the rule would adversely impact clients in healthcare subrogation cases and should be reconsidered.

Judge Staci Williams expressed concern with proposed Rule 1.13 and urged that a per se rule be adopted. Judge Williams had looked at rules from other states and supported a clear rule that makes it perfectly clear what is ethical. She also suggested that other professions that have close relationships with clients have already adopted this more strident prohibition. At a minimum, she urged that a definition of “sexual relations” be added to the proposed rule.  One individual in the audience encouraged caution as implementation of this kind of rule might open more lawyers up to extortion from past clients. He acknowledged that there are two extremes and that he did not know the answer.

Cindy Solls, a Dallas lawyer/mediator, expressed concern that the rules did not directly address mediation. She was concerned that especially proposed Rule 1.08, the “aggregate settlement” proposed rule, might not be workable in a mediation setting.

Michelle Wong Krause, who said she had done numerous workers’ compensation cases, expressed concern with Rule 3.05 and said that it is common practice for administrative lawyers have discussed policies and procedures with Administrative Law Judges along the way. She suggested that perhaps defining “matter” to apply to particular cases might make the proposed rule more palatable.

• Questions also arose regarding proposed rule 1.05 regarding information that is confidential and that which is generally available to the public. Another lawyer suggested that proposed rule 1.04 changing “unconscionable” to “clearly excessive” might open lawyers up to more risk. He described “unconscionable” as morally appropriate versus “clearly excessive” as quantitative.

The public education hearings will continue next week in Corpus Christi, McAllen, San Antonio, and Austin. Click here for the complete schedule with dates and locations and click here for details on the proposed changes.