Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson has written the below open letter to Texas lawyers. The letter was published in the January issue of the Texas Bar Journal. For more information about Referendum 2011, please visit www.texasbar.com/rulesupdate.
Dear Texas Lawyers,
You have the privilege to help establish the ethical standards that govern our profession. I encourage you to exercise that privilege by analyzing the proposed amendments to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct; making educated, independent decisions regarding the amendments; and voting on them in the referendum.
The Court proposed these amendments after engaging in a collaborative exchange with members of the State Bar of Texas and the general public. In 2003, the Court appointed a task force to analyze extensive changes made to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct in 2002, compare the changes with the current Texas rules and other states’ rules, and make recommendations for improvements to the Texas rules. Between 2003 and 2008, the Court oversaw the work of not only the task force but also the State Bar Committee on the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, which also submitted recommendations. Between 2008 and 2009, the Court devoted multiple administrative conferences to considering the task force’s and committee’s recommendations. We studied their proposals in conjunction with comparable ABA language, existing Texas rules, and applicable law, among other things.
Because these amendments affect all of you and the clients you serve, the Court and State Bar leadership felt the revisions should be vetted by lawyers with diverse backgrounds and expertise. To that end, the Court task force and State Bar committee included, among others, lawyers from small, mid-sized, and large firms; in-house counsel; government lawyers; academics; and representatives of disciplinary authorities. To obtain additional perspectives, we also sought feedback from all Texas lawyers and members of the general public in a public-comment period between 2009 and 2010.
The Court listened. We made many changes in response to helpful suggestions we received from lawyers in multiple practice areas, members of the general public, and academics specializing in professional responsibility. As a result, the initial version of the proposed amendments (issued in October 2009) differs substantially from the current one (issued in November 2010). This impressive collaboration among the bench, the bar, and the public has generated amendments that enhance the profession’s role as the guardian of rights and liberties under law.
If you adopt these amendments, our rules will be more consistent overall with the ABA rules. Some of them may also serve as a model for other states and the ABA in crafting ethical standards for the legal profession.
I am proud of the process that resulted in the proposed amendments. I urge you to study them carefully and exercise your right to vote. I think you will conclude, as the Court has, that the proposed amendments will serve you and your clients well.
Wallace B. Jefferson
Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Texas