For purposes of responding to your inquiry, the Committee has considered the facts as presented in your written inquiry and supplemented by a subsequent telephone conversation between you and Paul Kazaras, Esquire. You stated that you provided legal services to the congressional campaign of W. You further stated that G retained you to do so, and that G caused a political action committee (PAC) which he controls to pay the first $3,000 of the $8,000 in fees which accrued. There is a balance of $5,000 for your legal fees which remains unpaid. G has personally refused and he has caused the PAC to refuse to pay the outstanding bill. As a result, you have sued G for payment. G has taken the position that the contract to perform legal services was illegal under the Federal election laws as his basis for refusing to pay the outstanding bill.
Your client, for whom you were retained to provide legal services, was W. In order to accept payment for your services from a source other than W, Rule 1.8(f) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct required that you obtain W's consent, after full disclosure of the circumstances and consultation with W, before you accepted compensation from G or G's PAC. If such disclosure and consultation was not made you may have improperly accepted payment from G's PAC. In any event, the disclosure you seek to make is not permitted by the Rules.
Your specific inquiry concerns whether Rule 1.6(c)(2) permits you to disclose the fact of the alleged violation of the election law to the Federal Election Commission.
Rule 1.6 (c)(2) permits disclosure of information relating to the representation of a client to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to prevent or rectify the consequences of a client's criminal or fraudulent conduct.
In order to disclose the alleged violation of the election law you must make two determinations. First, was there a violation of the election laws? Second, if so, was it your client, W, or the PAC controlled by G, which violated the law?
Even if you determine that the violation of the election laws was committed by W, it is the opinion of the Committee that Rule 1.6(c)(2) does not permit the disclosure you would like to make.
This is so because your services were not used by the client in committing the alleged crime. Rather, the alleged criminal act related to the payment to you by the PAC, not the services provided by you to your client.
The Philadelphia Bar Association's Professional Guidance Committee provides, upon request, advice for lawyers facing or anticipating facing ethical dilemmas. Advice is based on the consideration of the facts of the particular inquirer's situation and the Rules of Professional Conduct as promulgated by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Committee's opinions are advisory only and are based upon the facts set forth. The opinions are not binding upon the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or any other Court. They carry only such weight as an appropriate reviewing authority may choose to give it.