Can Lawyers Lie to the Court?
Short answer: NO.
LAWYERS HAVE A “DUTY OF CANDOR” TO COURTS AND OTHER TRIBUNALS
When a lawyer represents a client in front of a “tribunal” (which includes not only litigation in a trial court or on appeal, but arbitration and other formal dispute resolution proceedings also) the lawyer cannot:
- Knowingly lie, or make false statements of fact or law
- Refuse (or decide not) to correct a false statement of fact or law, if one was made (either knowingly or accidentally) in the past
- Knowingly misquote the law or legal precedents
- Refuse or fail to disclose laws or legal precedents in a controlling court or jurisdiction that are directly adverse to the client’s argument or position
- Even if opposing counsel fails to cite or mention them
- [“Directly adverse” is a somewhat complex issue, and beyond the scope of this article, but we will examine it in a future post.]
- Offer evidence the lawyer knows is false
The duty of candor also creates some affirmative duties for lawyers. For example, a lawyer must:
- Take “reasonable remedial measures” if the lawyer learns that (s)he has introduced or offered false evidence to the court or in a proceeding
- Take “reasonable remedial measurs” if the lawyer knows his or her client intends to behave in a criminal or fraudulent manner with regard to the legal action or proceeding (or if the lawyer learns the client has done so in the past).
- Inform the tribunal of all material facts known to the lawyer and relevant to the tribunal’s ability to make an informed decision–even if those facts or law are adverse to the client’s position–when a lawyer appears before a tribunal ex parte (without the other party or opposing counsel present)
As you can see, these duties not only prevent a lawyer from lying to a court, but actually require lawyers to expose their own lies, and those of others. Lawyers’ role as officers of the court create an obligation to be honest, forthright, and honorable when dealing with both clients and the courts.
Unfortunately, not all lawyers take these duties equally seriously. Lawyers sometimes violate these duties–accidentally or intentionally, and when that happens, sometimes clients or opposing parties suffer damages as a result. When this happens, the lawyer(s) in question can be subject to discipline by the bar, sanctions from the court, and even legal liability for malpractice, if all of the relevant elements are met and someone suffers damages as a result of the lawyer’s wrongful acts or omissions.
If you believe a lawyer lied (in court or otherwise), or otherwise breached the duty of candor, and you suffered damages as a result, contact an experienced lawyer promptly for an evaluation of your legal rights. You may lose your right to bring a claim, or your right to recover all of your damages, if you delay.
Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR OR ROSS LAW AND ANY PERSON. Your legal rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal rights or claims. Consult an experienced attorney promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, potential damages, and the various legal rights and options available to you.
You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Most legal claims (and defenses), as well as legal and court procedures, are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against someone who injured you, a lawyer who represented you in a previous lawsuit, or any other legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your individual rights and claims.