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Colo. Rules of Prof. Conduct 3.3 states: (a) a lawyer shall not knowingly: (1) make a false statement of material fact or law to a tribunal; (2) fail to disclose a material fact to a tribunal when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by the client; (b) the duties stated in paragraph (a) continue to the conclusion of the proceeding, and apply even if compliance requires disclosure of information otherwise protected by Colo. Rules of Prof. Conduct 1.6.
The attorney was assigned by his law firm to represent a minor who had used a friend's identification when she was cited for trespassing and drinking. A criminal summons was issued in the friend's name and the attorney falsely represented to the state that he represented the friend when he actually represented the minor. The charges were dismissed. The friend asked the attorney about the charges and he told her she would need to consult an attorney so she did and the events were reported to the state. The attorney was charged with unethical conduct and the hearing panel of the supreme court grievance committee approved the findings and recommendation of a hearing board, which suspended his license for forty-five days and ordered the attorney to take and pass the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). The attorney appealed and stipulated that his conduct violated several professional conduct rules, but that the punishment was too severe.
Was the recommendation of the hearing panel and the hearing board regarding the lawyer’s punishment proper?
The court determined that Colo. Rules of Prof. Conduct 3.3(a)(2) applied because the attorney had the duty to disclose to the court that his client was impersonating her friend in the criminal proceedings and the record supported the board's findings with respect to the attorney's mental state. The court held that the attorney's misconduct was serious enough to warrant a short suspension and the attorney's confusion of his professional responsibility confirmed that he should be required to take the MPRE.