Surgery for Perjury – Stat!
November 16, 2022
Reading time: 2 minutes
Although you may have attended law school because you didn’t want to go to medical school (read: you feel faint at the sight of blood), you are probably familiar with the term “stat!”. An abbreviation of the Latin word “statim”, “stat” means “immediate” – which is how quickly you must persuade your client to reveal any fraud to the court.
ABA Model Rule 3.3 requires candor toward the tribunal. Specifically, a lawyer shall not knowingly offer evidence the lawyer knows to be false. If the client has offered material evidence and the lawyer knows of its falsity, the lawyer shall take reasonable remedial measures, including disclosure to the court.
Should your client commit perjury, you must immediately attempt to persuade them to reveal the truth to the judge. Advise the client of your ethical obligation to protect the court from fraudulent conduct and that their failure to reveal the truth may result in your withdrawal from the case. If your client refuses to correct the fraud despite your best efforts to convince them to do so, it is the lawyer’s responsibility to disclose the truth to the judge. This is typically done after the lawyer has withdrawn from representation of the client. Notwithstanding your ethical obligation to withdraw, it is also in your best interest to minimize potential liability for your client’s conduct so that the firm’s reputation is not tarnished.
The comments to Rule 3.3 contemplate the difficult consequences of disclosing a client’s false testimony, including a sense of betrayal and the potential loss of a case to perhaps even prosecution for perjury. However, the alternative is for the lawyer to participate in their client’s deception of the court. There are circumstances where the lawyer’s failure to make a disclosure is the equivalent of an affirmative misrepresentation which could lead to disciplinary proceedings or even disbarment. Protect yourself and the integrity of the court by promptly withdrawing and advising the court of your client’s misconduct – stat!
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