Legal Ethics

Wash. State Appeals Court OKs $3K Sanction Against Lawyer Who Responded to Opposing Party Email


The Washington Court of Appeals earlier this month found that attorney John Williams was appropriately sanctioned $3,000 for responding to an email from an opposing party in a personal injury case that invited him to get in touch with her, the ABA/BNA Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct reports.

Although Rebecca Hardesten said she was unhappy with her own lawyer’s handling of her case and invited Williams to contact her, he should have forwarded her email to her counsel or contacted the court overseeing the case rather than responding, the Appeals Court said in its written opinion (PDF).

Rejecting Williams’ argument that the contact was appropriate, because Hardesten’s email suggested she was unrepresented, the court pointed to Washington Rule of Professional Conduct 4.2. Absent consent of opposing counsel, or contact authorized by law or court order, it forbids a lawyer to communicate with a party represented by another lawyer about the matter or subject of representation.

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