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OBA Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 47

Adopted January 27, 1933

The Board is in receipt of the following request for an opinion:

"A firm of attorneys is making a practice of bringing suits in the Justice Courts of this State and are arranging their cases as follows:

They send their petitions to the Justice of the Peace to file and arrange with him that in case the defendant does not appear that he will render judgment against the defendant, but in case the defendant does appear the Justice shall, without further instructions from the attorneys, continue the case and notify the attorneys of that fact.

Question 1. What is the ethical aspect of the arrangement so far as the attorneys are concerned?

Question 2. Is not the Justice of the Peace practicing law in carrying out this arrangement?

This firm of attorneys is located in a large city, centrally located, and make a specialty of accumulating commercial claims and conducting their law suits all over the State in the manner stated. I would be pleased to have a reply at your convenience."

In response to Question 1:

The Board is of the opinion that no real ethical question is presented under the rules of professional conduct.

In response to Question 2:

The Board is of the opinion that it cannot be said that the Justice of the Peace is engaged in the practice of law; and, of course, it has not jurisdiction, so to speak, over the actions of a judicial officer.