Preamble from the Maine Task Force on Ethics

[1] The Maine Supreme Judicial Court adopted these rules of professional responsibility to coordinate with the American Bar Association?s review of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct in 2000 and 2002. Maine?s acceptance of these rules maximizes conformity with those states embracing the ABA Model Rules and also preserves the integrity of the manner in which Maine lawyers practice law. The ABA Model Rules and the Maine Bar Rules involve the same core conduct. These rules follow the numbering system used in the ABA Model Rules and in states ratifying the ABA rules, and as much as possible, follow the language of the applicable ABA rules.

[1A] These Maine Rules of Professional Conduct are the product of Task Force study and recommendations, public comment and, as to the Rules themselves, review by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court adopts these rules as edited and published here. The Preamble, Scope, Comments and Reporter?s Notes have not been specifically adopted by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. The Preamble, Scope, Comments and Reporter?s Notes are published with the Rules for background information and illustration.

[2] In some instances language found in the former Maine Bar rules is imported into a particular provision. In other instances additional regulatory principles are introduced into a rule. Some rules do not follow the ABA rules, for example Rule 1.6 Confidentiality of Information. Therefore, it is critically important that the user of these Maine Rules of Professional Conduct understand that the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct are not identical to the ABA Model Rules.

[2A] The Maine Task Force was instructed to preserve the structure of the ABA Model Rules (which include Comments) when possible. If provisions of the ABA Model Rules were not incorporated into these Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, those sections appear as ?[Reserved]? sections or Comments. Otherwise, topical and substantive provisions of these Maine Rules of Professional Conduct appear in the same numbered Rule and Comment as the ABA Model Rules.

[3] [Reserved]

[4] [Reserved]

[5] [Reserved]

[6] [Reserved]

[7] [Reserved]

[7A] In addition to the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct the Maine Supreme Judicial Court has promulgated two aspirational goals for lawyers. One addresses pro bono publico service. The second addresses the substance and style of lawyer advertising. These aspirational goals were found at Maine Bar Rule 2-A and 2-B, and are now found in Rule 6.1 (Pro bono service) and Rule 7.2-A (lawyer advertising) of these Rules.

[8] [Reserved]

[9] [Reserved]

[10] [Reserved]

[11] [Reserved]

[12] [Reserved]

[13] [Reserved]

[14A] The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has not adopted the Preamble, Comments or Reporter?s Notes. The Comments and Notes are published with the rules to provide background information and illustration.

[14B] The Rules of Professional Conduct are rules of reason. They should be interpreted with reference to the purposes of legal representation and of the law itself. Some of the Rules are imperatives, cast in the terms ?shall? or ?shall not.? These define proper conduct for purposes of professional discipline. Others, generally cast in the term ?may,? are permissive and define areas under the Rules in which the lawyer has discretion to exercise professional judgment. No disciplinary action should be taken when the lawyer chooses not to act or acts within the bounds of such discretion. Other Rules define the nature of relationships between the lawyer and others. The Rules are partly obligatory and disciplinary and partly constitutive and descriptive where they define a lawyer?s professional role. Many of the Comments use the term ?should.? Comments do not add obligations to the Rules but provide guidance for practicing in compliance with the Rules. The Reporter?s Notes are designed to elucidate and provide historical context for the recommendations of the Maine Task Force on Ethics.

[15] The Rules presuppose a larger legal context shaping the lawyer?s role. That context includes court rules and statutes relating to matters of licensure, laws defining specific obligations of lawyers and substantive and procedural law in general. The Comments are to alert lawyers to their responsibilities under such other law.

[16] Compliance with the Rules, as with all law in an open society, depends primarily upon understanding and voluntary compliance, secondarily upon reinforcement by peer and public opinion and finally, when necessary, upon enforcement through disciplinary proceedings. The Rules do not, however, exhaust the moral and ethical considerations that should inform a lawyer, for no worthwhile human activity can be completely defined by legal rules. The Rules simply provide a framework for the ethical practice of law.

[17] Furthermore, for purposes of determining the lawyer?s authority and responsibility, principles of substantive law external to these Rules determine whether a client-lawyer relationship exists. Most of the duties flowing from the client-lawyer relationship attach only after the client has requested the lawyer to render legal services and the lawyer has agreed to do so. But there are some duties, such as that of confidentiality under Rule 1.6, that attach when the lawyer agrees to consider whether a client-lawyer relationship shall be established. See Rule 1.18. Whether a client-lawyer relationship exists for any specific purpose can depend on the circumstances and may be a question of fact.

[18] Under various legal systems, including constitutional, statutory and common law, the responsibilities of government lawyers may include authority concerning legal matters that ordinarily resides in the client in private client-lawyer relationships. For example, a lawyer for a government agency may have authority on behalf of the government to decide upon settlement or whether to appeal from an adverse judgment. Such authority in various respects generally is vested in the attorney general and the state?s attorney in state government, and their federal counterparts, and the same may be true of other government law officers. Also, lawyers under the supervision of these officers may be authorized to represent several government agencies in legal controversies in circumstances where a private lawyer could not represent multiple private clients. These Rules do not abrogate any such authority.

[19] Failure to comply with an obligation or prohibition imposed by a Rule is a basis for invoking the disciplinary process. The Rules presuppose disciplinary assessment of a lawyer?s conduct will be made on the basis of the facts and circumstances as they existed at the time of the conduct in question and in recognition of the fact a lawyer often has to act upon uncertain or incomplete evidence of the situation. Moreover, whether or not discipline should be imposed for a violation, and the severity of a sanction, depend on all the circumstances, such as the willfulness and seriousness of the violation, extenuating factors and whether there have been previous violations.

[20] Violation of a Rule should not itself give rise to a cause of action against a lawyer nor should it create any presumption in such a case that a legal duty has been breached. In addition, violation of a Rule does not necessarily warrant any other nondisciplinary remedy, such as disqualification of a lawyer in pending litigation. The Rules are designed to provide guidance to lawyers and to provide a structure for regulating conduct through disciplinary agencies. They are not designed to be a basis for civil liability. Furthermore, the purpose of the Rules can be subverted when they are invoked by opposing parties as procedural weapons. The fact a Rule is a just basis for a lawyer?s self-assessment, or for sanctioning a lawyer under the administration of a disciplinary authority, does not imply that an antagonist in a collateral proceeding or transaction has standing to seek enforcement of the Rule. Nevertheless, since the Rules do establish standards of conduct by lawyers, a lawyer?s violation of a Rule may be evidence of breach of the applicable standard of conduct.

[21] The Comment and Reporter?s Notes accompanying each Rule explain and illustrate the meaning and purpose of the Rule. The Preamble provides general orientation. The Comments and Reporter?s Notes are intended as guides to interpretation. However, only the text of each Rule is authoritative to govern attorney conduct.