By Holly Moose
Your Committee on Professional Ethics has been hard at work. It has completed its review and revision of Advisory Opinions 1 through 44, many of which were outdated and/or duplicative. This task was a major undertaking and spanned the terms of two consecutive COPE committees. Kudos to all who participated.
The goal was to combine opinions that were similar, update opinions that were outdated, and rescind opinions that were obsolete or where applicable state and local rules were too variable to allow for a generalized opinion. Given the pace at which technology advances, this process may have to be revisited again sooner than any of us care to reflect upon. But for now, such terms as “diskette” have been updated to reflect 21st century nomenclature and the hypotheticals updated to reflect current circumstances.
Here’s a synopsis of some of the changes:
Advisory Opinion 4 addresses altering the official record. A consensus was reached that it should not be the reporter’s responsibility to determine what constitutes a “material” change, but rather, that any change the Court wishes to make, even one of a grammatical nature, should be agreed upon by all parties before the reporter may alter the official record.
Advisory Opinions 19 and 37 addressed certification and confidentiality of transcripts. AO 37 was rescinded, and AO 19 was revised to apply the same standards regarding certification and confidentiality to electronic and paper transcripts.
Advisory Opinion 24 addresses a third party seeking to obtain transcripts, or the names and contact information of the attorneys involved, from a prior case in which the requesting party itself is not involved. A consensus was reached that the reporter should not provide transcripts, or any information contained therein, without the consent of all parties to the underlying case. It was further agreed that it should not be at the discretion of the reporter whether or not to seek such consent, but rather, that the reporter is obligated to do so, in fairness to all participants.
In addition to the revisions that were made, the Committee inserted cross-references wherever a similar opinion exists, in the event that one or the other is not quite what you’re looking for.
Your Board of Directors has been hard at work too! It dutifully reviewed each and every one of COPE’s suggested revisions and adopted them.
Consider browsing through the Advisory Opinions on NCRA’s website. You would be amazed at how many scenarios are described that you may have encountered yourself at some point in your career. It’s always interesting to see how others have handled it. Perhaps such a review will prepare you for a situation that may arise in the future and assist you in addressing it in the best possible way.
Never having studied these opinions before, but needing to do so in order to complete our task, I must say I find many of them as relevant today as the day they were adopted. Technology excepted, some things never change!
Holly Moose, RDR, CRR, of Sausalito, Calif, is an ex-officio member of NCRA’s Committee on Professional Ethics.