Opinion #48. Enforceability of Medical-Legal Cooperation Code

Issued by the Professional Ethics Commission

Date Issued: May 10, 1984

Question

The Commission has been asked to render an opinion as to whether a violation of the Code of Cooperation of the Maine State Bar Association and Maine Medical Association (first published in 1967) can be a matter for disciplinary action under Rule 3. We are also asked whether the adoption of Rule 3 by the Supreme Judicial Court has made the Medical‑Legal Code unenforceable.

Opinion

It is not entirely clear to the Commission whether the inquiry was directed at matters which are considered to violate the Medical‑Legal Code regardless of whether they would also violate Rule 3. If the question is whether a violation of the former would automatically constitute a violation of Rule 3, the answer must be in the negative.

Disciplinary action may be initiated whenever it is alleged that a lawyer has been guilty of “conduct unworthy of an attorney.” See 4 M.R.S.A. § 851. Violations of the standards of ethical conduct established by Rule 3 are per se violations of the statute. See Rule 3.1(a). Since a lawyer may also be guilty of unethical conduct which is not specifically proscribed by Rule 3, however, see, e.g., Board of Overseers v. Rodway, 461 A.2d 1062 (Me. 1983), it is conceivable that a violation of the Medical‑Legal Code might constitute conduct unworthy of an attorney even though the misconduct was not dealt with by Rule 3. This would be so, not because the Medical‑Legal Cooperation Committee had so ruled, but because the Grievance Commission had independently reached the same conclusion based on its own review of the facts.


Enduring Ethics Opinion