Supreme Judicial Court Rules
Rules of Professional Conduct

Supreme Judicial Court Rules  Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 8.3: Reporting professional misconduct

Effective Date: 07/01/2015
Updates: Adopted March 26, 2015, effective July 1, 2015

Table of Contents


A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the Bar Counsel’s office of the Board of Bar Overseers. 


A lawyer who knows that a judge has committed a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct that raises a substantial question as to the judge’s fitness for office shall inform the Commission on Judicial Conduct. 


This Rule does not require disclosure of information otherwise protected by Rule 1.6.


[1] This Rule requires lawyers to report serious violations of ethical duty by lawyers and judges. Even an apparently isolated violation may indicate a pattern of misconduct that only a disciplinary investigation can uncover. Reporting a violation is especially important where the victim is unlikely to discover the offense. 

[2] A report about misconduct is not permitted or required where it would involve violation of Rule 1.6. However, a lawyer should encourage a client to consent to disclosure where prosecution would not substantially prejudice the client’s interests. 

[3] While a measure of judgment is required in complying with the provisions of the Rule, a lawyer must report misconduct that, if proven and without regard to mitigation, would likely result in an order of suspension or disbarment, including misconduct that would constitute a “serious crime” as defined in  S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 12(3) . Precedent for determining whether an offense would warrant suspension or disbarment may be found in the Massachusetts Attorney Discipline Reports. Section 12(3) of Rule 4:01 provides that a serious crime is “any felony, and … any lesser crime a necessary element of which … includes interference with the administration of justice, false swearing, misrepresentation, fraud, willful failure to file income tax returns, deceit, bribery, extortion, misappropriation, theft, or an attempt or a conspiracy, or solicitation of another to commit [such a crime].” In addition to a conviction of a felony, misappropriation of client funds and perjury before a tribunal are common examples of reportable conduct. The term “substantial” refers to the seriousness of the possible offense and not the quantum of evidence of which the lawyer is aware. A lawyer has knowledge of a violation when he or she possesses supporting evidence such that a reasonable lawyer under the circumstances would form a firm opinion that the conduct in question had more likely occurred than not. A report should be made to Bar Counsel’s office or to the Judicial Conduct Commission, as the case may be. Rule 8.3 does not preclude a lawyer from reporting a violation of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct in circumstances where a report is not mandatory. 

[3A] In most situations, a lawyer may defer making a report under this Rule until the matter has been concluded, but the report should be made as soon as practicable thereafter. An immediate report is ethically compelled, however, when a client or third person will likely be injured by a delay in reporting, such as where the lawyer has knowledge that another lawyer has embezzled client or fiduciary funds and delay may impair the ability to recover the funds. 

[4] The duty to report past professional misconduct does not apply to a lawyer retained to represent a lawyer whose professional conduct is in question. Such a situation is governed by the Rules applicable to the client-lawyer relationship.

Downloads   for Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 8.3: Reporting professional misconduct


Updates: Adopted March 26, 2015, effective July 1, 2015

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