Judge Rules For Lawyer Fired For Following Rules

August 22, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Judge Carmen Lopez of the Superior Court of New Haven, Connecticut has ruled that a lawyer can not be fired for trying to follow the Rules of Professional Conduct, saying that doing so is an "important public policy" exception to the employment-at-will doctrine, The Connecticut Law Tribune reports.

“Because the legal profession is self-regulated and relies upon its members to police itself, no lawyer’s employment should be conditioned upon turning a blind eye to violations of the Rules which are applicable to all lawyers,” Lopez wrote, according to The Law Tribune.

Associate Bruce Matzkin of the Guilford, Connecticut law firm ofDelaney, Zemetis, Donahue, Durham & Noonan was fired after seeking permission to report to bar authorities that a trial opponent had called witnesses he had subpoenaed and told them they didn’t need to come to court. Matzkin felt the act was witness tampering and he had a duty to report the violation under Rule 8.3(a).

But, Matzkin claims a partner told him, “We do not grieve other lawyers.”

The firm argued with the judge’s ruling, saying that the ethics rule “does not rise to the level of ‘an important public policy'” that would warrant making an exception to employers’ basic right to fire an employee without any grounds, the Law Tribune reports.

Lopez concluded in the ruling that firing a lawyer for following the self-policing requirement of the Rules of Professional Conduct “would compromise the autonomy of the profession.”