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What happens to a lawyer who lies in court to a judge

Burnt Hills, NY |

what are the penatalies for pergery

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Attorney answers 3

Posted

For the most part lawyers are considered advocates for their clients. They are expected to argue their client's side of the case.Many times what lay people consider perjury the court does not. In general lawyers are immune from what they say in the courtroom while representing a client. Perjury is when a witness not a lawyer is testifying falsely. A lawyer however can be sanctioned for misrepresenting facts to a court and/or false pleading.

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LEGAL DISCLAIMER
Mr. Sarno is licensed to practice law in NJ and NY. His response here is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/ client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter in question. Many times the questioner may leave out details which would make the reply unsuitable. Mr. Sarno strongly advises the questioner to confer with a local attorney about this issue.

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Posted

It is not clear from your question if, from your perspective, the lawyer "lied" on behalf of or against the client. Mr. Sarno answered the former and I agree with his comments.

If, however, you were taking about a "lie" against the client - i.e., lawyer lied to the court about the client in a way that hurt the client - I would add these thoughts. If the lawyer actually lied and the client can prove it, the most likely arena to impose consequences would be in a disciplinary hearing before the state bar. A lawyer has ethical obligations to the client and the court, which include the duty of loyalty to the client, to not intentionally hurt the client, and a duty of candor to the court. To lie in a way that hurts the client would violated all of these ethical obligations.

A perjury prosecution for any lie requires that the lie be told while under oath. So unless the lawyer took an oath and was testifying at the time of the lie, s/he could not be charged with perjury.

Also, keep in mind that, whether you’re talking about perjury or a disciplinary hearing, a disagreement of facts between the client and lawyer will not necessarily lead a third party to conclude that the lawyer is lying. Many people can have an honest disagreement about who said what and what happened when. In the absence of clear proof of deliberate falsehood, the lawyer is not likely to be punished or branded a liar.

Asker

Posted

What about a sworn certification submitted by an attorney in support his client's motion. For instance, this attorney signed a cerification is support of Def's motion that "Defendant cannot afford my attorney fees. He HAD to borrow money from family members to pay my fee." That certification indicates the Def paid his lawyer something and the Judge relied on that statement when ordering me to pay attorney fees--so now, this attorney files a motion to be relieved as counsel based on the allegation that his client has not paid him and they are unable to agree upon payment. What recourse do I have, as a pro se litigant? Against the attorney and against the award of counsel fees. The order is interolcutory as all issues have not been disposed of. Further, I prevailed on 3 of the reliefs requested and the judge never stated I acted in bad faith. She basically did not make any findings of fact or assess my ability to pay--she just ordered them.

Posted

Unless the lawyer testified under oath as a witness, he was not committing perjury no matter what he said.,

Asker

Posted

These responses are terrible. First of all, in every U.S. jurisdiction there is a strict rule governing candor toward the tribunal. If a lawyer lies to the Judge about something that is within his own knowledge -- such as something the lawyer did or didn't do during the lawsuit, then he can be suspended or disbarred. However, it's important to distinguish what you mean by a "lawyer lying" from examples when a lawyer is not really lying. For instance, if there is a reasonable difference of opinion regarding what took place, then just because a lawyer disagrees with your position doesn't make him a "liar." Also, a lawyer who presents his client's version of events is usually not breaking the rule, because he has no way of knowing if his client is telling the truth and is duty-bound to defend his client's case to the best of his ability. However, if the lawyer affirmatively knows the client is lying, then he is prohibited from lying to the Court. If you know about a lawyer genuinely lying, and not just differing with your opinion of what happened and not just defending his client's version of events, but actually affirmatively lying to the Court, then you should report it to the local lawyers' ethics committee.

Jonathan H Levy

Jonathan H Levy

Posted

The question was about "pentalies for pergery" and lying lawyers from a layman. What do you think they meant? I take it to mean that from a layman's point of view a lawyer representing the other side is lying when they present a position different from the other party.

Asker

Posted

I suppose there's multiple ways of interpreting the question. I took it to mean: "Is it wrong for a lawyer to lie in Court? Is there anything I can do about it?" First question to ask is whether it's really "lying," or just presenting the other side's version of events. I tried to make that clear in my response. If the answer is the former, then yes, it is very wrong for a lawyer to tell either Judge or jury any untruth that they know to be untrue, and certainly this is not permitted by the ethics rules of any jurisdiction. I suppose my reaction to the initial responses may have been a bit harsh, but I still think it is absolutely wrong to represent to this questioner that lawyers are entitled to lie on behalf of their clients. That is not true in any jurisdiction. The fact that they may get away with it sometimes is unfortunate, but people get away with murder, that doesn't make it permitted and it certainly doesn't guarantee they'll get away with it.

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