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North Carolina Professional Responsibility Research

A guide to researching legal ethics in North Carolina

North Carolina Ethics Opinions

Applying the Rules - North Carolina Ethics Opinions & Discussion

  • North Carolina State Bar Lawyer's Handbook, published by the North Carolina State Bar

    • ​This annotated lawyer's reference contains the "most frequently referenced" rules of the North Carolina State Bar (including "Discipline and Disability" and "Fee Dispute Resolution), select "Attorneys-at-Law" sections of the the North Carolina General Statutes, as well as the annotated Rules of Professional Conduct, all ethics opinions adopted under the Rules and Superseded (1985) Rules, and trust account guidelines.

    • Available in the UNC Law Library at KFN7476.5 .N82.  Current edition located at the Reference Desk. 

    • Available online through the State Bar website.


  • Ethics Opinions and related information from the North Carolina State Bar can also be accessed at the NC State Bar website as follows.

  • Proposed Opinions of the NC State Bar are available online and also published quarterly in the North Carolina State Bar Journal.  This is an opportunity for public comment before a decision by the State Bar Ethics Committee, although final opinions are not republished in the Journal.


  • Ethics Opinions of the North Carolina State Bar can also be accessed through UNC Libraries, as follows.

    • North Carolina Legal Ethics Opinions (from 1985) are available online (Westlaw) with account permission.

  • Older Opinions (in reverse date order).

    • RPC Opinions (North Carolina State Bar, 1994).  The North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct ("RPC") were in effect from 1985-1997.  Available in the UNC Law Library at KFN7476.5.A2 R62.

    • The Green Book: North Carolina Code of Professional Responsibility and CPR Opinions (North Carolina State Bar, unkn.).  The North Carolina Code of Professional Responsibility ("CPR") was in effect from 1973 to 1985.  Available in three volumes in the UNC Law Library at KFN7476.5.A2 G79.

    • Statutes, Rules and Regulations, Canons of Ethics, and Opinions: Including Rules of the Board of Law Examiners, Robert Melott, Ed. (North Carolina State Bar, 1970).  Available in the UNC Law Library at KFN7476.5.A2 N6.

    • North Carolina Statutes, Rules and Regulations: and Ethics Opinions of the North Carolina State Bar: Rules of the Board of Law Examiners, North Carolina State Bar (Michie, 1962), including opinions from October 1942 through October 2961, at KFN7477 .N67.

      • North Carolina statutes, rules and regulations and ethics opinions of the North Carolina State Bar: rules of the Board of Law Examiners. Supplement no. 1, North Carolina State Bar (Michie, 1963), at KFN7477 .N67 1961 Suppl. 1963.


 

  • North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, a privately published newspaper covering legal news, with a searchable online site.

    • ​Available online through UNC Libraries (Lexis), with account access .

    • Available in UNC Law Libraries at K14 .O736.

Judicial Ethics Opinions

North Carolina Judicial Branch

  • The Code of Judicial Conduct is promulgated by the Supreme Court under Section 7A-10.1 of the General Statutes of North Carolina.

  • Judicial Ethics Opinions (beginning 2007) are also available online through the UNC Law Library (Westlaw), with account access.


Center for Judicial Ethics, National Center for State Courts ("NCSC")

Under the auspices of the NCSC, the Center for Judicial Ethics serves as a clearinghouse for resources on the topic.  Included are the following.

  • Judicial Conduct Reporter, published quarterly, summarizing recent decisions and advisory opinions, reporting developments in judicial discipline, and including articles on judicial ethics and discipline procedures.  The Judicial Conduct Reporter began as a publication of the American Judicature Society Center for Ethics through the summer of 2014, at which point its publication transferred to the NCSC.  The first issue of each year (winter) reports state judicial discipline statistics for the prior year and "summariz[es] all cases in which judges were removed."

    • Online at the NCSC website, searchable by topic or by date, from 1999 through current winter 2020 edition.

    • Online at Westlaw (with account access), 1979 through summer 2014.

  • Links to states' Judicial Conduct Commissions, Ethics Advisory Committees, and Codes of Civility and Professionalism are also gathered at the State Links page.


Ethics Opinions of the United States Courts

  • The Judicial Conference of the United States, through its Committee on Codes of Conduct publishes "formal advisory opinions on ethical issues that are frequently raised or have broad application."   Opinions are intended to "provide ethical guidance for judges and judicial employees and assist in the interpretation of the codes of conduct and ethics regulations that apply to the judiciary."

  • Published Advisory Opinions can be found on the US Courts website.

 

Fourth Judicial Circuit (including North Carolina)

  • As a part of the United States (federal) Court system, the Fourth Circuit references the ethics policies of the Federal Court on its Judicial Conduct and Disability webpage, including the FAQ page located therein.

  • Fourth Circuit Judicial Complaint Orders  are also available here in full-text and searchable format.

    • Judicial complaints are to be filed with the "clerk’s office of the United States court of appeals for the regional circuit in which the judge serves."  See, FAQ page.   Since North Carolina is part of the Fourth Circuit, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals hears complaints against federal judges in North Carolina.

ABA Advisory Opinions

Applying the ABA Model Rules

  • Advisory Opinions of the ABA combine Attorney and Judicial ethics opinions and can be accessed as follows.

    • Through the American Bar Association website.

    • Through UNC Libraries​ (Westlaw), with account access.

    • Available in UNC Law Library.

      • Conscience, conduct, and the bar : the formal and informal opinions of the A.B.A. Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, 1924-1976, John Miller Lorentz (University Microfilms International, 1983, c1979), at KF306 .L67 1979r.

      • Formal and Informal Ethics Opinions (1983-1998) (Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, ABA, 2000), at KF305.A2 A43 2000.

      • Recent Ethics Opinions (1967-1989) (Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, ABA, 1967-1989) at KF305.A2 A43.  With informal opinions from 1967 and formal and informal from 1975.

    • On Lexis, with account access.


Finding Cases

Finding Cases

National Perspective

Comparing Professional Responsibility across the United States

  • Attorney Conduct

    • American Bar Association's Jurisdictional Rules Comparison Charts detail the way "each jurisdiction has modified each of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct."  These informational charts evaluate each rule across the 50 states, and include comparisons from as recently as February 2020.

    •  survey of ethical rules across the 50 states, by Thomson Reuter (2019) (Westlaw access required).

      • Searchable table, organized by state and rule.

      • Includes US Territories, Guam, Puerto Rico and The Virgin Islands.


  • Judicial Conduct

    • National Center for State Courts ("NCSC") provides a page of State Ethics Links to information about the judicial ethics functioning of each state.

      • The Ethics Advisory Committees page provides links to opinions on judicial ethics from each state.

      • Judicial Conduct Reporter, published quarterly, summarizing recent decisions and advisory opinions, reporting developments in judicial discipline, and including articles on judicial ethics and discipline procedures.  The Judicial Conduct Reporter began as a publication of the American Judicature Society Center for Ethics through the summer of 2014, at which point its publication transferred to the NCSC.  The first issue of each year (winter) reports state judicial discipline statistics for the prior year and "summariz[es] all cases in which judges were removed."

        • Online at the NCSC website, searchable by topic or by date, from 1999 through current winter 2020 edition.

        • Online at Westlaw (with account access), 1979 through summer 2014.

    • American Bar Association's Judicial Ethics and Regulation page provides links to the following, among others.


Ethics Discussions in Blogs and News Services

  • National Reporter on Legal Ethics 

    • Full text of selected state ethics opinions.

    • Available in the UNC Law Library at KF308.A6 N38, current only through 2011.

    • Searchable database available online through UNC Law Library (NexisUni), with account access, current to date.

  • ABA/BNA Lawyers' Manual on Professional Conduct, i.e. Bloomberg Law Legal Ethics News

    • Current news and cases involving legal ethics from around the country.

    • Available in the UNC Law Library at KF305.A8 A231.

    • Available online through UNC Libraries (Bloomberg), with account access.

  • Legal Ethics Forum

    • Ethics-related blogs and links with a national perspective, including reference to state and ABA ethical codes.

  • Professional Responsibility Blog, Professor Alberto Bernabe, University of Illinois in Chicago John Marshall School of Law

    • Reporting on ethical matters across the United States, searchable via controlled vocabulary (keywords).

  • School of Government, UNC

    • Although its main focus is the understanding and  improvement of state and local government, the North Carolina School of Government maintains a blog providing commentary on timely issues, including on the topic of legal ethics.  The site is public and includes a searchable index.