In Connecticut's first case on the subject, a judge has ruled that a lawyer should not be fired for trying to follow the Rules of Professional Conduct, because doing so constitutes an "important public policy" exception to the employment-at-will doctrine.
New Haven Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez rejected the arguments of Guilford, Conn.-based Delaney, Zemetis, Donahue, Durham & Noonan, which fired associate Bruce Matzkin after he sought to grieve another lawyer for suspected witness tampering.
"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.
Matzkin claimed a firm partner told him, "We do not grieve other lawyers," when he attempted to get permission to report to bar authorities that a trial opponent called witnesses Matzkin had subpoenaed, telling them they need not come to court.
Matzkin says he considered it witness tampering and believed he had a duty under Rule 8.3(a), which requires reporting any violation of the ethics rules "that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer ..."