Attorneys have a high duty of care and trust toward their clients and to the court. They stand in a fiduciary duty to clients in civil or criminal matters, and may not deceive their clients or the court by engaging in any activity that does materially misrepresent the facts of a case, or which could be reasonably interpreted as substantially misleading the court, or they could be found to have committed attorney fraud.
Attorney fraud occurs whether it is a deceptive or unlawful act perpetrated on the court or on a client. While in a fiduciary capacity, an attorney has a duty to the client to perform acts in the best interests of the client whenever a business activity is transacted or where money is handled by the attorney for the client. A fiduciary duty also exists in whatever activity the attorney conducts on behalf of the client, whether it is in a civil matter or a criminal proceeding.
Attorneys are officers of the court and have a duty to represent facts and other statements to the court that are truthful and not designed to deceive the court. Obvious instances of attorney fraud occur when judges or jurors are bribed so that they will vote or decide on a case so that it favors the attorney or the client. Other more subtle examples of attorney fraud include intentionally lying or misrepresenting facts in an affidavit attested to under penalty of perjury, or where an attorney encourages a client to lie under oath and commits the crime of suborning perjury.
Attorney fraud occurs where lawyers deceive clients into paying more fees or costs that were not disclosed in a written retainer agreement or were intentionally confusing to a client, or where an attorney settles a case without the client’s consent.
Unlicensed attorneys who dispense legal advice intended for the client to rely on to his or her detriment, or who represent clients in a court case, is attorney fraud and subjects the individual to substantial jail time.
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