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This ABA Ethics Opinion Makes Me Sad About the State of the Legal Profession

It’s unethical for prosecutors to lend out letterhead to debt collectors, ABA opinion says.

The ABA has issued an ethics opinion (No. 469) which provides that prosecutors should not lend their stationery to debt collectors. Some prosecutors were lending their letterhead to debt collectors who were then using the letterhead to collect money from debtors. The obvious problem is that the use of this letterhead is designed to threaten people who cannot pay their bills with prosecution.

My reaction to this opinion is one of disbelief. Has our profession really sunk so low that we are letting debt collectors use official letterhead to collect money? Did it not occur to these prosecutors that it was a bad idea to use the imprimatur of their office to collect private debts? Are we not professionals who hold ourselves out to the public as the protectors of civil liberty and rule of law? Who were the people who thought this was a good idea?

That this opinion had to be published by the ABA indicates that we lawyers need to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves if we are fulfilling our responsibilities as members of a profession and officers of the court.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.