32 Temp. L.Q. 415 (1958-1959)
Attorneys' Remedies against False Accusations of Unethical Practices

handle is hein.journals/temple32 and id is 417 raw text is: 1959]

Lawyers have as their primary goal the protection and preservation of
their clients' rights and interest. Because of the adversary nature of legal
proceedings the lawyer can not always achieve the desired result of every
client. The failure to produce this desired result has in some cases given
rise to false accusations of unprofessional conduct. The purpose of this note
is to survey the American cases reported by the courts which have dealt with
the attorney's actions against such charges. These cases have considered
the various actions, both legal and equitable, which lawyers have brought
against those who have allegedly falsely accused them of unprofessional
conduct or have wrongfully sought their disbarment.
A. Libel and Slander
A complainant who submits to a bar association or court a false accusa-
tion that an attorney is guilty of unprofessional conduct defames that attor-
ney in one of the most injurious manners possible. The accusation may not
merely tend to expose the attorney to hatred, ridicule or contempt but
may in fact deprive him of his livelihood. Although such accusations made
either orally or in writing to persons or groups other than courts or bar
associations are actionable per se,1 the attorney falsely accused to a court
or bar association generally finds his calumniator protected from defamation
actions by a privilege which is frequently absolute. Indeed no case was
found in which an attorney prevailed in a defamation action.
(1) Absolute Privilege
An absolute immunity exists with respect to statements, however
defamatory and however maliciously published, made in the course of
proceedings before a court of justice and having some relation to these
proceedings.2 Moreover in recent years this absolute immunity has been
extended to quasi-judicial proceedings before a tribunal recognized by
law which, though not a court in the ordinary sense, exercises judicial
1. 53 C.J.S., Libel and Slander, § 38 (1948).
2. 53 C.J.S., Libel and Slander, § 102 (1948), see especially page 166, footnote 16.


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