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October 3, 2000

Advisory Opinion# 2000-09



Honorable Robert W. Garrett
Saline County Chancery Judge
P.O. Box 404 
Benton, AR 72018 

Honorable Gary M. Arnold
Saline County Courthouse
200 North Main Street
Benton, AR 72015

Honorable Grisham Phillips
Saline County Courthouse
200 North Main Street
Benton, AR 72015

Dear Judges:

Your letter of August 18, 2000 asked whether you may release certain information based on a written request from a member of the Arkansas Bar. The information sought includes documents, correspondence and exhibits of any kind involving an investigation into allegations of professional misconduct by attorney Doyle Webb. 

Canon 3(D) of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct requires that a judge who has received information indicating a substantial likelihood that a lawyer has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct take appropriate action. With knowledge that the violation raises a substantial question as to the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as an attorney, the judge shall communicate with the lawyer or report the information to the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct. Pursuant to your ethical obligation you may have assembled information relevant to professional misconduct.

Canon 3(D)(3) goes on to state: "Acts of a judge in the discharge of disciplinary responsibilities . . . are part of a judge's judicial duties and shall be absolutely privileged . . . . " In our opinion, this clear language requires you to refrain from releasing, upon request from an interested party, information that you may have obtained. 

We note that the Commentary to Canon 3(D) states: AAppropriate action may include direct communication with the judge or lawyer who has committed the violation, other direct action if available, and reporting the violation to the appropriate authority or other agency or body.@ The clear intent of this language is that you are permitted, in your professional and judicial discretion, to provide all relevant information to the Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct.

We have no authority to interpret the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act or other statutes. But the Code of Judicial Conduct does not permit disclosure, in this format, of the materials gathered in the course of your disciplinary duties. 

Sincerely,



Howard W. Brill
For the Committee

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