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Potential Change to Professional Rules of Conduct on Continuances

August 5, 2020

In September, the Maryland Court of Appeals will consider a proposed rule change.  The change would make it a violation of professional ethics for a lawyer to accept a case with a trial date that conflicts with a case the lawyer already has.  The proposed rule would require the attorney to find “another qualified attorney acceptable to the client” before requesting a postponement or continuance.  Several defense attorneys are concerned regarding this change.  Often a trial or hearing date is set prior to service of the lawsuit, and when a defense attorney receives a new assignment that initial date can conflict with previously set court dates. 

The new rule assumes that attorneys are fungible and can be changed back and forth without any detriment to the client to choose their own attorney.  This is simply not the case, and the proposed rule could interfere with the client’s right to choose their attorney.  The Court of Appeals is reconsidering this proposed rule because of a strong opposition by several members of the defense bar and defense attorneys across the state are hopeful that the Court will decide not to make the proposed change.