Whether you are a fan of college sports, or sports in general, you have probably heard about the downfall of Jim Tressel following the scandal involving some of his players allegedly trading memorabilia for free tattoos–an NCAA violation. One of the individuals involved with the story was a lawyer by the name of Christopher Cicero. As reported by the Associated Press, Mr. Cicero sent Coach Tressel an email warning him of the alleged activity by his players (it was Tressel’s failure to pass this information on which violated NCAA rules and led to his ouster).
Now the shoe has dropped on Cicero. Ohio’s Disciplinary Counsel has recommended that Cicero be suspended from the practice of law for six months. The Complaint essentially alleges that Mr. Cicero obtained the information he passed along to coach Tressel through confidential communications with a prospective client which violated Ohio Prof. Cond. Rule 1.18. It also alleges that his conduct violated Rule 8.4(h) prohibiting lawyers from engaging in conduct that adversely reflects upon the fitness to practice law.
The Nebraska Supreme Court Rules codifies Rule 1.18 as § 188.8.131.52. Interestingly, Nebraska does not have a direct corollary to Ohio’s rule 8.4(h) (The Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct do, however, prohibit commission of a criminal act “that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.” See Neb.R.Prof.Cond. § 3-508.4(b)). In any event, this scenario provides a gentle reminder that lawyers need to view their communications with individuals seeking legal advice as confidential.