Rule 3.4 Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel

A lawyer shall not:

(a) unlawfully obstruct another party’s access to evidence or unlawfully alter, destroy, or conceal a document or other material having potential evidentiary value. A lawyer shall not counsel or assist another person to do any such act; or

(b) falsify evidence, counsel or assist a witness to offer false or misleading testimony; or

(c) knowingly disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal, except for an open refusal based on an assertion that no valid obligation exists; or

(d) in pretrial procedure, make a frivolous discovery request or fail to make a reasonably diligent effort to comply with a legally proper discovery request by an opposing party; or

(e) in trial,

(1) allude to any matter that the lawyer does not reasonably believe is relevant or that will not be supported by admissible evidence; or

(2) assert personal knowledge of facts in issue except when testifying as a witness; or

(3) state a personal opinion as to the justness of a cause, the credibility of a witness, the culpability of a civil litigant or the guilt or innocence of an accused; or

(f) request a person other than a client to refrain from voluntarily giving relevant information to another party unless:

(1) the person is a relative or an employee or other agent of a client; and

(2) the lawyer reasonably believes that the person’s interests will not be adversely affected by refraining from giving such information; or

(g) request or assist any person to take action that will render the person unavailable to appear as a witness by way of deposition or at trial; or

(h) offer an inducement to a witness that is prohibited by law; or pay, offer to pay, or acquiesce in the payment of compensation to a witness contingent on the content of his or her testimony or the outcome of the case. A lawyer may advance, guarantee, or acquiesce in the payment of:

(1) expenses reasonably incurred by a witness in attending or testifying;

(2) reasonable compensation to a witness for that witness’s loss of time in attending or testifying; or

(3) a reasonable fee for the professional services of an expert witness.


[1] The procedure of the adversary system contemplates that the evidence in a case is to be marshaled competitively by the contending parties. Fair competition in the adversary system is secured by prohibitions against destruction or concealment of evidence, improperly influencing witnesses, obstructive tactics in discovery procedure, and the like.

[2] Documents and other items of evidence are often essential to establish a claim or defense. Subject to evidentiary privileges, the right of an opposing party, including the government, to obtain evidence through discovery or subpoena is an important procedural right. The exercise of that right can be frustrated if relevant material is altered, concealed, or destroyed. Applicable law in many jurisdictions makes it an offense to destroy material for the purpose of impairing its availability in a pending proceeding or one whose commencement can be foreseen. Falsifying evidence is also generally a criminal offense. Paragraph (a) applies to evidentiary material generally, including computerized information. Applicable law may permit a lawyer to take temporary possession of physical evidence of client crimes for the purpose of conducting a limited examination that will not alter or destroy material characteristics of the evidence. In such a case, applicable law may require the lawyer to turn the evidence over to the police or other prosecuting authority, depending on the circumstances.

[3] Although paragraph (f) broadly prohibits lawyers from taking extrajudicial action to impede informal fact-gathering, it does permit the lawyer to request that the lawyer’s client, and relatives, employees, or agents of the client, refrain from voluntarily giving information to another party. This principle follows because such relatives and employees will normally identify their interests with those of the client. See also RPC 4.2.

[4] With regard to paragraph (h), it is not improper to pay a witness’s expenses or to compensate an expert witness on terms permitted by law. The common law rule in most jurisdictions is that it is improper to pay an occurrence witness any fee for testifying and that it is improper to pay an expert witness a contingent fee.

Definitional Cross-References

“Knowingly” See RPC 1.0(f)

“Material” See RPC 1.0(o)

“Reasonable” and “reasonably” See RPC 1.0(h)

“Reasonably believes” See RPC 1.0(i)

“Tribunal” See RPC 1.0(m)


Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 8: Rules of Professional Conduct Copyright © 2021 by BirdDog Law, LLC (No copyright claimed as to government works.). All Rights Reserved.