CLE: 2007: Defense Attorneys Who Act As Client's Bail Bondsman

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Title

CLE: 2007: Defense Attorneys Who Act As Client's Bail Bondsman

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Dayla Pepi

Publisher

St. Mary's University School of Law San Antonio Texas Alumni Homecoming, St. Mary's University School of Law Alumni Homecoming

Date

2007-03-30

Relation

St. Mary's University School of Law Alumni Homecoming

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RFC3778

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English, en-US

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Text

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STMU_HomecomingCLE2007Pepi

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Defense Attorneys Who Act
As Client's Bail Bondsman
Dayla Pepi, Clinical Fellow

Print Version II School of Law at St. Mary's University

Page 1 of 1

School of Law at St. Mary' s University

Dayla Pepi
(2 10) 431-5766
email: dpepi@stmarytx.edu
Clinical Fellow
B.A., Southwest Texas State University
J.D. , 1998, St. Mary's University
Dayla Sarai Pepi serves as a supervising attorney in the
Civil Justice Clinic to second and third year law students
who provide legal assistance to indigent clients,
primarily in the areas of family law, probate law and
other general civil matters. Since joining the St. Mary's
faculty in 2000, she has supervised more 130 studentattorneys in over 750 cases.

Highlights
• Belva Lockwood Outstanding Young Lawyer by the Bexar County Women's
Bar Association
• President of the Bexar County Women's Bar Association and Foundation
• President of the P .E.A.C.E. Initiative
• Member of the Supreme Court of Texas Gender Bias Impl ementation
Committee
• Member ofthe State Bar of Texas Grievance Panel

Specialties
• She has lectured nationally and internationally and has appeared on numerous
national and local television and radio shows on matters relating to the
complex issues that affect battered immigrants.

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ciplinary Rule 7-101(A)(3)." 173 Moreover, the committee considered the ethical requirements that a lawyer be sensitive to the
rights and wishes of his clients and not use information obtained in
his professional relationship, and that information should not be
used to disadvantage a client or to benefit the lawyer's own purpose without the client's consent. 174 Ultimately, the committee
cautions attorneys that they are under the "onus of a higher responsibility to the client than would be a professional
bondsman. " 175
Being that a client is owed the highest duty of loyalty and zealous representation, and attorneys must preserve the client's confidences inviolate, a thorough review under the Texas Professional
Rules of Disciplinary Conduct must be undertaken when determining whether it is proper for an attorney to act as his client's bail
bondsman.
VII.

RISK ANALYSIS: TEXAS DISCIPLINARY RULES OF
PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT

An attorney's uncompromising loyalty to his client's interests
forms the very foundation of the attorney-client relationship in the
United States. This loyalty can only be properly carried out if a
lawyer fully comprehends that any other interest of the lawyer,
whether personal or professional, has the potential to compromise,
if not destroy, the lawyer's necessary dedication to "vindicating the
client's legal position." 176 In Texas, courts have asserted that the
attorney-client relationship is one of "most abundant good faith;
[which requires] absolute and perfect candor ... openness and
honesty; [and] the absence of any concealment or deception
(1) His client has, in the course of the representation, perpetrated a fraud upon a
person or tribunal shall promptly call upon his client to rectify same, and if his client
refuses or is unable to do so he shall reveal the fraud to the affected person or
tribunal.
TEx. STATE BARR., art. XII,§ 8 DR 7-102 (Tex. Code of Profl Resp.), 34 TEx. B.J. 768
(1971, superseded 1990).
173. Comm. on Interpretation of the Canons of Ethics, State Bar of Tex., Op. 388
(1977).
174. /d.
175. /d.
176. See CHARLES W. WOLFRAM, MODERN LEGAL ETHICS 146 (Hornbook Series
Practitioners ed. 1986) (discussing the expectation of loyalty a client has of her lawyer).

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177

Furthermore, "[t]he relationship existing between attorney and client is characterized as 'highly fiduciary,' and requires
proof of 'perfect fairness' on the part of the attorney." 178 When a
lawyer's separate interest threatens to compromise the interests of
his client, "the Disciplinary Rules come into play." 179 If an attorney chooses to avail himself of the statutory attorney exemption
providing the opportunity to serve in the role as both bail bondsman and legal advocate for his criminal defendant client, he likewise exposes himself to scrutiny under the Texas Disciplinary Rules
of Professional Conduct. 180 In fact, the ethics committee for the
State Bar of Texas has spoken on this very issue and explained that
those legal rights statutorily provided to a surety or bondsman
" [do] not override the ethical responsibilities and considerations of
a lawyer who has accepted the responsibilities imposed upon him
by the attorney-client relationship." 181 Therefore, the practice of
acting as bail bondsman for a criminal defendant client raises ethical concerns in four areas: (1) conflict with the client involving the
lawyer's own potentially adverse pecuniary interest; (2) protection
"

177. Hefner v. State, 735 S.W.2d 608, 624 (Tex. App.-Dallas 1987, writ refd) (quoting State v. Baker, 539 S.W.2d 367, 374 (Tex. Civ. App.-Austin 1976, writ refd n.r.e.)).
178. Jackson Law Office, P.C. v. Chappell, 37 S.W.3d 15, 22 (Tex. App.-Tyler 2000,
pet. denied) (citing Archer v. Griffith, 390 S.W.2d 735, 739 (Tex. 1965) and Montgomery v.
Kennedy, 669 S.W.2d 309, 312-14 (Tex. 1984)).
179. Tex. Corum. on Prof'! Ethics, Op. 555, 68 TEx B.J. 228 (2004).
180. See Comm. on Interpretation of the Canons of Ethics, State Bar of Tex., Op. 388
(1977) (recognizing the potential violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct if an attorney were to act in the dual capacity of attorney and bail bondsman); see also RESTATEMENT (THIRD) OF THE LAW GovERNING LAWYERS§ 10 cmt. g (1998) (identifying that an
attorney may ethically operate an ancillary business, such as a real estate agency, insurance
agency, consulting enterprise, or similar business along with a law practice, so long as the
dual practice is "conducted in accordance with applicable legal restrictions, including those
of the lawyer codes"). When the services offered as a part of the ancillary business are not
distinct and understood as separate by the client, the ancillary service could be considered
as part of the legal services rendered for purposes of adherence to the lawyer code. ld.
Determining the distinctive nature of the ancillary services depends on a variety of factors,
including the client's understanding of the separateness of the services, the location where
the services are offered (same location would suggest less distinction), and the identities of
the personnel working on the matter (whether each enterprise relies on separate staff). !d.
Therefore, an attorney acting as bail bondsman from one office with one set of staff members is likely to be subjected to the Texas Rules in both enterprises.
181. Comm. on Interpretation of the Canons of Ethics, State Bar of Tex., Op. 388
(1977).

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of client confidentiality; (3) improper solicitation of clients; and (4)
financial relationships between a lawyer and his client. 182
A.

Conflict of Interest: General Rule

Under the Texas Disciplinary Rules, a lawyer is expected to "act
with competence, commitment and dedication" regarding the interests of the client and to advocate zealously on the client's behalf.183 When an attorney acts as his client's bail bondsman, he
enters into a written undertaking with the state to guarantee the
appearance of his client at all subsequent hearings on the matter. 184
And, as surety, he will be free of the obligation under the contract
only when the terms of the bond have been met: in other words,
when the pending criminal matter has been resolved.185 This undertaking constitutes "a contract between the surety and the
state."186 Delivering the criminal defendant to court is at the heart
of the bargain. If the attorney-bail bondsman fails to deliver on his
promise, he will likely be subject to a significant personal financial
182. See California Standing Comm. on Prof'l Responsibility and Conduct, Formal
Op. 1995-141 (1995) (detailing a lawyer's ethical responsibilities when providing nonlegal
services to a client); Fla. State Bar Profl Ethics Comm., Op. 90-1 (1990) (explaining the
hardship placed on the attorney-client relationship when a lawyer breaches client confidence to inform the court about a client's intent to jump bail); N.Y. St. Bar Assoc. Comm.
on Prof'l Ethics, Op. 647 (1993) (discussing the concern that an attorney providing bail
could place his own recovery over that of the client's interest); N.C. St. Bar Assoc. Ethics
Comm., Op. RPC 173 (1994) (indicating the strong likelihood that an attorney could use
the offer of bail bond assistance as a means to solicit the defendant's criminal case); see
also Kan. Bar Assoc. Ethics-Advisory Comm., Op. 98-12 (1998) (advancing the position
that although an attorney is permitted to enter into a business transaction with a client, he
may not do ·so if the interest acquired is adverse to the interests of the client). Kansas
furthe r prohibits a lawyer from representing a client if he would be materially limited by
his own interest. Jd. Because the Kansas Bar considers the "obligations of a bondsman on
a bail bond" to be considerable, especially «if the client skips on the bond," attorneys in
that state are precluded from handling both the criminal matter and the bail bond for the
same client. ld.
183. TEx. DISCIPLINARY R. PRoF'L CoNnucr 1.01 cmt. 6.
184. See TEx. ConE CRIM. PRoc. ANN. art. 17.02 (Vernon 2005) (stating that a "bail
bond" is a written agreement by the defendant and his sureties guaranteeing his appearance before some court).
185. 41 GEORGE E. DIX & ROBERT 0. DAWSON, TEXAS PRACDCE, CRIMINAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 16.24 (2d ed. 2001).
186. Op. Tex. Att'y Gen. No. JC-0121 (1999) (addressing whether a county judge may
act as a surety on a bail bond in the county where he presides); accord Morin v. State, 770
S.W.2d 599, 599 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.) 1989), pet. dism'd, improvidently
granted, 800 S.W.2d 552 (Tex. Crim. App. 1990) (en bane); Keith v. State, 760 S.W.2d 746,
747 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 1988), affd, 802 S.W.2d 690 (Tex. Crim. App. 1990) (en bane).

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loss in the form of bond forfeiture .187 This contract with the state is
a business arrangement separate and distinct from the legal representation the attorney is bound to provide the criminal defendant.188 Moreover, the contract provides a financial obligation
where the lawyer's interests could potentially conflict with the interests of the client. 189
Texas Disciplinary Rule 1.06 clearly prohibits a lawyer from representing a client where he has potential or actual conflicting interests with that of his client.190 And at least one Texas ethics opinion
has recognized that "(w]hen an attorney personally executes a bail
bond for and on behalf of a client accused of a crime, he, at such
time, is both rendering a service to the client and creating a potential area of conflict between himself and his client.'' 191 In most
cases, an attorney may cure the evil of conflicting interests with the
informed consent of the client. 192 However, consent does not simply involve disclosure of the conflict and potential risk involved,
187. See Matt Joyce, Lawyer Contests Bond Tab, WACO TRIBUNE-HERALD, Oct. 29,
2005, at 1B (covering an attempt by a Waco lawyer also serving as his client's surety to
avoid a $50,000 forfeiture when the client "went underground").
188. Comm. on Interpretation of the Canons of Ethics, State Bar of Tex., Op. 388
(1977).
189. See Tex. Comm. on Prof'! Ethics, Op. 555,68 TEx. B.J. 228 (2004) (discussing the
permissibility under the Rules for a lawyer to enter into a business arrangement with a
chiropractor where the lawyer owns a portion of the chiropractor's practice, the lawyer
refers his clients to the chiropractor, and the lawyer receives a share of the profits, including those profits attributable to the clients referred by the lawyer).
190. See TEX. DISCIPLINARY R. PROF'L CONDUCT 1.06(b)(2) (emphasizing that "a
lawyer shall not represent a person if the representation of that person ... reasonably
appears to be or become adversely limited . . . by the lawyer's . .. own interests"); Tex.
Comm. on Prof'l Ethics, Op. 555, 68 TEx. B.J. 228 (2004) (illustrating the analysis necessary when considering the permissibility under the Rules for a lawyer to enter into a business arrangement that could conflict with his client's interests); see also Comm. on
Interpretation of the Canons of Ethics, State Bar of Tex., Op. 71 (1953) (indicating that
where there would be even a possible conflict of interest, the representation would be
improper).
191. Comm. on Interpretation of the Canons of Ethics, State Bar of Tex., Op. 388
(1977).
192. TEX. DISCIPLINARY R. PROF'L CONDUCT 1.06(c)(l), (2). This rule States that:
A lawyer may represent a client in the circumstances described in (b) if: (1) the lawyer
reasonably believes the representation of each client will not be materially affected;
and (2) each affected or potentially affected client consents to such representation
after full disclosure of the existence, nature, implications, and possible adverse consequences of the common representation and the advantages involved, if any.

!d.

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but requires the lawyer to consider, independent of the client's
consent, whether "a disinterested lawyer would conclude that the
client [should or] should not agree to the representation under the
circumstances. " 193 If the lawyer concludes the client should not
agree, then he "should not ask for such agreement or provide representation on the basis of the client's consent." 194 It is also possible to conclude that given the vulnerability of one accused of a
crime and under the traumatic influence of a recent arrest and detention, the disclosure will not obviate the conflict, which would
also require the attorney to avoid the dual role notwithstanding the
client's consent.l95 Judicial decisions addressing "nonconsentable"
193. ld. 1.06 cmt. 7; accord id. 1.06 cmt 1 (establishing that although an attorney
should decline representation when an impermissible conflict is determined before representation, if the same conflict is discovered or develops during representation then the
attorney must take steps to eliminate the conflict or seek withdrawal, if necessary).
194. ld. 1.06 cmt. 7.
195. See N.Y. St. Bar Assoc. Comm. on Prof) Ethics, Op. 647 (1993) (providing reasons behind the position that lawyers may not post bond for those persons they represent);
Va. Opinion 1343, (1986-1990 Transfer Binder] Lawyers' Manual on Prof! Conduct (ABA/
BNA) § 901:8771 (1990) (asserting that "disclosure and consent cannot cure the conflict
between the lawyer's duty as an advocate and his own interest in avoiding a forfeiture
should the client fail to appear in court"); cf Tex. Comm. on Prof'! Ethics, Op. 555, 68 TEx.
B.J. 228 (2004) (contending that a lawyer who owns a portion of a chiropractor's practice
may not refer his clients to the chiropractor in exchange for a share of the latter's profits,
even with full disclosure and client consent, because the conflict of interest involved is not
one for which it would be proper to seek client consent); Tex. Comm. on Profl Ethics, Op.
547, 66 TEx. B.J. 430 (2003) (clarifying that a lawyer may not enter into an arrangement
with a group of medical professionals pursuant to which the group would fund the law
firm's television advertisements with the expectation, but not the obligation, that the law
firm would refer clients to the medical group, even with full disclosure to any client so
referred, because "the law firm could never meet the requireme nts of Rule 1.06(c)(l) with
respect to the conflict of interest involved"); Tex. Comm. on Prof'l Ethics, Op. 543, 65 TEx.
B.J. 763 (2002) (expressing that lawyer could not enter into an arrangement to serve as inhouse counsel for a health-care provider at a reduced fee in return for the provider's referral of its clie nts suffering from personal injuries to the lawyer, because lawyer could not
meet Rule 1.06(c)(l)'s standards); Tex. Comm. on Prof! Ethics, Op. 536, 64 TEx. B.J. 694
(2001) (opining that a lawyer may not receive a fee from an investment adviser for referring his clients to the adviser for investment advice, even with full disclosure and informed
client consent, because "the standards of Rule 1.06(c) cannot be met under these circumstances"); Tex. Comm. on Prof! Ethics, Op. 535, 64 TEx. B.J. 78 (2001) (noting that a
lawyer cannot participate in a court-sponsored lawyer-for-a-day program, whereby lawyers
volunteer to represent indigent criminal defendants, but are paid for their services only if
their client pleads guilty that day, because "there could never be an adequate basis for a
determination that both requirements of Rule 1.06(c) are met" in those instances); Tex.
Comm. on Prof's Ethics, Op. 500, 58 TEx. B.J. 380 (1995) (opining that a lawyer cannot
represent multiple plaintiffs in an automobile accident once it becomes clear that the funds
a vailable to satisfy their claims is substantially less than the reasonable value of those

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conflicts frequently involve facts establishing that the client, who is
often less than sophisticated in hiring an attorney, was not adequately informed or was not capable of fully appreciating the
threat involved in the conflict. 196
It is not difficult to imagine circumstances in which a lawyer's
own interest in avoiding the financial loss of forfeiture would interfere with the attorney's otherwise good judgment, candor, and loyalty owed to his client. For example, the attorney may desire to
release himself from financial liability on the bond (getting "off the
risk") 197 based on concerns and conclusions reached as a result of
confidential client communications (an ethical dilemma, in and of
itself). 198 The attorney may be reluctant to disclose his intention to
"jump off" the bond to his client, fearing that this information may
encourage the client's failure to appear and place the attorney's
financial position in further jeopardy. 199 This fear may not be misclaims because, in effect, the lawyer's clients are very much like opposing parties in litigation within the meaning of Tex. Rule 1.06(a)). Other jurisdictions have occasionally concluded that conflicts of types deemed "nonconsentable" in Texas can be waived by a
lawyer's clients, provided those clients are given sufficient disclosure of the conflicting interests involved and it does not otherwise appear that the lawyer's representation or exercise of independent professional judgment on their behalf will be impaired. See State Bar
of Ariz. Comm. on Rules of Prof'! Conduct, Op. 05-01 (May 2005) (explaining that dissenting members of the committee recommended following the prophylactic approach followed in Texas).
196. REsTATEMENT (THIRD) OF TilE LAw GovERNING LAWYERS § 122 cmt. g(iv)
(1998).
197. See 41 GEORGE E. Drx & RoBERT 0 . DAWSON, TEXAS PRACTICE, CRIMINAL
PRACfiCE & PROCEDURE § 16.24 (2d ed. 2001) (explaining the professional bondsman's
role in pretrial release, including the process by which a surety may "get off the risk" by
absolving himself of financial liability on the bond).
198. See Fla. State Bar Prof'! Ethics Comm., Op. 90-1 (1990) (relating that "[c]riminal
defendants when talking with their lawyers ... often think out loud about skipping out, or
come right out and say that they plan not to show up for court again; and yet, in a great
majority of these cases, when the time comes, they do show up for court, in spite of what
they have said"). If lawyers, after receiving this type of client communication, felt obligated to inform the court of the client's disclosure, the end result could be the destruction
of the attorney-client relationship. Id. ; see also Comm. on Interpretation of the Canons of
Ethics, State Bar of Tex., Op. 388 (1977) (emphasizing that an attorney executing a bail
bond on behalf of his client "creat[es] a potential area of conflict between himself and his
dient" and may not "go off such bond and thereby cause his client to be placed in jail,
unless such attorney knows as a matter of fact that his client is planning to commit a crime,
a fraud, or is about to refuse to comply with the terms of the bond") (emphasis added).
199. See TEx. ConE CRIM. PROC. ANN. art. 17.19 (Vernon 2005) (providing the process by which a surety releases himself from financial liability and surrenders the principal
to the state).

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placed, given that the likely result of the attorney's release of
surety is subsequent arrest and detention of his client.200
However, the attorney contemplating release of the bond and
arrest of his client would do well to explore the provisions of Disciplinary Rule 1.03 detailing the obligation of an attorney to "keep a
client reasonably informed about the status of a matter." 201 Indeed, the comment section of this Rule unequivocally asserts that a
"lawyer may not, however, withhold information to serve the lawyer's own interest or convenience." 202 Even a commercial bail
bondsman is required to provide notice to the defendant's attorney
of her intention to surrender the defendant to authorities.203 The
attorney wearing both the hat of a bondsman and that of an advocate could certainly be torn regarding his strategy when faced with
potential or actual noncompliance of a client with the terms of a
surety agreement. It is entirely possible that an attorney's concern
that his client maintains the wherewithal to satisfy his obligations
under the terms of the bond may interfere with the lawyer's judg-

200. See id. (detailing when a judge finds "cause for the surety to surrender his principal," the court is required to issue an arrest warrant so the defendant may be taken back
into custody).
201. T E X. DISCIPLINARY R. PROF'L CONDUCT 1.03(a).
202. !d. 1.03 cmt. 4.
203. See TEx. CooE CRIM. PRoc. ANN. art. 17.19(a)(6) (Vernon 2005) (providing the
process and requirements involved in surrendering the bond and acquiring an arrest warrant). Presumably, the statute's requirement of notice to the principal's attorney is an
attempt to provide due process to the principal, so that he may contest the surrender if he
believes it to be unreasonable. This requirement of notice begs the question of what notice, if any, an attorney is required to provide his client when he intends to surrender the
bond. An attorney, it seems, would not be forced to swear to the requirement that he
provided notice to himself. Conceivably, a defendant would lose at least some due process
protection if his attorney is also his bail bondsman and the attorney fails to inform his
client of his plan. Cf Peralta v. Heights Med. Ctr., Inc., 485 U.S. 80, 84 (1988) (asserting
that "[a]n elementary and fundamental requirement of due process in any proceeding
which is to be accorded finality is notice reasonably calculated, under the circumstances, to
apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and afford them the opportunity to
present their objections"). For example, Stephanie, our client, was taken completely by
surprise. She met her attorney at his office first thing on a Wednesday morning to discuss
the plea bargain conference scheduled for the next day, and by noon she was in the custody
of "bounty hunters," being transferred to the county jail on order of her attorney- who
never disclosed his intention to surrender her bond. See Telephone Interview with Emile
Harmon, Student Attorney, St. Mary's University School of Law Center for Legal and
Social Justice (Jan. 3, 2005) (explaining the details that led up to Stephanie's plea bargain).

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ment when advising his client on the criminal matter. 204 But there
is no dilemma for a nonlawyer bail bondsman; when faced with the
same set of facts she would not hesitate to pursue surrender. In
fact, she would merely be doing her job.2°5 An attorney, on the
other hand, has a higher calling and a greater duty that rises above
that of his interest as a bail bondsman. One state ethics committee
put it this way:
So long as there remains any possibility that counsel may be able
to effect a court appearance by a client, in spite of the client's claims
that the client will not be going to court when required, experience
teaches and ethics requires that effectuating the client's appearance
is what counsel must spend his or her energies trying to accomplish.
Working towards resolving the anticipated problem [with the client]
... rather than telling the court about the anticipated problem, is
what is ethically required of the lawyer.Z06

In a Texas ethics opinion addressing the very subject of the propriety of an attorney jumping off the bond of his client, the committee spoke to the right of a bail bondsman to surrender the
principal under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, adding that
"[t]his right, however, seems to speak to the legal right of a surety
or bondsman, but does not override the ethical responsibilities and
considerations of a lawyer who has accepted the responsibilities
imposed upon him by the attorney-client relationship. "207

204. See California Standing Comm. on Prof'! Responsibility and Conduct, Formal
Op. 1981-55 (1981) (exploring the adverse effect of an attorney guaranteeing a bond on the
representation provided to the client).
205. See Telephone Interview with Helen Allred, Owner, A-Tex Bonding Co. (Jan. 5,
2006) (commenting on the role she believes a bail bondsman plays when performing on his
contract with the state to deliver the defendant to court). Ms. Allred is also a member of
the board of directors of Professional Bondsmen of Texas. It should be noted, however,
that in surrendering the principal, Ms. Allred is required to provide notice of her intention
to the principal's attorney and swear to completion of this requirement in the affidavit to
the court seeking an arrest warrant. See TEx. CoDE CRIM. PRoc. ANN. art. 17.19(b)
(Vernon 2005) (explaining that the court must determine that cause exists for the surrender
before issuing an arrest warrant). Conceivably, a defendant would lose at least some due
process protection if his attorney is also his bail bondsman.
206. Fla. State Bar Prof] Ethics Comm., Op. 90-1 (1990) (explaining the hardship
placed on the attorney-client relationship when a lawyer breaches a client confidence to
inform the court about the client's intent to jump bail).
207. Comm. on Interpretation of the Canons of Ethics, State Bar of Tex., Op. 388
(1977). This opinion asserts that a "lawyer is under the onus of a higher responsibility to
the client than would be a professional bondsman." ld.

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The nature of the relationships between a bail bondsman and his
customer and a lawyer and his client are entirely distinct. The business of commercial bail bonding is "a cross between insurance and
law enforcement." 208 The commercial bail bondsman effectively
steps into the shoes of the state to guarantee the defendant appears
in court on his criminal matter when requested.2°9 The bail bondsman "may do whatever is necessary, to insure [sic] that the defendant will return to court, including taking collateral, requiring the
defendant to report in phone or in person, requiring a defendant to
be monitored and even placing a guard on the defendant, if necessary to insure [sic] their return. " 210 In essence, a bail bondsman is
"an arm of the criminal justice system." 211
In stark contrast to that of a bail bondsman, an attorney's "basic
duty ... is to serve as the accused's counselor and advocate with
courage and devotion and to render effective, quality representation."212 When an attorney engages in both occupations simultaneously there is the danger that the two will be blurred in the
experience of the client.213 And, "[t]he common thread in the legal
authority on this subject is a concern that lawyers avoid creating
. . . a likelihood of confusion in the mind of the client about
whether services are being performed within the lawyer's role as a
lawyer or within the lawyer's role in the second occupation." 214 "If
an attorney is to represent his client [with diligence,] he should [be
well informed] of the circumstances surrounding the client's [ al208. Kan. Bar Assoc. Ethics-Advisory Comm., Op. 98-12 (1998).
209. See TEx. CooE CRIM. PRoc. ANN. art. 17.42 (Vernon 2005) (relating the responsibilities of a county's personal bond office, which provides a similar service as bail bondsman for those defendants the court releases on personal bond). A personal bond is a
means by which a defendant is released from detention pretrial without sureties or other
security. TEx. CooE CRIM. PRoc. ANN. art. 17.03 (Vernon 2005).
210. See Professional Bail Agents of the United States, What is Bail?, http://www.
pbus.com/displaycommon.cfm?an=l&subarticlenbr=l&printpage=True (last visited Jan. 5,
2006) (providing information and resources about commercial bail) (on file with the St.
Mary's Law Journal).
211. Telephone Interview with Helen Allred, Owner, A-Tex Bonding Co. (Jan. 5,
2006) (commenting on the role she believes a bail bondsman plays when performing on the
contract with the state to deliver the defendant to court).
212. JOHN M. BURKHOFF, CRIMINAL D EFENSE ETHICS 2d 754 (2005).
213. See Colo. Bar Assoc. Ethics Comm., Formal Op. 98 (1996) (concerning the ethical propriety of lawyers practicing law and being actively involved in one or more separate
professions or businesses).
214. ld.

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leged criminal conduct]." Often the client will not understand
what information she possesses is relevant. Therefore, it is critical
to disclose everything she knows to her attorney. If the client
screens this information because of worries about what the attorney may choose to disclose to the court, she may censor relevant
information. The veracity of the adversary system relies on a client's trust in her attorney and the confidentiality inherent in their
relationship. 215 Given the necessity for complete candor between
the criminal defendant client and her lawyer, any confusion about
the attorney's role influencing the client to withhold information is
a serious risk and could have life-altering consequences. 216
B.

Confidentiality

The Texas Supreme Court stated that "[a] lawyer has a solemn
obligation not to reveal privileged and other confidential client information, except as permitted or required in certain limited circumstances as provided in the rules. "217 Violating the
confidentiality of a client is at the heart of the ethical quagmire
faced by an attorney acting as his client's bail bondsman. An attorney has a duty to cautiously guard the confidences and secrets of
his client/18 whereas a bail bondsman has only his financial investment to protect. When an ethical attorney inhabits both roles si215. See Timothy J. Miller, Note, The Attorney's Duty to Reveal a Client's Future
Criminal Conduct, 1984 DuKE L.J. 582, 593 (1984) (exploring questions concerning an attorney's duty to reveal his client's intent to commit a criminal act).
216. Stephanie often expressed concerns to her student attorneys representing her in
a family law matter about the quality of her criminal representation, but believed she could
not discuss them openly with her attorney because, as her bail bondsman, he had the
power to return her to jail. Telephone Interview with Emile Harmon, Student Attorney,
St. Mary's University School of Law Center for Legal and Social Justice (Jan. 3, 2005).
217. Duncan v. Bd. of Disciplinary Appeals, 898 S.W.2d 759, 761 (Tex. 1995); see generally TEx. DisCIPLINARY R. PRoF'L CoNnucr 1.06 (detailing the provision of an attorney's duty of confidentiality to her clients).
·
218. See JoHN M. BuRKHOFF, CRIMINAL DEFENSE En-nes 2d 143 (2005) (citing
MODEL RULES OF PROF'L RESPONSIBILITY EC 4-1 (1983) for the following:
{T]he fiduciary relationship existing between lawyer and client and the proper functioning of the legal system require the preservation by the lawyer of confidences and
secrets of one who has employed him or sought to employ him. A client must feel free
to discuss whatever he wishes with his lawyer and his lawyer must be equally free to
obtain information beyond that volunteered by his client .... [t]he observance of the
ethical obligation of a lawyer to hold inviolate the confidences and secrets of his client
. .. facilitates the full development of facts essential to proper representation .... ).
/d.

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multaneously, he does so on a wing and a prayer that he will not
find himself in the midst of a sticky situation. 219 But, given the
statutory requirements regulating the business of bail bonding, a
very real possibility exists that he will be forced to consider violating his client's confidence at some point in his attorney-bail bondsman career. 220
If a bail bondsman wishes to be released from financial responsibility on the bond and surrender the principal back into the custody of the sheriff, he is required to seek an arrest warrant by filing
an affidavit of his intention "before the court or magistrate" where
the prosecution is pending. 221 This affidavit must include, among
other things, "the name of the defendant; ... the date of the bond;
[and] the cause for the surrender. " 222 In the facts supporting the
cause for surrender, an attorney will face the most troublesome
ethical challenges because he will likely breach his client's confidence in an effort to end his liability on the bond. For example, an
attorney who wishes to reduce his risk on the bond and place his
client back in jail may need to include in the affidavit certain state-

219. See Matt Joyce, Lawyer Contests Bond Tab, WAcO TRIBUNE-HERALD, Oct. 29,
2005, at 3B (covering an attempt by a Waco lawyer, also serving as his client's surety, to
avoid a $50,000 forfeiture when the client "went underground"); see also Akridge v. State,
13 S.W.3d 808,809 (Tex. App.-Beaumont 2000, no pet.) (urging the court to consider that
attorney's representation resulted in a conflict of interest because he also served as her bail
bondsman); Mendez v. State, No. 05-00-01743-CR, 2001 WL 946824 at *1 (Tex. App.Dallas 2001) (not designated for publication) (arguing his counsel was ineffective due to an
undisclosed conflict of interest from serving as both lawyer and bail bondsman).
220. See TEx. CooE CRtM. PRoc. A NN. art. 17.19 (Vernon 2005) (providing the process by which a surety releases himself from financial liability and surrenders the principal
to the state). This statute requires the surety to submit an affidavit to the court with jurisdiction in the criminal matter, relating the cause for the surrender of the principal. /d. It is
the responsibility of the court to determine from the affidavit that the surety has sufficie nt
cause to release himself from the financial risk of the bond and deliver the principal back
into custody. !d.; see also TEx. Occ. CoDE ANN. § 1704.202(d) (Vernon 2004) (requiring
bonding business's client files to be made available to the county bail bond board for inspection on demand); /d. § 1704.252(4) (making it a violation of bonding business regula. tions to refuse to answer questions about a bail bondsman's conduct when posed by the
county bail bond board during a hearing relating to the revocation or suspension of privilege to write bail bonds); ld. § 1704.053(5) (identifying the district attorney or assistant
district attorney as a permanent member of the county bail bond board).
221. TEx. CoDE CRIM. PRoc. ANN. art. 17.19 (Vernon 2005); see also 41 GEORGE E.
Drx & RoBERT 0. DAwsoN, T Ex. PRAC., CRIMINAL PRACTICE AND PRocEDURE § 16.24
(2d ed. 2001) (relating the process by which a surety may "get off the risk" of a bond).
222. TEx. CoDE CRIM. PRoc. ANN. art. 17.19 (Vernon 2005).

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ments made by the client that suggest she is planning to run. 223
Additionally, he may need to describe specific actions taken by the
client that create concern in his mind about future bail jumping.224
In some cases, a bail bondsman may want to be released from liability on the bond simply because the principal is not complying
with the terms of the contract entered into between herself and the
principal when the bail bond was executed. 225
As a bail bondsman, when a client is noncompliant or unreliable,
the only question needing an answer is what would be the best time
to catch the judge at the courthouse. In contrast, an attorney acting also as a bail bondsman, with a similar client problem, must
consult Texas Disciplinary Rule 1.05 before putting the final
touches on his affidavit to surrender the principal. Rule 1.05 details the scope of the protection of a client's confidential information and provides, in part, that "a lawyer shall not knowingly
[r]eveal confidential information of a client ... to a person that the
client has instructed is not to receive the information; or anyone
else, other than the client, the client's representatives, or the members, associates, or employees of the lawyer's law firm." 226 The
rule requires a lawyer to protect not only communication subject to
the attorney-client privilege, but also any other "information relating to a client or furnished by the client ... [and] acquired by the
lawyer during the course of or by reason of the representation of
the client." 227 Upon review of these provisions of the rule, it
should appear clear to a reasonable attorney that he is prevented
from making any disclosure in the affidavit needed to establish the
required cause to surrender. He should conclude that any information about a client's action or inaction, any information he gathered from family and friends about the client, and certainly, any

223. See 41 G EORGE E. Drx & ROBERT 0 . DAWSON, TEx. PRAC., CRIMINAL PRACAND PROCEDURE § 16.24 (2d ed. 2001) (providing examples of what may constitute
cause under the statute).
224. !d.; see also Fla. State Bar Prof! Ethics Comm., Op. 90-1 (1990) (relating unfounded attorney concerns over criminal defendants not showing up for court).
225. See Telephone Interview with Helen Allred, Owne r, A-Tex Bonding Co. (Jan. 5,
2006) (explaining that she will seek to be released from responsibility on the bond when
the client fails to comply with the terms of the contract, which may include provisions
about payment and checking in on a weekly basis).
226. TEx. DrsCIPLINARY R. PRoF'L CoNover LOS(b) (emphasis added).
227. !d. 1.05(a).

TICE

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statements made by his client to him, are all protected under this
rule.
A lawyer wishing to jump off the bond badly enough will scrutinize Rule 1.05 for any exceptions providing him an opportunity to
disclose client secrets. A closer examination will reveal a variety of
exceptions including client consent and the crime-fraud exception.228 Since most clients are not likely to agree to return to jail,
the lawyer will likely look to the crime-fraud exception. This exception allows an attorney the discretion to reveal client confidences "[w]hen the lawyer has reason to believe it is necessary to
do so in order to prevent the client from committing a criminal or
fraudulent act." 229 Since bail jumping is a crime230 and the lawyer's
action to surrender his client into custody will prevent this criminal
act, the bail bondsman lawyer may believe this makes the submission of an affidavit including client secrets ethical under the Rule.
However, he would be wise to dig a little deeper before rushing to
the courthouse with affidavit in hand. The lawyer considering how
and when to exercise the discretion conferred by paragraph (c) of
this Rule should consider a number of variables. First, the comment to Rule 1.05 on the subject of a discretionary disclosure adverse to the client indicates that only "[w]hen the threatened injury
is grave, the lawyer's interest in preventing the harm may be more
compelling than the interest in preserving confidentiality of information."231 Additionally, "such factors as the magnitude, proximity, and likelihood of the contemplated wrong, the nature of the
lawyer's relationship with the client and with those who might be
injured by the client, the lawyer's own involvement in the transaction, and factors that may extenuate the client's conduct in question" should inform the attorney's exercise of discretion. 232 The
comment continues with a warning that "a disclosure adverse to
the client's interest should be no greater than the lawyer believes
necessary to the purpose. " 233 It would require a fairly creative attorney to argue successfully that the injury of bail jumping is grave
228. I d. 1.05(c)(2), (7).
229. Id. 1.05(c)(7).
230. See TEx. PEN. CoDE ANN. § 38.10 (Vernon 2003) (describing the penalties associated with jumping bail or failing to appear).
231. TEx. DisciPLINARY R. PRoF'L CoNoucr 1.05 cmt. 13.
232. /d. 1.05 crnt. 14.
233. /d.

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or is a crime of magnitude with a victim to protect, other than possibly the defendant himself, in the event of capture, and her bail
bondsman, who will suffer a financial loss when she fails to appear
at the appropriate hearing.
Importantly, subsections (d) and (e) of the Texas Disciplinary
Rules suggest that before an attorney entertains the notion of revealing a client confidence, he is first obligated to attempt to dissuade the client from running by clearly explaining the
consequences of such an action. 234 Further, the attorney can avoid
any concerns he may have about assisting the client in her crime or
fraud by withdrawing from the representation. In adopting this approach, the attorney is able to keep the client's confidences and
free himself of concerns he may have of participating in any way in
the client's possible future failure to appear in court. Of course,
this approach will do nothing to protect the financial risk associated with serving as surety in the matter. And recent amendments
to the attorney exemption statute clarify that "[a] person executing
a bail bond or acting as surety under . .. [the exemption] ... is not
relieved of liability on the bond solely because the person [attorney] is Ia ter replaced as attorney of record in the criminal case. " 235
A final cautionary note is in order as it pertains to the lawyer's
duty to maintain his client's confidences. Rule l.OS(b )(2) affirmatively prohibits an attorney from "[using] confidential information
of a client to the disadvantage of the client unless the client consents after consultation. " 236 It is difficult to imagine a greater disadvantage than one's own attorney playing a significant part in
returning her to confinement. Additionally, the further disadvantage resulting from the loss of one's bail bond fee is to be left in a
position to scrape together another fee (if that is even possible ). 2 37
And, finally, the ultimate disadvantage is that of losing trust and
confidence in one's attorney, as well as the legal system as a
234. I d. 1.02.
235. TEx. Occ. CooE ANN.§ 1704.163(c) (Vernon Supp. 2005).
236. TEx. DrscrPLINARY R. PRoF'L CoNoucr 1.05(b)(2).
237. Letter from Stephanie Smith, client, to Donna Bloom, co-author, 1 (Dec. 13,
2005) (on file with the St. Mary's Law Journal) (providing details of her experience as a
criminal defendant client with an attorney also acting as her bail bo ndsman). Stepha nie's
bond was set at $75 ,000 and she paid a total of $7500 in a surety fee to her attorney, all of
which he applied to her legal fees . She was able to pay this amount in installments over
approximately 18 months. At the time her attorney surrendered her back into the custody
of the sheriff, she owed $360 on the fee. /d.

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whole.238 It seems unlikely a client would sign up for that, so consent is probably out of the question. Finally, Rule l.OS(b )( 4) specifically prohibits an attorney from the "[ u ]se [of] privileged
information of a client for the advantage of the lawyer .. . unless
the client consents after consultation."239 When an attorney acting
as a bail bondsman submits his affidavit to the court detailing his
cause for surrendering the principal (his client), he is most likely
relying on privileged information he acquired in the course of his
representation. 240 In so doing, he is seeking an advantage for himself on the weight of the information provided. In other words, he
has gained the fee negotiated at the initial execution of the bail
bond and has used the protected information to relieve himself of
any further liability. This appears to violate the letter and spirit of
the law.
C.

Prohibited Solicitations and Payments
"Why pay for a Bondsman when you can get a
Lawyer? 'I will get you out of jail and defend you'
All Bail Bond Fees Apply to Attorney Fees" 241
"Why pay twice? Your bond fee goes
towards your legal representation "242
"Jail Release - We are attorneys, call us first! All bond
fees apply to attorney fees" 243

Texas Disciplinary Rule 7.03(c) directs that "[a] lawyer, in order
to solicit professional employment, shall not pay, give, advance, or
238. See Timothy J. Miller, Note, The Attorney's Duty to Reveal a Client's Future Intended Criminal Conduct, 1984 DuKE L.J. 582, 596 (1984) (detailing the significance of an
attorney keeping his client's secrets to a client's impression of the legal system as being
fair).
239. TEX. DISCIPLINARY R. PROF'L CONDUCT 1.05(b)(4).
240. See TEx. CooE CRIM. PRoc. ANN. art. 17.19 (Vernon 2005) (providing the process by which a surety releases himself from financial liability and surrenders the principal
to the state). This statute requires the surety to submit an affidavit to the court with jurisdiction in the criminal matter relating the cause for the surrender of the principal. /d. It is
the responsibility of the court to determine from the affidavit that the surety has sufficient
cause to release himself from the financial risk of the bond and deliver the principal back
into custody. /d.
241. See GREATER SAN ANTONIO SoUTHWESTERN BELL Y ELLOW PAGES 313-14,
§ Bail Bonds (2005) (listing three attorneys' advertisements for bail bond services).
242. See id. at 317 (listing five attorneys advertising bail bond services).
243. /d.

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offer to pay, give, or advance anything of value, other than actual
litigation expenses and other financial assistance as permitted by
Rule 1.08(d), to a prospective client." 244 Advertisements similar to
the ones above pepper both the "Bail Bonds" and "Attorneys" sections of the Greater San Antonio Southwestern Bell Yellow
Pages. 245 Although advertising in the yellow pages is a type of permissible solicitation under the Rules,246 the offers suggested in advertisements like these pose serious questions of impropriety. 247
244. TEX. DISCIPLINARY R. PROF'L CoNDUcr 7.03(c).
245. See GREATER SAN ANTONIO SoUTI-JWESTERN BELL YELLOW PAGES 313-18,
§Bail Bonds (2005) (advertising sixteen attorneys who provide bail bond services). These
advertisements contain attorney-bail bondsmen offers and enticements that extol the benefits of retaining their services such as: "Why pay twice? Your bond fee goes towards your
legal representation," and "Bond fee applied toward legal fees." !d. In one advertisement,
an attorney-bondsman suggests, "Why pay for a Bondsman when you can get a Lawyer? 'I
will get you out of jail and defend you'- All Bail Bond Fees Apply to Attorney Fees." !d.
It is not uncommon to find advertisements with the promise, "Jail Release - We are attorneys, call us first! All bond fees apply to attorney fees," or "Attorney Bail Bonds- Jail
Release 24/7- All bail bond fees apply to attorney fees - Why pay twice?" and "Bond/
Jail Release - Payment Plans Available." !d.; see also G REATER SAN ANTONIO SounrW
ESTERN BELL YELLOW PAGES 105-216, §Attorneys (2005) (advertising thirty-seven attorneys who also provide bail bond services). Information provided in these
advertisements includes offers of the following: "Bail Bonds - Bond posting for clients,"
and "Bail Bonds- Free Information - Client's Bonds Posted." !d. One ad features the
phrase, "Locked up?" and offers "24 Hour Service" and "Payment Plans." !d. Significant
attention is given to the service of bail bonding through the use of bold-faced type indicating, "Criminal Law- Bail Bonds." ld. Another attorney markets the following benefits
to acquiring his representation: "Bail Bond Service- I Write Your Bonds- Bond Fees
Applied to Attorney's Fees." !d.
246. See TEx. DISCIPLINARY R. PRoF'L CoNover 7.04(d) (stating that "a lawyer may,
either directly or through a public relations or advertising representative, advertise services
in the public media, such as (but not limited to) a telephone directory, legal directory,
newspaper or other periodical, outdoor display, radio, or television").
247. Cf Fla. State Bar Prof'l Ethics Comm., Op. 72-26 (1972) (reminding attorneys
that "[t]he Committee has several times advised that a lawyer is not ethically restrained
from engaging in business, if he does not mingle the business with his law practice, either
physically or functionally, and if the business does not operate as a feeder to his law practice"); see also Kan. Bar Assoc. Ethics-Advisory Comm., Op. 98-12 (1998) (announcing
that "[bJecause mixing the ads for law services and bonding services leaves the customer
unsure what service the firm may be providing, separate advertising for each business is the
better ethical route"); Ky. Bar Assoc. Ethics Comm., Op. E-82 (1974) (advising that the
problem of indirect solicitation and feeding law practice is best avoided when the attorney
is prohibited from accepting employment from those for whom he executed bonds); accord
N.Y. St. Bar Assoc. Comm. on Prof'! Ethics, Op. 647 (1993) (declaring that a bail bond
business operated by an attorney "may not be used to solicit clients for the lawyer's law
practice"); Okla. Bar Assoc. Legal Ethics Comm., Op. 36 (1932) (concerning the appearance of improper solicitation of legal business when operating a lay business of furnis hing
bonds).

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Texas ethics opinions on the question of an attorney also acting as
his client's bail bondsman date back to the early 1950s, and the
analysis found in many of them focuses on the concern of improper
solicitation.248
While it is true that with the adoption of the Texas Code of Professional Responsibility and later Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct the terms "indirect solicitation" and "feeder" to
the law practice were abandoned,249 it seems clear that Rule 7.03(c)
continues to concern itself with a means by which an attorney can
improperly solicit business and feed his law practice.250 Although
historical, the following Texas ethks opinions provide some pearls
of wisdom on the subject that should be reconsidered. Opinion 347
does not assert that acting as bondsman and attorney is per se prohibitive, but it does require the attorney-client relationship to exist
before the signing of the bond. 251 The committee writing this opinion was particularly concerned with the potential for the business
248. See Comm. on Interpretation of the Canons of Ethics, State Bar of Tex., Op. 366
(1974) (summarizing former opinions on the topic of the propriety of attorneys "engaging
in the business of making bail bonds" and concluding that the former language, "indirect
solicitation" and "feeder to the law practice," has been abandoned by the disciplinary rules
as being too vague); Comm. on Interpretation of the Canons of Ethics, State Bar of Tex.,
Op. 347 (1969) (classifying acting as surety as ethical before the attorney-client relationship
has come into existence, but improper after the relationship has formed). This classification is based on the concept that an attorney may not use a separate nonlegal service to
solicit business for his law practice. Id.; see also Comm. on Interpretation of the Canons of
Ethics, State Bar of Tex., Op. 251 (1952) (regarding an attorney who, by acting as a surety,
does so with the intention to solicit business or "feed" his law practice); cf Comm. on
Interpretation of the Canons of Ethics, State Bar of Tex., Op. 248 (1962) (opining that it is
imprope r for an attorney to act as attorney-in-fact for a surety company and use this position to solicit business for his criminal practice); Comm. on Interpretation of the Canons of
Ethics, State Bar of Tex., Op. 141 (1957) (determining that it is improper under Texas
Canon 24, which governed solicitation before the adoption of Texas's modern rules, to act
as both criminal defense attorney and bail bondsman) ; Comm. on Interpretation of the
Canons of Ethics, State Bar of Tex., Op. 140 (1957) (requiring leave of court before an
attorney may act as a surety in his client's criminal matter because an attorney would otherwise violate the spirit of Canon 24, which governed solicitation in the past).
249. Comm. on Interpretation of the Canons of Ethics, State Bar of Tex., Op. 347
(1969).
250. TEx. DisCIPLINARY R. PRoF'L CoNDUCT 7.03(c).
251. Comm. on Interpretation of the Canons of Ethics, State Bar of Tex., Op. 347
(1969). It should be noted that the recent amendments to the attorney exemption include
a requirement that an attorney file notice of appearance "at the time the bond is exe~
cuted." TEx. Occ. CODE ANN. § 1704.163(a)(2) (Vernon Supp. 2005). This would not
have likely satisfied the 1969 ethics committee as evidence of a relationship existing before
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of acting as surety on criminal bonds to easily become a "feeder to
the attorney's practice of law." 252 The committee argues that providing the service of surety before a attorney-client relationship exists is analogous to loaning money to an individual to obtain the
individual's case.Z53 The committee drafting Opinion 251 advances
the position that it is the attorney's motive at the time of the execution of the bond that matters.Z54 For this committee, if the attorney's goal is to obtain subsequent legal work from the individual,
then his motive is tainted and providing the bond is improper.
Like Opinion 347, Opinion 251 emphasizes the significance of the
nature of an existing relationship between the client and the lawyer
in defining the ethical nature of the surety transaction.255 The committee believes it is not unethical for an attorney to act as surety
where:
[T]here is a close, pre-existing relationship between the attorney and
client sufficient to indicate clearly that the attorney is not at all motivated by a desire to advertise or to solicit ... this or subsequent legal
work. Such close relationship might include close kinship by consanguinity or affinity, a long-term close, personal friendship, or a substantial, pre-existing, attorney-client relationship. There can be no
merit in saying that, for example, a lawyer cannot himself ethically
bail out his father-in-law, his next-door neighbor, or his main
client.256

To determine whether offers made in the attorney-bail bondsman advertisements violate the Rules, an examination of what exactly is being offered is essential. Basically, the attorney is offering
an alternative to the traditional commercial surety or bail bondsman. In other words, the attorney himself is offering to serve as
surety on the bond. A surety is defined as "[a] person who is pri252. Comm. on Interpretation of the Canons of Ethics, State Bar of Tex., Op. 347
(1969).
253. !d.
254. Comm. on Interpretation of the Canons of Ethics, State Bar of Tex., Op. 251
(1962).
255. !d.
256. !d. This position is remarkably similar to the position taken recently by the ABA
in which the ABA rejected a per se prohibition on an attorney acting as a surety, but
instead embraced an approach of limited circumstances when it is appropriate, including
some of the relationships discussed in this Texas opinion. See ABA Comm. on Ethics and
Prof! Responsibility, Formal Op. 04-432 (2004) (advancing the position that lawyers
should only post bond for their clients in rare circumstances).

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marily liable for the payment of another's debt or the performance
of another's obligation .... A surety differs from a guarantor, who
is liable to the creditor only if the debtor does not meet the duties
owed to the creditor; the surety is directly liable." 257
Thus, the attorney is offering to assume the liability of bail due
to the creditor (the state) based on the terms of the bond, which
require the criminal defendant to appear at all related hearings on
the matter. If the defendant does not appear, the state will collect
and the surety will be responsible for the entire amount of bail. 258
The obvious value in the offer is the psychological value of being
free from confinement and the actual financial value associated
with the transaction. Additionally, there is the reality that a surety
of this nature is compensated for the risk in the form of a fee. 259
Here, many attorneys sweeten the offer by proposing to apply the
bond fee to the legal fees in the corresponding criminal case. 260
This implies that if one wants the attorney to post the bond, he
must also be retained as the attorney providing representation in
the criminal matter. This caveat is consistent with the condition in
the attorney exemption statute requiring an attorney who writes a
bond under the exception to also be counsel of record for the defendant in the criminal case.261 Therefore, it seems possible and
even likely that providing bonds is an effective, albeit questionable,
method of building and sustaining a criminal law practice. Adherence to the ABA's position that "the issuance of bail bonds and
matters pertaining thereto are not considered the practice of

257. BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY 1482 (8th ed. 2004).
258. See generally TEx. CooE CRIM. PRoc. ANN. art. 22.01 (Vernon 1989) (providing
statutory authority for the state to take forfeiture of bail when the defendant fails to appear in any court in which his case is pending); see also Matt Joyce, Lawyer Contests Bond
Tab, WAco TRIBUNE-HERALD, Oct. 29,2005, at lB (covering an attempt by a Waco lawyer
also serving as her client's surety to avoid a $50,000 forfeiture when the client "went
underground").
259. Cf. BLACK's LAw DIC-nONARY 1482 (8th ed. 2004) (defining the term "compensated surety" as someone who acts as surety for a fee) .
260. See, e.g., GREATER SAN ANTONIO SoUTHWESTERN BELL YELLOW PAGEs 317,
§ Bail Bonds (2005) (listing five attorneys advertising bail bond services). In these advertisements, the attorneys soticit business with offers such as: "Jail Release -We are attorneys, call us first! - Bail bond fees apply to attorney fees," "Attorney bail bonds &
criminal defense- My bond fee applied towards legal fees ," and "Attorney Bail BondsJail Release 24/7- All bail bond fees apply to attorney fees -Why pay twice?" Jd.
261. TEx. Occ. ConE ANN. § 1704.163(a)(2) (Vernon Supp. 2005).

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law" 262 makes it simple to conclude that this offer is too good to be
true; it comes with strings attached.
Even so, the attorney-bail bondsman does not have to close shop
just yet. The question remains whether or not this offer of bond
assistance can be saved by the exception in Rule 7.03(c) allowing
attorneys to engage in this transaction if it involves "actual litigation expenses and other financial assistance as permitted by Rule
1.08(d). " 263 Rule 1.08 deals with prohibited transactions between a
lawyer and a client and describes in more detail the exceptions referred to in Rule 7.03(c). 264 However, it is important to note that
even if it is determined that the cost and interest associated with a
bail bond is a cost of litigation, the attorney would be wise to follow the precautionary measures required in Rule 1.08(a).
D.

Prohibited Transactions

Texas Disciplinary Rule 1.08 embraces the traditional principle
that lawyers are forbidden from obtaining a proprietary interest in
the general subject matter of their client's litigation. 265 Attorneys
entering into a business transaction with a client must do so "in a
manner which can be reasonably understood by the client" and
where the "terms on which the lawyer acquires the interest are fair
and reasonable. " 266 The client must also be afforded ample time
"to seek the advice of independent counsel" and the client must
consent to the business transaction in writing.26 7 Rule 1.08 also addresses the issue of a lawyer providing financial assistance to a client in relationship to pending or contemplated litigation.
Generally, an attorney may not provide financial assistance to a
client. However, the Rule provides that "[a] lawyer may advance
or guarantee court costs, expenses of litigation or administrative
proceedings, and reasonably necessary medical and living expenses, the repayment of which may be contingent on the outcome
of the matter. '' 268 There is no clear answer on whether a bail bond
should be classified as an expense of litigation appropriate for an
262.
263.
264.
265.
266.
267.
268.

ABA Comm. on Ethics and Profl Responsibility, Informal Op. 1193 (1971).
T Ex . DrscrPLINARY R. PRoF'L CoNover 7.03(c).
/d. 1.08(d).

Jd. 1.08 cmt. 7.
Id. 1.08(a).
Id.
Jd. 1.08(d).

HeinOnline -- 37 St . Mary's L . J . 994 2005-2006

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Dayla Pepi, “CLE: 2007: Defense Attorneys Who Act As Client's Bail Bondsman,” St. Mary's Law Digital Repository, accessed June 25, 2017, http://lawspace.stmarytx.edu/item/STMU_HomecomingCLE2007Pepi.

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