Professional Guidelines

An agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia

The Virginia State Bar

Professional Guidelines

Rule 3.6

Trial Publicity

  • (a) A lawyer participating in or associated with the investigation or the prosecution or the defense of a criminal matter that may be tried by a jury shall not make or participate in making an extrajudicial statement that a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated by means of public communication that the lawyer knows, or should know, will have a substantial likelihood of interfering with the fairness of the trial by a jury.
  • (b) A lawyer shall exercise reasonable care to prevent employees and associates from making an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer would be prohibited from making under this Rule.

Comment

[1] It is difficult to strike a balance between protecting the right to a fair trial and safeguarding the right of free expression. In a criminal matter which may be tried by a jury, preserving the right to a fair trial necessarily entails some curtailment of the information that may be disseminated about a defendant or witnesses prior to trial. If there were no such limits, the result would be the practical nullification of the protective effect of the rules of forensic decorum and the exclusionary rules of evidence. On the other hand, there are vital social interests served by the free dissemination of information about events having legal consequences and about legal proceedings themselves. In addition to its legitimate interest in the conduct of judicial proceedings, the public has a right to know about threats to its safety and measures aimed at assuring its security.

Virginia Code Comparison

Rule 3.6 is substantially the same as DR 7-106, except that paragraph (a) adopts a "substantial likelihood of material prejudice" standard rather than the "clear and present danger" standard of DR 7-106(A).

Committee Commentary

The Committee believed that one lesson of Hirschkop v. Snead, 594 F.2d 356 (4th Cir. 1979) is that a rule, such as the ABA Model Rule, which sets forth a specific list of prohibited statements by lawyers in connection with a trial, is constitutionally suspect. Accordingly, the more succinct language of DR 7-106 was adopted. However, the Committee changed the standard to the arguably broader "substantial likelihood of material prejudice," in accord with the language approved by the Supreme Court of the United States in Gentile v. State Bar, 501 U.S. 1030 (1991).

Updated: March 3, 2010