Professional Guidelines

An agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia

The Virginia State Bar

Professional Guidelines

Rule 4.4

Respect For Rights Of Third Persons

In representing a client, a lawyer shall not use means that have no purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person, or use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of such a person.


[1] Responsibility to a client requires a lawyer to subordinate the interests of others to those of the client, but that responsibility does not imply that a lawyer may disregard the rights of third persons. It is impractical to catalogue all such rights, but they include legal restrictions on methods of obtaining evidence from third persons.

Virginia Code Comparison

Rule 4.4 has no direct counterpart in the Virginia Code. DR 7-105(C)(2) provided that a lawyer shall not "[a]sk any question that he has no reasonable basis to believe is relevant to the case and that is intended to degrade a witness or other person." DR 7-102(A)(1) provided that a lawyer shall not "take ... action on behalf of his client when he knows or when it is obvious that such action would serve merely to harass or maliciously injure another." DR 7-107(C) provided that "[a]fter discharge of the jury ... the lawyer shall not ask questions or make comments to a member of that jury that are calculated merely to harass or embarrass the juror...." DR 7-107(D) provided that a lawyer "shall not conduct ... a vexatious or harassing investigation of either a venireman or a juror."

Committee Commentary

The Committee adopted this Rule, for which there was no specific corresponding Disciplinary Rule, as a reminder that there is some limitation placed upon activities for which "zealous representation" might be offered as an excuse. For the same reason, the Committee deleted the word "substantial" from the ABA Model Rules provision.

Updated: March 3, 2010