A Nashville judge has ruled the board that punishes lawyers for unethical behavior may have acted unethically itself.
Two lawyers sued the board to turn over secret emails, and they won.
Those lawyers said the decision will have a huge impact on the entire state legal system.
Imagine you were getting a divorce and you discovered your spouse's attorney had been secretly talking about you and the case with the judge.
It's a huge ethical issue that's actually against the law.
Imagine discovering there is a secret email about you.
That's what Connie Reguli and Jim Roberts discovered.
After they discovered secret emails between disciplinary lawyers and potential judges about them, they demanded to get copies of those emails.
Instead, they received emails that had been heavily redacted.
Chancery Judge Ellen Lyle told the board to give them the emails with no more blanks.
"They're going to have to change the way they do business," said Roberts. "They're going to have to start obeying the law, following the ethics rules that have been set down. They have been systematically engaging in improper conduct, and it's about to come out."
It's strong language from Roberts, one of four lawyers who demanded emails about their cases.
Reguli said all the lawyers who were being disciplined and were subjects of secret emails had something in common - they all were being disciplined for complaining about judicial conduct. She said it's not a coincidence.
Whether you're a lawyer or not, this affects you.
"The judicial system is so strong and powerful and they can do anything to you," said Reguli. "They can take your money. They can take your kids. They can put you in jail. They can take your property. They can do anything to you. They are the most powerful part of the whole system. If there is no oversight and no accountability, then there is no justice."
The Board of Professional Responsibility must turn over all the emails by next Friday.
"I imagine they are squirming pretty hard," said Roberts. "They're in a lot of trouble and they know it."
The Board of Professional Responsibility said that under Supreme Court rules it has an obligation to ensure confidentiality of certain records.
The board also said it has received the opinion and is evaluating the decision to best determine how to ensure confidentiality requirements and public records disclosure obligations are met.
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