Twenty years ago, the Alaska Bar Association adopted Ethics Opinion No. 93-1 which permitted attorneys to "ghostwrite" pleadings and provide other undisclosed services to pro se litigants. The goal of this ethical guidance was to enable attorneys to assist low-income individuals who could not otherwise afford representation. Ethics Opinion No. 93-1 construed "ghostwriting" broadly as an attorney's undisclosed assistance to a pro se client whether by providing legal advice or drafting pleadings or other documents. This Note argues that, despite the moral allure of its theoretical justifications, ghostwriting is unnecessary, provides little demonstrable benefit to pro se litigants, and potentially conceals the unethical practice of law. Ghostwriting may also confuse the interactions between judges and pro se litigants in a way that works against the pro se party's interests. Specifically, this Note argues that ghostwriting may cause judges to misapprehend pro se litigants' legal understanding and to withdraw prematurely the solicitude those judges are otherwise required to give. Therefore, the Alaska Bar Association should revise its guidance on ghostwriting to require attorneys providing unbundled services to append their Alaska Bar Number on their submissions. This requirement would discourage abuses, enable judges effectively to manage pro se litigants, and still permit experimentation in the unbundled legal market.
Howard B. Rhodes,
Giving Up the Ghost: Alaska Bar Ethics Opinion 93-1 and Undisclosed Attorney Assistance Revisited,
30 Alaska Law Review
Available at: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/alr/vol30/iss2/6