St. Mary's Law Journal


The Supreme Court of Texas and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals adopted the Standards for Appellate Conduct (Standards) on February 1, 1999. The Standards are intended to “give practitioners a valuable tool to use with clients who demand unprofessional conduct” by imposing “an affirmative duty to educate the client about the Standards of Appellate Conduct.” The Standards further state they do not “alter existing standards of conduct under the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, or the Code of Judicial Conduct.” Under the Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, sanctionable conduct includes “acts or omissions…which violate one or more of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.” Appellate counsel is encouraged to conform his or her conduct to the Standards. Yet, counsel will only be sanctioned by the State Bar for violations of the Disciplinary Rules. This means an attorney’s violation of appellate standards may or may not result in discipline. It will depend upon whether he or she violated a Disciplinary Rule as well. The Texas Standards for Appellate Conduct and Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct differ in scope and purpose. The former is narrowly drawn to provide guidance to appellate practitioners in everyday interactions with clients, opposing counsel, and the court. In contrast, the Disciplinary Rules are cast more broadly and are aimed at prohibiting practices which substantially undermine justice. Both sets are important to the functioning of appellate practice, and violation of either brings the practice of appellate law into disrepute. While only violations of the Disciplinary Rules are subject to sanctions by the State Bar, violations of the Standards will undermine a lawyer’s credibility and persuasiveness with courts and fellow counsel.


St. Mary's University School of Law