3.01 Meritorious Claims and Contentions
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A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless the lawyer reasonably believes that there is a basis for doing so that is not frivolous.
1. The advocate has a duty to use legal procedure for the fullest benefit of the client's cause, but also a duty not to abuse legal procedure. The law, both procedural and substantive, affects the limits within which an advocate may proceed. Likewise, these Rules impose limitations on the types of actions that a lawyer may take on behalf of his client. See Rules 3.02-3.06, 4.01-4.04, and 8.04. However, the law is not always clear and never is static. Accordingly, in determining the proper scope of advocacy, account must be taken of the law's ambiguities and potential for change.
2. All judicial systems prohibit, at a minimum, the filing of frivolous or knowingly false pleadings, motions or other papers with the court or the assertion in an adjudicatory proceeding of a knowingly false claim or defense. A filing or assertion is frivolous if it is made primarily for the purpose of harassing or maliciously injuring a person. It also is frivolous if the lawyer is unable either to make a good faith argument that the action taken is consistent with existing law or that it may be supported by a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law.
3. A filing or contention is frivolous if it contains knowingly false statements of fact. It is not frivolous, however, merely because the facts have not been first substantiated fully or because the lawyer expects to develop vital evidence only by discovery. Neither is it frivolous even though the lawyer believes that the client's position ultimately may not prevail. In addition, this Rule does not prohibit the use of a general denial or other pleading to the extent authorized by applicable rules of practice or procedure. Likewise, a lawyer for a defendant in any criminal proceeding or for the respondent in a proceeding that could result in commitment may so defend the proceeding as to require that every element of the case be established.
4. A lawyer should conform not only to this Rules prohibition of frivolous filings or assertions but also to any more stringent applicable rule of practice or procedure. For example, the duties imposed on a lawyer by Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure exceed those set out in this Rule. A lawyer must prepare all filings subject to Rule 11 in accordance with its requirements. See Rule 3.04(c)(1).