N.M. R. Prof'l. Cond. 16-306

As amended through September 28, 2021
Rule 16-306 - Trial publicity
A.Extrajudicial statements. A lawyer shall not make any extrajudicial or out-of-forum statement in a proceeding that may be tried to a jury that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know:
(1) is false; or
(2) creates a clear and present danger of prejudicing the proceeding.
B.Attorney's obligations with respect to other persons. A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to insure compliance with this rule by associated attorneys, employees and members of law enforcement and investigative agencies.

N.M. R. Prof'l. Cond. 16-306

As amended, effective October 1, 1991; as amended by Supreme Court Order No. 08-8300-029, effective November 3, 2008.

Committee commentary. -

[1] It is difficult to strike a balance between protecting the right to a fair trial and safeguarding the right of free expression. Preserving the right to a fair trial necessarily entails some curtailment of the information that may be disseminated about a party prior to trial, particularly where trial by jury is involved. If there were no such limits, the result would be the practical nullification of the protective effect of the rules of forensic decorum and the exclusionary rules of evidence. On the other hand, there are vital social interests served by the free dissemination of information about events having legal consequences and about legal proceedings themselves. The public has a right to know about threats to its safety and measures aimed at assuring its security. It also has a legitimate interest in the conduct of judicial proceedings, particularly in matters of general public concern. Furthermore, the subject matter of legal proceedings is often of direct significance in debate and deliberation over questions of public policy.

[2] Special rules of confidentiality may validly govern proceedings in juvenile, domestic relations and mental disability proceedings, and perhaps other types of litigation. Paragraph C of Rule 16-304 NMRA of the Rules of Professional Conduct requires compliance with such rules.

[3] There are certain subjects that are unlikely to have a prejudicial effect on a proceeding. These subjects relate to:

(1) the claim, offense or defense involved and, except when prohibited by law, the identity of the persons involved;

(2) information contained in a public record;

(3) the fact that an investigation of a matter is in progress;

(4) the scheduling or result of any step in litigation;

(5) a request for assistance in obtaining evidence and information necessary thereto;

(6) a warning of danger when there is reason to believe that there exists the likelihood of substantial physical harm to an individual or the public; and

(7) in a criminal case, in addition to items (1) through (6), if accompanied by a statement that the charge is merely an accusation and that the accused is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty:

(a) the identity of the accused;

(b) if the accused has not been apprehended (arrested), information necessary to aid in apprehension (arrest) of that person (the accused);

(c) the fact, time and place of arrest; and

(d) the identity of investigating and arresting officers or agencies and the length of the investigation.

[4] There are, on the other hand, certain subjects that are more likely than not to have a prejudicial effect on a proceeding, particularly when they refer to a civil matter triable to a jury, a criminal matter, or any other proceeding that could result in incarceration. These subjects relate to:

(1) the character, credibility, reputation or criminal record of a party, suspect in a criminal investigation or witness, or the identity of a witness, or the expected testimony of a party or witness;

(2) in a criminal case or proceeding that could result in incarceration, the possibility of a plea of guilty to the offense or the existence or contents of any confession, admission, or statement given by a defendant or suspect or that person's refusal or failure to make a statement;

(3) the performance or results of any examination or test or the refusal or failure of a person to submit to an examination or test, or the identity or nature of physical evidence expected to be presented;

(4) any opinion as to the guilt or innocence of a defendant or suspect in a criminal case or proceeding that could result in incarceration;

(5) information that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is likely to be inadmissible as evidence in a trial and that would, if disclosed, create a clear and present danger of prejudicing an impartial trial; or

(6) the fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime, unless there is included therein a statement explaining that the charge is merely an accusation and that the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

[5] Another relevant factor in determining prejudice is the nature of the proceeding involved. Criminal jury trials will be most sensitive to extrajudicial speech. Civil trials may be less sensitive. Non-jury hearings and arbitration proceedings may be even less affected. The rule will still place limitations on prejudicial comments in these cases, but the likelihood of prejudice may be different depending on the type of proceeding.

[6] Finally, extrajudicial statements that might otherwise raise a question under this rule may be permissible when they are made in response to statements made publicly by another party, another party's lawyer, or third persons, where a reasonable lawyer would believe a public response is required in order to avoid prejudice to the lawyer's client. When prejudicial statements have been publicly made by others, responsive statements may have the salutary effect of lessening any resulting adverse impact on the adjudicative proceeding. Such responsive statements should be limited to contain only such information as is necessary to mitigate undue prejudice created by the statements made by others.

[7] See Paragraph F of Rule 16-308 NMRA of the Rules of Professional Conduct for additional duties of prosecutors in connection with extrajudicial statements about criminal proceedings.

[Adopted by Supreme Court Order No. 08-8300-029, effective November 3, 2008.]

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ANNOTATIONS Compiler's notes. - The old State Bar Comment has been replaced by the new 2008 committee commentary. The 2008 amendment, approved by Supreme Court Order No. 08-8300-029, effective November 3, 2008, in Paragraph A, changed "criminal proceeding" to "proceeding". The 1991 amendment, effective on and after October 1, 1991, rewrote this rule. Prior restraint orders must be accompanied by factual findings. - To ensure that an appropriate balance is struck between rights of free speech and the interest in fair and impartial adjudication, any prior restraint on public comment by trial participants must be accompanied by specific factual findings supporting the conclusion that further extrajudicial statements would pose a clear and present danger to the administration of justice. Twohig v. Blackmer, 1996-NMSC-023, 121 N.M. 746, 918 P.2d 332. General comment on complexity of cases against public officials. - A United States attorney's brief press statement that was a general comment on the complexity of cases involving charges against public officials, not a specific comment on the strengths of the present case or defendant's guilt or innocence, did not violate former DR 7-107B 6 (now this rule). United States v. Troutman, 814 F.2d 1428 (10th Cir. 1987). Am. Jur. 2d, A.L.R. and C.J.S. references. - Validity and construction of state court's order precluding publicity or comment about pending civil case by counsel, parties, or witnesses, 56 A.L.R.4th 1214.