Ethics & Sanctions

NELA maintains an active Ethics & Sanctions Committee to assist NELA members and other workers' rights practitioners. The Committee provides information to lawyers who confront a wide range of ethics issues in their practices, as well as those facing efforts by defense counsel to obtain bar discipline, "reverse" attorneys' fees, or court-imposed sanctions. The Committee also identifies and tracks emerging trends in defense bar tactics and advocates for changes in the law governing ethics and sanctions matters.

Although we cannot act as your lawyers or provide you legal advice, nor can the Committee or its members guarantee that we can obtain legal representation for you, we are happy to consult with you and assist if you are facing sanctions or ethics proceedings. Please note that we do not guarantee the quality, nature or cost of any advice or assistance you may receive from others to whom we may refer you, but we will try to make useful referrals to the extent possible. The Ethics & Sanctions Committee's activities include:

  • Providing assistance through NELA's Service Hotline for Ethics Requests ("SHOFER"). Confidential queries may be submitted to the Ethics & Sanctions Committee via the form at the bottom of this page. See more information about SHOFER below.
  • Referring cases to lawyers who are available to represent NELA members and other workers' rights lawyers facing sanctions issues, or who are willing to offer other forms of support or assistance.
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Ethics Questions? Facing Unfair Sanctions? Contact SHOFER!

May I undertake this multiple representation? May I have ex parte contact with that witness? Was the claim or defense "frivolous" merely because summary judgment was awarded?

NELA provides timely ethics assistance to NELA members and other workers' rights lawyers by email via the Service Hotline for Ethics Requests ("SHOFER").

Individuals may submit a confidential query regarding ethical and sanctions issues via our online form below. The Ethics & Sanctions Committee will meet as soon as practicable thereafter to discuss your situation. You will then receive a timely response to your query.

Sanctions Assistance Fund for Emergency Relief (SAFER)

NELA has established the Sanctions Assistance Fund for Emergency Relief (SAFER) to assist employee rights advocates in defraying the costs and expenses associated with defending against sanctions motions and awards that can cripple their practices. The Fund does not provide grants for payment of sanctions awards themselves. The purpose of the Fund is to encourage practitioners to take positions and make arguments on behalf of their clients that will advance the law, even in the face of the hostile environment workers’ rights lawyers and their clients often encounter in the courtroom. It is NELA’s priority to award SAFER grants in workers’ rights cases in which the applicant is defending against a sanctions motion or award where the issue(s) involved raise(s) serious concern regarding access to justice for employees and/or the due process rights of the applicant. While NELA does not anticipate that it will be able to fund every SAFER grant request, nor will SAFER awards fully defray the often sizeable costs associated with threatened or actual sanctions, we believe that providing support in such cases will make a difference to lawyers and their clients, even if the amount of the award is small compared to the existing need. SAFER is not funded by NELA membership dues, and relies upon voluntary contributions for support. Grant applications are reviewed on a monthly basis.

Since funds available through SAFER are limited and not every grant application will be awarded, in fulfilling NELA’s mission, SAFER grant applicants, whether successful or not, will be offered an opportunity for an informal consultation with a member of NELA’s Ethics & Sanctions Committee.

Contribute to SAFER.

Eligibility & Procedure For Applying For A SAFER Grant
All grant applicants must be attorneys of private law firms or non-profit legal organizations duly licensed to practice in the appropriate jurisdiction who can certify that 51% or more of their employment-related legal representation is on behalf of employees. Membership in NELA shall not be considered in the application process. Applicants must demonstrate that they would incur an undue financial burden in the absence of SAFER funding.

To apply for a SAFER grant, applicants must complete a SAFER Grant Application Form and return the completed form along with the requested documents by email, facsimile, or mail to:

SAFER Grants Program
National Employment Lawyers Association
2201 Broadway, Suite 310
Oakland, CA 94612
Fax: (866) 593-7521

Requests for SAFER grants that are unaccompanied by a signed and completed SAFER Grant Application Form as well as the requested materials will not be considered. No exceptions will be made to this policy. SAFER grant applications will be acknowledged by NELA’s Program Director within two weeks of receipt. All applicants will be notified via mail and email (where possible).

The NELA Exchange

NELA members can participate in substantive ethics discussions in our members-only online community,The NELA Exchange (use the "Ethics and Sanctions Issues" discussion group). Harness the power of the NELA membership via The Exchange.


(415) 296-7629

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Ethics & Sanctions Committee

Cheri L. McCracken (AZ)
Co-Chair (MD)

Gregory Rich
Co-Chair (MO)

Arthur T. Schofield
Co-Chair (FL)

Mark J. Berkowitz (FL)

Barbara D. Bonar (KY)

Carla D. Brown (VA)

Charles W. Day

Meghan Droste (DC)

Barbara Figari (CA)

Margaret A. Harris (TX)

Christopher Houk (AZ)

John F. Karl (DC)

David L. Kern (TX)

Benjamin Lebsack (CO)

Ann Lugbill (OH)

Paul H. Merry (MA)

Ellen J. Messing (MA)

Walter Taylor (TX)

Janet E. Wise (FL)