Governor Signs Four CCBA-Sponsored/Supported Public Safety Bills, Vetoes Election Reform Measure

Governor Brown has signed into law four measures sponsored or supported by the Conference of California Bar Associations (CCBA) increasing fairness and protection of the innocent in the criminal justice system over the past three days.  However, the Governor vetoed a measure supported by the CCBA to further increase transparency in the initiative process.  The signings bring to 12 the number of CCBA sponsored and supported bills signed into law in 2014.

Marie Waldron

Assemblymember Waldron

The first of the public safety measures signed was AB 1850 by Assemblymember Marie Waldron, which makes it possible to include children in domestic violence protective orders issued to protect DV victims before and during trial, if the child in question was present during the commission of the act of domestic violence.  The bill will allow criminal court judges to protect the entire family during the criminal proceedings instead of just one or a few members, thereby eliminating the problems that occur when an existing family court order requires the domestic violence victim to make her children, unprotected by the criminal order, available to the defendant for child visitation. AB 1850 was based on CCBA Resolution 07-01-2013, which was developed by former Los Angeles County Bar Association  (LACBA) delegate (now judge) Teresa Sullivan and current delegates Joseph Goldstein and Bea Dieringer.

Brian_Maienschein

Assemblymember Maienschein

The Governor also signed into law two bills to increase the penalty for human trafficking in minors – AB 1791 by Assemblymember Brian Maienschein, a bill sponsored by the CCBA, and SB 1388 by Senator Ted Lieu a related bill supported by the organization based on Resolution 09-11-2013 by Sonia Fernandes of the Women Lawyers of Sacramento. Together, the two bills will increase the penalty for knowingly soliciting a minor for prostitution, and will increase the maximum fine for placing a minor into prostitution or furnishing a minor to another person for sexual conduct from $20,000 to $25,000.  This takes an important step towards stopping the victimization of children by addressing the supply side of the prostitution and human trafficking equation.

Finally, the Governor signed into law AB 2492 by Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer, which eliminates the 90-day mandatory minimum sentence for a first or subsequent conviction for being under the influence of a controlled substance. The measure, based on two CCBA resolutions (Resolution 06-03-2012 developed by Monterey County Bar Association delegate Don Landis and Resolution 06-04-2012 developed by LACBA delegate Mark Harvis) will give courts more discretion to structure sentences to encourage drug treatment and reduce jail crowding.

Reginald Jones-Sawyer

Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer

The Governor vetoed AB 400 by Assemblymember Paul Fong, a bill supported by the CCBA based on its approval of Resolution 10-04-2013  sponsored by 10 CCBA delegates led by LACBA delegate Scott Luskin.  AB 400 would have required initiative proponents to include the identity of the top 10 donors to the campaign on the initiative petitions, so that voters would have this information when deciding whether or not to sign.  Governor Brown – who earlier signed legislation (SB 1253) which, among other things, would require this information to be placed on a web site maintained by the Secretary of State – objected to the potential cost of having to reprint petitions if the list of top 10 backers changed, but didn’t address the need for voters to have this information available when deciding whether or not to sign a petition, not simply when deciding how to vote.  Revised legislation is likely in the offing in the coming year.

According to Doyle

“According to Doyle” is a blog. It is intended to provide information and commentary on California legislation (particularly that sponsored by the Conference of California Bar Associations), ethical issues within the legal profession, and other things that might inspire.  It is no more an advertisement than any other blog; however, because I am an attorney and subject to California’s Rules of Professional Conduct, I ask all readers to please note that any recommendations and/or testimonials on this page or in any individual post are not meant to guarantee, predict, or warrant the outcome of any matter.

Lawyer Legislators Reach Historic Low

We’ve all heard that last Tuesday’s election set one negative record: Lowest voter turnout ever in a California statewide election. But there was another negative record set Tuesday which has received no play, but which concerns some of us as much as the first: The number of attorneys elected to the California Legislature also hit an all-time low, probably in the history of the state. (Read more)

Final CCBA Bill Signed for 2014

On the final day left to him under the California constitution, Governor Brown signed into law the last bill of 2014 containing resolutions from the Conference of California Bar Associations (CCBA).  AB 2747, an omnibus measure authored by the Democratic members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, contained provisions enacting two CCBA resolutions and making important refinements in CCBA-sponsored legislation enacted last year. (Read more)

Governor Signs Four CCBA Public Safety Bills, Vetoes Election Reform Measure

Governor Brown has signed into law four measures sponsored or supported by the Conference of California Bar Associations (CCBA) increasing fairness and protection of the innocent in the criminal justice system over the past three days.  However, the Governor vetoed a measure supported by the CCBA to further increase transparency in the initiative process.  The signings bring to 12 the number of CCBA sponsored and supported bills signed into law in 2014. (Read more)

Photoshopping Lawyer – More Than Just Bad Advertising

It’s rare when a lawyer ethics story attracts the attention of the general press.  But it happened last week when the California Staphotoshoppinglawyer_screenshotte Bar Court proposed a six-month suspension for a Southern California lawyer who posted dozens of pictures – most (likely all) of them apparently fakes – on her firm web page showing  her in the company of dozens of celebrities, including President Obama, Hilary Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger – the list goes on.

The story started in the legal press, but has since been picked up by the Los Angeles Times, CNN, TMZ, the International Business Times, the UK Daily Mail – this list, too, goes on. (Read more)

Governor Signs Three CCBA-Sponsored Bills

Three bills sponsored by the Conference of California Bar Associations – AB 1738 by Assemblymember Ed Chau, AB 2104 by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, and AB 2309 by Assemblymember Cheryl Brown – were signed into law by Governor Brown during the past three days.  The actions bring to eight the number of CCBA-sponsored or supported bills signed into law so far this year. (Read more)

CCBA-Inspired Rule of Court on Telephonic Appearances Adopted by Judicial Council

The Conference of California Bar Associations (CCBA) added yet another success to an already impressive year Friday (October 25, 2013), when the California Judicial Council unanimously approved a CCBA-inspired amendment to the Rules of Court (jc-20131025-itemA12) clarifying and expanding the types of court hearings at which attorneys may appear telephonically. The new amendments to the rules will take effect January 1, 2014. (Read more)

Governor Signs “Lawyer Dream” Bill

Governor Brown has signed into law legislation (AB 1024  by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez) that removes all doubt that undocumented immigrant Dreamers who pass the Bar Exam and meet the same moral character requirements as all other applicants can be admitted to the practice of law in California.

The bill responds to the case of Sergio C. Garcia (In re Sergio C. Garcia on Admission – S202512), the issue of whose admission to the Bar washeard on September 4 by the California Supreme Court.  Specifically, the bill is intended to ensure that California has on the books the law identified in Title 8, Section 1621(d) of the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which says that states can provide benefits (defined under subdivision (c) to include professional licenses) to undocumented immigrants if the state has enacted a law “which affirmatively provides for such eligibility.” (Read more)

 

Photoshopping Lawyer – More Than Just Bad Advertising

It’s rare when a lawyer ethics story attracts the attention of the general press.  But it happened last week when the California Staphotoshoppinglawyer_screenshotte Bar Court proposed a six-month suspension for a Southern California lawyer who posted dozens of pictures – most (likely all) of them apparently fakes – on her firm web page showing  her in the company of dozens of celebrities, including President Obama, Hilary Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger – the list goes on.

The story started in the legal press, but has since been picked up by the Los Angeles Times, CNN, TMZ, the International Business Times, the UK Daily Mail – this list, too, goes on.

The essence of the State Bar Court’s opinion is that attorney Svitlana Sangary engaged in “deceptive advertising” in violation of California Rule of Professional Conduct 1-400(D)(2).  The court stated that the “photographs were part of an advertisement and solicitation for future work, directed by Respondent to the public through her website, and they were false, deceptive, and tended to confuse, deceive, and mislead the public.” Though the original recommended sentence ultimately was doubled as a result of Sangary’s reported non-cooperation with the disciplinary process and her failure to return a client file.

All of the news stories – and even most of the expert commentary – have centered around Sangary’s apparent attempt to boost her professional reputation by showing herself in the company of the rich and powerful.  However, a more significant issue appears to lurk below the surface, based on the excerpts in the opinion of Sangary’s response to the charges against her.  Described as a “16-page soliloquy,” the response – if the quoted excerpts are even slightly representative – raises serious questions about the author’s mental state, let alone her ability to practice law. Which in turn raises the question, What – if anything – is to be done?

If California were one of the states following the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the answer would be reasonably straightforward.  If an attorney becomes aware of conduct that violates a rule of professional conduct (including the duty to provide competent representation) in a way that “raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s . .  fitness as a lawyer in other respects,” Model Rule 8.3(a) requires him or her to inform the appropriate professional authority. The requirement that a lawyer must “rat out” a colleague may seem harsh, but probably less so than letting an impaired attorney get deeper and deeper into problems, until the harm to all – including the client and even the lawyer – becomes irreparable.

California is not a Model Rule state, however.  We have our own Rules of Professional Conduct which differ in many ways from the Model Rules. And one of those ways is that we don’t have an analog for MRPC 8.3.  California does have rules and statutes which require a lawyer who violates rules of professional conduct to self-report.  Except that an impaired lawyer isn’t likely to recognize his or her self-impairment, which is a real problem in these cases.

In this instance, the Bar is well aware of the situation, and hopefully is poised to do the right thing.

 

Governor Signs Three CCBA-Sponsored Bills

Three bills sponsored by the Conference of California Bar Associations – AB 1738 by Assemblymember Ed Chau, AB 2104 by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, and AB 2309 by Assemblymember Cheryl Brown – were signed into law by Governor Brown during the past three days.  The actions bring to eight the number of CCBA-sponsored or supported bills signed into law so far this year.

Assemblymember Chau

Assemblymember Chau

AB 1738 would specifically permit homeowners in a common interest development to bring someone to assist them in an Internal Dispute Resolution (IDR) negotiation with representatives of the homeowners’ association (HOA).  The bill responds to abuses of the process by some HOAs, which have prohibited homeowners from bringing their attorney or other helper to an IDR session – while at the same time bringing several board members well-versed in association law, and even the association’s attorney.

The bill is based on Resolution 02-03-2012 by CCBA delegate Daryl Miller out of the Orange County Bar Association delegation.  It was supported by homeowners’ organizations and seniors groups, and opposed by organizations and law firms representing HOAs, which mounted a major – but ultimately unsuccessful – effort to obtain a gubernatorial veto.

Lorena Gonzalez

Assemblymember Gonzalez

AB 2104 reinforces and strengthens the law preventing common interest development homeowner associations (HOAs) from penalizing homeowners for replacing water-hungry lawns with aesthetic, drought-tolerant landscaping.  The bill is based on CCBA Resolution LF-02-2013 by Contra Costa County Bar Association delegate Steve Steinberg.  It was supported by numerous environmental, real estate, business and consumer organizations.

As Assemblymember Gonzalez noted in her press release on the bill’s signing: “Brown is beautiful, and around the state HOAs are penalizing good-intentioned homeowners who replace their lush, water-intensive lawns with attractive, well-designed landscaping centered around drought-resistant plants. Allowing homeowners the freedom to use conservation-friendly landscaping is one important ingredient in reaching our goal of protecting our economy by saving water.”

Cheryl Brown

Assemblymember Brown

AB 2309 would make persons convicted of misdemeanor/infraction possession of benzodiazepine drugs such as Xanax, Valium, and Ativan, eligible to participate in deferred entry of judgment (DEJ) programs, the same as individuals convicted of felonies involving far more serious drugs, such as the possession of heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.  The bill was based on Resolution 03-03-2011 by Monterey County Bar Association delegate Don Landis, and received support across the board from groups as diverse as the California District Attorneys Association, California Public Defenders Association, California Narcotics Officers Association, and California Attorneys for Criminal Justice.

“Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem across the nation,” said Assemblymember Brown in a press release. “In California, we have a large population of offenders who have been incarcerated for prescription drug related offenses. In 2000, when voters passed Prop 36, drug diversion programs were not available for prescription drug users. By amending the law to include simple possession of specific benzodiazepines, we can help alleviate some of the backlogs in the courts and provide relief in our overcrowded prison system.”