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.