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Indebtedness arising from the attorney’s obligation to reimburse the State Bar for the payments made to victims of his misconduct is dischargeable in bankruptcy.  Such an indebtedness is not a penalty, fine or forfeiture payable to a governmental agency, but rather is payable to and for the benefit of the State Bar and is compensation for the Fund’s actual pecuniary… Read More

The trial court abused its discretion in disqualifying plaintiff's counsel from all phases of the case shortly before trial on the ground that he would be a witness at trial.  The trial court erroneously failed to apply California Rule of Professional Conduct 3.7(3), which unlike the ABA rule from which it is drawn, allows an attorney to also testify with… Read More

Under Rule of Professional Conduct 1.12, a former judge may not act as counsel  in connection with a matter in which the he participated personally and substantially as a judge without the informed written consent of all parties.  This decision affirms an order disqualifying a former judge under this rule.  It holds that any party to the proceeding in which… Read More

To have standing to move to disqualify another party's attorney, the movant must generally be a present or former client of the challenged attorney, or at least a person who shared confidential information with that attorney in the course of a confidential or fiduciary relationship.  Otherwise, the movant is generally not affected by any breach of the attorney's duties of… Read More

A provision in an attorney's contingency fee agreement that purported to allow the attorney to consent on the client's behalf (and over the client's objection) to any settlement offer that the attorney thought was reasonable and in the client's best interest violated the Rules of Professional Conduct and was void.  Such a provision creates an immediate, direct conflict of interest… Read More

It is misconduct for counsel to argue to the jury that there is no evidence on an issue when he knows that such evidence exists but was excluded at his request.  Here counsel exacerbated that misconduct by telling the jury that the court's admonition to ignore the arresting officer's statement about defendnat's intoxication showed the testimony was nothing but a… Read More

The trial court held a party's attorney guilty of four counts of indirect contempt for obnoxious behavior (constantly interrupting, calling the opposition lawyer a liar, etc.) that cratered a mandatory settlement conference before a temporary judge.  This decision affirms the contempt order on only one of the four counts.  The last count (preventing the temporary judge from revealing what had… Read More

Lawyer's appeal from a contempt citation is dismissed as contempt orders are not appealable; they may only be challenged by a writ petition.  Lawyer's appeal from a sanctions order over $5,000 is appealable, but the sanctions order is affirmed.  A lawyer owes a court a duty of candor.  Here, the lawyer filed a motion to enforce a settlement.  He received… Read More

After divorcing Yim, Lee filed this suit on behalf of her daughter Doe, claiming that Yim had sexually molested Doe.  Lee, a lawyer, sought to represent Doe in the action.  Held, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in disqualifying Lee.  Under current Rule of Professional Conduct 3.7, a lawyer cannot act as an advocate "at trial" in a… Read More

A non-attorney did not engage in the unauthorized practice of law by filling out and filing an application and renewal of judgment form to renew a judgment of which he and several other individuals were judgment creditors.  The task was clerical in nature, not legal.  Choosing the right form is simple.  There's only one Judicial Council form for the task. … Read More

When a law firm or client acquires an opponent's attorney-client information through surreptitious means such as hiring an outside counsel a former employee of the opposing party, the outside counsel in question must be disqualified from the representation. Read More

A law firm hired to represent water district and later fired, need not recuse itself from representing other water districts in the same litigation, especially since the first water district did not demand the recusal until ten years after hiring the law firm and was aware of the other representations the whole time. Read More

A former client need prove only that attorney’s fraud and breach of fiduciary duty in secretly funneling information about the client to opposing party while negotiating a settlement was a substantial factor in causing her harm, not that she would have obtained a better result but from the attorney’s wrongdoing. Read More

As a general rule in California, where an attorney is disqualified from representation, the entire law firm is vicariously disqualified as well. However, the general presumption is a rebuttable one, which can be refuted by evidence that an ethical wall or other circumstances has prevented the sharing of confidences in a particular case. Read More

The defendant’s attorney did not form a confidential non-client relationship with the plaintiff broker and so was not disqualified from representing the defendant; the information the attorney obtained from the broker either was necessary to the broker’s handling a property sale for defendant or was not confidential. Read More

No matter how the attorney receives another party’s inadvertently produced privileged material, the attorney owes a duty to notify the privilege holder and await a court’s resolution of any dispute over existence or waiver of the privilege; failure to do so may lead to disqualification.  Read More

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