By Gayle Eskridge, Principal, Eskridge Law, member and former Chair of LACBA Professional Responsibility and Ethics Committee. Ms. Eskridge can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed below are her own.
Every attorney surely knows they are required to keep the State Bar informed of their basic contact information, website address, employment, MCLE compliance, all specialties in which they are certified, any other jurisdictions in which they are admitted and the dates of their admission, and information relating to client trust account compliance. What else are attorneys required to report to the State Bar, or
MANDATORY REPORTING TO THE STATE BAR
Licensing in another jurisdiction
Attorneys who have been newly licensed in another state or federal jurisdiction, or had their license in another jurisdiction terminated, must report it to the State Bar by February 1 of the following year. [Bus. & Prof. Code § 6002.1(1)(a); Cal. Rules of Court, rule 9.9(a)(1).]
Attorneys must file an Attorney’s Report of Criminal Proceedings with the State Bar to report any of the following pursuant to Business & Professions Code section 6068(o)(4) & (5):
– The bringing of an indictment or information charging a felony.
– The conviction of the attorney, including any verdict of guilty, or plea of guilty or no contest, of a felony, or a misdemeanor committed in the course of the practice of law, or in a manner in which a client of the attorney was the victim, or a necessary element of which, as determined by the statutory or common law definition of the misdemeanor, involves improper conduct of an attorney, including dishonesty or other moral turpitude, or an attempt or a conspiracy or solicitation of another to commit a felony or a misdemeanor of that type.
(Arrests are not required to be reported to the State Bar.)
Employment and termination of an attorney who is not eligible to practice
Prior to or at the time of employing, associating in practice with, or assisting a person the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is an ineligible person, attorneys must serve upon the State Bar written notice of the employment, including a full description of such person’s current bar status. When the attorney no longer employs, associates in practice with, or assists the ineligible person, the attorney shall promptly serve upon the State Bar written notice of the termination. The form to be used for this is the Notice of Employment/Termination of a Disbarred, Resigned, Suspended, or Involuntarily Inactive Attorney. [Rules of Prof. Conduct, rule 5.3.1(d).]
Attorneys must file an Attorney’s Report of Judicial Sanctions with the State Bar to report any judicial sanctions except those for failure to make discovery or monetary sanctions less than $1,000. [Bus. & Prof. Code § 6086(o)(3).] The requirement to report sanctions is not stayed while a sanctions order is on appeal. [See In the Matter of Respondent Y (Review Dept. 1998) 3 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 862, 866-867.]
Lawsuits and Settlements
Attorneys must file an Attorney’s Report of the Filing of Three or More Lawsuits in a 12-month Period for Malpractice or Other Wrongful Conduct with the State Bar to report the filing of three or more lawsuits within a 12-month period against themselves, their firm, or their law corporation, for malpractice or for wrongful conduct committed in their professional capacity as an attorney. [Bus. & Prof. Code § 6068(o)(1).]
Attorneys must file an Attorney’s Report of Judgment for Fraud, Misrepresentation, Breach of Fiduciary Duty or Gross Negligence with the State Bar to report the entry of a judgment against them, their firm, or law corporation, in a civil action for: fraud, misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, or gross negligence in a professional capacity as an attorney. [Bus. & Prof. Code § 6068(o)(2).] Arguably, a judgment for professional negligence which is not “gross” negligence is not required to be reported.
Attorneys must report to the State Bar any settlement or arbitration award for fraud, misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, or negligence in a professional capacity – if they are not covered by professional liability insurance. This even applies to cases which were settled for nuisance value. [Bus. & Prof. Code § 6086.8(b) & (c).] This obligation does not require “gross negligence” – regular negligence is all that is required in order to trigger this reporting requirement.
Attorneys must file an Attorney’s Report of Discipline by Professional or Occupational Disciplinary Agency with the State Bar whenever they, or their firm or law corporation, are disciplined by any professional or occupational disciplinary agency or licensing board, whether in California or elsewhere, and even if the attorney was acting in a non-attorney capacity. The notice must include the nature and date of any discipline imposed, including the terms and conditions of any probation imposed and, if suspended or disbarred in another jurisdiction, the date of any reinstatement in that jurisdiction. [Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 6002.1(a)(4) and 6068(o)(6).] (Disciplinary agencies include such things as the Department of Real Estate, the California Medical Board, and the California Contractor’s Licensing Board, or the California Board of Accountancy.)
Former members of the State Bar who have been ordered by the Supreme Court to comply with Rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court shall maintain on the official membership records of the State Bar their current address and within 10 days after any change therein, shall file a change of address with the membership records office of the State Bar until such time as the former member is no longer subject to the order. [Bus. & Prof. Code § 6002.1(b).]
Reversal of judgment in a proceeding for professional misconduct
Attorneys must file an Attorney’s Report of Reversal of Judgment Upon Findings of Attorney Misconduct with the State Bar to report any reversal of a judgment in a civil or criminal proceeding based in whole or in part on professional misconduct, gross incompetence, or willful misrepresentation. [Bus. & Prof. Code § 6068(o)(7).
It is also important to keep the following in mind:
– Failure to file a required report with the State Bar may itself serve as a basis for discipline. [Bus. & Prof. Code § 6068(o)(10).]
– The general requirement is that mandatory reports to the State Bar must be made within 30 days of the time the attorney has knowledge of the triggering event, although there are a few exceptions. [Bus. & Prof. Code § 6002.1(b).]
– Even when someone other than the attorney (such as a judge, prosecutor, or the insurance commissioner) is required to report an event to the State Bar, the affected attorney is still required to separately make a report.
MANDATORY REPORTING TO ENTITIES OR PERSONS OTHER THAN THE STATE BAR
Violations under Rules of Professional Conduct, rule 8.4.1 (Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation) also require notification. Upon being issued a notice of disciplinary charge under Rules of Professional Conduct, rule 8.4.1(a) , an attorney must submit a report to the California Civil Rights Department (formerly the Department of Fair Employment and Housing) and the United States Department of Justice, Coordination and Review Section. Upon being issued a notice of disciplinary charge under Rules of Professional Conduct, rule 8.4.1(b), an attorney must submit a report to the California Civil Rights Department and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Please note that this rule applies to all attorneys – not just attorneys who are working in the field of discrimination and harassment and dealing with one of these agencies. [Rules of Prof. Conduct, rule 8.4.1.]
When being considered for appointment as a potential arbitrator an attorney must disclose:
– If they have been disbarred.
– If within the preceding 10 years public discipline other than disbarment has been imposed on them.
– If they have resigned their membership in the State Bar while public or private disciplinary charges were pending.[California Standards for Neutral Arbitrators in Contractual Arbitration; Code Civ. Proc. § 1281.9.]
The moral of the story here is that it’s best to stay out of trouble in order to avoid all these reporting requirements!