California's New “Snitch” Rule
On June 22, 2023, the California Supreme Court approved a new rule. Effective August 1, 2023, California’s new Rule of Professional Conduct 8.3 establishes that attorneys will be required to report the misconduct of other lawyers that “raises a substantial question as to the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.”
Attorneys have the duty to report any lawyer who:
- Commits a criminal act in California;
- Has engaged in dishonest conduct, fraud, or
- intentional misrepresentation;
- Has misappropriated funds or property; or
- Has committed any action that makes one question that lawyer’s honesty, trust, or fitness to be a lawyer
The actions must be reported to the CA State Bar immediately. Those who do not comply may face a 3-year suspension of their law license.
Timing Is Crucial For State Bar Defense Matters
The State Bar is required to dismiss, settle, or file charges on every complaint within 6 months after that complaint walks in the door, Bus. & Prof. C. section 6094.5. The tenor and the timing of your response matter as much as the merits of the complaint you are responding to. While most complaints ultimately close without any disciplinary action taken against the accused attorney, State Bar complaints in general are getting harder to resolve.
In 2015 the State of California conducted an audit of the State Bar’s performance. The verdict? The California State Bar’s prosecutor’s office is settling discipline cases as an expedient, at the expense of getting more lawyers disbarred.
“To reduce its backlog, the State Bar allowed some attorneys whom it otherwise might have disciplined more severely—or even disbarred—to continue practicing law, at significant risk to the public.” Report of the California State Auditor, Report 2015-030 (June 2015)
The obvious response to the Audit is for the State Bar to prosecute more lawyers and settle fewer of those cases. Now more than ever it is important to hire experienced State Bar defense counsel to handle your State Bar matter at the earliest possible moment. Most deadlines become more rigid, and shorter, the farther along the process you go.
What is the California State Bar MCLE?
MCLE stands for “Minimum Continuing Legal Education”. As of now, attorneys in California who are actively practicing law must complete 25 hours of MCLE every three years and must file a report with the CA State Bar. There are very few exceptions to this requirement.
It is also recommended to obtain:
- At least 4 hours of legal ethics
- At least 1 hour of elimination of bias in the legal profession
- At least 1 hour of prevention, detection, and treatment of substance abuse or mental illness
Failing to meet the MCLE requirements may lead to being placed on administrative inactive status. False reports of compliance may result in disciplinary actions.
Who Is Required To Complete The California State Bar MCLE?
The MCLE education requirement applies to the following individuals:
- All "active" status California bar members.
- Bar members under "not eligible" status, who are "exempt" due to their employment nature (even if they are not mandated to fulfill MCLE obligations, they must still report compliance by indicating that they have exempt status).
- Were inactive for a part of the compliance period or enjoyed exemption for a portion of this duration. They are still obligated to declare their status.
Call Our California State Bar Lawyer
When facing State Bar challenges, having a skilled defense attorney can make all the difference. I'm Samuel C. Bellicini, an experienced State Bar defense attorney based in Sausalito, California. Let's navigate this process together and safeguard your legal career.
Highly Experienced Ethics Attorney
Certified Specialist in Legal Malpractice Law, California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization