California Applies Model Practices to Hold Lawyers Accountable
April 7, 2011
Contact: David Magee, General Operations, HALT
firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-887-8255
Washington, DC—California’s system for regulating lawyers provides some examples for attorney
discipline bodies across the country, according to consumer advocacy group HALT. This year, the nonprofit
group produced its Lawyer Discipline Best Practices report, a study drawing on HALT’s 32 years of
aggressive advocacy to hold wrongdoers accountable.
“For decades, HALT has recommended reforms to the attorney discipline system and we believe
widespread adoption of 10 straight-forward practices is necessary to enhance the public’s confidence in
lawyer-run systems,” stated HALT Executive Director Rodd Santomauro.
HALT credited the State Bar of California for already applying several model practices. In particular,
California grants disciplinary administrators the power to permanently disbar lawyers. “Most states allow
every disbarred attorney, no matter how appalling the offense, to resume his practice after a few years, but
California puts real teeth into its rules by permanently expelling those attorneys who have committed the most
egregious offenses,” stated Suzanne Blonder, Of Counsel to HALT.
California also received high marks for disclosing lawyers’ complete disciplinary records (including
pending matters) and for recently transforming the State Bar Website into a more helpful mechanism.
Disciplinary officials across the country provided useful input to HALT. Unfortunately, the State Bar of
California did not respond to HALT’s call for feedback and additional recommendations. “We’re
disappointed that a jurisdiction like California, which applies so many exemplar practices, did not share their
insights with us,” stated Blonder.
Earlier this year, Santomauro testified before the State Bar of California's new Governance in the
Public Interest Task Force and recommended full adoption of HALT’s Best Practices Report. HALT is asking
its California members and the general public to sign a petition (found at www.halt.org) which urges the State
Bar of California to adopt all 10 of HALT’s recommendations. We want lawyer discipline systems to:
Disclose a lawyer’s complete disciplinary history so that consumers can make informed decisions
about whether to retain an attorney.
Host a user-friendly Web site that is easily accessible and provides helpful information in regard to the
Discipline lawyers with formal, serious and public measures.
Permanently disbar lawyers who commit abusive practices against clients.
Abolish gag rules that prevent people from speaking publicly about complaints they’ve filed.
Publicize the availability of lawyer discipline programs through required client notification and local
Open lawyer discipline hearings to everyone to increase the public trust.
Provide citizens with a majority voice on the panels that decide attorney misconduct cases.
Grant clients and witnesses immunity from civil liability for any information given to the agency
during a disciplinary investigation.
Allow citizens to appeal initial complaint dismissals and hearing panel decisions.
Information about the Lawyer Discipline Best Practices report can be found at www.halt.org. Founded in
1978, HALT, Inc. is a nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group that challenges the legal establishment to
increase accountability in the civil justice system.