California Bar Journal
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Update on ethics...
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U.S. v. Talao (9th Cir., filed 8/23/00) 00  CDOS 7080, 00 DAR 9365
The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals applies Rule 2-100 to ex parte communications by government attorneys and reverses the lower court’s finding of a violation. The court states: “We deem manifest that when an employee/party of a defendant corporation initiates communications with an attorney for the government for the purpose of disclosing that corporate officers are attempting to suborn perjury and obstruct justice, Rule 2-100 does not bar discussions between the employee and the attorney.”

Forsyth v. County of Los Angeles (9th Cir., filed 8/31/00) 00 CDOS 7329, 00 DAR 9719
The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals interprets California’s imputed knowledge standards and finds that an ethics screen is adequate to avoid vicarious disqualification. The court states: “We hold that the vicarious disqualification of a firm does not automatically follow the personal disqualification of a former settlement judge, where the settlement negotiations are substantially related (but not identical) to the current representation. Screening mechanisms that are both timely and effective, as the Yagman firm erected here, will rebut the presumption that the former judge disclosed confidences to other members of the firm.”


ABA Formal Opinion 00-419 (re: Stocks for fees)
The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct do not bar attorneys from accepting stock in their start-up clients’ corporations in lieu of fees provided the arrangement is fair and reasonable to the client and the attorney satisfies the disclosure, consent and other requirements.

L.A. County Bar Op. No. 502 (re: Representation of and advising an in propria persona litigant)
Discussion of an attorney’s duties when preparing pleadings or negotiating settlement for in pro per litigant. The attorney’s ethical obligations are not diminished because of the limited scope of the representation.

L.A. County Bar Op. No. 503 (re: Rule 2-200 and the prepayment of referral fees on workers’ compensation cases)
California Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit a payment by one lawyer to another lawyer for referring a workers’ compensation matter unless the payment qualifies as a gift or division of fees as permitted under Rule 2-200.

State Bar Formal Op. No. 1999-154 (re: Marketing and performing legal and non-legal professional services for a client at the same time)
When an attorney performs both legal and non-legal professional services for a client, the attorney is subject to the California Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 1-400 may apply to an attorney’s use of his or her credentials or experience as a lawyer on material promoting non-legal services.

RULES & STATUTES (enacted & pending)

AB 1761 (Brewer) [signed by the governor 9/15] (re: paralegal regulations)
Proposes a statutory definition for the term “paralegal” and would establish qualifications and criteria for acting as a “paralegal.” Impacts almost all California law firms and legal departments utilizing paralegals.

AB 2069 (Corbett) [signed by the governor] (re: defense of insureds)
Would require a study by State Bar, in consultation with the AOC and other groups, of the implications of State Farm v. Federal Insurance Co., (2000) 72 Cal.App.4th 1422 that applied the standard of automatic disqualification based on the tripartite relationship among insurer, insured and insurance defense counsel.

SB 2153 (Schiff) [enrolled to the governor] (re: pro hac vice in arbitration matters)
Would extend for five years the provisions of law permitting out-of-state attorneys to represent a party in California arbitration proceedings under specified conditions.

AB 1858 (Romero) [enrolled to the governor] (re: immigration consultants)
Would require all persons, including attorneys, advertising services relating to immigration or naturalization in the “Yellow Pages” to include an appropriate disclosure relating to their licensure and qualifications. Also would increase the penalty for fraudulent activity from $10,000 to $100,000.

Compiled by the State Bar Ethics Hotline staff. For more information about the Ethics Hotline and its online newsletter, “The Ethics Hotliner,” visit For information on legislative proposals, go to