Ethics Lawyer David C. Carr

Newsletter December 2017

Welcome to the Ethics Lawyer Newsletter for December 2017!


Antonia Darling Takes Helm As New Chief State Bar Court Counsel

Antonia Darling will assume the position of Chief Court Counsel of the State Bar Court effective December 18, 2017.  Ms. Darling replaces Colin Wong who retired earlier this year.   Ms. Darling worked in Office of Trial Counsel for 5 years early in her career, before the current full-time professional State Bar Court began operating in 1989.  Former acting Chief Trial Counsel had been announced to fill the position but instead went to work as Chief Counsel for the Commission on Judicial Performance.


Public Comment:  Fingerprinting Lawyers

The State Bar of California is seeking comment on a proposed new California Rule of Court requiring all lawyers admitted in the state to submit fingerprints at their expense.

5 p.m. Dec. 26, 2017

Direct comments to
To submit your comments, please use the online public comment form.

Alternatively, written comments may be sent to:
Fingerprinting Rule Public Comment
Office of General Counsel
180 Howard St.
San Francisco, CA 94105

Patent Lawyer Accuses Legal Zoom of Unauthorized Practice of Law

A complaint has been filed in the Northern District of California alleging that Legal Zoom used non-attorneys to file trademark applications on behalf of the firm.  The plaintiff is LegalForce RAPC, a law firm owned by patent lawyer Raj Abhyanker, a firm which appears to compete against Legal Zoom for trademark work.  The 81-page complaint also names the State Bar of California, the State Bar of Arizona, the State Bar of Texas and the United States Patent & Trademark Office as defendants, and alleging that all defendants are engaged in actions in restraint of trade.

That’s Why They Call It Practice: December Discipline Report. And a Happy New Year to You!

The December issue of California Lawyer has hit the (electronic) newsstands with its usual pithy summation of new discipline actions in the Golden State.  The list this month comes in at 52 names with 25 meriting the ultimate punishment of disbarment.  Causes of disbarment are many from a conviction of first-degree murder to misappropriation of client funds but an amazingly large number (16) were disbarred because they failed to participate in the discipline process. The disbarment ranks also includes an attorney who had been exonerated at trial on charges of misusing his client trust account but who met his doom in the Review Department after the State Bar’s Office of Chief Trial Counsel appealed.  Four lawyers were disbarred in criminal conviction proceedings, the aforementioned murderer, two lawyers convicted of child pornography offenses who were also summarily disbarred because their felony convictions involved moral turpitude and one lawyer who defaulted in his State Bar proceeding after misdemeanor conviction of possessing firearms subject to a domestic violence restraining order.  His two prior disciplines probably played a role in his decision not to participate.

Most of the actual suspensions involved conduct that constitutes the bulk of the discipline system’s work, taking fees from clients, not performing the work, not giving the money back, and misuse of the client trust account.  Interim suspensions were imposed in several criminal matters, including assault with a deadly weapon, possession of meth, domestic battery, felony child endangerment (driving while intoxicated) and possession of child pornography.  One attorney was suspended for pursuing a frivolous court action, two for practicing law while not being entitled to do so.

Public reprovals were garnered by one attorney for failing to inform an immigration client of a significant development in their matter and another based on reciprocal discipline in Arizona for holding herself out to practice while not entitled to do so.


All in all, a pretty typical month for the discipline system.  Discipline decisions, even the summary versions prepared by the California Lawyer magazine staff, are worthwhile reading if not for object lessons in conduct to avoid, if only as a reality check on what most lawyers are doing, which is a pretty good job.  The numbers of lawyers disciplined is still low compared to the sheer number of active lawyers in California, 190,722 as of yesterday.

That is not meant as an invitation to go slack.  The consequences are too devastating to even go near the possibility of State Bar discipline, even minor discipline. Take it from me, each of the names in the Discipline Report was probably a lawyer much like many of us until things began to go terribly wrong. So take the Discipline Report to heart as a concrete reminder of where you absolutely don’t want to be and contemplate what is necessary to never go there.