Educational and Ethical Reminder Re: Ex Parte Communications

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In a Discipline Order filed on June 20, 2006, a three judge panel of the Court imposed disciplinary sanctions on a member of the Bar. As part of the sanctions, the panel ordered that the Clerk of Court disseminate to the Bar and general public the facts involved and discipline imposed as an educational reminder and a deterrent to ex parte communications in violation of Rule 2-100(A) of the California Rules of Professional Conduct.

The findings of fact are as follows: the attorney in question (hereinafter referred to as “attorney”) and an investigator made a visit to a facility to view conditions in dispute; the “attorney” insinuated to the owner that the owner’s attorney had suggested the someone from the office of the “attorney” conduct the inspection; the owner allowed the inspection and conditions in dispute were discussed by the owner and the “attorney.” After the inspection, an associate of the “attorney” called the owner’s attorney regarding the visit to which the owner’s attorney conveyed surprise at and disapproval of the ex parte visit; the associate of the “attorney” admitted that the attorney for the owner never authorized the “attorney” to meet with the owner; the “attorney” acknowledged the improper ex parte communication with the owner.

The three judge district panel concluded (1) the “attorney” violated Rule 2-100(A) of the California Rules of Professional Conduct which provides: “While representing a client, a member shall not communicate directly or indirectly about the subject of the representation with a party the member knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter, unless the member has the consent of the other lawyer” and (2) the attorney ‘s violation of Rule 2-100(A) was serious and willful.

The discipline imposed included suspension from practice in the California Central District Court and all divisions thereof for a period of six months, such term to commence from the date of the order of the District Court, and that the disciplined attorney complete no less than four hours of continuing legal education on legal ethics in an in-person course by a provided approved by the California State Bar.

Sherri R. Carter
District Court Executive