Can California Courts Sanction Pro Hac Vice Counsel?
CALIFORNIA COURTS HAVE AUTHORITY TO SANCTION PRO HAC VICE COUNSEL
Pro hac vice admission is a process by which out-of-state attorneys (i.e., those licensed in other U.S. states, but not in California) may appear and represent clients in California courts. Attorneys who meet and comply with the requirements for pro hac vice admission can obtain permission to appear in court, but the grant of permission also requires the attorney to obey California laws and practice rules in the same manner, and to the same extent, as a California-licensed attorney. Pro hac vice admission also subjects out-of-state attorneys to the authority of the California courts–including the court’s ability to sanction attorneys who misbehave or break the rules.
SANCTIONS CANNOT EXCEED* THOSE WHICH CAN BE IMPOSED ON CALIFORNIA LAWYERS
California courts have both statutory and inherent power to sanction lawyers who appear before them and break the rules of court or rules governing the practice of law in California. That power includes:
(a) The inherent power to revoke permission for an out-of-state lawyer to appear pro hac vice; and
(b) The statutory power to impose sanctions, to the same extent the relevant statue(s) authorize the court to sanction California-licensed attorneys for similar misconduct.
Note that California courts do not have the inherent power to create or impose “new” sanctions on foreign counsel, or to impose statutory sanctions that differ in breadth or scope from those applicable to California lawyers. For example, California courts cannot order foreign counsel to pay an opposing party’s attorney fees (either as punishment or as a condition of keeping pro hac vice status). See: Sheller v. Sup.Ct. (Farmers New World Life Ins. Co.) (2008) 158 CA4th 1697.
* Statutory sanctions cannot exceed those applicable to California attorneys; moreover, California courts have inherent power to revoke pro hac vice admission in cases of misconduct or improper behavior by out-of-state counsel, and can do so in situations where the relevant conduct would be sufficient to disqualify California counsel from appearing in the relevant case or matter.
*RossLaw serves as the California attorney of record for pro hac vice admissions in appropriate cases and circumstances. Please feel free to contact our office for more details.
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