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Do Courts Have to Notify the Bar of Attorney Misconduct?

California Attorneys Are Licensed By the State Bar Association (the “Bar”)

In California, attorneys must have a license from the California Bar Association (sometimes called the “bar”) to practice law. People who do not possess either a California bar license or other permission to appear and represent clients in California are not authorized to act as attorneys and cannot practice law on behalf of others. Private individuals can generally appear in court on their own behalf, even without a license to practice law–but in order to represent another person, a law license is normally required.

The Bar association establishes rules of professional conduct that govern the way attorneys should behave when representing clients and engaging in the practice of law. When lawyers breach these rules, or engage in other forms of wrongful conduct, they may be subject to discipline by the Bar.

Generally, Courts Must Report Attorney Sanctions and Contempt to the State Bar. 

Although California courts do not have to report every incident of misconduct by an attorney to the bar association, certain types of attorney misconduct–specifically, certain sanctions or final orders holding the attorney in contempt of court–must be reported to the bar association. Courts must report sanctions and contempt orders to the bar association where the orders or sanctions involve an attorney and:

1. Require the attorney to pay court-ordered sanctions of $1,000 or more. (However, sanctions for failing to make discovery are exempt from this requirement.)

2. Require the attorney to pay civil penalties for misrepresentation, concealment, or certain acts regarding an adoptive child’s status as a member of an Indian tribe, pursuant to Family Code Section 8620.

3. Involve conduct which may warrant disciplinary action by the bar.

4. Involve the modification or reversal of a judgment based on the lawyer’s misconduct, professional negligence or willful misrepresentation of material facts.

Courts must generally notify the attorney when they report the attorney’s conduct to the Bar, although in most cases the attorney should be aware of the issue, because (s)he would have received a copy of the court order sanctioning and/or holding the relevant lawyer in contempt of court.


Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Malpractice (professional negligence) claims are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against an attorney who represented you, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your personal rights and claims.

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