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Ca Commission on Fair Administration of Justice Prosecutorial and Defense Accountability Report 2007

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October 18, 2007
CALIFORNIA COMMISSION ON THE FAIR ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
Report and Recommendations on Professional Responsibility
and Accountability of Prosecutors and Defense Lawyers.

Considering the large number of criminal cases successfully concluded in
California each year, professionally inappropriate behavior by prosecutors or
defense lawyers is not widely prevalent. There is every indication that, overall,
District Attorneys and their staffs, Public Defenders and their staffs, and private
criminal defense lawyers in California provide competent and highly professional
service, meeting the highest ethical standards.
Self congratulation should not blind us, however, to the problem of
accountability where prosecutors and defense lawyers do occasionally go astray.
While appellate courts frequently review criminal convictions to assess claims of
misconduct or incompetence on the part of prosecutors or defense lawyers, their
review of these claims is often limited to determining whether the impact of
misconduct or incompetence requires reversal of a judgment of conviction.
Whether discipline of an attorney is warranted, and what that discipline should be,
is ordinarily left to supervisory personnel in the District Attorney’s or Public

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Defender’s Office, or to the State Bar. The Commission has concluded that there
are important steps which can be taken to increase the effectiveness of this system.
Internal discipline by prosecutors’ or public defenders’ offices necessarily
lacks transparency, because of legal restrictions on disclosure to protect the privacy
of employees. But the lack of public access often means that no track record is
available to identify repeat offenders.
The State Bar is limited by its reliance upon the receipt of reports of
misconduct or incompetence by judges or self-reporting by the offending attorneys.
The Commission has discovered that much is not reported which should be, and
clarification is needed of what should be reported by whom. While not
recommending any statutory changes, the Commission is recommending changes
in Court Rules, the California Code of Judicial Ethics, and the reporting function of
the State Bar to address these shortcomings and increase the accountability and
transparency of the process, without compromising the privacy of individual
attorneys. While there is no public access to complaints or reports to the State Bar
either, unless a disciplinary proceeding is initiated, at least the State Bar can serve
as a collection and preservation point, to assure that a cumulative record is
maintained and preserved.
The Commission asked its researchers to analyze every reported appellate
decision in California, whether published or unpublished, where the Courts

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addressed a claim of prosecutorial misconduct or defense lawyer incompetence for
the ten year period ending in 2006. 1 The result of this research suggests that our
reliance upon the State Bar as the primary disciplinary authority is seriously
hampered by underreporting.
Reporting of Prosecutorial Misconduct.
Professor Cookie Ridolfi of Santa Clara University School of Law
located 2,130 California cases in which claims of prosecutorial misconduct
were raised. Courts concluded that prosecutorial misconduct did occur in
443 of these cases, or 21%. In 390 of these cases, however, the court
concluded the misconduct was harmless error and affirmed the conviction.
In 53 cases, the misconduct resulted in a reversal of the conviction. The
most common forms of misconduct found were failing to disclose
exculpatory evidence and improper argument. Ridolfi, Prosecutorial
Misconduct: A Systemic Review, available on the Commission’s website.

1

Use of the terms “prosecutorial misconduct” and defense lawyer
“incompetence” can be misleading. These terms are so frequently used
in the written opinions of courts that they have become a sort of
shorthand that encompasses a wide variety of professional failings.
Thus, “prosecutorial misconduct” includes conduct that may not be
intentional, and defense lawyer “incompetence” includes deliberate
misconduct. The use of these terms in this report does not imply any
judgment that one is more or less culpable than the other. Both have
been identified among the leading causes of wrongful convictions. A
study of the first 74 DNA exonerations in the United States found that
prosecutorial misconduct was a factor in 45% of the cases, and defense
lawyer incompetence was a factor in 32% of the cases. Frequently, both
factors were found in the same case. Scheck, Neufeld & Dwyer, Actual
Innocence, p.365 (New American Library, 2003).

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Pursuant to Section 6086.7(a)(2), 2 there should have been a report
made to the State Bar in each of the 53 cases in which prosecutorial
misconduct resulted in a reversal in the past ten years.
In a follow-up to Professor Ridolfi’s research, Chief Trial Counsel
Scott Drexel of the State Bar testified that, after checking half of these 53
cases to determine whether any of them resulted in a report to the State Bar,
he had yet to find a single example of a report by a court of misconduct
resulting in reversal of a conviction. 3 Mr. Drexel attributes this to lack of
judicial familiarity with the requirements of Section 6086.7. He informed
the Commission that each year the State Bar sends out a letter reminding
judges of the statutory requirements. A spate of reporting follows, 4 but then
2

California Business and Professions Code Section 6086.7(a)(2)provides:
“A court shall notify the State Bar of any of the following:
. . .(2) Whenever a modification or reversal of a judgment in a
judicial proceeding is based in whole or in part on the misconduct,
incompetent representation, or willful misrepresentation of an
attorney.”

3

This is not to suggest that prosecutors are never disciplined for misconduct by the State Bar. In February,
2006, the San Jose Mercury News reported that after reviewing 1,464 lawyer discipline cases published in
the California Bar Journal between 2001 and 2005, they found just one case in which disciplinary action
was taken against a prosecutor for misconduct. Zapler, State Bar Ignores Errant Lawyers, San Jose
Mercury News, Feb. 12, 2006. Scott Drexel, Chief Trial Counsel for the California State Bar, responded by
citing three 2005 cases in which prosecutors were disciplined, and another in which discipline was pending.
Three of the cases involved failure to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense. Drexel,
Headlines Aside, State Bar Does Discipline Bad Lawyers, San Jose Mercury News, Feb. 19, 2006. It is not
known whether these disciplinary proceedings were initiated by judicial reports, attorney self-reporting, or
complaints from other sources.
4

The 2006 Report on the State Bar of California Discipline System, p. 5, indicates that in 2006, the Bar
received 134 reports from judges, and 83 self-reports by attorneys. These judicial reports, however, include
all “reportable actions” under Calif. Bus.&Prof. Code Sections 6086.7 and 6068(a). In addition to the
reversal or modification of judgments due to misconduct of an attorney, judges are required to report all
findings of contempt by lawyers, all judicial sanctions against lawyers, and all civil penalties and
judgments against lawyers for fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, misrepresentation or gross negligence in a

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it drops off. He suggested a reminder from the Chief Justice might yield
better results. It is also possible that the current lack of reporting is
attributable to confusion as to who has the actual duty to report when a
judgment is reversed: the trial judge who rendered the judgment? The judge
who authored the reversing opinion? The Presiding Judge of the Court of
Appeal that rendered the reversing judgment? All of the judges who
concurred in the reversing judgment? It may be that everyone’s business
becomes nobody’s business. Section 6086.7 should be clarified by a Court
Rule clearly defining which judge of the court has the obligation to report to
the State Bar.
Limiting the mandatory reporting requirement to cases that result in a
modification or reversal of a judgment appears to make little sense. Whether
a judgment is reversed depends upon factors such as the strength of other
evidence which may have nothing to do with the egregiousness of the
misconduct or incompetence. The research conducted for the Commission
by Professor Ridolfi strongly confirms this. In 443 cases in which a claim of
prosecutorial misconduct was sustained, only 53 cases (12%) resulted in a
reversal of the judgment. In 88% of the cases, the error was deemed

professional capacity. Self-reports by attorneys are also required in numerous other categories besides
reversal or modification of a judgment due to misconduct. They must report the filing of malpractice
lawsuits, judgments in specified civil actions, indictments or convictions, and the imposition of sanctions or
discipline.

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harmless. She identifies eight examples in which nearly identical conduct
by a prosecutor led to reversal in one reported decision, while in a different
reported decision the judgment was affirmed because the identical
misconduct was deemed “harmless error.” 5
Reporting of Defense Lawyer Incompetence.
Professor Larry Benner of Cal Western Law School located approximately
2500 California cases in which claims of ineffective counsel were raised.
Courts concluded that counsel’s performance fell below the constitutionally
required minimum in 121 of these cases, or 4%. In 17 of these cases, the
deficient performance was found to be harmless; 104 of the cases resulted in
a reversal of the judgment. The most common forms of ineffective
assistance were failure to investigate (44%) and lack of knowledge of the
law (32%). 6
With respect to criminal defense lawyers, the problem is more
complex than with prosecutors. Defense representation may be supplied by
a public defender’s office, a contract lawyer who agrees to supply public
defender services, a private lawyer appointed by the court, or a lawyer
retained by the defendant. There does not appear to be reliable data available
to indicate what proportion of criminal defendants are represented by each of
5

Ridolfi, Preliminary Report at Appendix D.
Benner, Systemic Factors Affecting the Quality of Criminal Defense Representation, Preliminary Report
and Supplemental Report, both available on the Commission’s website, www.ccfaj.org.

6

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these alternative means, but the State Bar Guidelines on Indigent Defense
Services Delivery Systems (2006) notes the vast preponderance of persons
charged with criminal offenses in California are indigent. Nationally, it is
estimated that 60 to 90% of all criminal cases involve indigent defendants.
Based on his survey data, Professor Benner estimates that 85% of California
criminal defendants are indigent. While contractors, administrators of
assigned counsel systems and presiding judges may have varying practices
or procedures to address complaints of misconduct or incompetence, there is
simply no mechanism in place for discipline of privately retained lawyers. In
his research for the Commission, Professor Benner examined all 121
California cases in which claims of ineffective assistance of counsel were
sustained during the ten year period ending in 2006. In 20% of the cases, the
identity of the lawyer could not be determined; 32% were privately retained,
33% were public defenders, and 15% were assigned counsel. Thus, it is clear
that privately retained lawyers are vastly overrepresented in sustained claims
of ineffective assistance of counsel. The only mechanism available to
identify them, and discipline them when appropriate, is the State Bar.
Judicial Reluctance.
Part of the problem of reliance on judges to report lawyer misconduct
is a deep-seated reluctance on the part of trial judges to “blow the whistle”

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on lawyers who appear before them. Judges apparently proceed on the
assumption that Canon 3D(2) 7 of the California Code of Judicial Ethics
takes precedence over Business and Professions Code Section 6086.7.
Canon 3D(2) provides that whenever a judge has personal knowledge that a
lawyer has violated any provision of the Rules of Professional Conduct, the
judge shall take “appropriate action.” Even though Business and Professions
Code Section 6086.7 imposes additional reporting requirements, California
trial judges apparently construe their obligation to report misconduct or
incompetence to the State Bar as limited to cases in which they consider
such reporting “appropriate.” Apparently, California trial judges rarely
consider it appropriate to report misconduct or incompetence to the State
Bar, and even where misconduct or incompetence does result in a reversal,
appellate judges fail to report the attorney to the State Bar.
The Commission considered proposing an expansion of Business and
Professions Code Section 6086.7 to require a judicial report of any finding
of misconduct by a prosecutor or defense lawyer, whether it resulted in
modification or reversal of the judgment or not. We were persuaded that a
modification of the ethical canons in the Code of Judicial Responsibility,
7

Canon 3D(2) provides: “(2) Whenever a judge has personal knowledge that a lawyer
has violated any provision of the Rules of Professional Conduct, the judge shall take
appropriate corrective action.”

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and a clarification by Rule of Court as to who has the duty to report under
Business & Professions Code Section 6086.7, would be more effective.
First, we were concerned that judges who are now reluctant to report could
avoid the requirement by failing to make formal “findings” of misconduct.
Second, there was no reason to expect that amending the statute would lead
to increased reporting. If judges are not reporting now even when there is a
modification or reversal of the judgment, it is not likely they would increase
their reporting if the requirement of modification or reversal of the judgment
were eliminated. Finally, if judges are more inclined to use Canon 3D as
their guide, the problem should be addressed directly in Canon 3D by
defining the circumstances where a report to the State Bar should be made.
This change in the Canons of Judicial Ethics should be accompanied by
increased training and education of judges with respect to their reporting
obligations. To the extent their reluctance to report attorneys is based on a
lack of confidence in the State Bar disciplinary process to sort out serious
offenders from those who may be guilty of a momentary lapse, judicial
ethics training should include broad exposure to how the State Bar
disciplinary process works. NOT every report will lead to an investigation,
and NOT every investigation will lead to discipline, but the State Bar is the

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most appropriate forum to exercise discretion, and the exercise of that
discretion must be informed by a cumulative track record.
Internal Discipline.
Some District Attorneys objected that discipline of prosecutors should
be left to the internal discipline mechanism in each individual District
Attorney’s office. While the vast majority of California District Attorneys
closely supervise their deputies and impose appropriate discipline when
misconduct is called to their attention, one consequence of the independence
of each of California’s fifty-eight district attorney offices, and the civil
service protection for many of their employees, is a complete lack of
transparency of internal discipline procedures. The Commission’s attempt,
through Prof. Laurie Levenson, 8 to survey prosecutor’s offices to ascertain
how complaints of misconduct are handled met with substantial resistance at
first. Her efforts are continuing, and there are hopeful signs the level of
cooperation in the Commission’s research will improve. The information
collected suggests many offices lack formal procedures for tracking and
investigating complaints, with no uniform policy. Professor Levenson
concludes:

8

Levenson, Preliminary Report, Study of California District Attorney Offices, available on the
Commission’s Website.

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One major gap in the disciplinary system is the decision by DA
offices not to keep a record of complaints of misconduct. Therefore, it
is very difficult to track problem DA’s other than by reputation of that
individual in a given office.
Reliance upon informal internal procedures has three consequences. First,
turnover in supervisory personnel will result in no continuing “track record”
for subordinate employees even within the office. Second, deputies who are
fired or voluntarily leave the office are free to engage in private practice
while their record of prior misconduct remains invisible and inaccessible.
Third, even where a report is made to the State Bar because misconduct
resulted in a reversal of judgment, or discipline is contemplated for some
other reason, the State Bar will have no access to any record of prior
discipline to inform its exercise of discretion to undertake an investigation or
initiate disciplinary proceedings.
Repeat Offenders.
The lack of a report to the State Bar in these cases means there simply
is no “track record” of an offending attorney’s history anywhere. Analysis
of California cases in which a court made a finding of prosecutorial
misconduct suggests that the phenomenon of repeat offenders is significant.
The identify of the prosecutor was ascertainable in only 347 of 443 such

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cases in the ten year period from January 1, 1997 to December 31, 2006.
Thirty repeat offenders were identified, including two who committed
misconduct in three different cases. Two-thirds of the repeat offenders
committed the exact same conduct in multiple trials. Only one had ever
been subjected to State Bar discipline – not for misconduct, but for noncompliance with MCLE requirements. 9 A disturbing aspect of the “repeat
offender” data is that several of the counties which appear to have a
disproportionately high rate of cases in which claims of prosecutorial
misconduct were sustained, also had multiple cases of repeat offenders. The
Commission was unable to procure comparable data on the prevalence of
repeat offenders among defense lawyers, but anecdotal evidence suggests
repeated instances of incompetent representation even in California death
penalty cases. 10

9

Ridolfi, Prosecutorial Misconduct: A Systemic Review, available on the Commission’s Website.
In the case of In Re Jones, 13 Cal.4th 552 (1996), the California Supreme Court reversed both the death
sentence and conviction of Troy Lee Jones because he was incompetently represented by his trial attorney.
In the case of Stankewitz v. Woodford, 365 F.3d 706 (9th Cir. 2003), the United States Court of Appeals
reversed the denial of a writ of habeas corpus and remanded for an evidentiary hearing on the claim of
Douglas Stankewitz that he was incompetently represented by the same attorney who represented Troy Lee
Jones in the penalty phase of his death penalty trial. Stankewitz is the longest tenant of California’s death
row, where he has been since October of 1978. Wilbur Jennings, who has been on death row for 19 years,
is also asserting a claim of incompetent representation by the same attorney who represented Jones and
Stankewitz in a pending habeas corpus proceeding.
10

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Encouraging Reporting by Judges.
From a practical standpoint, the biggest obstacle to utilizing
mandatory reporting to the State Bar to compile a “track record” for claims
of misconduct or incompetence is the prevailing attitude of judges.
Expanding the mandatory reporting requirement, however, would present a
particular problem for California trial judges. As described in the testimony
of Judge Steven Van Sicklen, Supervising Judge of the Criminal Courts in
Los Angeles County:
To require a Bench Officer to report any finding of incompetence or
misconduct places a potential chilling effect on the Court, adds a
potential irrelevant consequence to the fact finding process and leaves
no discretion with regard to the degree of the finding. In other words
does the misconduct have to be really serious or the incompetence
something as innocuous as failing to ask a question a Judge might
have asked if he or she were trying the case? Would every Wheeler
violation have to be reported? Would the failure to call every
potential witness in a case amount to reportable misconduct? Would
this change generate unnecessary motions, or witness[es] in cases
because an attorney is worried about what the Judge might think?

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Rather than leaving it up to each individual judge to determine which forms
of misconduct or incompetence are serious enough to merit a report to the
State Bar, the Commission concluded that Canon 3D should itself define
what kinds of misconduct are so serious that a report to the State Bar and the
attorney’s supervisor would ordinarily be appropriate. While the
Commission has limited its identification of examples of egregious conduct
to criminal cases, these examples might be equally egregious in civil cases,
and there may be additional examples applicable to civil cases. The Judicial
Council may wish to address that question, but the Commission felt it was
beyond its purview. Every report of such misconduct or incompetence may
not result in discipline, or even in an investigation, but the complaints would
be available to identify repeat offenders. A “track record” of all reports with
respect to every offending attorney would be maintained.
The Commission concluded it would also be useful to maintain a
county-wide track record, so particular offices that may have a high rate of
prosecutorial misconduct or defense lawyer incompetence can be identified.
The need for additional training, stronger internal discipline mechanisms, or
greater public accountability can thus be facilitated. Commission research
suggests that some California counties may have a disproportionately high
number of convictions being reversed because of judicial findings of

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prosecutorial misconduct, and in some cases, they appear to be the same
counties that have a “repeat offender” problem of prosecutors responsible
for multiple findings of misconduct. We believe that this objective can be
achieved by simply reformulating the data collected by the State Bar
Disciplinary System regarding reports of misconduct.
Identifying Egregious Misconduct.
The task of identifying “egregious misconduct” that should be
reported to the State Bar should not be difficult. There are certainly some
forms of misconduct which all reasonable lawyers and judges would agree
are serious, and should give rise to heightened concern and scrutiny. This is
not to suggest that other forms of misconduct may not be equally serious,
and that judges should only find a report to the State Bar appropriate in the
defined circumstances. But the discretion of judges to determine what
“corrective action” is “appropriate” should be guided by a collective
judgment of the circumstances that would call for a report to the State Bar.
The Commission agreed that the following forms of misconduct should be
encompassed by such a recommendation:

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1. Lying to a Court.
A deliberate misrepresentation of law or fact to a Court should be reported.
Current Rule 5-200(B) provides that a member “shall not seek to mislead the
judge, judicial officer, or jury by an artifice or false statement of law” in
presenting a matter to a tribunal. Recommended reporting should be limited
to deliberate violations of Rule 5-200(B), but “artifice” should not be
included. “Artifice” is an overly broad term that, according to the MerriamWebster dictionary, includes “clever or artful skill.” A specific requirement
that requires reporting of any willful misrepresentation of law or fact to a
court is appropriate. The current reporting requirement includes not only
misconduct and incompetence, but any willful misrepresentation when it
results in a modification or reversal of a judgment. This change would
eliminate the necessity of a modification or reversal of a judgment based
upon the willful misrepresentation before reporting to the State Bar.
2. Appearing in a judicial proceeding while under the influence of illicit
drugs or alcohol.
Drug or alcohol intoxication would certainly qualify as “failing to perform
legal services with competence,” as prohibited by Rule 3-110, but we do not
want to subject every claim of incompetence to mandatory reporting.
Reporting could be limited to incompetence caused by intoxication, but even

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a lawyer whose drunkenness causes a delay in a trial should be reported,
whether it produces a failure to perform with competence or not. A specific
rule that requires reporting of a lawyer who appears in court under the
influence of illicit drugs or alcohol is appropriate. Interestingly, Judge Van
Sicklen used the example of intoxication in suggesting that “appropriate
action” means either discussing the matter with the attorney or reporting the
matter to the State Bar. If no report is made, the same attorney could be
repeatedly showing up drunk before a number of judges, none of whom are
even aware of prior repeated transgressions.
Reporting an intoxicated attorney to the State Bar will often lead to
intervention, and referral to the State Bar’s Lawyer Assistance Program,
preventing future damage to clients and facilitating treatment of the
offending attorney. If no report is made, however, no track record of the
attorney’s repeated lapses will be available.
3. Engaging in willful unlawful discrimination in a judicial proceeding.
Judge Van Sicklen asked whether every Wheeler 11 violation should be
reported to the State Bar. We conclude that it should. A Wheeler violation
occurs when a judge finds a pattern of discrimination requires an
11

People v. Wheeler, 22 Cal.3d 258 (1978) requires a lawyer to provide an explanation when peremptory
challenges demonstrate systematic exclusion of a cognizable group. Cognizable groups include race,
religion, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. If the explanation is not satisfactory, the jury panel must
be excused. A similar requirement is imposed by the U.S. Constitution. Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79
(1986). If improper discrimination is utilized in a deliberate effort to cause discharge of the jury panel,
additional sanctions may be imposed. People v. Willis, 27 Cal.4th 811 (2002).

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explanation, and the explanation does not dispel the appearance of deliberate
racial discrimination. It ordinarily requires dismissing the jury panel and
starting over. The more appropriate question may be why shouldn’t every
Wheeler violation be reported to the State Bar, whether by the prosecutor or
the defense lawyer? There is currently no specific Rule of Professional
Conduct that addresses improper discrimination in court. 12 But Section 231
of the California Code of Civil Procedure provides:
231.5. A party may not use a peremptory challenge to remove a
prospective juror on the basis of an assumption that the prospective
juror is biased merely because of his or her race, color, religion,
sex, national origin, sexual orientation, or similar grounds.
Commissioners Jim Fox and Greg Totten believe that not every Wheeler
violation necessarily includes willful, unlawful discrimination. The
Commission majority, however, concludes that dismissal of the jury panel
and the resulting mistrial caused by the improper use of a peremptory
challenge at least creates a presumption of unlawful discrimination that
should be called to the attention of the State Bar.

12

Rule 2-400 prohibits discriminatory conduct in the management or operation of a law practice, but
applies only to employment decisions and accepting or terminating representation of a client.

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4. Willful Brady violations.
A “Brady violation” occurs when a prosecutor withholds or suppresses
exculpatory evidence that is material to issues of guilt or punishment. It is a
violation of the defendant’s constitutional right to due process of law. Brady
v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). Exculpatory evidence includes evidence
to impeach the credibility of witnesses. Brady violations can occur even
where the exculpatory evidence was never delivered to the prosecutor by the
police, however. Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972). Thus,
requiring the reporting of every Brady violation would be too broad.
Reporting every violation of Rule 5-220 of the California Rules of
Professional Conduct might also be too broad, since it simply provides, “A
member shall not suppress any evidence that the member or the member’s
client has a legal obligation to reveal or produce.” We do not want to make
every discovery violation subject to reporting, only deliberate, bad faith
violations of a constitutional duty. By limiting the recommended reporting
requirement to bad faith violations that are deliberate, we address a narrow
category of the most egregious Brady violations, where the prosecutor is
aware of exculpatory evidence and deliberately suppresses it.

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5. Willful presentation of material perjured testimony.
There are likely to be very few cases where a judge can conclude that a
lawyer was aware that testimony he or she presented was perjurious. But
such situations do occur, and reasonable lawyers and judges would agree
this is among the most serious forms of misconduct imaginable, especially in
criminal cases. A defense lawyer who conforms to the ethical requirements
regarding the presentation of the testimony of the accused would not be
willfully presenting perjured testimony even if he knows his client is lying,
because the accused has a constitutional right to testify over the objection of
his attorney.
6. Willful unlawful disclosure of victim or witness information.
The California Penal Code includes very specific limitations on the
disclosure of the name or address of the victim of a sex offense (California
Penal Code Section 293) and the addresses or telephone numbers of victims
and witnesses revealed in the course of pre-trial discovery (California Penal
Code Section 1054.2). Willful violation of Section 1054.2 by an attorney is
a misdemeanor. Whether an attorney is charged with a misdemeanor or not,
a willful violation of these provisions should be reported to the State Bar.

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7. Failure to Properly Identify Oneself in Interviewing a Victim or Witness.
The California Penal Code requires that prosecutors, defense lawyers and
their investigators clearly identify themselves, identify the full name of the
agency which employs them, and identify whether they represent the
prosecution or defense before interviewing victims and witnesses. If the
interview is in person a business card or official identification must be
presented. California Penal Code, Section 1054.8. These provisions offer
important protection to victims and witnesses. A failure to comply with
these requirements should be reported to the State Bar.
Reporting Misconduct or Incompetence to Supervisors.
The California Public Defenders Association suggests that if there is
to be a duty to report misconduct, it should also be required that notice go to
the head of the prosecutor or public defender office or the contractor of
defender services or the administrator of an assigned counsel program, or the
presiding judge who controls appointment of individual attorneys. That can
be easily accomplished by including such a requirement in the Rule of Court
defining which judge has the mandatory duty to report.
Self Reporting by Lawyers.
If the self reporting requirements of California Business and
Professions Code Section 6068(o) were fully complied with, a great deal

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more of the unreported misconduct and incompetence of lawyers would
come to the attention of the State Bar. Section 6068(o) provides that every
California lawyer has a duty:
(o) To report to the agency charged with attorney discipline, in
writing, within 30 days of the time the attorney has knowledge of any
of the following:
(1) The filing of three or more lawsuits in a 12-month period
against the attorney for malpractice or other wrongful conduct
committed in a professional capacity.
(2) The entry of judgment against the attorney in a civil action
for fraud, misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, or gross
negligence committed in a professional capacity.
(3) The imposition of judicial sanctions against the attorney,
except for sanctions for failure to make discovery or monetary
sanctions of less than one thousand dollars ($1,000).
(4) The bringing of an indictment or information charging a felony
against the attorney.
(5) The conviction of the attorney, including any verdict of
guilty, or plea of guilty or no contest, of a felony, or a
misdemeanor committed in the course of the practice of law, or in a
manner in which a client of the attorney was the victim, or a
necessary element of which, as determined by the statutory or common
law definition of the misdemeanor, involves improper conduct of an
attorney, including dishonesty or other moral turpitude, or an
attempt or a conspiracy or solicitation of another to commit a felony
or a misdemeanor of that type.
(6) The imposition of discipline against the attorney by a
professional or occupational disciplinary agency or licensing board,
whether in California or elsewhere.
(7) Reversal of judgment in a proceeding based in whole or in part
upon misconduct, grossly incompetent representation, or willful
misrepresentation by an attorney.
(8) As used in this subdivision, "against the attorney" includes
claims and proceedings against any firm of attorneys for the practice
of law in which the attorney was a partner at the time of the
conduct complained of and any law corporation in which the attorney
was a shareholder at the time of the conduct complained of unless the
matter has to the attorney's knowledge already been reported by the
law firm or corporation.
(9) The State Bar may develop a prescribed form for the making of
reports required by this section, usage of which it may require by
rule or regulation.

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(10) This subdivision is only intended to provide that the failure
to report as required herein may serve as a basis of discipline.

Although it is limited to a reversal of judgment, as opposed to “a
modification or reversal,” Section 6068(o)(7) is roughly comparable to the
judicial reporting requirement in Section 6086.7(a)(2). Thus, even if judges
are underreporting, the attorneys themselves should be reporting cases in
which misconduct or incompetence has led to reversal of a judgment. The
lack of self reporting may be attributable to the lack of enforcement of the
self-reporting requirement. Instead of operating as a “fail-safe” mechanism
to require reporting by two separate, independent sources, the self reporting
requirement is widely ignored, assuring that even repeat offenders
completely escape any scrutiny by the bar.
While the Commission does not offer any recommendation to
change the self-reporting requirement, it believes that many California
attorneys are simply unaware that this requirement exists. Continuing legal
education programs dealing with ethics, which are mandatory for California
attorneys, should focus attention on this requirement. And the State Bar
should examine compliance with self-reporting requirements in exercising
its discretion whether discipline is appropriate for misconduct or
incompetence, as well as basing discipline on the failure to self-report itself
when appropriate.

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RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE COMMISSION
The Commission offers four recommendations addressed to the rule-making
authority of the California Judicial Council and the State Bar of California.
In addition, the Commission recommends enhanced training in ethics for
California prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges, to familiarize them with
the requirements for reporting and self-reporting of misconduct and
incompetence, and the consequences of such reports.

1. The Commission recommends no change in the statutory language of
Business & Professions Code Section 6086.7:
6086.7. (a) A court shall notify the State Bar of any of the
following:
(1) A final order of contempt imposed against an attorney that may
involve grounds warranting discipline under this chapter. The court
entering the final order shall transmit to the State Bar a copy of
the relevant minutes, final order, and transcript, if one exists.
(2) Whenever a modification or reversal of a judgment in a
judicial proceeding is based in whole or in part on the misconduct,
incompetent representation, or willful misrepresentation of an
attorney.
(3) The imposition of any judicial sanctions against an attorney,
except sanctions for failure to make discovery or monetary sanctions

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of less than one thousand dollars ($1,000).
(4) The imposition of any civil penalty upon an attorney pursuant
to Section 8620 of the Family Code.
(b) In the event of a notification made under subdivision (a) the
court shall also notify the attorney involved that the matter has
been referred to the State Bar.
(c) The State Bar shall investigate any matter reported under this
section as to the appropriateness of initiating disciplinary action
against the attorney.

2. The Commission recommends the adoption of the following
California Rule of Court:
When notification of the State Bar is required of a court pursuant
to California Business and Professions Code Section 6086.7(a), if
the order of contempt, modification or reversal of judgment,
imposition of judicial sanctions or imposition of a civil penalty is
signed by a Superior Court judge or magistrate, that judge or
magistrate shall notify the State Bar. Modification of a judgment
includes the vacation of a judgment in granting an Extraordinary
Writ. If the order of contempt, modification or reversal of
judgment, imposition of judicial sanctions or imposition of a civil

25

penalty is by the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court, the
author of the Court’s order or opinion shall notify the State Bar.
The report to the State Bar shall include the State Bar member’s
full name, and State Bar number, if known. When notifying the
attorney involved pursuant to California Business and Professions
Code Section 6086.7(b), the judge, magistrate or Justice identified
in this Rule shall also notify the attorney’s supervisor, if known.

3. The Commission recommends the following changes in Canon 3D of
the California Code of Judicial Ethics (Changes indicated in bold):
D. Disciplinary Responsibilities
(1) Whenever a judge has reliable information that another judge has
violated any provision of the Code of Judicial Ethics, the judge shall
take or initiate appropriate corrective action, which may include
reporting the violation to the appropriate authority.
(2) Whenever a judge has personal knowledge that a lawyer has
violated any provision of the Rules of Professional Conduct, or
makes a finding that such violation has occurred, the judge shall
take appropriate corrective action.

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Appropriate corrective action should include a prompt report to
the State Bar and to the attorney’s supervisor, if known, where an
attorney in a criminal proceeding has engaged in egregious
misconduct, including but not limited to:
a. A willful misrepresentation of law or fact to a Court;
b. Appearing in a judicial proceeding while intoxicated;
c. Engaging in willful unlawful discrimination in a judicial
proceeding;
d. Willfully and in bad faith withholding or suppressing
exculpatory evidence (including impeachment evidence) which
he or she is constitutionally obligated to disclose.
e. Willful presentation of perjured testimony.
f. Willful unlawful disclosure of victim or witness information.
g. Failure to properly identify oneself in interviewing victims or
witnesses.
Any doubt whether misconduct is egregious should be resolved in
favor of reporting the misconduct.
(3) A judge who is charged by prosecutorial complaint, information,
or indictment or convicted of a crime in the United States, other than
one that would be considered a misdemeanor not involving moral

27

turpitude or an infraction under California law, but including all
misdemeanors involving violence (including assaults), the use or
possession of controlled substances, the misuse of prescriptions, or the
personal use or furnishing of alcohol, shall promptly and in writing
report that fact to the Commission on Judicial Performance.
(4) A prompt report means as soon as practicable, and in no event
more than thirty days after knowledge is acquired or a finding is
made.

4. The Commission recommends that the State Bar include, in its
annual report on the State Bar of California Discipline System, the
number of Reportable Actions received from Courts pursuant to each of
the four categories in Business and Professions Code Section 6068.7(a),
and each of the six categories in Canon 3D(2) of the California Code of
Judicial Ethics. In addition, the Report should indicate the number of
Reportable Actions related to the conduct of prosecutors and defense
lawyers by County. Defense lawyer data should be reported to
distinguish public defenders, contract defenders, appointed lawyers,
and privately retained lawyers. Prosecutorial data should be reported
to distinguish district attorneys and city attorneys.

28

5. The Commission recommends that law school courses in legal ethics
and continuing education programs in legal ethics for prosecutors,
defense lawyers and judges include familiarity with the obligations to
report misconduct and incompetent representation by lawyers, and the
obligation of lawyers to self-report, to the California State Bar, as well
as familiarity with the consequences of such reports with respect to the
State Bar’s investigatory and disciplinary authority.

Respectfully submitted,
California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice:
John K. Van de Kamp, Chair
Jon Streeter, Vice Chair
Diane Bellas, Alameda County Public Defender
Harold O. Boscovich, Jr., Danville
Chief William Bratton, Los Angeles Police Department
Jerry Brown, California Attorney General
Ron Cottingham, Peace Officers’ Research Association of California
Glen Craig, Sacramento
Chief Pete Dunbar, Pleasant Hill Police Department

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Jim Fox, San Mateo County District Attorney*
Rabbi Allen Freehling, Los Angeles
Michael Hersek, California State Public Defender
Sheriff Curtis Hill, San Benito County
Prof. Bill Hing, University of California at Davis
Michael P. Judge, Los Angeles County Public Defender
George Kennedy, Santa Clara County District Attorney
Michael Laurence, Habeas Corpus Resource Center
Alejandro Mayorkas, Los Angeles
Judge John Moulds, Sacramento
Prof. Cookie Ridolfi, Santa Clara University School of Law
Douglas Ring, Santa Monica
Greg Totten, Ventura County District Attorney**

Gerald F. Uelmen, Executive Director
Chris Boscia, Executive Assistant
California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice
900 Lafayette St., Suite 608, Santa Clara, California 95050
Telephone 408-554-5002; FAX 408-554-5026
Website: http://www.ccfaj.org.

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*Commissioner Jim Fox dissents only from the recommendation to include
all Wheeler violations within “Engaging in willful unlawful racial
discrimination” on the list of examples of egregious misconduct in the
Commission’s proposed Canon 3D (D)(2)(c).
**Commissioner Greg Totten dissents from the recommendation of
amendments to Canon 3D in recommendation number 3, and to the inclusion
of such data in the State Bar report referred to in recommendation 4, on the
basis of his explanation in the attached letter.

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