PLEASE NOTE: Publication for public comment is not, and shall not be, construed as a recommendation or approval by the Board of Trustees of the materials published.
Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 12-0001 (Disclosure of Confidences at Motion for Withdrawal)
The State Bar Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct (COPRAC) is charged with the task of issuing advisory opinions on the ethical propriety of hypothetical attorney conduct. In accordance with Tab 19, Article 2, Section 6(g) (as modified by Tab 12, Title 1, Division 2, Rule 1.10) of the State Bar Board Book, the Committee shall publish proposed formal opinions for public comment.
Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 12-0001 considers: What information may an attorney ethically disclose to the court to explain her need to withdraw from a representation – particularly in the face of an order to submit to the court, in camera or otherwise, the substance of the attorney-client communications leading to the need to withdraw?
The opinion interprets rules 3-100 and 3-700 of the Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of California; and Business and Professions Code sections 6068(b), 6068(e)(1) and 6103.
The opinion digest states: An attorney may disclose to the court only as much information as is reasonably necessary to demonstrate her need to withdraw, and ordinarily it will be sufficient to say only words to the effect that ethical considerations require withdrawal or that there has been an irreconcilable breakdown in the attorney-client relationship. In attempting to demonstrate to the court her need to withdraw, an attorney may not disclose confidential communications with the client, either in open court or in camera, absent an express court order compelling such disclosure. In the face of such a court order, however, and only after exhausting other options, an attorney may disclose confidential communications rather than disobey the court order, but should take reasonable steps to minimize prejudice to the client.
At its May 31, 2013 meeting and in accordance with its Rules of Procedure, the State Bar Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct tentatively approved Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 12 0001 for a 90 day public comment distribution.
Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 12-0001