This page contains selected ethics resources for attorneys on the topics listed below which include statutes, opinions, and articles.
Law firms affected by natural disaster or catastrophic event
Comprehensive Revision to the Rules, operative November 1, 2018
Ethical obligations in representing a marijuana business
Rule Revisions Regarding Post-Conviction Discovery File Retention
Attorneys should consider their ethical obligations if their law practice has been affected or the attorney is forced to close their practice due to a natural disaster or other catastrophic event.
On May 10, 2018, the California Supreme Court issued an order approving the new and amended Rules of Professional Conduct effective Nov. 1, 2018.
As the law pertaining to the legalization of the cultivation, sales, and use of marijuana continues to change, questions arise as to whether a lawyer advising a client on this type of business under state law runs afoul of professional conduct rules given that such activities are illegal under federal law. Attorney should consider their ethical obligations before representing these types of businesses.
California Rule of Professional Conduct 1.16 [Declining or Terminating Representation] and Rule 3.8 [Special Duties of a Prosecutor], are amended effective June 1, 2020. These amendments resulted from legislation signed into law in 2018. Assembly Bill 1987 amended California Penal Code section 1054.9 by expanding the right to access post-conviction discovery materials to include cases where the defendant is convicted of a serious or violent felony resulting in a sentence of 15 years or more. The law also added an obligation on trial counsel in such matters to retain a copy of a former client’s files for the term of the client’s imprisonment. The legislation also requested that the State Bar “study the issue of closed-client file release and retention by defense attorneys and prosecutors in criminal cases.” The Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct studied the issue and recommended amendments to rules 1.16 and 3.8. After approval by the Board of Trustees, the amendments were filed with the Supreme Court. On April 23, 2020, the Court approved the amendments as submitted.
Rule 1.16 addresses an attorney’s duties at the end of the representation and references other Penal Code provisions applicable to releasing client materials. A new sentence has been added to Comment  of the rule that directs defense attorneys to be aware of the file retention duties contained in section Penal Code section 1054.9(g).
Rule 3.8 addresses the special duties of a prosecutor, including the duty to disclose evidence that creates a reasonable likelihood that a person convicted of a crime did not commit that crime. Two new sentences to Comment  have been added that reference the existing obligations regarding the disposition of evidence in criminal matters and compliance with file preservation orders. The addition of a reference to statutes governing the preservation of evidence and to selected case law regarding court-imposed preservation of evidence orders will help ensure prosecutors are aware of these important obligations.