California Legal Ethics: Boalt Research Guide

Introduction

This guide covers print and electronic resources available at the Boalt Law Library for researching the rules governing the conduct of lawyers, as well as opinions, cases and secondary sources covering legal ethics and professional responsibility in California.

For information on ABA rules, consult the Law Library's Research Guide, National Standards for Legal Ethics: Boalt Research Guide.

This guide was adapted from the UCLA Law library's LibGuides Series, California Legal Ethics. We would like to thank the UCLA Law Library for their permission to use this resource.

Unlike most other states, California's current ethics rules follow neither the ABA Model Rules nor the ABA Model Code. While most other states have adopted either the Model Code or Rules to govern attorney conduct, the California Supreme Court has adopted an entirely different set of rules, the California Rules of Professional Conduct. Currently the Rules of Professional Conduct are under review by the State Bar. Information about this multiyear process to update California's standards governing the conduct of lawyers can be found at the Commission for the Revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct homepage.  Follow the Commission's progress by searching the Current Reports from the ABA/BNA Lawyers' Manual on Professional Conduct:

Location and availability in print: KF305.A8 A21

BNA, Manual on Professional Responsibility on-campus or proxy server access required

LexisNexis: BNA;MPC - password required

Westlaw: ABA-BNA - password required

The conduct of California attorneys is also governed by the California Constitution (art. VI, § 9), the State Bar Act (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 6000 et seq.),  state and local ethics opinions and state and local rules of court. The conduct of California judges is governed by the California Code of Judicial Ethics

Created by the state legislature in 1927, the State Bar is a public corporation within the judicial branch of government, serving as an arm of the California Supreme Court. California has a unified, or integrated bar, which means bar membership is mandatory for all attorneys who are licensed to practice law in the state. For more information on the State Bar of California, see The State Bar of California: What Does It Do? How Does It Work?

The California State Bar has the responsibility of regulating the practice of law in California, including admission to the bar and discipline of attorneys. The State Bar is also responsible for enforcing state laws regulating the unlawful practice of law and illegal solicitation of clients (see Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 6125-33, §§ 6150-56).

The disciplinary process in California consists of a series of investigations by the State Bar. If not resolved, the case is eventually forwarded to the State Bar Court, which decides all attorney discipline cases in California. Created in 1988, the State Bar Court is an arm of the California Supreme Court. Its decisions are subject to discretionary (non­mandatory) review by the California Supreme Court.

Ethics opinions are issued by California state and local bar associations to provide guidance on how the ethical rules might apply to theoretical fact situations but are not meant to be binding or dispositive of particular situations. The State Bar Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct, for example, is barred from issuing advisory opinions where a disciplinary action is pending, Formal Opinion 1965-1.

For further reading on the relationships among the national, state, and local ethics rules, see Richard Wydick, Rex Perschbacker, and Debra Lyn Bassett, California Legal Ethics, 4th ed. (2003).

Location & availability in print:  KFC 76.5 A2 W85 2003

Most of the resources in this guide can be found on the California State Bar's Ethics page. This site is the State Bar's "hub for ethics-related resources" and includes links to the California Rules of Professional Conduct, the State Bar Act, and links to other ethics research and information available on the State Bar's website. Researchers may wish to start at this valuable and comprehensive site.  The State Bar also puts out Publication 250, its internal reference to the printed publication of the California Rules of Professional Conduct and The State Bar Act, which also includes relevant constitutional provisions and court rules. 

 

State Statutes &: Rules

The California State Bar Act, California Business & Professions Code §§ 6000 et seq.


Library:

West's Annotated California Codes

 

Location and availability in print:  KFC30.5 .B8 1964 W4

 

Deering's California Codes, Annotated: 

 

Location and availability in print:   KFC30.5.D4 B84

LexisNexis:

CAL;CODE (Deering's)

Westlaw:

CA-ST-ANN database (West's)

Internet:

State Bar Act from Leglnfo; or

 

State Bar Act from California State Bar

California Rules of Professional Conduct. Approved by the California Supreme Court on November 28, 1988; operative May 27, 1989. For the current version of the Rules and any cases construing them, see the Rules volumes and pocket parts of West's (Court Rules) or Deering's Annotated California Codes (Rules of Court).

Library:

West's Annotated California Codes

 

Location and availability in print:  KFC30.5 .R8 1996 W4

 

Deering's California Codes, Annotated:

 

Location and availability in print:  KFC30.5.D4 R84

LexisNexis:

CAL;CODE (Deering's)

Westlaw:

CA-ST-ANN database (West's)

Internet:

Rules of Professional Conduct  from Leglnfo; or

 

Rules of Professional Conduct  from California State Bar

California Rules of Court. Includes rules regulating the admission to practice law in California, State Bar Rules of Procedure, disciplinary proceedings, and specialized rules such as those governing client security funds. California Court Rules are available in the sources listed below as well as in the Rules volumes of the Codes listed above.

1.  California Rules of Court: State, West (Annual).

Location & availability in print: KFC 992 A193 [year]

2.  Code of Judicial Ethics (in the Appendix to the California Rules of Court)

Location & availability in print: KFC 992 A193 [year]

The following sets of state and local court rules are available in the reserve collection at the Patron Services Desk:

3.  Daily Journal. Court Rules: Northern California & Southern California:  Los Angeles: Daily Journal. Multiple volumes (loose/leaf).

Northern California: KFC 992 .A192

Southern California: KFC 992 .A194

4.  Bay Area local court rules, West

KFC992 .A191.

5.   Local court rules published by Metropolitan News-Enterprise for the following Bay Area counties are also shelved at the Patron Services Desk:

Alameda County rules of court

KFC992.A2 A4 1991.

Contra Costa County rules of court

KFC992.A2 C66 1991

Marin County rules of court

KFC992.A2 M3 1991.

San Francisco County rules of court

KFC992.A2 S36 1991.

 

Ethics Opinions

California Compendium on Professional Responsibility. Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct, State Bar of California. San Francisco: The State Bar of California (loose-leaf). Contains the full text of the California Rules of Professional Conduct, the State Bar Act and related California statutes, and ethics opinions from the State Bar, the Legal Ethics Committee of the Bar Association of San Francisco, the San Diego County Bar Association's Ethics Committee and the Committee on Legal Ethics of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.

Location & availability in print: KFC76.5 .A2 A82

ABA/BNA Lawyers' Manual on Professional Conduct (1980-current). This multi¬volume looseleaf covers national, state and local ethics codes, rules, case law, ethics opinions, disciplinary proceedings, legislative action, bar association actions, commentary and analysis. Its bi-weekly Current Reports provides updates "on recent court decisions, ethics opinions, disciplinary actions, and other news, all fully indexed. "

Location and availability in print: KF305.A8 A21

Online access:

BNA, Manual on Professional Responsibility on-campus or proxy server access required

LexisNexis: BNA;MPC - password required

Westlaw: ABA-BNA - password required

 

Online Sources

LexisNexis:

CAL;CAETOP (1991 -)

 

Contains selected California opinions as reported in

 

the National Reporter on Legal Ethics and

 

Professional Responsibility)

Westlaw:

CAETH-EO database (1977 -) Contains California

 

ethics opinions

Internet:

Ethics Opinions from California State Bar (from

 

1965 to present)

 

Opinions of the State Bar Court and of the Supreme Court

California State Bar Court Reporter, Office of the State Bar Court (1990 - Present)

Official source for the opinions of the Review Department, the appellate department of the State Bar Court.  It contains the full text of the published opinions, case summaries and a detailed index, digest, table of cases (including case numbers and subsequent history notations), and a chart which cross-references California disciplinary rules with the ABA Model Code and Model Rules provisions.

Location & availability in print: KFC76.5 .A2 A5 1992

California Supreme Court Cases and California Case Digests

For ethics cases decided by the California Supreme Court prior to the creation of the State Bar Court in 1990, or appealed to the Supreme Court after 1990, see the California case reporters and digests, all of which are located in the Main Reading Room:

California Supreme Court opinions:   

California Reports KFC45 or  

West's California Reporter KFC47 .W4

Case digests provide access to court opinions by subject.

Digests to California Reports:

The following two digests are no longer being published, but have been left on the shelves for researching cases during the time periods they cover.

New California Digest, Bancroft-Whitney, 1850 -[1973?], KFC47.1 N4

California Digest of Official Reports, West, 1974-2003, 3d & 4th series, KFC47.l.C3

Digests to West's California Reporter:

West's California Digest, West Group, 1851-1981, KFC57.W47

West's California Digest, 2d, West Group, 1981 - Present, KFC57 .W47

 

Treatises & Journals - Legal Ethics & Legal Malpractice

Restatement of the Law: The Law Governing Lawyers. American Law Institute, 2000. This project seeks to restate the laws governing lawyers and the practice of law, not only as they are expressed in ethical rules but also in procedural and substantive law (e.g. evidentiary privileges, legal malpractice).

Location & availability in print: KF300 .R469 2000

Hein Online: vol. 1 (sec. 1-93) and vol. 2 (sec. 94-135) - on-campus or proxy server access required

Westlaw: REST-LGOVL -password required

LexisNexis: LITGAT;LAWGV3 (case citations) -password required

LexisNexis: LITGAT;LAWGV2 (rules section) -password required

California Practice Guide. Professional Responsibility. Paul W. Vapnek et al. Encino, CA: The Rutter Group, 1997-. This 2 volume loose-leaf publication contains the State Bar Court proceedings, plus relevant provisions of the State Bar Act and the Rules of Professional Conduct. It also includes key cites to all relevant case law, including state and local bar association opinions.

Location & availability in print: KFC76.5 .P765

Westlaw: TRG-CAPROFR - on-campus or proxy server access required

Legal Ethics in a Nutshell. 3rd. ed. Ronald D. Rotunda & Michael I. Krauss. St. Paul., MN: Thomson/West, 2007. Includes table of cases and index.

Location & availability in print: KF306 .Z9 R668 2007

Professional Responsibility in a Nutshell. 2nd. ed. Robert H. Aronson & Donald T. Weckstein. St. Paul., MN: West Publishing Co., 1991. Includes table of cases, statutes, rules, and citations to secondary authorities.

Location & availability in print: KF306.Z9 A76 1991

Legal Malpractice. 2006 ed. Ronald E. Mallen and Jeffrey M. Smith. St. Paul, MN: West Group, 2005-. This 5 volume set includes bibliographies, a table of cases and an index (in volume 5). Also includes a table of legal malpractice decisions and articles by jurisdiction. Includes sample agreements and letters.

Location & availability in print: KF313 .M292

Westlaw: LMAL - password required

Modern Legal Ethics, Charles W. Wolfram (1986). Comprehensive hornbook, treats many issues of legal ethics

Location & availability in print: KF306 .W59 (Practitioner's Ed., 1363 pages) and KF306 .W591 (Student Ed., 1114 pages)

Legal Ethics: The Lawyer's Deskbook on Professional Responsibility, Ronald D. Rotunda. Multiple appendices; table of cases, tables of codes, rules, and standards; and index

Location & availability in print: KF306 .R68

Foundations of the Law and Ethics of Lawyering (2004). Essays and articles on various aspects of professional responsibility and the practice of law.

Location & availability in print: KF306.A4 F68 2004

The Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics (1987 -). A law review devoted solely to issues of professional ethics. Volumes 5 and 10 contain cumulative indexes to articles by title and author.

Location & availability in print: KBI .G3517 (current, unbound issues only)

HeinOnline: (vol. 1 through one complete vol. behind print publication) -on-campus or proxy server access required

LexisNexis Academic: (selected coverage from 1998 to current) -on-campus or proxy server access required

LexisNexis: LAWREV;GJNLE (Winter 1988 (vol. 11, no. 2) to current) - password required

Westlaw: GEOJLE (selected coverage 1987 vol. 1 to current; full coverage 1994 (vol. 7, no. 3) to current) -password required

Journal site ("Recent Issues" for indexes only; fee-based full text downloads)

 

Additional Sources of Information on Legal Ethics

Tips on using LawCat

Call number searches:

California Ethics: Call number KFC76

ABA, National, and General works: browse call number range KF300 to KF338

Judicial Ethics: KF8779 (works with national or multistate coverage) and KFC76.5 &: KFC980 (works focusing on California law)

Subject heading searches:

Legal ethics --California

Legal ethics -United States

Lawyers --California --Discipline

Lawyers -United States --Discipline

Judicial ethics

 

Other California Legal Ethics Resources

Ethics Hotline:  The California State Bar provides a confidential research service to help lawyers identify and analyze their professional responsibilities. This service is for California Attorneys only (have your Bar ID# ready) at 1-800-2ETHICS (See also State Bar Ethics page)

Hotliner News:  Online Newsletter-The State Bar Ethics Hotliner newsletter highlights new developments in California legal ethics.

Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute, California Legal Ethics Materials

Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute, California Legal Ethics (summary of the law)

 

Citators

Citators are used to find materials that cite to (i. e., rely on as authority) a known item such as a case or statute. The citing materials (including later cases, journal articles, and reference materials) may help you understand the cited material, or help you find authorities that are similar or related to the original cited authority.

Shepard's Professional and Judicial Conduct Citations (1980 to 2002)

Location & availability in print: KF308.A535 S44

Citations to ABA formal and informal Ethics Opinions, Model Rules, and Model Code

Look up a professional conduct or disciplinary rule to locate cases, Ethics Opinions, law review articles, and ALR annotations from 1980 to 2002

Note - the Library discontinued its subscription in 2002; for current citator services, see below

 

Online citator services: There is no coverage of Ethics Opinions in the current online citators; however, online citators allow you to check legal ethics or professional responsibility rules that are codified as statutes, as well as cases and law review articles about legal ethics. Online options include:

• Shepard's on LexisNexis Academic - on-campus or proxy server access required

Generally, only cases and law review articles may be checked via Shepard's on LNA

Click on "Legal" tab and then select "Shepard's Citations" from menu on left; type in citation and click the "Check" button to receive a list of materials that cite your case or article

Westlaw - KeyCite service - password required

LexisNexis - Shepard's service - password required

 

 

 

 

Last edited by Marlene Harmon, 14 September 2010