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PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE: Your Professionalism Committee at Work

Posted By Alison P. Buchanan, Monday, July 6, 2015

by Alison Buchanan
2015 Chair, SCCBA Professionalism Committee
Shareholder, Hoge Fenton Jones & Appel


The Santa Clara County Bar Association’s Professionalism Committee is charged with overseeing the SCCBA’s Center for Ethics & Professionalism, maintaining the SCCBA’s Code of Professionalism, reviewing and commenting on proposed State Bar formal ethics opinions, maintaining the Professionalism Forum & Blog, developing continuing legal education programs for civility and professionalism, and interacting with the local bench to ensure and improve civility and professionalism in the courtroom.  The Committee does important work and touches on issues that impact every area of practice.


As the 2015 Chair of the Professionalism Committee for the Santa Clara County Bar Association, I am pleased to report that the Professionalism Committee has had a productive year thus far.  We have undertaken several significant projects, and have also identified a few new exciting projects for the future.  They include:

  • Revisions to the SCCBA’s Code of Professionalism:  For many years, the SCCBA’s Code of Professionalism has provided guidance to our county’s lawyers and judges and has served as a model for many other courts and jurisdictions.  The SCCBA last updated the Code of Professionalism in 2007.  In anticipation of republishing the Code, it is time for us to evaluate whether any revisions are warranted.  Members of the Professionalism Committee and the bench, including Judges Julie Emede, Judge James Towery, Judge Brian Walsh, Lori Pegg, and former SCCBA President Clark Stone, have graciously agreed to review the Code of Professionalism for possible updates, and to ensure that the Code still reflects our legal community’s collective attitudes and values.  The Committee invites and encourages SCCBA members to submit comments and proposed revisions to the Code. 
  • State Bar’s Professional Rules Revision Commission: The Professionalism Committee is following closely (and will provide feedback regarding) the work and progress of the State Bar’s Second Commission for the Revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct.  As you know, last summer the California Supreme Court returned the prior Rules Revision Commission’s final package of sixty-seven revised rules, essentially abandoning the package of proposed revised rules. The Supreme Court instructed that the revised rules set minimum disciplinary standards only, and not include aspirational considerations.  The Supreme Court directed that a Second Commission be appointed and that the Second Commission complete its work by March 2017.  The State Bar’s website includes helpful information regarding public participation it the rules revision process and, specifically, the State Bar encourages members to interact with the Second Commission for the Revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
  • Should SCCBA Issue Formal Ethics Opinions?:  Less than a handful of county bar associations in California publish formal ethics opinions.  The SCCBA is not one of them, but should we be?  In the coming months, the SCCBA’s Professionalism Committee will appoint a small task force to evaluate the following questions: (1) should the SCCBA publish formal ethics opinions?; and (2) if so, what should that look like, logistically?  We are interested in your comments and feedback on this issue, so please feel free to communicate your thoughts to the SCCBA.

In addition, the State Bar’s Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct (COPRAC) has issued two tentatively approved formal ethics opinions for the 90-day public comment period.  First, COPRAC has tentatively approved Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 13-0005 for a 90-day public comment distribution.  The Opinion considers what duty a lawyer owes to current and former clients to refrain from disclosing potentially embarrassing or detrimental information about the client, including publicly available information the lawyer learned during the representation or relating to the representation.  The public comment period expires August 27, 2015, at 5:00 p.m.  Second, in June, COPRAC tentatively approved Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 12‑0007 for a 90-day public comment distribution.  This Opinion considers the ethical limitations on the statements the attorney may make to third parties when an attorney is engaged in negotiations on behalf of a client (including statements that may be considered “puffing” or posturing).  The public comment period expires September23, 2015, at 5:00 p.m.  For more information about these Opinions and how to submit comments, go to the State Bar’s public comments page.


This is just a small sampling of what the Professionalism Committee has been working on this year.  Hopefully, these items pique your interest and bolster your enthusiasm for the Committee’s work.   There are many ways you can ensure we maintain those high standards of professionalism for which our legal community known.   If you are interested in joining the Professionalism Committee, or if you are interested in any of the projects we are working on, please feel free to reach out to us.



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When lawyers break the law

Posted By Administration, Monday, July 6, 2015

One longtime San Diego attorney laundered his client’s medical marijuana profits. A second is accused of aiding a global laundering operation with ties to drug traffickers.

A third is awaiting sentencing for stealing from his clients. A fourth got 12 years in prison for helping run a massive mortgage scam.

The prosecutions, all in San Diego federal court, are recent examples of lawyers accused of not only crossing an ethical boundary they’ve sworn to uphold, but venturing into criminal territory.

A federal investigation is still open into six unnamed attorneys and their representatives who are suspected of conspiring to bribe a San Diego DMV official to keep their clients from getting their driver’s licenses suspended in DUI cases.

Prosecutors pay extra attention to cases that involve professional licenses, such as attorneys, physicians and securities brokers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Halpern said.

“The public has an expectation of trust when someone is a professional, so when there’s a violation of that trust, that would certainly elevate the crime as far as our enforcement,” Halpern said.

Read the whole story at The San Diego Union-Tribune

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UC Davis law clinic takes up the cause of Yuba County prisoners

Posted By Administration, Monday, July 6, 2015

Prisoners at the overcrowded and understaffed Yuba County Jail have found formidable allies in law students studying civil rights at UC Davis.

Last fall, three students from the UC Davis School of Law’s renowned Civil Rights Clinic went before the county grand jury with detailed findings on how the Marysville jail is run. Among other criticisms, they said the jail has failed to provide treatment or medication for mentally ill inmates and to protect prisoners from assault by other inmates. The students’ role was made public in late May with the release of the previously confidential grand jury report for 2014-15.

The prisoners didn’t set out to get student help, but they needed representation when the Yuba County Counsel’s Office moved in Sacramento federal court to dismiss a long-ignored consent decree put in place in 1979 to govern the jail’s operation.

The California Rural Legal Assistance lawyers who filed the 1976 lawsuit that led to the consent decree, and who monitored how the Sheriff’s Department obeyed the document’s mandates, had to abandon their roles as watchdogs in 1996 because of legal and economic restrictions. So there was no enforcement of the decree’s terms for 18 years, until the County Counsel’s Office filed its motion in 2013.

Consequently, the federal court in Sacramento looked for a lawyer to represent the prisoners and reached out last year to Carter “Cappy” White, the Civil Rights Clinic’s director and supervising attorney, who agreed to take on the task. When you get White, you get his students.

Read the whole story at The Sacramento Bee (sub. required)

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Get ready to verify your MCLE compliance

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 2, 2015

Manuel Jimenez was surprised and a little nervous when he got a notice that he was being audited for Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) compliance in 2012.

“I keep pretty good records, but it still scared the heck out of me,” said Jimenez, who happens to be a senior attorney in the State Bar’s own Office of Chief Trial Counsel. “I knew I had all the credits, but now somebody was going to go through my documents to make sure.”

About 5,200 other attorneys may face similar feelings next week when a new round of audit letters goes out.

This is the fifth year that the State Bar has conducted audits that could potentially result in disciplinary action. The sample represents about 10 percent of attorneys in MCLE group 2 (last names begin with the letters H through M) who reported compliance with MCLE requirements this cycle.

Attorneys will be asked to provide certificates of course completion or prove they are statutorily exempt by Aug. 21. The State Bar requires active attorneys to take 25 hours of continuing education courses every three years. Lawyers must keep their documentation for at least a year after their compliance is due.

Read the whole story at California Bar Journal

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For Cisco's Latest Deal, Fenwick Swaps Seats

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, July 1, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO — Fenwick & West has a long history of advising Cisco Systems Inc. on major purchases. But the firm sat on the opposite side of the table for Cisco's $635 million deal to acquire OpenDNS Inc., an online-security company. San Jose-based Cisco turned to a team from Cooley led by Palo Alto-based partner Craig Menden for the deal announced Tuesday. Menden did not immediately return a call requesting comment.

Fenwick & West's deal team for OpenDNS included Mountain View-based partners R. Gregory Roussel, Shawn Lampron and Andrew Kim and associates Stephen Fisher, Kevin Adams, James Do, Willow Yang, Michael Riskin and Jay Cosel, who no longer works with the firm. San Francisco-based partners Michael Brown and Ralph Pais provided assistance, along with foreign associate Gilad Yacubovich.

Roussel did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Read the whole story at The Recorder

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Supreme Court Sends Google-Oracle Feud Back to SF Judge

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 30, 2015

One of the original smartphone wars is heading back to the courtroom of U.S. District Judge William Alsup.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected Google Inc.'s petition for certiorari in its copyright dispute with Oracle Corp. over the Java application programming interface. That ruling upholds a 2014 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that held the Java APIs copyrightable.

"Today's Supreme Court decision is a win for innovation and for the technology industry that relies on copyright protection to fuel innovation," Oracle general counsel Dorian Daley said in a written statement. Oracle was represented by E. Joshua Rosenkranz of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe at the Supreme Court and court of appeals, as well as by Kirkland & Ellis.

But Oracle can't claim a complete victory just yet. The case now returns to Alsup's courtroom for a retrial on whether Google has a fair-use defense to Oracle's charge that it copied 7,000 lines of code to its Android operating system to help app providers to write programs for it. Oracle had acquired the code when it bought Sun Microsystems in 2010 for $5.6 billion.

Read the whole story at The Recorder

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Court reporters in demand at California courthouses

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 26, 2015

Jotting down someone’s every word isn’t easy. It’s even harder when two people join the conversation. Or three. And they start arguing.

That’s life for Sonoma County’s unsung legal heroes — court reporters — a tight-knit group of professionals responsible for typing up everything that is said in trials and other proceedings to create the official record.

The 10 full-time and four part-time county court reporters are silent witnesses to both criminal and civil matters, providing real-time transcription to judges following on laptop computers.

When they’re not taking verbatim notes at more than 200 words a minute, they prepare thousands of pages of transcripts a year for private attorneys or use their unique skills to provide TV captioning.

“You can’t miss anything,” said Barrie Hart, a court reporter for 29 years. “It’s intimidating. The first couple months I worked I was scared to death. I thought I was going to throw up every day.”

A new study suggests court reporters like Hart will be in high demand in the next three years, leading to a nationwide shortage.

Market analysts Ducker Worldwide said 5,500 new court reporter jobs will be available by 2018 as older workers retire and leave the field. Seventy percent of the nation’s 32,000 court reporters are older than 45, the report said.

Demand is expected to be greatest in California and three other states.

Read the whole story at The Press Democrat

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Female lawyers take a firmer stand

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 26, 2015


Sitting in her attorney's conference room the other day, Lynne Coates had a strained look on her face. A trial lawyer who used to work for Farmers Insurance, Coates was pressed for time because she was due in court.

Also, the story she was about to tell me was painful to recount.

In 1993, Coates was hired by Farmers Insurance, which employs hundreds of attorneys to battle claims. She spent five years there before leaving for another job. In 2010, she returned to Farmers, and spent four happy years in its San Jose office.

Her job satisfaction changed abruptly one day when she discovered by accident that she was earning less money than a male attorney in her office with less experience.

“It was just sort of an off-the-cuff remark that one of my male colleagues made one day when we found out there was going to be a management change in my office,” Coates, 49, said. “He said, ‘Oh, yeah, I could stay here and continue to make X every year.' At that point, my head started spinning.”

She earned $99,000. His pay was $102,000. Not a huge difference, until you take into account that Coates had many years more experience.

“After that,” she said, “I got nosy.”

Read the whole story at LA Times

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U.S. Supreme Court grants constitutional right to same-sex marriage

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 26, 2015

In a historic victory for gay rights, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Friday that gays and lesbians have the constitutional right to marry their chosen partner.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, author of the court’s three previous gay-rights rulings, said extending marital rights to same-sex couples will not alter or degrade the institution of marriage, as opponents claimed.

“Far from seeking to devalue marriage, the (couples) seek it for themselves because of their respect and need — for its privileges and responsibilities,” Kennedy wrote. “And their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment.

“Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions,” Kennedy concluded. “They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution gives them that right.”

Read the whole story at SF Gate

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Women Lawyers' Section News: The SCCBA Women’s Lawyer Section’s “From Having it All to Leaning-In” Seminar Was A Resounding Success and Evidenced a Need for More Such Events in the Future

Posted By Linda MacLeod, Friday, June 26, 2015
Updated: Monday, June 29, 2015

On Wednesday, June 10, 2015, the SCCBA held its 3rd Annual “From Having it All to Leaning In” Seminar. The event was a wonderful success, with 82 female and 1 pioneering male attendees.  The networking cocktail reception, sponsored by host Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw & Pittman, LLP, got the event off to a roaring start, with plenty of food, drink and company to keep the early arrivals occupied.  The panel discussion on the Pao v. Kleiner, Perkins trial came next, led by moderator Anne Martin.  San Jose Mercury News Tech Reporter Heather Somerville, who personally attended the trial, provided thoughtful insights on the testimony of the witnesses and the skills of the parties’ lawyers.  Jennifer Reisch, of Equal Rights Attorneys reminded us that sometimes “less is more” – and concentrating more on the defendant’s actions rather than overwhelming a jury with discriminatory minutae--might be the best approach when presenting a retaliation claim in the courtroom.  Finally, Anne Capella of Weil, Gotshal provided her perspective on ways that Kleiner and other companies can avoid such claims. 

After the panel presentation, the attorneys broke out into groups where topics of interest could be discussed in intimate settings.  The Confidence Gap Group, led by Anne Martin and Linda MacLeod, was attended by a mix of lawyers from different experience levels-- which not only allowed a critical transfer of information about risk taking and confidence building tactics, but provided advice and support to those still struggling with self-doubt.  The Leadership Group, led by Catherine Lego, Allison Leopold Tilley and Nora Frimann, provided concrete suggestions for expanding female influence on boards.  They taught us that concentrating on one’s passions when joining Boards makes this endeavor meaningful and authentic.   The Work-Life Balance Group, led by Hon. Roberta Hayashi and Laurie Charrington, discussed how taking care of oneself is one of the most important ways to achieve that critical “sweet spot” to making it all work.   And finally, the Marketing Group, led by Martha Sullivan and Heidi Keefe, taught us that networking is not about going to events and feeling pressured to “get business” but a way of being and connecting with all people you meet on a personal and professional level. 

Elizabeth Pappy led the final audience wrap up that included not only lessons from each of the individual groups, but a discussion of how the SCCBA can involve men in future events on the important topic of unconscious bias and women’s success.  All in all, it was an educational and uplifting conference that, given the level of enthusiasm and interest in the topic, promises to continue in the future.



Tags:  WLS  Women Lawyers Section 

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more Calendar

Barristers' Annual Judges Luncheon

Knowing When To Accept A Case and When It's Time To Say Goodbye.

Disability and ERISA Issue Spotting for Labor Law Attorneys

Recent Recognitions
Hon. Edward J. Davila2017 Diversity of the Year
Steven B. Haley2017 Professional Lawyer of the Year

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