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Moral Turpitude - Los Angeles County Bar Association - California Supreme Court Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye - State Bar Chief Trial Counsel Jayne Kim - Judicial Council of California - California Commission on Judicial Performance Victoria B. Henley - California Attorney General Kamala Harris - State Bar of California

Moral Turpitude - Los Angeles County Bar Association - California Supreme Court Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye - State Bar Chief Trial Counsel Jayne Kim - Judicial Council of California - California Commission on Judicial Performance Victoria B. Henley - California Attorney General Kamala Harris - State Bar of California

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"It is well recognized that the legal profession experience substance abuse problems and depressive illness at a rate higher than most other professions. Left untreated, substance abuse and depression often lead to inattention to an attorneys professional obligations. Most unfortunately, lawyers often find themselves the subject of disciplinary proceedings stemming from burnout, midlife crisis, or more serious disorders. It is crucially important to recognize these issues in ourselves and in our colleagues rather than allowing professional inactivity or inaction to snowball into a serious disciplinary offense or, worse, a life-threatening situation."

California Judicial Branch News Network: cjbnn.com
"It is well recognized that the legal profession experience substance abuse problems and depressive illness at a rate higher than most other professions. Left untreated, substance abuse and depression often lead to inattention to an attorneys professional obligations. Most unfortunately, lawyers often find themselves the subject of disciplinary proceedings stemming from burnout, midlife crisis, or more serious disorders. It is crucially important to recognize these issues in ourselves and in our colleagues rather than allowing professional inactivity or inaction to snowball into a serious disciplinary offense or, worse, a life-threatening situation."

California Judicial Branch News Network: cjbnn.com

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Published by: California Judicial Branch News Network on Aug 18, 2014
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March 2009 • Vol. 29 No. 3 | An E-Publication of the Los Angeles County Bar Association
To Err is Human—Or is It Moral Turpitude?
By Ellen A. Pansky, member, LACBA Professional Responsibility and Ethics Committee. Pansky, of Pansky Markle Ham LLP, specializes in the defense of attorneys, bar applicants, and other professionals in regulatory and licensure proceedings, and represents both plaintiffs  and defendants in civil actions. She consults with and advises lawyers in legal ethics and risk  management, and frequently serves as an expert witness in legal malpractice proceedings. The  opinions expressed are her ow
Just as do all other human beings, lawyers sometimes make mistakes. Such mistakes may result from misunderstanding or misinterpreting gray areas of law. Sometimes, mistakes take the form of simple negligence, e.g., hitting the Reply to All button when sending a sensitive e-mail meant for the client alone. Sometimes, despite having appropriate systems in place, a lawyer or the lawyer’s staff fails to calendar an important date such as the statute of limitations. Often, a client file will be misplaced, and the lawyer will delay completing the services for which he or she was retained. At some point, the attorney’s error in misplacing the file will result in an undue delay in the client’s matter, which could lead a State Bar disciplinary prosecutor to conclude that the lawyer engaged in a willful failure to perform in violation of Rule 3-110 of the California Rules of Professional Conduct. Even a single case of  failure to perform has been known to result in the filing of a disciplinary charge.Perhaps the most serious errors relate to the maintenance and management of the client trust account. An error in client trust account management may include failing to deposit client funds in an account that is designated and dedicated as a depository exclusively used for client funds, or mistakenly depositing the lawyer’s own funds into the trust account. Where trust funds are deposited into the lawyer’s business operating account, or where the lawyer deposits personal funds into the trust account, an improper commingling of personal funds and client funds may result, constituting a violation of Rule 4-100(A) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. In fact, failing to keep particular types of bookkeeping records relating to the trust account may constitute a violation of Rule 4-100(C). Thus, an extended failure to comply with recordkeeping and accounting requirements could result in the imposition of discipline even in the absence of client harm. It is well established that simple negligence will not form the basis of a State Bar disciplinary finding. For example, more than 50 years ago, the California Supreme Court ruled that “simple neglect would not be sufficient for a statutory violation.” (
Call v. State Bar
, 45 Cal. 2d 104, 109 (1955).) This concept has been repeated on numerous occasions over the decades. Both the supreme court and the California State Bar Court have repeatedly reiterated that only gross, habitual, or pervasive negligence will establish a basis for discipline. (See
 Innis v. State Bar
, 20 Cal. 3d 552, 556 (1978); and
 In the Matter of Torres
, Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr 138 (Rev. Dept. 2004).)  Another area of concern to the State Bar is failure to comply with a court order. If an attorney flouts a court order, that would be considered an improper act that may constitute moral turpitude. In
 Maltaman v. State Bar
, 43 Cal. 3d 924, 951 (1987), the supreme court noted that “under certain circumstances, an attorney’s disobedience [of court orders], even when he [or she] acts in a nonprofessional or personal capacity...constitutes ‘moral turpitude’ within the meaning of section 6106.” Of course, distinction must be made between a negligent failure to comply with a court order and the type of extreme disregard for the legal system that is necessary for a finding of unfitness to practice and moral turpitude.If an attorney is found to have habitually disregarded a client’s interests by either recklessly or repeatedly failing to provide competent legal services, the attorney may be found to have committed gross negligence. In turn, gross negligence has often been the basis for a finding of willful violation of Business and Professions Code

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