Ethics Opinions from the Bar Association of San Francisco
INFORMAL OPINION 1973-5
Withdrawal of a full-time staff attorney of San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation as attorney of record from approximately 4,000 pending domestic proceedings, on termination of employment, must comply with usual procedures in each case.
Must a hearing to withdraw be noticed to each client, and an order be entered in each file? The administrative burden of handling each file individually would fall on the county clerk and the local bench as well as on the attorney inquiring.
CCP 284 and 285 fix the general requirements for a change of attorney of record.
CCP 285.1 fixes the requirements for withdrawal of an attorney of record in domestic relations matters after a judgment, other than an interlocutory judgment, has become final, and prior to service upon him of papers in any proceeding then pending.
No relief from these statutory requirements appears available by reason of the multiplicity of separate actions on file involving the same attorney of record. It appears necessary that a client's consent to the attorney's withdrawal be obtained whether the attorney is of record in one action or in several thousand actions.
No authority has been located permitting notice by publication in the instant situation; nor does a form of class action appear available to avoid the administrative burden to the attorney, the county clerk, and the court.
The foregoing deals only with statutory requirements. The legal ethics considerations are not dealt with in the California State Bar Act, Bus. & Prof. C. §6000 et seq-. nor in the California Rules of Professional Conduct ; but Rule I directs attention to the ABA Code of Professional Responsibility regarding conduct not mentioned in our California rules.
ABA Code of Professional Responsibility, Disciplinary Rule 2-110 (which replaced former ABA Canon 44), provides in part:
If DR 2-110(B) is not applicable, a lawyer may not request permission to withdraw in matters pending before a tribunal, and may not withdraw in other matters, unless such request or such withdrawal is because:
ABA Code of Professional Responsibility, Ethical Considerations 2-32 provides in part:
One member of the Legal Ethics Committee has suggested that if the instant attorney decides nonetheless not to comply with the requirements of the Code of Civil Procedure in each file, she should at least seek a single court hearing, publish a single notice in all daily newspapers in the county, of her termination of employment with the foundation, and file in each of the county clerk files in which she is attorney of record: (1) a copy of the published notice, (2) a copy of any order rendered, and (3) the name of the foundation staff attorney who will be assuming responsibility in the absence of affirmative objection by the client. This suggestion, however, is not a recommendation of the committee.
All opinions of the Committee are subject to the following disclaimer:
In using these opinions you should be aware that subsequent judicial opinions and revised rules of professional conduct may have dealt with the areas covered by these ethics opinions.