Following is the 30th post in a series from Parker Law Group Attorneys, APC about recent changes to the California Bar Association (CBA)’s Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC). This rule is found in Chapter 3 – “Advocate,” focusing on the topic of meritorious claims or contentions. The Rule of Professional Conduct, as revised, is as follows:
Rule 3.1 Meritorious Claims and Contentions
(a) A lawyer shall not:
(1) bring or continue an action, conduct a defense, assert a position in litigation, or take an appeal, without probable cause and for the purpose of harassing or maliciously injuring any person; or
(2) present a claim or defense in litigation that is not warranted under existing law, unless it can be supported by a good faith argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of the existing law.
(b) A lawyer for the defendant in a criminal proceeding, or the respondent in a proceeding that could result in incarceration, or involuntary commitment or confinement, may nevertheless defend the proceeding by requiring that every element of the case be established.
One noticeable change to this rule, as set forth above, is in the title itself. Formerly titled “Prohibited Objectives of Employment,” this rule has also removed “… seek, accept, or continue employment if the member knows or should know that the objective of such employment is …” Sub-subdivisions (A) and (B) are now sub-subdivisions (1) and (2). The other noticeable change is the addition of a completely new subdivision (b). This subdivision explains one of the requirements involved with a lawyer who is defending someone in a criminal proceeding.
The first sentence of Rule 3.1 of the American Bar Association (ABA)’s RPC says the same thing CBA’s Rule 3.1(a) says – with fewer words. The second sentence of the ABA’s rule is nearly identical to CBA’s Rule 3.1(b).
Benefit: Generally speaking, the addition of language regarding a lawyer who represents a defendant in a criminal proceeding should help to protect that defendant’s rights by clarifying the lawyer’s responsibility.
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