Beginning January 1, 2011, the California Evidence Code, as applied in civil cases, will no longer govern California State Bar attorney disciplinary hearings. The new Rules of Procedure, Rule 7.12, provide that the hearing need not be conducted according to technical rules of evidence.

The new evidentiary standard is that “any relevant evidence must be admitted if it is the sort of evidence on which responsible persons are accustomed to rely in the conduct of serious affairs,” including inadmissible hearsay. (Rules of Procedure of the State Bar of California, Rule 7.12(C) (effective Jan. 1, 2011).)  This change means that the attorney disciplinary evidentiary pendulum has completely swung to the opposite end of the spectrum since the 1970’s when I was a prosecutor for the State Bar. In those days, the hearing referees bent over backwards to ensure that errant attorneys received an abundance of due process considerations.

However, in recent years, public criticism over light attorney discipline has heightened. As a result, the State Bar has reacted to this concern. Attorneys faced with disciplinary charges are best advised to hire an attorney that is familiar with the unique rules of this system.

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