The obligations of counsel at trial and misconduct in ignoring the motion in limine ordered by the trial court have recently been clarified by the Court of Appeal.

In Moody v. Starr Surgical Company (May 23, 2011) No. G043230, the Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division Three, affirmed the order of the trial court holding counsel Daniel Callahan in contempt and imposing a $1,500.00 sanction under Code of Civil Procedure section 177.5. Callahan had willfully violated the court’s order by asking a witness a prohibited question. As stated in People v. Chon (1999) 76 Cal.App. 4th 232, 243, an attorney must not willfully disobey a court order and must maintain a respectful attitude towards the court. An attorney must strive to maintain a high standard of ethics, civility and professionalism in the practice of law in order to instill public confidence in the legal profession and the judicial system. Attorney Callahan contended that the question he asked was protected by the advocacy exception in Section 177.5. The Court of Appeal rejected that argument.

The reprimand by the trial court and Court of Appeal makes clear that attorneys should not take their duty to follow motions in limine lightly, nor should they try to find a way around the order of the court.