Consider the following chart which presents information from 21 discipline cases tried in State Bar Court where respondents were represented by discipline defense counsel since January 2013:
OCTC Demand State Bar Court Trial Result
1 Disbarment 6 month actual
2 Disbarment 6 month actual
3 Disbarment 2 year actual suspension
4 90 day actual suspension Dismissal
5 90 day actual suspension Dismissal
6 30 day actual suspension Stayed suspension
7 Disbarment Public Reproval
8 2 years actual suspension 1 year actual suspension
9 6 months actual suspension 30 days suspension
10 Disbarment 2 years actual suspension
11 Disbarment Dismissal
12 2 years actual suspension 6 months actual suspension
13 Disbarment 2 years actual suspension
14 1 year actual suspension 90 days actual suspension
15 Disbarment 18 months actual suspension
16 90 days actual suspension 30 days actual suspension
17 Disbarment 1 year actual suspension
18 6 months actual suspension Public Reproval
19 30 days actual suspension Public Reproval
20 Disbarment 2 years actual suspension
21 Disbarment 90 days actual suspension
This is only a fraction of the cases tried in State Bar Court since January 1, 2013, of course. Exactly how many cases that might be is difficult to ascertain quickly, in part because the State Bar has not issued its annual report covering the year 2013. But its enough to see that the Chief Trial Counsel’s claim of a 99% success rate is unfounded.
You might argue that this is evidence that the discipline system is working well. Charges were brought, the case was vigorously defended by respondent’s counsel, and an independent State Bar Court judge found the Office of Chief Trial Counsel’s position wanting.
But if you talk to the respondent’s counsel who defended these cases, you would hear something else entirely: that the system is not working well because OCTC is forcing cases to trial that should not be tried, that could be have been settled without trial if OCTC would have taken a reasonable settlement position.
One thing seems indisputable. If you can afford to take your discipline case to trial with experienced defense counsel there is a reasonable good chance of getting a better result than taking the deal.
Discipline defense counsel will always have a place in the sun, it seems, as long as the discipline system operates like it has for the last few years. But it is cold comfort; every discipline trial comes at a cost for the respondent, the State Bar Court and the discipline prosecutor.