News Release

California Supreme Court Rules on Two State Bar Proposals

Court rejects proposed changes to moral character application process and for State Bar training programs; approves amendments to rule governing suspending attorney licenses for failure to pay child or family support.
Sep 20, 2023

The California Supreme Court today ruled on two State Bar of California petitions.

The court denied the State Bar’s petition for rule changes involving how moral character applications are processed, as well as changes to the Law Office Study and the Practical Training of Law Students programs.

In a letter, the court wrote that the State Bar did not sufficiently explain the proposed rule changes for “the court to determine the propriety of the requested revisions” to rules governing the moral character determination process.

The court further found the State Bar “has not adequately considered the potential ethical implications that could arise” for students involved in the Law Office Study and the Practical Training of Law Students programs.

In October 2021,  the court directed the State Bar to study whether Law Office Study students should be allowed to also participate in the Practical Training of Law Students program (currently limited to enrolled law school students) and to “consider whether any rule amendments may be necessary to provide additional protections to the public and to the judicial system.”

The court highlighted that if a student was participating in both programs, under the current proposed rules, a student studying under the supervision of a judge (through the Law Office Study program) could represent clients or the local district attorney before that same judge or other judges on that bench (via the Practical Training of Law Students program).

In a second action, the court approved with modifications the State Bar’s petition to amend Rules of Court, rule 9.22, which lays out the process for the court to suspend attorneys’ licenses for the failure to pay child or family support. 

The court approved the proposals requiring the State Bar to report twice per year, instead of annually, a list of delinquent attorneys, and the requirement that, after paying off those debts, attorneys must attest under perjury that they did not practice law while suspended. 

The court added the requirement that attorneys suspended under rule 9.22 must inform their clients, the courts, and adverse parties of their suspension.

Today’s rulings follow a slate of other directives from the court to the State Bar, including a rule compelling attorneys to report misconduct by other attorneys; notices to inform clients, the courts, and adverse parties of attorney suspensions; and new rules requiring the screening of candidates for the Board of Trustees and State Bar Court for potential conflicts of interest.