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Key Terms

Term Definition

A written non-disciplinary reprimand issued by the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel or the State Bar Court pursuant to Rule 264, Rules of Procedure of the State Bar.

Agreement in Lieu of Discipline
An agreement between the member and the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel in lieu of disciplinary prosecution, pursuant to Business and Professions Code sections 6068(l) and 6092.5(i).

Agreement in Lieu of Discipline

An agreement between the member and the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel in lieu of disciplinary prosecution, pursuant to Business and Professions Code sections 6068(l) and 6092.5(i).

Alternative Discipline Program Decision

A decision written by a State Bar Court Judge before a member can be enrolled in the Alternative Discipline Program (“ADP”).  These decisions include findings of facts, conclusions of law and a “high” and “low” disciplinary recommendation.  The “low” level of discipline is recommended if the member successfully completes ADP.  The “high” level of discipline is recommended if the member does not successfully complete ADP.  The State Bar Court categorizes these decisions as interim dispositions because a State Bar Court judge must subsequently issue a final decision once the member completes ADP, either successfully or unsuccessfully.

Backlogged Complaints

Complaints that have been pending in investigation longer than six full months from the date of receipt (12 months for complex cases) without dismissal, admonition of the attorney involved, or the forwarding of a completed investigation for prosecution.

California Compendium on Professional Responsibility

California Compendium on Professional Responsibility: The State Bar publishes this multi-volume desk reference on professional responsibility. It is a compilation of local, state and national ethics information, which is updated annually.


A communication which is found by the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel to warrant an investigation of alleged misconduct of a State Bar member which, if the allegations are proven, may result in discipline of the member.

Conviction Referral

A formal disciplinary proceeding initiated after a member's criminal conviction to determine whether the conviction involves moral turpitude or other misconduct warranting discipline and, if so, to assess the appropriate level of discipline.  A conviction referral proceeding is commenced by a referral order from the State Bar Court Review Department directing the Hearing Department to hold a hearing, file a conviction order and recommend the discipline to be imposed, if any, or to take other action on the issue or issues stated in the order.


A disciplinary action whereby the California Supreme Court expels an attorney from membership in the State Bar.  The attorney's name is stricken from the roll of California attorneys and the attorney becomes ineligible to practice law.


The closure of a disciplinary proceeding and dismissal of charges by the State Bar Court or the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel, generally in the interest of justice, pursuant to an agreement in lieu of discipline or for some other specific reason, such as the case has no merit or there is insufficient evidence to prosecute the case.

Ethics Hotline

The State Bar's Ethics Hotline (800-2-ETHICS) enables attorneys to discuss ethical questions with trained staff members who will refer them to the appropriate rules, opinions and case law so an informed decision can be made.

Ethics Options

Ethics Opinions: The State Bar's Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct issues ethics opinions. These non-binding, advisory opinions respond to questions posed by bar groups or individual members.

Ethics School

identifies issues and solutions to common ethical situations faced by practitioners. Instructors are experienced prosecutors who interact with attorneys in the class, discussing such topics as:

  • the attorney-client relationship,
  • fees and fee agreements,
  • the scope of employment,
  • performing competently; and
  • duties to clients during and upon ending the attorney-client relationship.

Client Trust Account School is required of attorneys who are disciplined for client trust account violations. A separate three-hour course, it focuses specifically on managing client trust accounts and related duties.

Inactive Enrollment

The transfer of an active member to inactive status.  A member on inactive status cannot practice law.  The transfer can be made involuntarily pursuant to the Business and Professions Code section 6007(b) or (c) where 1) a member asserts a claim of insanity or mental incompetence, 2) a court issues an order assuming jurisdiction over a member's practice, 3) a member is unable to practice law because of a mental infirmity or illness or because of the habitual use of intoxicants or drugs, or 4) a member is judged to present a substantial threat of harm to clients or the public pursuant; or pursuant to the Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program's request to enroll a member involuntarily inactive due to the member's non-compliance with a Fee Arbitration Award.  (See Arbitration Enforcement.)  A member may request the State Bar Court to lift an involuntary inactive enrollment.  (See Return to Active Status.)


A communication concerning the conduct of a member of the State Bar received by the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel which is designated for evaluation to determine whether any action is warranted by the State Bar.

Lawyer Assistance Program

Lawyer Assistance Program: Two independent consultants provide confidential referral services to attorneys suffering from job burnout, stress and/or chemical dependency. Bar consultants conduct assessments, referrals and follow-up. Classes, videotapes and brochures also are available.

Term Definition

Readmission by the Supreme Court to the practice of law and to membership in the State Bar of a former member who resigned or was disbarred.  A reinstatement matter is a regulatory proceeding in which the State Bar Court determines whether a resigned or disbarred member should be readmitted to membership.  In order to be readmitted, the former member must demonstrate rehabilitation and present moral qualifications, as well as present learning and ability in the law.  (See also Petition for Reinstatement.)

Request for Further Proceedings

A request from a complainant after being advised that the complaint has been dismissed or the member has been admonished.

Resignation Tendered with Charges Pending

A written relinquishment of the right to practice law and resignation as a member of the State Bar by a member who is the subject of an investigation by the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel, a disciplinary proceeding under the Rules of Procedure of the State Bar, or a criminal charge or investigation.  Supreme Court acceptance of a resignation is required to make it effective; however, as soon as a member submits a resignation in proper form, the member is transferred to inactive status and cannot practice law.  An administrative case is opened in the State Bar Court when a member tenders a resignation with charges pending; however, no State Bar Court judicial action is required in the case.

Resource Letter

A letter from the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel to a member who probably violated, or potentially will violate, the Rules of Professional Conduct and/or the State Bar Act, where the violation is minimal in nature and would not lead to discipline of the member.  The letter refers the member to various resources that may assist the member in avoiding problems and/or the filing of complaints against him or her in the future.


An agreement between a member and the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel regarding a statement of facts, conclusions of law and the appropriate proposed disciplinary disposition.  The stipulation is filed by the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel in the State Bar Court, which may accept, reject or, with the consent of the parties, order its modification.


A disciplinary action that prohibits a member from practicing law or from holding himself or herself out as a lawyer for a period of time set by the California Supreme Court. A suspension may be either stayed or actual.


A proceeding closed due to an external cause, such as death of the member, disbarment in a separate matter or resignation with charges pending.

Warning Letter

A letter from the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel to a member who violated the Rules of Professional Conduct and/or the State Bar Act, but the violation is minimal in nature, does not involve significant harm to the client or the public and does not involve the misappropriation of client funds.  The letter explains that, in the exercise of the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel's prosecutorial discretion, the matter was closed without disciplinary action.

Representing clients throughout all of California (San Diego County, Orange County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County)

Don't let the State Bar pressure you into accepting discipline without talking to me first. I have handled hundreds of investigations, don't make the mistake of representing yourself. (California State Bar Investigations, State Bar Defense Attorney)