Inns of Court: Cleavers v. Kardashians

On April 14, 2016, Judge David Goldstein’s pupilage group put on a thrilling display of Family Feud, Cleavers v. Kardashians!

On one side, you had the show of the 1950s, Leave It to Beaver. Steven Enochian played Ward Cleaver. Jill Lifter played June Cleaver. Nathan Pastor played the Beaver. David Marchiano played Wally Cleaver and Joseph Doherty played Eddie Haskell.

On the other hand, you had the show of the 2010s, Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Judge Joyce Cram (Ret.) played noted momager, Kris Jenner. Karen O’Neil played Kourtney Kardashian. Suzanne Boucher played Kim Kardashian. Erika Quintero played Khloe Kardashian. As you can imagine, there was a vast ocean of differences in the way that the Cleavers approach life compared to how the Kardashians approach life.

Judge Goldstein presented the question and then the Kardashians and Cleavers had the opportunity to provide their answer. Then, the spectators voted on whether they thought the Kardashians were correct or the Cleavers were correct.

One question was whether you can use social media to discuss your law firm. Several different options were put up on the screen. The Cleavers were confused by the nature of social media as it would not be invented for decades. This was the Kardashians’ time to shine! As it turns out, you can speak about your firm and your cases on social media, but you have to be careful. California Rule of Professional Conduct 1-400 provides a significant amount of restrictions on communications by attorneys. Specifically, it limits “solicitations” and some of the proposed social media comments in the presentation fell into that category. It also prohibits the promising of results.

Another question was whether you have to inform your client of all offers received. This is very simple “usually.” Rule 3-510 of the California Rules of Professional Conduct requires all terms and conditions of any offer made to a client in a criminal matter be promptly communicated to the client. However, this Rule only requires that the terms and conditions of a written settlement offer be conveyed in a civil case. Rule 3-500, though, requires an attorney to keep a client reasonably informed of significant developments, and depending on the circumstances, an oral offer might be a significant development. You have probably had situations where preposterous offers have been provided to you. You knew that your client would laugh or potentially even become enraged by the offer. However, you still have to comply with the Rules regarding your duty to communicate the offer to your client.

Of course, it is not just attorneys who have responsibilities. Judges have responsibilities, too. One of the most important of these responsibilities is impartiality to all. This specifically precludes any Judge from receiving a gift unless there is a personal or family relationship with the attorney that includes the custom and practice of giving and exchanging gifts. This rule exists in both the Rules of Professional Conduct (5-300) and the Code of Judicial Ethics (4D5 and 4D6). Here is another question that some of you may have dealt with in real life. If you get a bad review online (i.e., on Yelp), can you respond to that review? This is like walking on a tight-rope, you can do it, but you have to be extremely careful. Rule 3-100 precludes an attorney from releasing any confidential information in regards to the case. If a former client is displeased, they may claim any information about the case is confidential, so one must tread lightly in responding. General responses that do not touch on the specific case in question are best.

The overarching theme of the presentation related to duties to clients. Judge Goldstein’s group did a great job of taking many interesting questions about professional responsibilities and breaking them down for all. These rules are important, because all attorneys and Judges have to abide by them at all times.

If you are interested in applying for Robert G. McGrath American Inns of Court (RGMAIOC) membership, please contact Patricia Kelly.