Drociak v. State Bar of California

52 Cal. 3d 1085, 278 Cal. Rptr. 86, 804 P.2d 711 (1991)

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Drociak v. State Bar of California

California Supreme Court
52 Cal. 3d 1085, 278 Cal. Rptr. 86, 804 P.2d 711 (1991)

Facts

In March of 1985, Jane House hired attorney Joseph Drociak (plaintiff) to represent her in a personal-injury action against Greyhound Bus Lines, Inc. (Greyhound). At Drociak’s request and in accordance with Drociak’s customary practices, House signed several undated, blank verification forms for Drociak. In March of 1986, Drociak filed a complaint against Greyhound on House’s behalf. During discovery, Greyhound requested that House produce documents and answer interrogatories. Drociak repeatedly asked House to come to his office to prepare the discovery responses, but House never responded. Drociak told Greyhound’s counsel that he had temporarily lost contact with House and obtained multiple discovery extensions. However, Drociak eventually completed the discovery responses himself and attached House’s pre-signed verification. The court ultimately dismissed the action after House failed to appear for trial. A short time later, Drociak learned that House had been dead since October of 1985. The state bar (defendant) started disciplinary proceedings against Drociak, and a hearing panel found that Drociak had committed an act of moral turpitude and failed to act truthfully in the litigation, in violation of §§ 6106 and 6068(d) of California’s Business and Professions Code and rule 5-200B of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The review department of the state bar court recommended that Drociak be suspended from practice for one year, to be stayed during a two-year probationary period that included 30 days of actual suspension. Drociak sought review in the California Supreme Court, arguing that the recommended discipline was excessive because he had a clean disciplinary record in 25 years of practice, his actions were intended to help House, and closing his practice for 30 days would negatively impact his office staff. Drociak also asserted that the recommended discipline was based on false and inflammatory findings, including that Drociak allowed his office staff to engage in forgery.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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