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In re Dale

4 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 798, 2005 WL 1389226 (2005)

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In re Dale

California State Bar Court, Review Department

4 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 798, 2005 WL 1389226 (2005)

Facts

Darryl Geyer set an apartment building on fire, causing several injuries and one death. When Geyer was arrested, he confessed the arson to the police. Geyer eventually pleaded guilty under a plea agreement that still allowed him to appeal based on an argument that his confession had been obtained illegally. Lawyer Joshua Dale (defendant) represented the apartment building’s tenants in a civil lawsuit against the landlord. The lawsuit alleged that the landlord had negligently maintained the building in a way that contributed to the fire. Dale wanted Geyer to sign a declaration describing the building’s condition right before Geyer set the fire. Dale asked Geyer’s lawyer for permission to talk to Geyer, but the lawyer refused. However, Dale used his status as a lawyer to contact Geyer face-to-face at the courthouse, in jail, and later in prison in order to befriend Geyer and to convince him to sign the declaration. Dale promised Geyer that the declaration would not harm Geyer’s appeal and that Dale would help Geyer with his parole hearing if Geyer signed it. Based on these promises, Geyer signed the declaration, voluntarily confessing to the arson—and likely losing his one chance to avoid a new conviction if he could get his first confession suppressed on appeal. Dale continued to directly communicate with Geyer about being a witness at trial in the civil case. However, the civil case then settled, and Dale stopped communicating with Geyer. Dale never helped Geyer with parole or any legal issues. Although it was not clear whether Geyer was represented when he signed the declaration, Geyer had clearly been represented by a lawyer during many of Dale’s communications before and after that point. Geyer filed a complaint about Dale’s conduct with the state bar (plaintiff).

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Epstein, J.)

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