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Sheller v. Superior Court

California Court of Appeal
71 Cal. Rptr.3d 207 (2008)


Facts

Texas attorney David Sheller (defendant) filed to appear pro hac vice on behalf of the named plaintiff, Pauline Fairbanks, in a class action against Farmers New World Life Insurance Company (Farmers) (plaintiff). Sheller sent a flyer to 350 Farmers policyholders, looking for additional class members. The flyer stated, “if accepted [as a class representative], you are paid for your time in an amount set by the judge.” Farmers filed an ex parte motion attempting to prevent Sheller from sending further communications, claiming the flyer violated the California Rules of Professional Conduct. The court concluded that the statement regarding payment was inappropriate because often, class members not only do not recover, but are liable for court costs. The court found that Sheller intentionally misled potential class members, and issued an order to show cause why Sheller’s pro hac vice status should not be revoked because of his ethical violation. The trial court concluded that Sheller’s behavior was unethical but declined to revoke Sheller’s status. The court reprimanded Sheller and ordered him to reimburse Farmers for attorneys’ fees. Sheller appealed, contending that the court lacked authority to order him to pay attorneys’ fees, formally reprimand him, and revoke his pro hac vice status.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Croskey, J.)

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