UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
March 4, 2013
RAFAEL GONZALEZ, ET AL.,
JOSEPH SCLAFANI, ESQ. JP MORGAN CHASE BANK, ET AL., DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Larry Alan Burns United States District Judge
On February 20, 2013, the Court issued an order requiring Joseph Sclafani, California state bar number 134026, to show cause why he shouldn't be sanctioned or held in contempt for apparently abandoning his clients, causing their complaint to be dismissed, and also for disobeying the Court's order requiring him to notify his clients of the dismissal and file proof of service. The February 20 order required Sclafani to appear at a hearing on March 4, 2013 at noon. Sclafani didn't appear for that hearing, nor did he seek to be excused from appearing, nor did he afterwards attempt to explain his failure to appear. The Court has heard nothing from him.
Ordinarily, the Court would refer this matter to its own bar disciplinary committee. Sclafani, however, is not a member of this Court's bar; both cases in this District in which he has served as counsel of record were removed from state court.*fn1 Under such circumstances, an attorney should seek admission, or apply for admission pro hac vice, or else should substitute in admitted counsel, in his place. Sclafani did none of these, leaving him as counsel of record even though he was not qualified to practice. Even though he is not admitted to this Court's bar, he is subject to this Court's discipline, both under the Court's own inherent power, see United States v. Song, 902 F.2d 609, 610 (7th Cir. 1990) (attorney who abandoned his clients was subject to court sanctions, even though he was never admitted to the bar of the court), and under this District's local rules. Civil Local Rule 83.4 sets forth requirements for attorneys "in practice before this court;" the requirements are not limited to those attorneys properly admitted. Civil Local Rule 83.4(b) makes clear the rules apply both to members of the bar of this Court, and also "any attorney permitted to practice before this Court." Among the requirements Sclafani appears to have violated are Rule
83.4(a)(1)(b)'s requirement that he "[b]e a vigorous and zealous advocate" for his clients; 83.4(c)'s requirement that he "[a]ttempt to resolve litigation consistent with [his clients'] interest;" 83.4(b)'s requirement that he live up to standards of professional conduct applicable to attorneys admitted to practice in California; and 83.4(b)'s requirement that he not "engage in any conduct which . . . in any manner interferes with the administration of justice within the Court." Failing to act competently to represent clients also violates California Rule of Professional Conduct 3-110.
The circumstances do not suggest any good reason for Sclafani's failure to appear or failure even to communicate with the Court. If he were unable to monitor his mail and communications personally, he should have made arrangements to do so, such as by associating another attorney. The Court therefore REPRIMANDS him for disobeying its orders, and for gross neglect of his professional responsibilities to the Court and to his clients.
Because Sclafani is not a member of the bar of this Court, the Court will refer this matter to the State Bar of California.
IT IS SO ORDERED.