United States District Court, E.D. California
Bolanos represents plaintiff Nelson Lac in this case. The
State Bar of California took disciplinary action against Mr.
Bolanos on May 18, 2015, resulting in the suspension of his
license to practice law for ninety days beginning on November
27, 2015. See Opinion of May 18, 2015, In re
Bolanos, No. 12-O-12167, 2015 WL 2447702, at *1 (Cal.
State Bar. Ct. Review Dept. 2015); Supreme Court Order,
In re Bolanos, No. 12-O-12167 (Oct. 28, 2015).
November 30, during the period of his suspension, Mr. Lac
requested an award of attorneys' fees in connection with
a then-recent motion for a temporary restraining order, ECF
No. 36, and on December 7, 2016, applied ex parte
for an order shortening time, ECF No. 38. Although some of
these filings bear the typed electronic equivalent of
attorney Walter Dauterman's signature, all were filed
using Mr. Bolanos's CM/ECF credentials. Some are also
dated November 24, 2015, such that they appear to have been
created before Mr. Bolanos's suspension, but were filed
on the docket of this case after his suspension took effect.
December 15, 2015, more than two weeks after his suspension
took effect, the docket reflects that Mr. Bolanos filed a
notice of his suspension, naming Mr. Dauterman as interim
counsel. ECF No. 40. In a declaration filed on March 18,
2016, Mr. Bolanos informed the court in a footnote that Mr.
Dauterman had "died unexpectedly at Christmastime
2015." Bolanos Decl. at 2 n.1, ECF No. 56-3. On June 2,
2016, counsel for defendant Nationstar Mortgage LLC informed
the court that Mr. Dauterman had died on December 21, 2015.
See Ede Decl., ECF No. 88. Counsel attached a copy
of Mr. Dauterman's death certificate, which bears the
same date. Id. Ex. A. It therefore appears Mr. Lac
was not represented between December 21, 2015 and February
25, 2016, and neither this court nor opposing counsel was
aware of this fact until several months later. Apparently as
a result of Mr. Dauterman's death, Mr. Lac made no
appearance at a January 13, 2016 hearing on his motion for
default judgment. See Minutes, ECF No. 45. The
motion was denied. ECF No. 46.
addition, the magistrate judge assigned to preside over a
settlement conference in this case recently ordered Mr.
Bolanos to show cause why he should not be sanctioned for his
conduct during a settlement conference and settlement
negotiations. ECF Nos. 87. Although the magistrate judge
discharged the order to show cause, he was troubled by
(1) Mr. Bolanos's failure to promptly and meaningfully
respond to defendant's counsel's settlement
communications; (2) Mr. Bolanos's failure to timely
return the court's telephone calls and keep the court
apprised regarding the status of settlement discussions with
his client; (3) Mr. Bolanos's unapologetic, and at times
bordering on disrespectful, tone in addressing the court
during the June 2, 2016 telephone conference; and (4) the
potential waste of judicial resources in preparing for, and
hearing, motions that could have been mooted by a settlement,
had Mr. Bolanos and his client been diligent in taking steps
to finalize the potential settlement earlier.
Discharging Order to Show Cause, ECF No. 95 (footnote
law forbids an attorney from practicing law during his or her
suspension. Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 6117. "[T]he
mere holding out by a layman or a suspended attorney that he
is practicing or is entitled to practice law" is
unauthorized. Farnham v. State Bar, 17 Cal.3d 605,
612 (1976). A person also practices law by preparing legal
documents and filings. See, e.g., In re
Reynoso, 477 F.3d 1117, 1125-26 (9th Cir. 2007)
(bankruptcy filings). The unauthorized practice of law may be
punishable as a crime. See Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code
§ 6126(b) (citing Cal. Pen. Code § 1170(h)).
court which has the power to admit attorneys to practice may
also sanction them for unprofessional conduct."
Standing Comm. on Discipline of U.S. Dist. Court for S.
Dist. of Cal. v. Ross, 735 F.2d 1168, 1170 (9th Cir.
1984). Each federal district court may adopt local rules to
define the grounds for punishment. Id. (citing 28
U.S.C. § 1654). Under the Local Rules of this District,
an attorney "shall promptly notify the Court of any
disciplinary action or change in status in any jurisdiction
that would make the attorney ineligible for membership in the
Bar of this Court or ineligible to practice in this
Court." E.D. Cal. L.R. 184(b). If an attorney's
status changes under this rule, "the attorney shall
forthwith be suspended from practice before this Court
without any order of Court until becoming eligible to
practice." Id. The court may impose monetary
sanctions on those who practice before it without
authorization. Id. R. 184(c). In addition, a judge
of this court may, after reasonable notice or an order to
show cause, initiate proceedings for contempt or "take
any other appropriate disciplinary action against the
attorney" in the event he or she engages in conduct that
warrants discipline. Id. R. 184(a). The court may
also refer the matter to the appropriate state disciplinary
Local Rules also provide that "[a]nything filed using an
attorney's name, login, and password will be deemed to
have been signed by that attorney for all purposes . . .
." Id. R. 131(c). An attorney may use an
electronic signature, as Mr. Bolanos and Mr. Dauterman did
here, at least in part. See Id . An electronic
signature has two parts: (1) the designation "
-[Name]" on the filing itself and (2) "the
successful electronic filing of that document through use of
the person's login and password." Id. R.
101 (defining "electronic signature"). An attorney
who files a document electronically must be admitted to
practice before this court. Id. R. 180(f).
summary, Mr. Bolanos appears to have filed documents on Mr.
Lac's behalf during the period of his suspension from
practice. Nothing indicates Mr. Bolanos took any action to
notify the court or opposing counsel in a timely way of Mr.
Dauterman's death, using methods that would have been
allowable in light of his suspension at the time. Notably, it
appears Mr. Lac had no interim attorney after Mr.
Dauterman's death. As a result, Mr. Lac was unrepresented
for two months, including in a hearing on a previously filed
motion for default judgment. Mr. Bolanos's actions after
his suspension was lifted also led to the possible
frustration of settlement efforts before Judge Newman.
Bolanos is therefore ORDERED TO SHOW CAUSE, within
twenty-eight days, why the court should not (1) impose
monetary sanctions; (2) vacate the order granting Mr.
Lac's motion for attorneys' fees and require Mr.
Bolanos to repay those fees to Nationstar, ECF No. 61; (3)
temporarily suspend Mr. Bolanos from practice before this
court, for a period of sixty days; (4) refer ...