MCLE SELF-STUDY ARTICLE RULE 8.4.1: PROHIBITED DISCRIMINATION, HARASSMENT AND RETALIATION-PURPOSE, SCOPE AND APPLICATION
California Rules of Professional Conduct, rule 8.4.1 that conduct by attorneys that violates the civil rights of our clients and other persons is unethical and can result in discipline. Specifically, rule 8.4.1 prohibits attorneys from engaging in discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in "in representing a client." The rule also prohibits a lawyer engaging in discrimination, harassment or retaliation "in terminating or refusing to accept the representation of any client," and in law firm operations.
This article first discusses the important policy rationales underlying rule 8.4.1, followed by a review of the history of the controversy surrounding its adoption, including a comparison of its provisions to those found in former rule 2-400. An examination of the rule’s scope follows to understand the duties it imposes on all California attorneys. Next, the article considers California and federal anti-discrimination statutes that are applicable to attorneys and law firm operations. The article concludes with a consideration of several hypothetical fact scenarios to better expound on and clarify the scope of rule 8.4.1.
THE POLICY RATIONALES UNDERLYING RULE 8.4.1