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Guidelines of Professional Conduct


These guidelines are not Rules of Court and do not have the force and effect of Rules of Court. They are standards drafted to formalize the view of the members of the San Francisco Bar Association as to the level of professional conduct expected for the practice of law within the jurisdiction of the courts of the City and County of San Francisco. While litigation is largely an adversarial process and attorneys are ethically bound to zealously represent and advocate their clients' interests, certain guidelines of professional courtesy that should be observed and certain duties of professionalism that are owed by attorneys to their clients, opposing parties, opposing parties' counsel, the courts and the public as a whole.

These guidelines are not meant as a substitute for other statutes and rules. None of these guidelines is intended to be a method to extend time limitations of statutes and rules including fast track time limitations without an appropriate court order. These guidelines are not meant to be exhaustive, but they are meant to set a tone or guide for conduct not specifically mentioned in these guidelines.

These have been adopted by the Courts of the City and County of San Francisco as guidelines.

Section I. Non-discrimination

No attorney shall engage in any bias or discrimination based on age, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental impairment, religion or race while litigating.

Section II. Scheduling

    1. An attorney should communicate with opposing counsel concerning the scheduling of depositions, hearings, meetings and other proceedings and make reasonable efforts to schedule such meetings, hearings, depositions and other proceedings by agreement.
    2. An attorney shall not arbitrarily or unreasonably withhold consent to a request for scheduling accommodations that do not prejudice his or her client or unduly delay a proceeding.
  2. An attorney should endeavor to reserve sufficient time for the completion of a hearing or deposition to permit a complete presentation or examination by counsel for all parties.
  3. An attorney shall not engage in delay tactics in scheduling meetings, hearings and discovery. An attorney shall not seek extensions or continuances for the purpose of harassment or solely to extend litigation.
  4. An attorney should notify opposing counsel, and, if apropriate, the Court and others affected of scheduling conflicts as soon as they become apparent. An attorney shall notify opposing counsel and, if appropriate, the Court or other tribunal as early as possible of any resolution between the parties that renders a scheduled hearing, deposition or meeting unnecessary.

Section III. Service of Documents

  1. The timing and manner of service of papers should not be calculated to gain an unfair advantage, unduly burden or unnecessarily inconvenience the party receiving the papers. An attorney should not serve papers solely to take advantage of an opponent's known absence from the office or at a time or in a manner designed to inconvenience the adversary, such as late in the day (after normal business hours or on the day preceding a religious holiday), so close to a court appearance that it prohibits the ability of opposing counsel to prepare for that appearance or to respond to the papers (if permitted by law), or in such other way as would unfairly limit the other party's opportunity to respond to those papers or other matters pending in the action.
  2. An attorney should serve papers by personal delivery or by facsimile transmission when it is likely that service by mail, even when allowed, will prejudice the opposing party.

Section IV. Continuances and Extensions of Time

Consistent with existing law and court orders, an attorney should grant a reasonable request by opposing counsel for an extension of time within which to respond to a pleading, discovery, and other matters, when such an extension will not prejudice his or her client or unduly delay a proceeding.

  1. An attorney shall advise his or her client that the strategy of not agreeing to reasonable requests for time extensions simply to appear "tough" is inappropriate.
  2. An attorney should not condition an agreement to an extension on extraneous terms except to preserve rights that an extension might jeopardize or seeking reciprocal scheduling concessions.

Section V. Discovery

An attorney should only initiate discovery requests that are reasonably related to the matter at issue. An attorney shall not use discovery (i) for the purpose of harassing, embarrassing or causing the adversary to incur unnecessary expenses, as a means of delaying the timely, efficient and cost-effective resolution of a dispute; or (ii) to obtain an unfair advantage. An attorney shall avoid repetitive or argumentative questions, questions asked solely for the purposes of harassment, or questions which are known to the questioner to be an invasion of the rights of privacy of third parties not present or represented.

Similarly, an attorney should ensure that responses to reasonable discovery requests are timely, complete and responsive to the discovery request. An attorney responding to written discovery should not do so in an evasive or artificial manner designed to assure that answers and responses are not truly responsive or solely to attempt to avoid a disclosure.

  1. Depositions. A deposition is to be taken as if the testimony were being given in court. An attorney shall not engage in any conduct during the deposition that would not be allowed in the presence of a judicial official.

    An attorney representing a deponent or representing another party should limit objections to those that are well-founded and necessary for the protection of the client's interests and should not make such objections only for the purpose of argument, harassment, or delay. As most are preserved, objections need be made only when the form of the question is defective or privileged information is sought. An attorney should avoid, through objections or otherwise, improper coaching of a deponent or suggesting answers.

    1. Written Discovery. Written discovery should not be initiated to harass or embarrass a party or witness or to impose an inordinate burden or expense in responding.

      In responding, an attorney should not interpret the discovery in an artificially restrictive manner in an attempt to avoid disclosure. Similarly, an attorney responding to such discovery should withhold on the ground of privilege only where appropriate and should not respond in a disorganized or unintelligible fashion or in a way calculated to hide or obscure the existence of particular evidence. Similarly, an attorney should not delay responding to prevent opposing counsel from discovery prior to scheduled depositions or for any other tactical reasons.

Section VI. Motions

Motions should be filed sparingly, in good faith and when the issue(s) cannot be otherwise resolved. An attorney should, whenever appropriate, stipulate to all facts and legal authority not reasonably in dispute. An attorney should not engage in conduct which forces opposing counsel to file a motion and then not oppose the motion, or provide information called for in the motion only after the motion is filed.

Section VII. Dealing With Opposing Counsel

An attorney should inform his or her client that conflicts with opposing counsel are professional and not personal, that vigorous advocacy is not inconsistent with professional courtesy, and that the conduct of counsel in litigation should not be influenced by ill feelings or anger between clients and their conduct, attitude or demeanor toward opposing attorneys. Further, an attorney should refrain from disparaging or denigrating the Court, opposing counsel, or, except in the course of appropriate examination or argument, parties, or witnesses before clients, the public, or the media.

Section VIII. Dealing With the Court

  1. In a case where applicable laws or rules permit an ex parte application or communication to the Court, before making such an application or communication, an attorney should make diligent efforts to notify opposing counsel or opposing counsel known to represent or likely to represent the opposing party, should make reasonable efforts to accommodate the schedule of such attorney or party to permit the opposing party to be represented, and should avoid taking advantage of an opponent's known absence from the office.
  2. An attorney should not knowingly misstate, misinterpret or distort any fact or legal authority to the Court or to opposing counsel. Written materials and oral argument to the Court should accurately state current law and fairly represent the party's position without unfairly attacking the opposing counsel or opposing party.
  3. If, after all briefing allowed by law or the Court has been submitted, an attorney locates new authority that he or she desires to bring to the Court's attention at a hearing on the matter, a copy of such new authority shall be provided to both the Court and to all other counsel in the case at or prior to the hearing.
  4. An attorney for the prevailing party should draft a proposed order promptly. The order should fairly and adequately represent the rulings of the Court. When proposed orders are submitted to counsel for approval, an attorney should promptly communicate any objection to the party preparing the proposed order so that good faith discussions can be had concerning the language of the proposed order.
  5. An attorney should respect and abide by the spirit and the letter of all rulings of the Court.
  6. An attorney should be punctual in communications with others, and punctual and prepared for all scheduled appearances.

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