Thursday, June 23, 2011

I'm Not a Detail Guy....

The Legal Profession blawg features the report of a Bakersfield, California lawyer who received a stayed two year suspension for allowing his secretary to sign pleadings.  Despite warnings from opposing counsel who objected to his practice of allowing his secretary to sign his pleadings, and in another situation a presiding court who warned against this; and, a court order striking pleadings, altogether he continued this practice.    Dowd explained, "it's just easier for me to do that.  I don't like details.  I assign those details to her."

Here's a link to the disciplinary opinion in the case of Robert Earl Dowd. 
There are many times when from the road a lawyer dictates a letter, the secretary prepares the letter, signs and sends it.  This practice is common, and certainly not unethical or inappropriate.    But why is it too much for attorneys to read and sign their own pleadings?

Honestly, I see my own sloppiness in this story, which extend to far more than pleadings, but it is not unreasonable to require original attorney signatures on pleadings since under operative rules the attorney's signature is more than a mere formality.  An attorney's signature is a certification of the good faith basis for the claims made in the pleading.  Thus this is a non-delegatable duty. 


  1. I think that he doesn't understand that his signs is the one that it has the backup of the government and any sign doesn't count.

  2. The law in California and in the United States permits one person to sign another's name if that person is no more than an extension of the signor's hand. Whether this rule is to be applied to signatures which by law are required to "subscribed" or to be personal signatures was addressed in Stanford University Board of Regents v. Superior Court (2007); was considered but not ruled upon because an authorized signature where an original was required was deemed only a mistake subject to correction. It was stipulated to between Dowd and the State Bar that the entire Declaration was his work product. The Declaration was personally signed resubmitted and accepted.

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