OPINION 144
March 1957

NEGOTIATION WITH OPPOSITE PARTY -- PRACTICE BY NONLAWYERS -- Non-lawyers on the staff of a district attorney seeking pleas of guilty from those accused of crime without consulting the accused’s attorney beforehand is improper as it is negotiation with the opposite party and furthers the practice of law by persons not members of the State Bar.

Canons 9 43.

Question

The district attorney has on his staff some non-lawyers as investigators, who are allowed free access to the jail by the sheriff, and such investigators contact a prisoner in the jail who is represented by counsel and work out a plea of guilty with the prisoner, without consulting defendant's attorney and without permitting defendant’s attorney to be present, such procedure being carried out with the knowledge or upon the instruction of the District Attorney.

Query: Is this practice a violation of tile Canons of Ethics?

Opinion

All members of the committee are of the opinion that the above practice constitutes a violation of the Canons of Ethics. Such defendant is considered to be a "party" and such practice a violation of Canon No. 9 by the district attorney, acting through the investigator, as being a communication upon the subject of controversy with a party represented by counsel. Opinion No.137 of this committee is cited in support. One member expresses the view that working out a plea of guilty is the practice of law and that the district attorney violates Canon No. 43 by making possible the practice of law by any person not a member of the State Bar. (9-0)