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Name: In re Aguilar
Case #: S099667
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 09/23/2004
Summary

An attorney who signs up for oral argument must appear, or be held in contempt. When an attorney is aware of an order requiring his or her appearance in court, and the attorney has the ability to appear but knowingly and intentionally does not appear, that attorney has willfully neglected or failed to appear, and a contempt judgment is then appropriate absent a valid and persuasive excuse or justification for the attorney’s nonappearance. This case involved two attorneys, Aguilar and Kent. Kent was employed by Aguilar’s firm and assigned to a case in which the firm was attorney of record. However, Kent had filed all briefs and motions in the Supreme Court, and had returned a signed oral argument questionnaire indicating his intent to appear before the court for oral argument. Prior to argument, however, he terminated his employment with Aguilar but did not notify the Court that he would not appear at oral argument. Neither Kent nor any attorney from the firm appeared for argument. The Supreme Court found that both Kent and Aguilar should be held in contempt, fined Kent $250, and fined Aguilar $1,000. The Court further ordered that Aguilar be referred to the state bar for further proceedings, based on the Court’s finding that he had repeatedly lied to the Court regarding his knowledge of the argument’s date and time. Justice Kennard, joined by Justices Brown and Werdeger, concurred in the judgment as to Aguilar but would not have held Kent in contempt or ordered him to pay a fine.