California Proposition 207, No Restrictions Allowed on Attorney Fee Negotiations (1996)
If Proposition 207 had been approved, it would have "prohibit[ed] attorneys from collecting excessive fees, and provide[d] that clients can sue attorneys to recover fees that have been found to be excessive by the court." The rules on what would be considered an excessive fee and what steps could be taken when a fee was found to be excessive were those already in use by the California State Bar in 1996.
Proposition 207 also would have required that courts impose sanctions against an attorney if the court determined that the attorney had filed a frivolous legal action. An attorney sanctioned in this way would have to reimburse the court for all expenses incurred in reporting sanctions to the State Bar. Additionally:
- If the State Bar received three notifications of court sanctions against the same attorney within a five-year period, the State Bar would have been required to recommend appropriate disciplinary action to the Supreme Court, including but not limited to, suspension or disbarment.
- A sanctioned attorney would have had to notify the client that sanctions had been imposed due to the attorney's conduct in the case.
- Attorneys would have been prohibited from collecting fees for services performed in connection with lawsuits in which the court had imposed sanctions.
Text of measure
The official ballot summary that appeared on the ballot said:
- Except as allowed by laws in effect on January 1, 1995, prohibits restrictions on the right to negotiate amount of attorneys' fees, whether fixed, hourly or contingent.
- Prohibits attorney from charging or collecting excessive or unconscionable fees.
- Authorizes court to impose sanctions upon attorney who files a lawsuit or pleading which is totally and completely without merit or filed solely to harass opposing party. Prohibits sanctioned attorney from collecting fees for case.
- Requires State Bar to recommend appropriate discipline for attorneys with repeated sanctions.
The California Legislative Analyst's Office provided an estimate of net state and local government fiscal impact for Proposition 207. That estimate was:
- Adoption of this measure would have an unknown, but probably not significant, net fiscal impact on state and local governments.
- Official Voter Guide to Proposition 207
- Full text of Proposition 207
- November 5, 1996 California election results (PDF)
- PDF of the paper version of the November 5, 1996 Ballot Propositions Voter Guide
- League of Women Voters analysis