For two years, California bar leaders and legal ethicists have trooped before an American Bar Association commission to dutifully explain the dangers of forcing lawyers to rat on their clients. Apparently, not a word has sunk in.

Known as the Ethics 2000 Commission, the special ABA panel has been evaluating the group’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct. In doing so, it has tentatively decided to recommend a sharp expansion of circumstances under which lawyers would be expected to report threatened criminal activity by their clients. And if such a proposal is adopted, it would widen the already significant gulf between the ABA’s model ethics rules and California’s own legal ethics standards, which are the most client-protective in the nation.