June 4, 2009
The Wrong Way To Get Clients
A summary of a recent bar discipline case from the California Bar Journal:
[An attorney] was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 60-day actual suspension and he was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and take the MPRE within one year. Credit towards the actual suspension is given for a period of involuntary inactive enrollment that began Nov. 1, 2007. The order took effect Dec. 25, 2008.
[The attorney] successfully completed the Alternative Discipline Program for lawyers with substance abuse or mental health problems. He was admitted to the program following misdemeanor convictions in 2004 for conspiracy, soliciting a crime and capping.
A former deputy district attorney for San Bernardino County, [he] left the DA’s office in 2000 and began a private criminal defense law practice. He had agreements with several bail bond agents to pay them kickbacks in exchange for client referrals. He also provided other legal services without charge or for a discounted fee to the agents. In several incidents, [he] paid a 20 percent kickback to the agents.
He also solicited inmates to refer clients to him in exchange for cash kickbacks or discounted legal services on their criminal matters. He paid inmates a 10 percent kickback in five to 10 incidents.
According to the stipulation, there were numerous kickback incidents over a two-year time period and [he] made a significant amount of money as a result. He discontinued the scheme due to his fear that complaints by a client in a dispute with one of the referring bail bond agents would expose him.
[The attorney] was charged in 2004 with two felonies: conspiracy to commit unlawful solicitation of bail in violation of the insurance code, and solicitation of another to join in a running and capping scheme. The charges were reduced to misdemeanors to which Newman pleaded guilty. He also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor capping and served 120 days in jail and paid a $75,000 fine.
He was admitted to the bar’s alternative discipline program after demonstrating that his substance abuse caused the misconduct.
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