Tuesday, September 1, 2009
The latest edition of the California Bar Journal reports the following discipline:
[An attorney] was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Feb. 25, 2009.
[The attorney] stipulated to two counts of misconduct. He represented a client whose mother paid [him] $75,000 to handle her son’s criminal matter, which was resolved through a plea agreement. The client’s son was represented by another lawyer in a dependency case. [The attorney] believed his client and his mother were concerned about an ongoing police investigation in the dependency matter and felt pressure to learn when and where a second police interview was scheduled. He believed the information would help his client with any legal steps he might need to take.
[The attorney] called the police and falsely identified himself as the attorney for his client’s son. When he tried to intervene on the father’s behalf, the court denied his motion. He agreed to refund $40,000 to his client’s mother as unearned fees, but only returned $5,000. [He] stipulated that he made false statements to the police and failed to refund unearned fees.
In mitigation, he has no prior discipline record, cooperated with the bar’s investigation, had significant financial and emotional stress due to his divorce, and he eventually refunded the full $35,000, plus an additional $5,000, to his client.