March 1, 2010
Sanction For "Reluctant" Misappropriation Finding
The March 2010 edition of the California Bar Journal reports the following disciplinary sanction:
[An attorney] was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 30-day actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect July 30, 2009.
The State Bar Court found that [the attorney] allowed the balance in her client trust account to drop below the required amount several times. She had received about $39,000 on behalf of her client and after fees and costs were deducted, she should have maintained a balance of $24,854.50 in her trust account.
Her husband, who also was her office manager, handled her firm’s business dealings, and without her knowledge, he used the account to pay personal and business expenses. [The attorney], who was the only authorized signatory on the account, wrote few checks and did not regularly use her trust account or reconcile bank statements.
Although the court found much of her client’s testimony not believable, it reluctantly found that [the attorney] committed acts of moral turpitude by allowing a misappropriation of funds. “She did not intend to do anything wrong but her gross negligence in handling her trust account during this time” requires a finding of moral turpitude, wrote bar court Judge Richard Honn.
[The attorney] has no discipline record, cooperated with the bar’s investigation and offered extensive testimony about her good character and substantial volunteer work.
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