Monday, May 3, 2010
Another recent discipline case summarized in the California Bar Journal:
[An attorney] was suspended for four years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a two-year actual suspension and until he makes restitution and proves his rehabilitation, and he was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect Oct. 17, 2009.
[The attorney] stipulated to misconduct in nine matters. In each matter, he admitted that he failed to perform legal services competently. In addition, he stipulated that he abandoned clients three times and did not cooperate with the bar’s investigation of five matters.
His misconduct resulted in a mistrial in a criminal proceeding where he was defense counsel for a defendant facing a possible life sentence. The defendant’s sister-in-law hired him and paid $10,000 in attorney’s fees and $500 in costs. [He] attended six of eight days of the trial before being found unconscious on the floor of his home. He had voluntarily taken an overdose of prescription medications (for which he did not have a prescription) and other controlled substances.
He failed to appear in another criminal matter, but was informed by a public defender that his client had taken a plea. Although he agreed to refund the client’s advance $3,500 fee, he did not do so.
In 2004, [the attorney] pleaded no contest to driving with a blood alcohol content of more than .08 percent and driving a car that was involved in an accident, both misdemeanors involving moral turpitude. He had fled the scene after sideswiping a car in Long Beach; two blood alcohol tests registered .14 and .15 percent.
In another incident, while stopped at a red light, [the attorney] opened his car door at the moment a motorcycle was passing. The motorcycle struck two other vehicles and the rider was injured. Although [he] was unaware of the motorcycle, he pleaded no contest to opening his car door when it wasn’t safe to do so. His license was suspended at the time, and he also pleaded no contest to driving without a license. Both convictions were misdemeanors.
[The attorney] was arrested in 2006 for shoplifting at a Fry’s Electronics store and pleaded no contest to misdemeanor petty theft, a crime involving moral turpitude. The day after he was released from custody, he was stopped by the CHP and cited for driving without a seatbelt, driving with an expired registration and without proof of insurance, and driving with a suspended license. The counts were dismissed when [he] pleaded no contest to driving without a license, a misdemeanor.
In mitigation, [he] cooperated with the bar by stipulating to extensive facts and the level of discipline, and he has taken steps to address his problems with alcohol addiction.