Tuesday, June 1, 2010
The California Bar Journal June 2010 edition reports:
[An attorney] was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 29, 2009.
[He] stipulated that he acquired interests adverse to an elderly couple he represented in two lawsuits. As security for their legal fees, the couple gave him the pink slip to their mobile home, purchased 14 years earlier. It was worth about $60,000 when the clients hired [him], who did not advise them to seek independent legal advice about the transaction.
About five months after he began working for the clients, [he] started to bill them; the last bill was for more than $29,000 for 94 hours of work plus interest. They disputed the bill because they felt [he] did not properly account for his time.
When two real estate holdings in which the clients held an interest were lost to foreclosure, they filed for bankruptcy and succeeded in discharging [his] debt. They only made an initial payment of $600.
Two years later, [the attorney] registered his security interest in the mobile home, the primary residence of the clients, with the DMV. He told them to insure the home in order to protect his interest. After the State Bar began an investigation, [he] relinquished his ownership interest in the mobile home.
He stipulated that his interest in the clients’ property was not fair and reasonable because the value of the mobile home exceeded the value of his billings.
[He] also was disciplined in 1990 for obtaining an ownership interest in his client’s property.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation.