Tuesday, August 2, 2011
From the most recent online edition of the California Bar Journal comes a story that ends with disbarment:
[The attorney] pleaded no contest to misdemeanor conspiracy to obstruct justice, a crime involving moral turpitude. Because he also has a record of three prior disciplines, the State Bar Court’s review panel upheld a lower court judge’s recommendation for disbarment.
The conviction stemmed from a capping case, in which the Los Angeles district attorney alleged that [the attorney] paid Faina Bash, the owner/operator of MGB Legal Service (MGB), $5,000 per month to market his practice to the Russian community in Los Angeles and to provide him with a secretary and a translator. He represented a client whose child was killed in a hit-and-run accident, and after the case settled, [he] issued a check for $10,000 to MGB from his trust account. He testified that he owed MGB that amount for two months of services and denied that MGB had referred the case to him.
The district attorney charged [the attorney] and Bash with three felonies, including allegations that that the $10,000 payment from the hit-and-run settlement was the overt act needed for a conspiracy charge. [The attorney] pleaded no contest to obstruction of justice, claiming that he entered his plea only to save money, not because he believed his dealings with Bash were illegal. He also claimed that he did not have to report either the felony charges or the misdemeanor conviction to the bar; his attorney, he said, advised him he was required only to report a felony conviction.
In addition to the conviction, the review panel took note of [his] extensive discipline record, beginning with a 1997 suspension. For more than a decade, he operated a lax office management system that caused case dismissals, settlement disbursement delays, client communication failures and trust account violations. [He] harmed at least nine clients from 1988 to 2000, the panel said.
In recommending his disbarment, the review panel said [the attorney] failed to meet his professional obligations for more than two decades in four disciplinary cases. “In his first three cases, he performed incompetently and in the present case, although it occurred between his first and second discipline, he was convicted of a crime of moral turpitude that he never reported,” wrote Judge Catherine Purcell. “Overall, [he] has demonstrated ‘pervasive carelessness’ toward his practice and compliance with ethical rules since 1988.”