Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lawyers who commit fraud on behalf of clients should be disbarred

Usually lawyers get disbarred for simply stealing clients' funds. When this happens, usually only a few victims are harmed.

The more serious problem is unethical lawyers who harm the justice system by committing fraud ON BEHALF OF their clients. Justice is perverted; the system harms the innocent in case after case. Too many judges look the other way when lawyers commit frauds in the courtroom.

The story below discusses a case in which a lawyer who committed fraud on behalf of his client was disbarred. However, I suspect it was a powerful individual or organization that pushed for justice, not the judge involved.

The story below fails to mention San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' position on the California State Bar Board of Governors. [See story at bottom of this post.]

Critics: DA should prosecute problem lawyers

The office says State Bar standards are different

After a trial late last year, the State Bar Court of California concluded that Carlsbad lawyer Patricia Gregory improperly withdrew more than $112,000 from client trust funds.

A judge recommended Gregory for disbarment in March, and the attorney is fighting the decision. She is not eligible to practice law while the review process runs its course.

Gregory has not been prosecuted, nor have several other attorneys who faced such findings from the bar. Critics say the District Attorney’s Office should act in such cases, but the staff says there are many complicating factors, such as different standards of proof and the need to set priorities.

Others who have not been prosecuted:

•Todd Smith, a Carlsbad attorney, wrote checks on a client trust fund for personal use. State Bar records do not specify how much Smith took from his client. He stipulated to the State Bar that he wrote checks on his attorney-client trust account for his own use multiple times.

•Former attorney Steven Weisenberg was disbarred in 2004 after the State Bar Court found that he sent papers that appeared to be a court order to a title company. Weisenberg “engaged in an elaborate and highly deceptive scheme in an effort to obtain for his clients the results they desired, and in doing so, he committed a serious act of fraud,” Judge Richard A. Honn wrote.

•San Diego lawyer Todd Hilts took more than $8,800 from one of his clients, according to State Bar records. “By misappropriating at least $8,848.69 belonging to (his clients), respondent committed an act involving moral turpitude, in willful violation” of state law, the bar court found...

The District Attorney’s Office rejects any suggestion that it shies away from prosecuting lawyers who commit crimes while performing legal work.

Damon Mosler, who oversees the division that prosecutes lawyers, police officers and public officials, said the standard of proof in State Bar Court is lower than in Superior Court. He said certain cases are better suited to a regulatory venue.

“If there is misconduct by lawyers in their capacities as lawyers, generally we rely on the State Bar to be the investigating agency,” he said...

Luwain Ng of Carmel Valley retained Gregory for divorce proceedings and is now suing her former lawyer.

“I tried to file a police report and they did not want to take a report,” Ng said. “They said ‘Take it directly to the district attorney.’ Then I got a letter saying this is a State Bar matter and they are not going to pursue it.”...

Denise Doll has been homeless off and on since she hired Gregory to perform various legal work in 2007.

She received a pair of settlements in cases Gregory handled and assumed the money was being held in the attorney-client trust fund...

Doll provided The Watchdog a voicemail left for her by prosecutor Jeff Dort, who said he was rejecting the case because he would need police reports, bank records and documents compiled by the bar before he could make a decision about prosecuting Gregory...

The State Bar refers a small number of cases to the District Attoney’s Office for prosecution -- perhaps two a year, Mosler said. A State Bar spokeswoman said the office does not track referrals to county prosecutors...

Five elected to bar board
California Bar Journal
August 2006

Five attorneys, including San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, were elected to three-year terms on the State Bar’s Board of Governors.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Patricia Gregory should do some prison time for sure. It is these types of attorneys who steal from their clients who should be made to pay in numerous legal justice ways. Prison and paying back her clients is the only justice for this pig.