Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, November 1, 2002


Page 3


Attorney, Suspended for Cheating Client, in Trouble for Third Time




A Canyon Country lawyer who was suspended from the practice of law by the California Supreme Court twice this year is in trouble again for failing to comply with the courtís order, State Bar Deputy Trial Counsel John Kelley said yesterday.

In April the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel filed yet another notice of disciplinary action against Catherine Anne Madsen because she failed to submit an affidavit showing that she had notified clients, courts and opposing counsel that she had been suspended by the State Bar in February of this year, Kelley said.

Madsen, who could not be reached yesterday for comment, was suspended most recently by the court in September after she agreed to represent a client while on inactive enrollment, and subsequently mishandled the clientís funds and lied to him about it. Her suspension, effective Oct. 27, was a lighter penalty than the disbarment recommended by State Bar Court Judge Patricia McElroy, Kelley said.

On Sept. 27, the court stayed the execution of a three-year suspension, but required Madsen to pay restitution to a client, who, according to the State Barís factual findings, had not received a penny of his December 2000 personal injury settlement as of December 2001 when notice of disciplinary charges was filed against his attorney by the OCTC.

The court found that Madsen had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, failed to deposit client Scott Branchís funds into her client trust account, made misrepresentations to her client regarding the status of his settlement funds and misappropriated his funds.

Madsen agreed to represent Branch in October 2000óless than a month after being placed on involuntary inactive enrollment for failing to respond to a July 2000 notice of disciplinary charges. The subject of that notice could not be determined yesterday.

Branchís case quickly settled and Madsen received a check in the amount of $3,300.

She deposited the money in her personal bank account even though she had told Branch it would be placed in a client trust account, McElroy found.

The hearing judge also found that Madsen lied a second time to her client when she responded to his inquiries regarding distribution of the settlement funds.  She told him that the funds had to remain in the client trust account until completion of a scheduled arbitration.

Branch contacted the insurance company involved and discovered that no arbitration was scheduled in his matter, and he confirmed that his medical provider had already been paid.

Madsen was ordered to pay restitution to Branch in the amount of $2,200 plus 10 percent annual interest from December 2000. 

Her actual suspension, lasting at least two years, will end when she has paid Branch, passed the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, has proven that she is rehabilitated and fit to practice law, and the State Bar grants a motion to terminate her suspension, according to the order.

Madsen had been suspended earlier this year after the State Bar Court found that she had failed to appear on behalf of her client on multiple occasions in a civil matter, and failed to comply with court orders ultimately resulting in a $290,000 default judgment against her client. 

The most recent disciplinary charges against her arise from her failure to comply with this court order.

According to State Bar records, Madsen telephoned Los Angeles Superior Court on the day of trial in 1999 asking for a continuance, and claiming that she had filed a motion for summary judgment in the matter and that she had been in a car accident 11 days earlier. 

The court granted her motion to continue and set a new trial date, but ordered Madsen to produce a doctorís note regarding her medical condition and a copy of the motion for summary judgment, since the court and opposing counsel did not possess copies of the motion.

Madsen never filed a letter regarding her medical condition or proof of filing the summary judgment motion. The court entered the default judgment against her client.

The State Barís disciplinary panel found that Madsen had harmed her client by willfully failing to competently perform her legal duties, failing to comply with court orders, and intentionally misrepresenting factual information to the Superior Court. 

The Supreme Court placed Madsen on actual suspension lasting 180 days, and until she paid $4,225 plus interest in sanctions imposed by the Los Angeles Superior Court. 

There is no evidence on record showing that Madsen has paid the sanction, according to an office assistant at the Superior Court in San Fernando.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company