Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Samuels Pleads Not Guilty to Embezzling From Client
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Attorney Leonard Michael Samuels resigned from the State Bar yesterday shortly before entering a not guilty plea on charges of stealing $130,000 from a medical malpractice award from a client who is suffering from cancer.
The MetNews yesterday reported Samuels’ Friday arrest by investigators of the Los Angeles District Attorneys Office.
The resignation puts a halt to the State Bar’s probe of Samuels, 55. The State Bar became involved after the client filed a complaint, and investigators for the organization assisted prosecutors in putting the case together.
Samuels posted bail and was released yesterday following the arraignment.
Also yesterday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs issued interim orders assuming jurisdiction over Samuels’ law practice and ordered the State Bar to take possession of all client files and financial records at his office, disconnect telephone lines, freeze all office bank accounts, and notify Samuels’ clients to contact the State Bar to get their files and get new lawyers.
The office ordered closed is on the 27th floor of 445 S. Figueroa St. downtown.
The action came on an ex parte motion by the State Bar. Samuels was notified of the move while in lockup over the weekend, a State Bar spokesman said.
State Bar spokesman William Cox said the decision was made to seek court jurisdiction over the practice for six reasons: Samuels operated a law practice that administered a client trust account and required a high degree of fiduciary duty; Samuels was accused of misappropriating client funds; he was accused of lying to the client about the status of the funds; he used portions of the funds to replace money that he took from at least two other clients; he was arrested and in custody; and being charged with self-dealing he was no longer capable of performing his fiduciary duties.
The quick action to wrest Samuels’ practice from him while he is being criminally prosecuted is part of the State Bar’s fast track program for lawyers in the discipline system.
The court’s jurisdiction over Samuels’ practice is on an interim basis. Janavs set an Oct. 6 order to show cause hearing to determine whether the order should become permanent.
Samuels was ordered to return to court Oct. 2 to set a preliminary hearing date.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company