Friday, January 9. 2004
Review Department Recommends Suspension for Ronald Silverton Over Terms of Fee Agreements
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Los Angeles attorney who twice ran for the State Bar Board of Governors on a platform of abolishing the disciplinary system should be placed on three years probation, with conditions to include 60 days of actual suspension, the State Bar Court Review Department has ruled.
In a decision made public yesterday, the panel said that Ronald Robert Silverton charged unconscionable fees or acquired interests adverse to his clients by entering into agreements with two personal injury clients with respect to compromising their medical bills.
The agreements said that if Silverton could negotiate reductions in the bills, he could keep the full amount of the savings in addition to his contingency fee of one-third or 40 percent of the recovery.
Silverton yesterday repeated his claim that the charges against him were baseless and were brought in retaliation for his campaigns to abolish the entire disciplinary system, relegate clients who have complaints about lawyers to civil proceedings in court, and reduce State Bar dues to $100.
The State Bar is “great,” but its disciplinary arm is “a little Gestapo,” Silverton told the MetNews.
Silverton noted that his clients did not testify against him, and pointed out that he won the case once, when the original hearing judge, Eugene Brott, said that the attorney did not violate ethics rules. But the Review Department, in a May 2001 ruling, held that if, as alleged, Silverton† failed to tell the clients that it is customary for attorneys to compromise medical liens without additional fee, the fee could be considered unconscionable.
The case was sent back to the Hearing Department and assigned to Judge Patrice McElroy. Brott is no longer a judge of the court.
McElroy concluded, and the Review Department agreed, that the amount of the fee was excessive in proportion to the value of the services performed, and the time and labor expended by Silverton. The attorney “did not fully disclose all the terms of the transactions to [the clients] in writing,” Judge Madge Watai explained for the Review Department, adding that the clients did not have the benefit of independent counsel.
Silverton ran for judge in the old Los Angeles Judicial District in 2000, losing in the primary for the seat ultimately won by Judge David Mintz.
Silverton, 72, was disbarred in 1975 after the Court of Appeal affirmed his felony convictions in connection with insurance fraud. He was reinstated in 1992.
He ran for the State Bar Board of Governors in 1996, losing to Pasadena attorney John J. Collins, and in 1997, when he was defeated by Deputy Attorney General Clara Slifkin.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company