Wednesday, March 8, 2006
Panel Rejects Proposal to Reinstate Alcoholic Lawyer
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Northern California lawyer who resigned from the State Bar 13 years ago rather than face misconduct charges allegedly stemming from alcohol and gambling addiction should not be reinstated at the present time, the State Bar Court Review Department has concluded.
In an opinion made public yesterday, the panel rejected Hearing Judge Patrice McElroy’s recommendation that Samuel C. Bellicini of Marin County be restored to membership.
“We commend petitioner’s efforts since 2001 in making amends for his prior misconduct as well as his continued participation in Alcoholics Anonymous, the Other Bar, and other group therapy which has allowed him to remain in full remission from his alcohol addiction and gambling problem,” Judge Madge Watai wrote for the panel.
Bellicini, however, has not shown “sustained exemplary conduct” for a long enough period to warrant reinstatement, the judge said.
The attorney resigned in September 1993, a little more than two years after his admission. By that time, evidence presented in the reinstatement proceeding showed, he had lost two jobs and been forced to abandon his own practice because of his drinking, and had suffered eviction and homelessness.
His alleged misconduct involved misappropriating client funds, which he said he used for drinking and gambling; failing to perform work and return unearned fees; abandoning a client; failing to cooperate with the State Bar in an investigation of a Client Security Fund claim; and failing to pay court-ordered sanctions. He also failed to notify clients of his resignation, Watai said, and did not achieve sobriety until 2001.
He now works for the Postal Service’s legal department as a paralegal.
The three years that passed between the applicant’s decision to stop drinking and the hearing judge’s finding of rehabilitation is too short a period for the applicant to carry the “heavy burden of proving his rehabilitation,” Watai said. While he is not likely to relapse into drinking and gambling, she said, he has not demonstrated overall rehabilitation.
“Because petitioner practiced law for only 28 months before resigning and because he suffered multiple addictions during his entire legal career, we cannot conclude...that petitioner’s misconduct is aberrational,” the judge wrote...[W]hen serious ethical misconduct is attributable to alcoholism, the period of exemplary conduct necessary to sufficiently establish rehabilitation exceeds the 39-month period petitioner has maintained. Given the extent of his prior wrongdoing and addictions, we find that petitioner’s period of exemplary conduct is insufficient to establish his overall rehabilitation.”
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company