Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Review Department Recommends Suspension of Marina del Rey Lawyer for Abandoning Clients
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Review Department of the State Bar Court has recommended that Marina del Rey attorney David E. Brockway be suspended from the practice of law for five years but that the suspension be stayed on conditions that include at least two years of actual suspension.
The panel found that on four separate occasions Asian immigrants who spoke little or no English hired Brockway to help them with pressing legal matters and paid him thousands of dollars, and that Brockway then failed to perform the agreed upon services.
Brockway was previously disciplined in 1991 for willfully misappropriating $500 from a client and improperly acquiring an adverse interest against a second client, for which he received a three-month suspension and two years’ probation.
In the new case, the panel found that in one matter a Vietnamese client hired Brockway to obtain legal immigration status for her daughter-in-law. She paid him $5,800 and signed an agreement entitled “Contract for Hire — Purchase of Availability.” The agreement provided that Brockway would “represent [the daughter-in-law] in the case of: INS asylum.”
When the client originally met with Brockway , his assistant translated the agreement for her. The client said the assistant described “step by step” the process Brockway would take “in order to ask INS for my [daughter-in-law-] to be here.”
Brockway did not contact either his client or her daughter-in-law for 10 months, despite numerous telephone calls from them, the panel found.
The client finally hired new counsel, who requested the client file from Brockway. When she received the file several months later, it consisted of three pages of a partially completed asylum application.
In part due to Brockway’s inaction and lack of cooperation with the new attorney, the daughter-in-law missed a deadline to apply for an adjustment of her status under the applicable statute.
Brockway argued that he had no obligation to provide any services to the client and that his only duty was to be available to her because the Contract for Hire stated that it was for “Purchase of Availability, and described his fee as a “True Retainer Fee.”
The department found that, despite the title of the agreement, in essence it was an agreement for Brockway to provide immediate immigration services, which he failed to do.
In another matter, a client hired Brockway after receiving six traffic violations while driving a tour bus in Arizona. The client testified that he very clearly explained that he told Brockway through his assistant, “the main thing that I want is I don’t want any points because then I wouldn’t have any work to do.” He paid Brockway $4,500.
Brockway testified that the very next day he went to Arizona and spoke to the court clerk who advised him he should pay the bail. Brockway said he then went back to California, bought a money order and mailed it along with the tickets to the Arizona court.
About six months later, while driving for another tour bus company, the client learned that his California’s driver’s license was suspended due to his violations in Arizona. He lot his job and was unemployed for six months.
When the client told Brockway what happened, Brockway replied, “My original understanding was that you wanted your ticket to be taken care of without going back to Arizona. Frankly, I didn’t know that Arizona ticket points would go against your California license.”
The Review Department found that Brockway performed incompetently, causing the client to lose his license and his job; failed to provide the client with an accounting; and reached an unlawful agreement purporting to require the client to withdraw his State Bar complaint in exchange for a partial refund of legal fees.
Brockway was unavailable for comment.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company