Friday, February 13, 2009
State Bar Takes Over Ex-Judicial Candidate’s Law Offices
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
The State Bar of California yesterday disclosed that it has taken over the Sherman Oaks, San Diego and Riverside law offices of attorney Mitchell Roth.
Roth, 58, has been hospitalized due to severe depression since Jan. 23, the State Bar said, leaving several clients in foreclosure defense litigation cases subject to losing their homes and facing eviction.
State Bar Deputy Trial Counsel Rizamari C. Sitton obtained a court order Wednesday taking jurisdiction over Roth’s practices pursuant to California Business and Professions Code Sec. 6190, which permits state courts to take over a law practice where the attorney has become incapable of providing the quality of service necessary to protect the interests of a client or if there is an unfinished client matter for which no other active member of the State Bar has agreed to accept responsibility.
Through his attorney, Paul J. Virgo, Roth consented to the assumption of jurisdiction over his law practice., the State Bar said. Virgo could not be reached for comment.
The State Bar alleged that an estimated 2,000 clients were referred to Roth by a company doing business as United First, which is not a law firm. Roth’s phone message informs callers that the office has been temporarily closed and refers foreclosure clients back to United First.
United First did not return calls seeking comment.
The State Bar said it will inventory the files of the law firm and notify clients as quickly as possible of the Superior Court’s order and of the availability of client files from the State Bar. Clients who wish to inquire about files can do so by calling the State Bar.
Although Roth has no history of discipline with the State Bar, on Jan. 30, Roth was declared a vexatious litigant by U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real of the Central District of California and was ordered to refund fees paid by nine clients with matters pending in that court.
Roth opened his solo practice in 1997, handling credit, debt and collections, general civil litigation, personal injury, medical malpractice, wills and trusts, and probate matters in addition to foreclosure defense.
During his 2004 bid for a seat on the Los Angeles Superior Court bench, Roth was rated “Not Qualified” by the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and finished last in a field of five candidates. Then-Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Donna Groman won the contest.
Roth graduated from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1974 and from St. John’s University School of Law in New York in 1977. Roth was admitted to the State Bar of California that same year, but spent most of his time in business ventures not involving law practice prior to 1997.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company