Thursday, June 3, 2010
State Bar Court Places Local Attorneys on Inactive Status
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The State Bar Court has ordered attorneys Eric D. Johnson of Los Angeles and Mark A. Shoemaker of Long Beach placed on involuntary inactive enrollment over accusations of loan modification misconduct, the State Bar said yesterday.
State Bar Court Judge Richard Honn, in separate actions, concluded that the conduct of Johnson and Shoemaker posed a “substantial threat of harm” to their clients or the public, and ordered the enrollments under Business and Professions Code Sec. 6007.
According to the State Bar’s website, Shoemaker, 49, was placed on inactive status Monday, three days after the order against him issued, while Johnson, 55, was ordered inactive May 18.
Johnson tendered his resignation from the bar last November with charges pending, but was allowed to withdraw his resignation in December, prompting the State Bar to move forward with a Sec. 6007 action, a spokesperson said.
Neither Shoemaker nor Johnson returned calls seeking comment. A woman who answered the phone at Johnson’s office indicated he was “with a client.”
The State Bar spokesperson commented:
“Pursuant to the State Bar Court’s order, as of May 21, Mr. Johnson is not eligible to practice law. He should not be representing clients and any such representation will be investigated for violations of the unauthorized practice of law statutes.”
According to the State Bar, Johnson associated with several non-attorney legal organizations, lending his name and status as an attorney to a firm offering bankruptcy filing and assistance, a business handling forensic audits and loan modifications, and two other loan modification companies.
Honn cited cases in which homeowners were promised that their homes would not be foreclosed but the homeowners lost them anyway after having made significant payments to the non-attorney companies.
Johnson “lacked control and failed to supervise” any of the organizations with which he was associated, Honn wrote. “This lack of control and failure to supervise consequently led to, among other things, the unauthorized practice of law, misrepresentations and client harm.”
Johnson joined the State Bar in 2003. He was privately reproved in 2005 and suspended July 1 for failing to pay membership fees and comply with mandatory continuing legal education obligations, but returned to active status in the months before his November 2009 resignation.
Shoemaker, whose case was investigated and prosecuted with the help of the California Department of Real Estate, has owned and operated a loan modification business called Advocate for Fair Lending since 2008.
Department of Real Estate
Shoemaker “used Advocate and his status as an attorney to convince cash-strapped homeowners to pay him thousands of dollars in hopes of saving their homes from foreclosure,” Honn wrote. Shoemaker, however, “often did little to nothing to help these clients,” Honn said. “In fact, many of these homeowners were worse off after retaining [Shoemaker’s] services.”
Honn’s order referred to 18 examples in which Advocate clients, who signed power-of-attorney forms when they contracted with Advocate, were not helped and asked for refunds. A few did get refunds, he noted, but many others did not. Some clients reported that their lenders said they had never been contacted by Advocate on their behalf.
Shoemaker contended that he was merely the president of Advocate and did not represent any Advocate clients in a legal capacity, but Honn rejected the argument.
“Advocate’s clients were also [Shoemaker’s] clients,” he wrote. “An attorney cannot use a power of attorney form to absolve themselves of the ethical mandates they have sworn to uphold.”
Shoemaker became a State Bar member in 1988. The State Bar’s website shows no prior public record of discipline.
In addition to the involuntary inactive enrollments of Johnson and Shoemaker, the State Bar said its Office of Chief Trial Counsel has obtained the resignations of 13 attorneys involved in loan modification misconduct since creation of the Loan Modification Task Force in April 2009.
Five loan modification trials are pending, the State Bar said, and another 2,000 active investigations related to loan modification are being conducted.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company