Thursday, October 4, 2012
State Bar Files Discipline Cases Based on MCLE Audit
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The State Bar said yesterday that it has filed disciplinary charges against three attorneys who falsified their compliance with Minimum Continuing Legal Education requirements.
The attorneys falsely reported to the bar that they had fulfilled the requirement to complete 25 hours of MCLE, bar lawyers said in documents filed Monday in State Bar Court. The three cases mark the first disciplinary action to result from the State Bar’s increased scrutiny of MCLE compliance, the State Bar said in a release, but more charges are expected in the coming weeks.
A State Bar spokesperson said a total of 27 lawyers were referred to the Office of Chief Trial Counsel as the result of last year’s random audit of 635 lawyers.
The 635 represented one percent of the total number of lawyers in last year’s compliance group, the spokesperson said, explaining that 98 of those audited were found in non-compliance and 27 were referred for possible disciplinary action.
Charges were filed against Hal Erwin Wright, 58, of Davi; Leah Singer-Lamstein, 45, of San Rafael; and Jeffrey John Parrish, 68, of Alamo.
Wright said he had not received a copy of the State Bar’s disciplinary notice, and that he was unaware of it prior to receiving a phone call earlier yesterday from a reporter.
“Why is it that everyone in the f—ing world knows about this but me,” he commented.
State Bar records show that Davis stipulated to discipline earlier this year in connection with allegations that he failed to perform services for which he had been paid, and failed to return the fees. The proposed discipline, which is pending, included two years of probation and 60 days of actual suspension.
As part of the stipulation, the State Bar acknowledged several mitigating circumstances, including that Davis was evicted from his home last year, that he had been forced to seek the protection of a restraining order after a member of his household was threatened during the period in which he was representing the two named clients, and that he had cooperated with the State Bar’s investigation.
Singer-Lamstein could not be reached at the phone number listed on the State Bar website. She has no record of discipline, the State Bar said.
Parrish told the MetNews that the charges were “just astounding.” He said he had not seen the disciplinary notice until a copy was provided yesterday by a reporter.
“I’ll be responding in due course....The charges are not true, and they should know that the charges are not true, and the fact that they make these charges and publish [them] to the world at large is absolutely outrageous, and I’ll see them in court,” the attorney said.
State Bar records show that Parrish was suspended for five months in 2007 and 2008 for non-payment of dues.
Because the offense charged involves moral turpitude, it carries with it the possibility of actual suspension or disbarment, the State Bar said in its release.
“It is truly unfortunate that we need to take this action against any lawyer,” State Bar Executive Director/CEO Joe Dunn said in a statement. “Lawyers can easily avoid this problem by simply meeting the well-known MCLE requirements that have been in place for 20 years.”
The State Bar requires active attorneys, except those statutorily exempt, to take 25 hours of continuing education courses every three years, including four hours of legal ethics and an hour each of elimination of bias and detection and prevention of substance abuse or mental illness. Lawyers must keep documentation for at least a year after their compliance is due.
In July, the State Bar said, it expanded its audit to 2,600 attorneys whose last names begin with the letters H through M. That audit, which represents 5 percent of attorneys whose MCLE requirements were due this year, is still in progress.
Next year, the bar plans to audit 10 percent of attorneys whose MCLE requirements are due. Those attorneys’ names begin with the letters A through G.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company