Thursday, October 22, 2015
Suspended Lawyer Faces Disbarment for Forsaking Clients
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Orange County attorney James M. Parsa is facing disbarment for abandoning numerous clients in October 2009 after he was criminally convicted for unlawful sexual intercourse with a 17-year-old employee, the State Bar said yesterday.
State Bar Court Hearing Judge Pat McElroy found that Parsa, 50, abandoned 43 clients and failed to return their unearned fees of more than $120,000. Parsa accepted new clients and their fees even when he knew his license was about to be suspended in connection with the criminal conviction, the judge found, and failed to notify his clients that he intended to withdraw and would not be pursuing their loan modification applications.
Parsa advertised heavily in Southern California media for several months in 2008 and 2009, at the height of the mortgage foreclosure crisis. He was one of a number of such lawyers targeted by State Bar and state attorney general investigators amid reports that lawyers were receiving fees from desperate homeowners to seek modifications of their loans or challenge foreclosures, but doing no work.
(State law has since been amended to prohibit the charging of advance fees for seeking loan modifications.)
Although Parsa was not charged in connection with his mortgage loan work, investigators discovered he had been convicted of the misdemeanor sex offense in 2001, and he was placed on interim suspension in October 2009. Less than two weeks later, he tendered his resignation, which remained pending for two years before the Supreme Court rejected it.
The State Bar then brought new charges of client abandonment. In response, Parsa noted that the State Bar had taken over his practice after the suspension and said he left it to his “trusted office manager” to notify his clients of what had transpired. He added that he had stayed away from his office during this period, in part because the State Bar had taken charge of the practice and also because he was receiving death threats from angry clients.
He received a two-year suspension of his law license last year in connection with the misdemeanor conviction.
He has also been under suspension in Nevada since 2011 for failing to notify bar counsel there of the California discipline, according to State Bar of Nevada records.
In seeking his disbarment, the State Bar noted that the practice had about 4,500 clients and 100 employees, about 90 of whom were laid off. In addition to the 43 clients named in the court decision, another 1,130 people have filed State Bar complaints against Parsa, the State Bar said.
The State Bar noted in its release that the disbarment is not final until approved by the California Supreme Court. “Once that happens, the State Bar’s Client Security Fund can begin processing claims for reimbursement,” the release said.
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