Tuesday, June 18, 2002
San Luis Obispo Attorney Milstein Placed on Involuntary Inactive Status
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
San Luis Obispo attorney Leonard R. Milstein has been placed on involuntary inactive status after the State Bar Court found that he enticed incarcerated clients to hire him with promises of early releases that he did not, and could not, follow through on.
The State Bar Court declared Milstein inactive Friday after determining “he poses a substantial threat of harm to his clients and to the public.”
Milstein, 58, is charged with 13 separate counts of misconduct involving false advertising, aiding and abetting the unlawful practice of law, incompetence in the handling of client matters, failing to perform and/or communicate with clients, failing to account for fees received and failing to return unearned fees.
He is not entitled to practice law in California until a further order of the State Bar Court. Milstein is set to go to trial July 23 on three different notices of disciplinary charges, but the charges are very similar to the ones he is facing now, Deputy Chief Trial Counsel William Cox said.
Milstein, who focused his practice in criminal defense but has recently been doing bankruptcy work, “represented a very large number of clients [for whom] he totally failed to perform,” Cox said.
For the past two and a half years Milstein, a former Los Angeles deputy district attorney, has been advertising in American Justice Publication, a magazine distributed to inmates in California prisons, Cox said. Milstein promised in his ads that he could obtain early release for inmates, Cox said.
“There really is no such thing as early release for an individual confined to a California penal institution with a determined sentence,” Cox said.
Multiple attorneys advertise in the full-color publication, which is operated by disbarred Agoura Hills attorney A. Brent Carruth, but all of the calls are answered by American Justice Publication.
Employees of American Justice Publication then sign up clients, send runners to the residences of client’s relatives, and collect money, all of which falls under the practice of law and is not something the company or its employees are authorized to do, Cox said.
By advertising in the publication, Milstein aided and abetted the unlawful practice of law, Cox said.
“He is in fact responsible for the promises they make and the promises he did not keep,” Cox contended.
Carruth did not return calls for comment.
Milstein also blatantly failed to sufficiently represent at least a dozen clients facing strict sentences under California’s “Three Strikes” law, Cox said.
In two of these instances in which Milstein’s clients were facing life in prison, the briefs he submitted were stricken because they were “inadequate”—with the longer of the two stretching out to just five pages, Cox said.
The acts committed by Milstein are especially egregious because he preys on clients who are incarcerated and must depend on family and friends for financial support, Cox said.
Milstein has not been previously disciplined by the State Bar, but Cox said he could not divulge how many complaints have been lodged against the attorney.
Milstein was convicted in 1995 by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury of constructing a false defense at a 1989 trial of a client charged with two drug-related murders. Milstein was found guilty of six felonies, including conspiracy to obstruct justice and perjury, but the Court of Appeal reversed two years later.
Milstein’s jury convicted him of one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice; two counts of perjury; one count of offering false documentary evidence; one count of preparing false documents for evidence; and one count of bribery of a witness. The 12-member panel acquitted on two charges of solicitation to commit a crime and subornation of perjury. Judge William McLaughlin sentenced him to three years in prison, but the Court of Appeal reversed in 1997, saying there was insufficient admissible evidence. The court cited the traditional rule requiring corroboration of an alleged co-conspirator’s testimony.
Last week Milstein’s federal lawsuit against District Attorney Steve Cooley and another deputy district attorney accusing the men of using false evidence to frame him on the charges was dismissed for a second time. One of his attorneys, Stephen Yagman, said an appeal is likely.
Milstein also sued Cooley for defamation in state court, but that action too was unsuccessful. The trial court dismissed, the Court of Appeal affirmed, and the Supreme Court of California denied review.
Neither Milstein nor his attorney, David Clare of Costa Mesa, returned calls for comment.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company