Let me start off this story by saying that I am one of the small group of people who like attorneys. I like the way they think and really enjoy being around them. Yes, I know that makes me weird but as the saying goes .... the Truth shall set you free.
In my practice of real estate and expert witness, I see lots of people with problems and all kinds of litigation issues. My upset is that there is little if any justice. The real world is not like TV lawyers shows. The bad guy does not always lose and the offended party always win. Too often is is decided by who has the best lawyers and who has the most money.
I run across all kinds of attorneys. Like all fields, there are smart ones and some that you wonder how they passed the bar exam. There are those who have the highest ethical and moral standards while others could slide under a door without opening it. But that is not the problem that I see.
I advertise my expert witness services in the California Lawyer magazine. One of their monthly sections is a report from the state Bar Association of discipline imposed that month on the attorneys in California. I know, when I read it, it is going to upset me, but I do it anyway. If you look, you will see lawyers getting discipline from the bar. But, if you look closer, you will see that they were very slow to take action, meaning that more and more clients were harmed. (Kind of like the Bernie Madorff deal)
This month is so typical. The first story is about a really bad attorney who was finally disbarred. Yeah, you say?? Not so fast. It is now 2009 and his shenanigans started in 2002, when he took $20,000 of a clients money. Shouldn't that have been enough to come down hard on his. We put some stupid dopehead in jail for stealing a beer from the 7-11 store. But, no! By 2004, he had misappropriated almost $90,000 from the client. The clients finally complained to the BAR in 2006. Oh, in 2009, he was disbarred after being found culpable of engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption; misappropriating client funds; making misrepresentations of fact to a court and to clients; failing to maintain client funds in trust; failing to competently perform legal services; failing to keep clients reasonably informed about significant developments in the client's case; and failing to promptly return client files. And his is probably also mean to little kittens.
Another example was the case of an attorney who was was disbarred after being found culpable in four matters of practicing law while on suspension, engaging in acts of moral turpitude, and failing to comply with conditions to disciplinary orders in 2005 and 2007. His problems started in 2002 (yes 7 years ago) when he got a private reproval for failing to return a clients fees. And, when he didn't comply, he was suspended for 30 days and placed on probation (And, he was made to write on the board 100 times that he was a bad boy. Just kidding). Yes, 30 whole days. Then, in 2007, he was suspended for 18 months for more violations. Then, he was finally disbarred for practicing law while suspended.
Am I the only one that sees the the Emperor has no clothes. The Bar Association is the only remedy that most of us have against incompetent or dishonest attorneys. Unless they act responsibly and in a timely fashion, we are all at risk.