Saturday, February 25, 2017

No Harm - No Foul? Despite Spotless Record For 30+ Years Of Practice, Lawyer Who, Without Dishonest Intent, 'Borrowed' $30K From Client Trust Account To Pay Personal Expenses During Period Of Great Family Stress, Then Promptly Paid Client In Full Upon Request Before Complaint Was Filed Gets Hammered By State Bar Anyway w/ 2-Year License Suspension

In Los Angeles, California, the Northern California Record reports:
  • Marina Del Rey attorney Geoffrey L. Taylor was placed on suspension by the State Bar Court of California for misappropriation of client funds in a single matter.

    The suspension went into effect Nov. 4, according to the State Bar website.

    According to the statement of facts listed in court documents, Taylor was hired by a woman in September 2013 to represent her in a personal injury suit. The client and attorney agreed that Taylor would receive 33.3 percent of any funds obtained in her case. The matter was settled on Dec. 27, 2013, and the plaintiff received a $50,000 settlement, $16,665 of which should have covered Taylor’s fees.

    The client requested that their portion of the settlement be held in Taylor’s client trust account while they negotiated the medical bills from her accident. Taylor agreed, and by April 2014, Los Robles Hospital had waived her medical expenses. However, between the time of January 2014 and May 2014, the attorney allegedly wrote several checks from his client trust account for personal expenses. At one point, the account fell to a total of $32.70.

    In June 2014, Taylor used his personal account to wire $29,955.99 to his client and settled her remaining medical bills. The client filed a complaint against Taylor for misappropriating funds, and he was contacted about the matter by the State Bar in February 2015.

    The State Bar took into account several factors while determining the severity of Taylor’s sentence, according to court documents.(1) Taylor had no disciplinary history, his candor in the situation was evidenced by his payment of all funds to the client and medical providers prior to contact by the State Bar, and his admission of wrongdoing showed remorse. Taylor also provided personal references and explained that he had been going through personal issues at the time of misconduct.

    Taylor was suspended for two years and also will serve three years of probation.
For the story, see Marina Del Rey attorney suspended for misappropriating funds.
(1) From the Facts & Conclusions of Law:
  • At the time of the misconduct, Respondent had practiced law for over 31 years without discipline.

    By admitting his misconduct and paying the client before the client filed a complaint with the State Bar, Respondent demonstrated remorse and that he is willing to conform his future conduct to the ethical requirements of the legal profession. Moreover, although Respondent’s misconduct related directly to the practice of law, the misappropriation did not involve deceit, and Respondent did not intend to permanently deprive Lacho of her funds.

    Respondent anticipated that the film project he was involved in would provide him with funds to replenish the funds he withdrew from his client trust account prior to Lacho concluding her negotiations with Los Robles Hospital. Although the payment from the film project failed to materialize, when Lacho did request her funds, Respondent did not delay but paid her in full. Respondent took prompt steps to rectify his misconduct before significant harm could injure his client. The facts indicate this was an isolated event.

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