Saturday, February 11, 2017

Playing Fast & Loose With Clients' Cash, Five California Attorneys Get Their Law Licenses Yanked

The State Bar of California has recently announced that thirteen (13) California lawyers have been disbarred during the period December 1 to December 31, 2016.

Of the 13, the following five (5) were given the boot, at least in part, for playing fast & loose with their clients' money:
  • DANIEL EUGENE HIBBARD [#138147], 62, of Riverside, was disbarred Dec. 4, 2016 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

    Hibbard misappropriated funds exceeding $25,000 from two clients and made misrepresentations to hide his misconduct. The State Bar Court found him culpable of eight counts of misconduct.

    In one matter, Hibbard failed to maintain $1,954 in his client trust account that was supposed to be used to pay his client’s medical provider. He also did not pay the medical provider despite repeated requests from the client. Hibbard ultimately wrote a check to the medical provider, but it was not honored due to insufficient funds.

    In a second matter, he failed to maintain $23,743.64 in settlement funds in his client trust account. Although Hibbard ultimately paid his clients some of the money and paid two medical providers, he still owed them $13,973 at the time the court recommended his disbarment and made no subsequent payments.

    Hibbard engaged in multiple acts of misconduct and caused significant harm to his clients by misappropriating their money. One client’s unpaid medical bill was referred to collections, while the others still owed money to their medical providers at the time of Hibbard’s disciplinary trial.

    Hibbard had no prior record of discipline and showed remorse for his wrongdoing.

    GREGORY MACKEAN BENTLEY [#275923], 35, of San Francisco, was disbarred Dec. 4, 2016 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

    Bentley mixed personal and client funds in his client trust account, issued checks from his client trust account to pay personal expenses and failed to participate in a State Bar disciplinary investigation.

    Bentley was disbarred after his default was entered for failing to respond to a notice of disciplinary charges. Because he did not seek to have the default set aside or vacated within 90 days as required under the State Bar’s Rules of Procedure, he was disbarred and the charges against him deemed admitted.

    WALTER LEE DAVIS [#98513], 62, of Brentwood, was disbarred Dec. 4, 2016 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

    In one matter, Davis engaged in moral turpitude and dishonesty by signing a release claim on behalf of his client without authorization in a personal injury matter. He also failed to promptly notify his client of the receipt of $9,000 in settlement funds, endorsed a settlement check without his client’s authorization, misappropriated $6,000 and failed to maintain client funds in trust or render an accounting of the settlement funds to his client. In addition, he made misrepresentations to the client including that he had not received the settlement funds, that the funds had been mailed to another address and that his secretary had misappropriated the money.

    In a second matter, he failed to notify a client of his receipt of $7,800 in settlement funds, endorsed a settlement check without his client’s permission, failed to maintain a balance of $5,200 in his client trust account, misappropriated the money and failed to provide an accounting of the settlement funds. As he had in the other matter, Davis claimed to not have received the settlement funds and said his secretary misappropriated the money.

    Davis was disbarred after his default was entered for failing to appear at his disciplinary trial. Because he did not seek to have the default set aside or vacated within 45 days as required by the State Bar’s Rules of Procedure, he was disbarred and the charges against him deemed admitted.

    KRISTIN MARIE SCHUH [#241554], 42, of Los Angeles, was disbarred Dec. 29, 2016 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

    Schuh engaged in two counts of misconduct in a single client matter. She failed to promptly notify a client she had received on his behalf a $19,327.70 bond refund or cooperate in a State Bar disciplinary investigation.

    Schuh was disbarred after her default was entered for failing to respond to a notice of disciplinary charges. Because she did not seek to have the default set aside or vacated within 90 days, the State Bar moved to disbar her under the State Bar’s Rules of Procedure. The charges were deemed admitted.

    AMY LYNN SPENCER [#248069], 41, of Anaheim, was disbarred Dec. 29, 2016 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

    In one matter, Spencer failed to communicate by not responding to nine emails and numerous phone calls from a client and did not respond to four letters from a State Bar investigator. In a second matter, she failed to refund $1,850 in unearned fees, respond to 28 phones calls from her client making reasonable inquiries about the status of her matter or respond to three letters from a State Bar investigator.

    Spencer was disbarred by default after she failed to respond to a notice of disciplinary charges. Because she failed to have the default set aside or vacated within 90 days as required under the State Bar’s Rules of Procedure, she was disbarred and the charges against her deemed admitted.
Source: California Bar Journal - Disbarments (December 1 to December 31, 2016).

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