California lawyer suspended after stipulating to malpractice

Attorneys in California owe certain duties to their clients. According to FindLaw, among the most fundamental of these are to perform their legal work adequately and competently and to respond to attempts to communicate by the court, the opposing counsel and the client in a timely manner. 

As of April 2019, the State Bar Court of California has suspended a California personal injury attorney for one year, with a two-year term of probation to follow, after he stipulated to multiple acts of misconduct against two separate clients over a span of approximately five years. 

In 2013, the attorney reportedly agreed to represent a client in a personal injury matter against a bus company. The attorney stipulated to filing the lawsuit but doing nothing further to prosecute the case. Additionally, the attorney appears to have not informed his client that he filed the lawsuit on his behalf and failed to respond to the client’s attempts to receive updates on the case in the form of monthly phone calls. When the case came to trial in 2017, the attorney failed to appear in court, resulting in the case’s dismissal. 

Another client hired the attorney to represent her in a medical malpractice case in 2015. The attorney reportedly failed to respond to repeated discovery requests from the opposing counsel, motions from the court and communication attempts by the client. He appears to have indirectly communicated a wish to withdraw from representing the client through a paralegal but failed to comply with requests from the client for her case file.

It was only a matter of months between the time that the court first approved the attorney’s motion to withdraw from the case and then held a hearing on the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. In that time, the plaintiff was unable to find another attorney to represent her, and the court ultimately dismissed the case after the plaintiff did not file an opposition to the motion for summary judgment. 

The court document cites multiple acts of wrongdoing, including failing to respond to clients’ inquiries, improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to release a client’s file and failing to perform with competence, as aggravating circumstances. Among other requirements, the attorney must attend State Bar Ethics School, meet with a probation officer and maintain required contact information.