As a California attorney, you have a statutory duty to cooperate in the State Bar's proceedings (Bus. & Prof. Code section 6068(i)), but you also have a right to have an attorney at any stage of the discipline process (Bus. & Prof. Code section 6085). Anthony is one of a very small handful of attorneys who not only worked for the California State Bar, but also who now represent attorneys for all matters concerning the State Bar.
When a person, like a disgruntled client, submits a complaint to the State Bar against you, it gives the State Bar the opportunity to look into your entire practice. You may think the State Bar will only investigate the dispute between you and the client, but in reality, the State Bar has subpoena power and can look at much more, such as all transactions in your client trust account fishing for wrongdoing, and they will go to the extreme of posing as clients visits or calls to learn how you run your office. And YOU as a licensed CA attorney have a duty to cooperate with the State Bar investigation (B&P Code §6068(i)), no matter how unfair it seems, no matter how many hoops they will make you jump through. You may think every allegation and question posed to you deserves an answer, and although this might be true, I as your counsel will determine the relevancy and point out to the Bar that not all questions deserve an answer.
The notion of attorneys which must be dispelled is: the more you cooperate with the Bar, the better chances you have to beat the allegations, get that complaint closed for good, and keep your license.
However, with anything in life, there is a way to do so. As defense counsel and former State Bar Investigator, I understand the investigative process and have the knowledge and experience in dealing with investigators. I know what the investigator is looking for and what they will obtain for their report to make their case and satisfy the State Bar prosecutor.
We always hope the State Bar prosecutor will use the investigative report to make informed decisions on cases but most likely, they do not get the full objective facts. I understand this and am able to foresee such problems with each complaint. Let me represent you and ensure the process is fair for you, and ultimately for the protection of your practice and the legal profession.
Here are the phases of the process:
You need to hire me at the Intake level. Do not let the complaint move from Intake to Investigations before hiring me. Do not wait until the day before your response to the investigator is due. Do not wait until charges are filed. Most allegations can be dropped if not lessened at the Intake level. The more the Bar understands what the true facts of the case are and the surrounding circumstances, the better for you. However, most attorneys think that they need to tell an entire story about themselves, but that is not what the Bar wants, or needs. You need a highly experienced defense counsel to nip the complaint in the bud and avoid further fees and costs instilled upon you by the Bar at an unwanted, unreasonable, and waste of a trial in a court owned and operated by the State Bar.
INTAKE: This is a large unit with several staff including supervisors and complaint analysts that analyze thousands of complaints each year. Their intent is to weed out and close the ones that lack any merit. The ones that have a certain degree of merit are those where there are potential violations, for example; moral turpitude (did you lie to or steal from your client?), failure to perform or incompetent representation (did you fail to appear in court or fail to file a pleading on time, etc.?), or failure to account for client funds (did you misappropriate client monies in your trust account? Did you fail to earn fees and not refund?). They also take into account whether you have a prior record of discipline and determine if you made a one-time mistake or have a pattern of conduct. Of course they try not to take malpractice/fee arbitration complaints, but sometimes the lines are blurred between malpractice and ethical misconduct.
INVESTIGATION/ENFORCEMENT: If a complaint cannot be resolved in Intake, such as you rectifying the issues with the client, (i.e., refunding them in full or getting their court case back on track) the complaint is forwarded to an Investigator who will now make a dutiful effort in gathering evidence, even by subpoena, depending on the case. The investigator will send you a letter describing the allegations and asking detailed questions. You have only a certain amount of time to respond in writing and are asked to provide supporting evidence to substantiate your responses. During this phase, this is where the respondent attorneys must be very careful, as anything you state can and will be used against you. This is particulary where my experience comes in. Competent defense counsel, who knows how the investigation process works, can make the difference between getting the file closed and the Bar filing charges against you. Protect yourself, hire me to help you.
TRIALS/APPEALS: By this time, the investigator has forwarded their report to the assigned State Bar trial counsel. The investigator could have closed the complaint at the end of their investigation; however, found that there was sufficient evidence to support violations of applicable law such as the California Rules of Professional Conduct and the State Bar Act; and the Trial Counsel agreed with them. The next thing you will receive in the mail is a notice of intent to file, which is the State Bar's decision they will file Notice of Disciplinary Charges. Time and time again I wish the attorney that hired me at this point, hired me during the investigation phase as the complaint could have maybe been closed had the in pro per respondent answered questions correctly. Nevertheless, it is your last ditch effort in hiring competent defense counsel like me who will request a settlement conference before the judge and ensure the court knows and understands the true facts of the case. We either settle and sign a stipulation or set the case for trial. If by stipulation, I will ensure the facts are stated, not just what the State Bar perceives as the facts. If by trial, I will represent you in a professional and zealous manner and defend you on all counts, finding every opportunity to get counts dropped, and presenting all mitigating factors. There are also other opportunities during the pre-trial process, to settle your case if it is warranted.
After trial, either party may appeal the decision to the Review Department of the State Bar Court. If you choose to appeal the decision, I will help you through the process.
Do not wait until the eve of trial to hire me. Let me fight for you early on in the process, so that the best possible outcome can be attained.