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In re Klein

February 11, 1999

IN RE LESLIE KLEIN, RESPONDENT. A MEMBER OF THE BAR OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURT OF APPEALS ON REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE BOARD ON PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY


Before Terry and Steadman, Associate Judges, and Gallagher, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam

Notice: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the Atlantic and Maryland Reporters. Users are requested to notify the Clerk of the Court of any formal errors so that corrections may be made before the bound volumes go to press.

Submitted January 21, 199

This reciprocal discipline case comes to us from the Board on Professional Responsibility ("the Board"). In 1992, the Supreme Court of California suspended respondent for eighteen months after respondent stipulated that he violated Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 6068 (b) & (d), and former Cal. Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7-105 (1) by making misrepresentations to the probate court. The California Court stayed the suspension and placed respondent on probation for eighteen months, subject to conditions recommended by the Hearing Department of the California State Bar. In 1995, the California Court suspended respondent for one year after respondent stipulated to violating Cal. Rules of Professional Conduct Rules 4-100 (a) (commingling of client funds) & 3-310 (c) (representation of adverse interests). The California Court stayed the suspension and placed respondent on probation for one year, provided he be suspended for forty-five days.

In early 1998, Bar Counsel learned of the disciplinary orders through the ABA National Lawyer Regulatory Data Bank, and informed this court. Pursuant to D.C. Bar R. XI, § 11 (d), respondent was directed to show cause why reciprocal discipline should not be imposed, and we directed the Board to make recommendations concerning the reciprocal discipline. Respondent was suspended from practicing law in the District of Columbia pending final Disposition of this proceeding. The Board recommends that respondent be suspended for eighteen months, that all but forty-five days of that suspension be stayed, and that respondent remain on unsupervised probation for the stayed portion of the term of the suspension. Neither respondent nor Bar Counsel has noted an exception to the Board's Report and Recommendation. The facts pertaining to respondent's conduct are set forth in the Board's Report and Recommendation, which is attached as an Appendix.

There is a presumption that in reciprocal discipline cases the discipline in the District of Columbia will be the same as that imposed by the original disciplining jurisdiction. See In re Zilberberg, 612 A.2d 832, 834 (D.C. 1992). Under D.C. Bar R. XI, § 9 (g)(1):

In determining the appropriate order, the Court shall accept the findings of fact made by the Board unless they are unsupported by substantial evidence of record, and shall adopt the recommended Disposition of the Board unless to do so would foster a tendency toward inconsistent Dispositions for comparable conduct or would otherwise be unwarranted.

We approve the recommendation of the Board. Accordingly, Leslie Klein is hereby suspended from practice for eighteen months. All but forty-five days of this suspension shall be stayed. Respondent shall remain on unsupervised probation for the term of his suspension. The sanction shall be made effective as of the filing of his affidavit pursuant to D.C. Bar R. XI, § 14 (g), May 1, 1998.

So ordered.

APPENDIX REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE BOARD ON PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY

Respondent is a member of the Bar of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ("Court"), having been admitted on August 15, 1980. He is also admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of California ("California court"). The California court suspended Respondent for several violations of the California Business and Professions Code ("California Code"). The Court has directed this Board to recommend whether reciprocal discipline should be imposed.

In his representation of the Estate of Victor Robinett, Respondent stated in a petition for probate that the decedent was a resident of Orange County, California. He also filed a proof of subscribing witness, that the decedent was a resident of Los Angeles County California. He then filed a spousal property petition under penalty of perjury, stating that the decedent was a resident of Los Angeles County, when he knew that the decedent had resided in Orange County. In his representation of the Estate of George Hobnay, Respondent filed a petition for probate wherein he represented that the decedent was a resident of Orange County. He subsequently filed a spousal property petition wherein he misrepresented that the decedent had been a resident of Los Angeles County.

In both matters, Respondent stipulated that his misrepresentations violated California Code sections 6068(b) & (d) and former California Rule of Professional Conduct 7-105(1). In mitigation, it was stipulated that (1) Respondent had practiced in California for over 20 years without prior discipline; (2) he had been candid and cooperative in the disciplinary investigation; and (3) the probate petitions had been voluntarily dismissed in both matters. On September 10, 1992, the California court suspended Respondent for a period of 18 months, with execution of the suspension stayed and Respondent placed on probation for 18 months, subject to the conditions of probation recommended by the Hearing Department of the State Bar Court.

In a second disciplinary proceeding, Respondent was retained to represent Laura Hoppenjans in a personal injury matter. Respondent settled the case on the client's behalf for $50,000 and placed the settlement funds in his client trust account. He then transferred the funds to a certificate of deposit maintained in his wife's name as trustee for himself as beneficiary. Respondent stipulated that his conduct violated California Rule 4-100(a), which proscribes commingling. In mitigation, it was stipulated that Respondent's object in commingling was to maximize interest on the client's funds pending resolution of the amount to be paid to medical lienholders. In a second matter in this proceeding, Respondent was employed to draft a will and trust for Helen McGroarty. The only asset of the trust was the client's home. Respondent prepared the trust naming the client's son and two siblings as co-trustees. Subsequent to the client's death, a dispute arose among the trustees regarding the potential sale of the home. An associate in Respondent's law firm filed a petition on behalf of the two siblings to remove the son as co-trustee. It was stipulated that Respondent was unaware that a member of his firm had filed the removal petition against one of the trustees, and Respondent immediately withdrew from the representation when he discovered the conflict. Nevertheless, Respondent stipulated that his conduct constituted a violation of California Rule 3-310(c)(representation of ...


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