Open coffin Photo: Shutterstock.com

Sonoma County lawyer Steven Pabros is set to serve a 30-day suspension from practicing law for failing to disclose that his client was dead for more than a year while he litigated his case.

According to a stipulated set of facts filed with the State Bar Court of California, Pabros, of Windsor, was litigating a dispute with a tenant on appeal on behalf of Alfeo Mattei when his client died in January 2016. Pabros, however, continued to litigate the case for more than a year after Mattei’s death without informing the court and opposing counsel. Even then, it was only after the case had been remanded and was headed for trial.

According to the stipulated facts, Pabros didn’t respond when opposing counsel asked why Mattei wasn’t on his witness list on the first day of trial April, 7, 2017. Pabros further didn’t respond to opposing counsel’s questions when conferring with the judge in chambers April 12, 2017, about whether his client, who was the only person who could testify about the lease underlying the dispute, would appear. It was only after the lunch break that day when opposing counsel had learned of Mattei’s death through an internet search that Pabros responded “he has passed, yes” when asked directly by the judge about Mattei.

Pabros did not respond to a voicemail left on his voicemail at O’Brien Law in Petaluma where he now practices. Pabros’s attorney in the case before the State Bar Court, Jerome Fishkin of Fishkin & Slatter in Walnut Creek, likewise didn’t respond to messages. Senior Trial Counsel Duncan Carling handled the matter for the State Bar according to court papers.

Pabros has already been ordered to pay $31,160 in sanctions to Mattei’s litigation opponents in the underlying matter in Sonoma Superior Court. The sanctions order has been stayed pending appeal.

State Bar Court Judge Pat McElroy signed off on the suspension order in Pabros’s case Jan. 15. The California Supreme Court imposed the discipline recommended by the Bar Court on May 2. According to the State Bar, Pabros is set to serve his 30-day actual suspension beginning June 1. His full discipline includes a one-year stayed suspension, a three-year probationary period, and a requirement to attend State Bar Ethics School.

The Bar Court found that Pabros had a discipline-free 30-year record prior to this case. It also acknowledged that he cooperated with the bar disciplinary proceedings and recognized his wrongdoing.