ESCAPE FROM BAR CUT OFF
Attorney David Weintraub fought State Bar disciplinary charges for one year, seven months and four days.
Then last month, only one day before his disbarment was to take effect, the Los Angeles solo practitioner tried to pull a fast one and resign instead.
Too late. And as State Bar governor Paul Hokokian sarcastically said, “Nice try.”
On Aug. 19, the State Bar Board of Governors voted unanimously to reject Weintraub’s resignation, forcing him to accept the disbarment he had fought so hard and for so long.
“Mr. Weintraub had ample opportunity to resign from the State Bar during the pendency of his discipline case,” George Scott, the State Bar Court’s acting administrative officer and chief court counsel, advised State Bar governors in writing. “Yet, he waited until the day before his disbarment was to become effective to file the resignation.”
State Bar prosecutors charged Weintraub on Dec. 22, 2004, with misappropriating nearly $13,000 from John Anderson, who had retained him for a personal injury case in 2001. He also was accused of failing to maintain his client trust account and of not disbursing settlement funds in Anderson’s case for several months.
Weintraub fought the charges vigorously, even representing himself in a two-day trial last year in State Bar Court. On Feb. 10, however, Judge Richard Platel recommended disbarment, ruling that Weintraub expressed no remorse, showed a cavalier attitude toward his client and couldn’t explain what happened to the missing funds.
On June 27, the state Supreme Court disbarred Weintraub, effective July 27. He submitted his resignation on July 26.
Weintraub, who got his degree at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio, couldn’t be located for comment � his office number wasn’t in service and he isn’t listed in directory assistance. But it appears he was trying to avoid the stigma of disbarment by being able to tell others he had resigned � kind of like someone saying they quit a job, rather than got fired.
No such luck for Weintraub.
In the document distributed to Bar governors on Aug. 19, Scott, of the State Bar Court, noted that resignation “furthers the goals of protecting the public, courts and legal profession in part by providing for the prompt resolution of disciplinary proceedings and the efficient use of discipline resources.
“Allowing Mr. Weintraub to resign after his State Bar Court trial and decision and after the Supreme Court’s review of the case,” Scott wrote, “does not further these goals.”
� Mike McKee
THE SOURCE OF PASSION’S HEAT
Had Lisa Nicole Lewis been somehow provoked by Glenn Luttrell before stabbing him to death with a kitchen knife, she might have qualified for a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter at trial.
But instead, the Contra Costa County woman was egged on by Luttrell’s stepson, Glenn Ray. Thus, a state appeal court ruled last week, Lewis had no claim to a heat of passion defense and her second-degree murder conviction should stand.
In an unpublished opinion issued Aug. 21, the First District Court of Appeal pointed out that Lewis once testified in court that her relationship with Luttrell was “just fine” before she and Ray killed him. She confessed to stabbing Luttrell for no reason other than because Ray told her to and she did not want to make him upset.
Following Lewis’ conviction, Judge Richard Flier, who is now retired from the bench, knocked down her conviction to voluntary manslaughter. Flier determined evidence that had not been seen by the jury, including Lewis’ testimony at Ray’s trial, suggested she killed in the heat of passion, according to the First District opinion.
Writing for the appellate court, Justice Patricia Sepulveda called Flier’s decision “an abuse of discretion.” She said actions like Ray’s failed to qualify Lewis for a heat of passion defense � and even if they did, they came from the wrong person.
“The provocative conduct required to reduce murder to voluntary manslaughter must come from the victim,” Sepulveda wrote.
Reached by phone at his home office, Flier said “it would be inappropriate for me to comment” on the ruling.
Lewis’ appellate lawyer, Susan Shors, said this area of law is “very fertile ground,” and ripe for an appeal. She plans to challenge the decision at the state Supreme Court.
Justices Timothy Reardon and Maria Rivera concurred in People v. Lewis, A110847. If the Supreme Court denies review, the case will be remanded back to the trial court for resentencing.
� Matthew Hirsch