SACRAMENTO — A State Bar Court judge has recommended a six-month suspension for a Los Angeles attorney who posted manipulated photos on her firm’s website that suggested she hobnobbed with movie stars and politicians.
Svitlana Sangary engaged in deceptive advertising, refused to cooperate with bar investigators and, in a separate manner, dragged her feet releasing the files of a client who had fired her, State Bar Court Judge Donald Miles found.
“The court has grave concerns regarding [Sangary's] demonstrated lack of insight and her contemptuous conduct during these proceedings,” Miles wrote. Her “failure to remove the deceptive images from her website, even after the State Bar brought this issue to her attention, and her demonstrated disregard for the disciplinary process give little reason to believe that her misconduct will not continue.”
Sangary did not return messages Wednesday. In a January 2014 response to the bar’s allegations, Sangary wrote what Miles described as “a 16-page soliloquy with little or no rational connection to the charges at hand.” The rambling document appears to touch on a number of legal disputes in which she was or is a litigant. She writes of being a successful immigrant who has endured intimidation tactics and spiteful attacks from others.
“Sangary’s American dream has come true,” she wrote in the third-person. “Sangary is a prominent donor and philanthropist, supporting important social causes, who had recently received the email from President Obama with the subject line ‘I need your help today,’ asking … for an additional donation.”
The response is attached to 148 pages of exhibits, which include emails, canceled checks, articles about actress Natalie Portman and a fund-raising pitch from the Democratic Party—none of which seem to be relevant to the bar’s complaint.
For approximately two years, a page on Sangary’s website, www.californiacivillawyer.com, showed dozens of photos of the attorney standing next to celebrities, including George Clooney, President Obama, Donald Trump and Morgan Freeman. The website’s link to the page was gone Wednesday afternoon, although the images were still accessible through an older URL.
Bar investigators contended, and Miles agreed, that “many, and perhaps all” of the images were altered to overlay Sangary’s photo, making it seem that she was frequently in the company of celebrities in an attempt “to confuse, deceive and mislead the public.”
Warned by a bar investigator in a letter that the photos appeared deceptive, Sangary never filed a response as required by state law, Miles said. Nor did she cooperate with another investigation into an alleged argument with a former client over fees, according to the judge’s decision. The judge also chastised Sangary for taking five months to provide all the necessary case documents to a client who had fired her.
In addition to the six-month suspension, Miles’ decision calls for Sangary to serve three years of probation. The recommendations must still be approved by the state Supreme Court.
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