Dec. 14, 2022
Recent attorney disbarments, suspensions, probations and public reprovals in California.
Eric Curtis Lund
State Bar #250667, Chico (November 11, 2022)
Lund was summarily disbarred following the State Bar's receipt of finality of the judgment of his conviction for possession of more than 600 images of child pornography (Cal. Penal Code §311.11(c)(1)). He had earlier been placed on interim suspension pending final disposition of the conviction proceedings.
The underlying offense is a felony involving moral turpitude.
Gerald Bennett Malanga
State Bar #167065, Los Angeles (November 5, 2022)
Malanga was disbarred after he stipulated to committing numerous acts of misconduct related to 18 client matters.
His misconduct included failing to perform legal services with competence and representing a client without having the authority to do so, two counts of failing to cooperate in the State Bar's investigation of the wrongdoing alleged, five counts of failing to communicate significant case developments to clients, and six counts of failing to promptly distribute settlement funds due to clients.
He was also culpable of 17 counts each of failing to promptly notify clients of receiving settlement funds and failing to maintain the required balance in his client trust account, and 18 counts of intentionally misappropriating client settlement funds for his own purposes--misconduct involving moral turpitude.
In one of the underlying matters, Malanga represented 22 plaintiffs in a lawsuit against a homebuilder, alleging violations of building standard in homes it developed, built, and sold. He obtained an aggregate settlement of $154,000. The settlement agreement specified that the funds were to be held in trust and not distributed until the agreement was executed and a request for dismissal was filed.
Malanga received two checks funding the settlement amount, and deposited both in his client trust account. Shortly after, before any of the clients had been paid, the account balance dipped to an impermissibly low level; Malanga had used the funds for his own purposes, occasioned by personal financial problems related to foreclosures of investment properties. In total, he misappropriated approximately $58,925 of the settlement monies. He had not informed any of the clients that he had receive all settlement funds as required.
In other cases involving multiple plaintiffs and similar fact patterns of misconduct, Malanga failed to pay one client settlement funds to which he was entitled for more than one year after the client complained to the State Bar, and completely failed to pay others the portion of settlement funds they were due.
In several matters, he failed to respond to clients' requests for information or to update them on significant case developments or to respond to numerous oral and written requests by State Bar investigators.In aggravation, Malanga committed multiple acts of wrongdoing--most of which constituted a pattern of misconduct that significantly harmed his clients who received payments late or received no payments at all, and failed to make restitution to several of the clients.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and had practiced law discipline-free for approximately 23 years before the misconduct at issue began.
-Barbara Kate Repa