California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA - APRIL 2000
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


REGULARS

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Front Page - April 2000
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News Briefs
Election schedule set for board, CYLA vacancies
Bar court judge appointments process to be reviewed
Newest board member dies
Ventura County mobile legal center cited by ABA
ABA offers three CLE programs
Bar, Western State plan annual ethics symposium
Penalty for late bar dues moved to April 28
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Legal Tech - UM: The leading edge of convergence
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Opinion
From the President - Link starting salaries with service
Easy to destroy, hard to rebuild
2 trains on a collision course
Keep the judiciary independent
Letters to the Editor
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MCLE Self-Study
Viewing the Subdivision Map Act
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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Public Comment
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Discipline
Ethics Byte - More on the written agreement
Charges of grand theft, sexual battery lead to bar hearing
Attorney Discipline

DISCIPLINE

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Charges of grand theft, sexual battery lead to bar hearing
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An Encinitas attorney accused of grand theft and sexual battery against two clients faced involuntary inactive status following a hearing in State Bar Court last month. Lingaraj Bahinipaty [#177510], who will be 59 this month, represented himself as both a lawyer and a doctor and allegedly performed physical exam-inations of clients to determine if their claims had merit.

He pleaded not guilty to five counts of grand theft, a felony, and two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery.

According to the criminal charges filed in Riverside County, Bahinipaty charged five clients $35,385 in fees for legal work which never was performed. The sexual battery charges resulted from complaints by two female clients, who said Bahinipaty claimed to be a medical doctor.

Bahinipaty’s lawyer, Mark Sullivan, said his client is a licensed orthopedic surgeon in Great Britain and Canada.

One client said she consulted Bahinipaty about a possible malpractice suit against a plastic surgeon and the manufacturer of her silicone breast implants.

Bahinipaty asked her to remove her blouse and bra and touched the client’s breasts, according to court papers. He allegedly collected $1,600 in fees, but never pursued the case and never refunded the fees.

The second matter also involved a possible malpractice case. The client said Bahinipaty asked her to remove her pants and panties so he could examine her back, according to court papers. After the exam, he allegedly asked her if she had ever had sex or if she “felt horny.”

That client, who hired Bahinipaty after seeing a Yellow Pages advertisement identifying him as both a lawyer and a doctor, paid him $2,000. He allegedly never performed any legal work for her or refunded her fees.

State Bar charges filed against Bahinipaty in 12 matters went even further than the criminal case, and include allegations that between August 1996 and December 1999, he:

Claimed to be a medical doctor, although he was never licensed to practice in California and had been ordered by the state medical board to stop advertising himself as a physician;

Performed “medical exams” on six clients;

Sexually assaulted four clients during the course of the physical exams;

Misappropriated more than $76,000 in unearned advance fees and settlement funds and failed to refund portions of advance fees that were not earned;

Made false representations to the court; and

Committed acts of moral turpitude by misappropriating client money and making false statements to the court and opposing counsel.

The bar also charged Bahinipaty with failure to perform legal services competently, report a $1,000 sanction, notify clients of the receipt of settlement funds, keep clients informed of developments in their cases and return client papers and property.

In addition, the bar accused him of using undue influence and misinformation in order to take sexual advantage of clients.

In a medical malpractice case, the bar charged that Bahinipaty filed a complaint against his client’s former physician, but listed the client and her husband as being in pro per and provided a false address under their names. He never told the client the complaint was filed, and the client never authorized filing the complaint designating her as in pro per.

The complaint was dismissed, but the client never was notified because of the false address.

According to the bar charges, Bahinipaty charged another client $25,000 in advanced fees and informed her four months later that her lawsuit was filed. Four months after that, when the client called about the case, Bahinipaty told her the advance fees were exhausted by 165 hours of legal work at $250 per hour.

When a trial date was set, the bar alleged, Bahinipaty asked his client for $1,000 to have an expert review her medical files. The client refused to pay any additional money, and no expert was hired.

When a new attorney was hired, the bar said, he discovered that Bahinipaty may have performed four to six hours of work on the case and that the file consisted primarily of documents provided by the client and her husband.

In another matter charged by the bar, Bahinipaty represented a woman in a medical malpractice case. Her boyfriend then hired Bahinipaty to represent him a lawsuit stemming from injuries he received during a fire at his girlfriend’s residence. Without either person’s authorization or waiver of conflict of interest, Bahinipaty filed a lawsuit by the boyfriend against his girlfriend. Although the man advised Bahinipaty he did not wish to pursue the suit, it remains active and has not been dismissed.

The bar also charged Bahinipaty with misconduct in several cases involving the same family: two separate medical malpractice actions on behalf of both the husband and his mother-in-law, a personal injury claim for the wife, and a Social Security claim for the husband.

According to the bar, Bahinipaty settled the personal injury claim without the wife’s authorization, forged a settlement check for $4,396, and kept the funds, claiming he had performed a substantial amount of work on the social security claim.

He allegedly gave the husband’s medical malpractice matter to another attorney without his consent. The clients did not know a motion for summary judgment had been filed and the case lost. Bahinipaty allegedly blamed the loss on the other attorney and refused to refund $15,000 in advance fees.

The bar also charges that Bahinipaty never provided a fee agreement to the mother-in-law and never filed a complaint in that matter. Further, it charges that he made sexual advances towards the wife during the time her husband’s case was pending.

In another case, the bar charged that Bahinipaty filed a declaration purportedly by a physician opposing a motion for summary judgment. In fact, the doctor said his opinion was the opposite of that presented. Bahinipaty then allegedly designated another doctor as a supportive expert, but failed to obtain a declaration from the doctor. Summary judgment was granted and sanctions of more than $5,000 were imposed on Bahinipaty.

The bar sought Bahinipaty’s inactive enrollment because his conduct “overwhelmingly demonstrates a pattern of deceitful, harmful and illegal behaviors.” Prosecutors expressed fear that his conduct posed a “substantial threat of harm” to clients and the public.