A San Pedro attorney who was arrested last year on
suspicion of soliciting the murder of a State Bar prosecutor has lost his license to
practice for 18 months. Although no criminal charges have been filed, the Supreme Court
disciplined BARRY J. POST [#72286] for misconduct in 25 cases. He was
given a five-year stayed suspension, placed on five years of probation, and was ordered to
prove his rehabilitation, make restitution to seven clients, submit eight matters to fee
arbitration, seek psychiatric care, take and pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The
order took effect Oct. 22, 1999, with the exception of the actual suspension, which began
Dec. 17, 1999.
Post stipulated to the misconduct.
A sole practitioner, Post hired A. Brent Carruth, an attorney for
whom he previously worked, to provide staff and handle office manage-ment for him,
including bookkeep-ing, bill paying, phone answering services and advertising.
At the time, Carruth was sus-pended, although he told Post he had
voluntarily surrendered his law license. Post knew Carruth had been
investigated by the State Bar, but was unaware of his suspension. (Carruth was disbarred
Post relied on Carruth to manage his office, but did not supervise
His misconduct fell into three categories. In the first, Carruth
accepted clients without Posts knowledge; Post was not a party to the retainer
agreement. The clients sometimes met with paralegals, Carruth or attorneys who worked for
Carruth. The second group of clients believed they may have met or spoken with someone
named Post, but it was unclear if they actually met Post.
Post actually represented a third group of clients.
A criminal defendant in the first group paid Posts office
$22,950 and a deed of trust to represent him in a drug case with third strike
conse-quences. When he asked to have the deed of trust transferred back to him and sought
an accounting, he received a response under Posts name which promised someone would
resolve the matter. The letter also told him to contact Carruth with questions.
Other clients paid retainer fees but no work was performed and
refunds were not made.
The second group of clients, who may have met or spoken with someone
named Post, had criminal cases. Post stipulated that he failed to adequately supervise
Carruths activities or supervise communication with the clients.
One woman paid Posts office $20,000 to handle her sons
criminal appeal, but was unable to meet with Post. She was told to mail her payments to an
address other than Posts office and did so. When she sought an accounting and
received no response, she visited both offices for which she had addresses and found both
Two letters challenging Posts failures received no response.
In the cases of the third group of clients, whom Post actually
represented, he stipulated that he failed to provide competent legal services, communicate
with clients, refund unearned fees or supervise his employees.
One client paid Post $20,000 to file a motion to withdraw the clients
guilty plea. The motion contained an error (referring to a psychiatrist as a pharmacist),
which Post promised to correct. He did not do so and the client was sentenced to six years
in prison. Post did not refund any portion of the fee.
In several cases, he relied on Carruth to refund unearned fees, but
no refunds were made.
Post presented extensive mitigation, including serious health
problems resulting from a lifetime of morbid obesity, emotional problems, and a resulting
delegation of duties to Carruth. An accountant found that Carruth diverted as much as
$110,000 of Posts funds to his own use. He also removed irreplace-able documents
from Posts office, instructed employees to take orders only from him, secretly
accepted clients in Posts name and took their fees, and intercepted phone calls from
clients and letters of inquiry from the State Bar.
Post has accepted full responsibility for his failure to supervise
Carruth, has agreed to make restitution to all clients who did not receive legal services
for which they paid, and is under the care of a psychiatrist.
Post was arrested last April at the bars Los Angeles offices on
sus-picion of soliciting the murder of Carruth and a female bar prosecu-tor. Sheriffs
detectives said they received information that Post had solicited a private investigator
to contract with someone to kill the two.
San Bernardino County deputy district attorney Jim Hill said the case
is still being evaluated.