California Bar Journal
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Abandoning clients, slurs lead to disbarment
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A Berkeley attorney whose outbursts during her disciplinary trial forced the judge to summon police was disbarred for abandoning clients and keeping their fees and for character-izing other lawyers and judges as racists and “protectors of pedophiles.” KATHRYN (KATE) JO-ANNE DIXON [#98514], 48, of Berkeley lost her license to practice Dec. 10, 1999, and was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.

Dixon received 30.5 percent of the vote in an unsuccessful 1996 bid for a seat on the Alameda Superior Court.

She had gained notoriety in East Bay legal circles for a 1992 federal suit against the Emeryville School District accusing teachers and administra-tors of abusing schoolchildren as part of an international pedophile ring. When authorities said the charges lacked merit, Dixon then accused a host of officials of conspiracy.

Although those actions were not part of the State Bar’s prosecution of Dixon, she vilified witnesses, the hearing judge and the prosecutor throughout the disciplinary pro-ceedings, calling them variously liars, terrorists and racists.

At the conclusion of the trial, the State Bar Court hearing judge found, and the review department agreed, that Dixon committed 29 counts of professional misconduct involving eight clients. Four counts involved moral turpitude.

The misconduct included abandoning or failing to communicate with six clients, failure to return unearned fees and misleading the court.

In one matter, Dixon was retained and paid $800 to represent a client in a child care license revocation proceeding brought by the Department of Social Services.

About the same time, she had a trial date for a criminal matter in which she was defense counsel. She never informed her client, the social services attorney or the criminal court about the scheduling conflict, according to the review department ruling.

Instead, she notified the other attorney she wished to settle the matter; another day, she said her client refused to settle. In fact, she had never discussed settlement with her client, the court said.

Dixon failed to appear at a social services hearing. Eventually, the client settled with the department without Dixon’s help.

Dixon told her client the attorney for social services was a racist with a prejudice against Mexican-Americans and blacks. In corresponding with the State Bar, Dixon said the other attorney called her client a “dirty spick.”

The attorney denied making such comments, and the review department noted for the record that the attorney is married to a Mexican-American.

The bar court found that Dixon failed to perform legal services competently, keep her client informed of developments in her case, return client property or refund unearned fees. The court also found she sought to mislead a judicial officer and that her “false accusations of racial animus” constituted moral turpitude.

In two other cases, Dixon described opposing attorneys as racists. She failed to appear at hearings, did not perform legal services competently, did not return client phone calls or refund unearned fees.

In the disbarment proceeding, Dixon regularly referred to witnesses and the prosecutor as liars and perjurers.

Prior to her trial before the bar, Dixon threatened to “get” or “kill” a witness, and called the woman a thief and a liar.

In the case of a client who fired her, Dixon contacted the attorney for two opposing parties, suggesting she be deposed concerning the merits of her former client’s claim. She also offered a declaration based on information she claimed the ex-client had given her as his attorney.

In addition, she sent a declaration dealing with the merits of the suit to counsel for one of the parties. All the while, she regularly referred to her former client as a terrorist.

Dixon tried to justify her actions because the client filed a malpractice suit against her and sued for recovery of fees he had paid.

In recommending Dixon’s disbarment, the review department cited  “the magnitude of [her] misconduct and her lack of recognition of that misconduct.”

“There is little hope that [Dixon] would conform her method of practicing law to the professional standards of this state,” the judges said.