A Riverside County attorney convicted in January
of more than 30 counts of cheating and molesting clients during a
two-year period has been disbarred. LINGARAJ BAHINIPATY [#177510],
60, of Encinitas lost his license to practice March 11, 2001, and
was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.
Bahinipaty was sentenced in February to 22 years and four months in
state prison after being convicted of 31 counts of grand theft, sexual
abuse and other crimes against almost 30 former clients.
In disciplinary proceedings before the bar, the
State Bar Court found that he committed 33 acts of misconduct,
including misappropriating more than $40,000 of client funds and
multiple acts of moral turpitude.
In two of those matters, Bahinipaty told his
clients he is a medical doctor, although he is not licensed in
California and in fact was ordered in 1998 by the state Med-ical Board
to stop representing himself as a physician. He told clients he needed
to perform physical examinations in order to determine if malpractice
claims were warranted.
One of the clients hired him to handle a personal
injury case already filed, a medical malprac-tice case and a slip and
fall. Initially, she was represented by another attorney in two of the
matters, but Bahinipaty falsely told her the other lawyer had insisted
Bahinipaty replace him.
While in his office for an evening meeting,
Bahinipaty told his client he had to perform a medical examination of
her breasts, reiterating that he is a doctor. He fondled the woman and
When the slip and fall settled for $5,000,
Bahinipaty or someone else signed his client's name on a release
form and endorsed the check, both without his client's knowledge. A
month later, after spending most of the money, he told the client the
settlement offer had been withdrawn.
Another client with a malpractice case paid a
$10,000 advance fee, but Bahinipaty filed an in pro per complaint and
signed the client's name on the form. When the defendant answered,
Bahinipaty substituted back in, but he did not appear at a deposition
or respond to discovery requests.
The client learned that Bahinipaty had been
arrested on the grand theft and sexual abuse charges, hired a new
lawyer and asked for an accounting of the advance fee. Bahinipaty
responded, "It's all gone."
Another client hired Bahinipaty to represent him
in a malpractice claim, paying almost $15,000 in advance fees.
Bahinipaty took no depositions, presented no expert testimony, as
required in malpractice cases, did not prepare a trial brief or
properly question jurors or his own witnesses.
He had settled a personal injury case for the
same client and kept the $10,500 settlement, and explained he was
keeping those funds to pay the malpractice case fees. In fact, he owed
the clients $7,000. In sum, he kept $21,200 in advance fees for work
he never performed.
In other cases, Bahinipaty received and cashed
settlement funds without notifying his clients. In one matter, he
falsely told a client he was holding the funds subject to
renegotiation of a hospital bill. He also wrote at least eight checks
against insufficient funds.
In recommending that Bahinipaty be disbarred,
Judge Nancy Roberts Lonsdale called his misconduct
"reprehensible," and noted it occurred in the course of his law
practice and involved deceit and overreaching.
The criminal case covered much of the same ground
but involved crimes against even more clients. Prosecutors said
Bahinipaty's problems started two decades ago in Canada, where he
once practiced medicine and was convicted of insurance fraud and
molestation. The molestation conviction later was overturned on
He also got into trouble in San Diego, where he
was found in contempt by a federal judge for forging documents.
"This is a pattern that has followed him from
country to state to county," said Judge James Hawkins, who presided
over Bahinipaty's trial. In imposing the stiff sentence, Hawkins
said he could find no circumstances warranting probation or a lighter
Instead, he criticized Bahinipaty for violating a
position of trust and committing sophisticated crimes against
Bahinipaty, who defended himself at trial, said
some of his former clients who testified against him lied on the
witness stand. While acknowledging, "I'm no angel," he admitted
he did not always return client phone calls. However, he denied
molesting any clients, insisting he examined them for medical reasons.
He was acquitted of five of the 37 counts charged.