California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 2001
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


REGULARS

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Front Page - November 2001
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News / News Briefs
Applicants sought to oversee bar's diversion program
Let's have another cup of - legal advice
Foundation leads students to capital
Six honored for professional service
Warwick, six others named to California Judicial Council
Several thousand lawyers suspended for failing to pay dues, certify MCLE
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Trials Digest
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Opinion
From the President - Remembering the fallen
The rule of law is our strongest weapon
Pro bono work is lawyers' duty
Letters to the Editor
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Law Practice - Success: The top eight requirements
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You Need to Know
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MCLE Self-Study
Planning for education expenses
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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Discipline
Ethics Byte - Lawyers move on in usual way despite disaster
Former city councilman spent his son's settlement
Attorney Discipline
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Public Comment

DISCIPLINE

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Former city councilman spent his son's settlement

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Oakland attorney and former city council member LEO BAZILE [#75441], 58, resigned his State Bar membership Aug. 21, 2001, amid charges he spent $100,000 of his son's money after winning it in a wrongful death settlement. Bazile, who served on the Oakland City Council from 1983 to 1992 and had no record of discipline since joining the bar in 1977, agreed to resign after he was charged with misconduct including incompetence, misappropriation, disobeying a court order and three counts of moral turpitude. He also was charged with failing to maintain funds in a client trust account, using client funds for personal purposes and failing to pay funds entitled to a client.

In March 1994, Bazile - who was listed as both his son's guardian and his attorney - settled an Alameda County wrongful death suit filed against the Sashinger Family Home on behalf of Jabari Bazile, whose mother died in a fire there. Marie Griffin was one of two residents killed at the Oakland residential care facility for the mentally ill. Leo Bazile received settlement funds totaling $143,750.

In anticipation of attending college, Jabari Bazile, now 25, asked for payment in January 1997, but his father failed to turn over the settlement funds. Jabari Bazile then com-plained to the bar and filed a civil suit.

When the settlement was reached, Leo Bazile was to place the award in a blocked account. He was to be the account's trustee, but was not to withdraw money unless it was court-ordered. Jabari Bazile was to receive the funds when he turned 18 on July 13, 1994.

But a lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court alleged Bazile's firm extracted attorneys' fees of $43,750, then spent the remaining $100,000 on personal and business expenses. By August 1996, the money was gone.

Bazile has made sporadic payments to reimburse his son, who hired another attorney to recoup the settlement.

After bar investigators sent notice to Bazile that he had come under investigation, Bazile wrote a response in which he claimed Jabari Bazile consented to several of the withdrawals.

"With my son's permission, I borrowed money from the trust fund to pay household expenses, personal obligations, purchase a Jeep for his stepmother and occasionally payroll expenses at the law firm," Bazile wrote.

Even after Jabari Bazile's 18th birthday in 1994, Bazile falsely told his son he could not have the money until he was "a man."  

Bazile was placed on inactive status in April after violating an agreement with bar prosecutors. He had signed an agreement saying he would resign after he finished defending two murder cases.

But he then represented a partner's client and lied about expediting the second murder case, which had not yet gone to trial. He told prosecutors he had waived time to quicken its pace through adjudication, but it was later learned he filed no such waiver.

With Bazile's resignation, charges against him have been dismissed without prejudice, which would allow him to seek reinstatement.

In addition to serving on the city council, Bazile twice ran for Oakland mayor but lost both bids. In 1995, he and two aides were fined $36,000 by the Fair Political Practices Commission for failing to properly report campaign contributions.