The law license of a recently admitted southern
California attorney has been cancelled, and a San Francisco lawyer
faces the same fate, marking only the fourth and fifth times the
Supreme Court has taken such an action. Both licenses were cancelled
because the applicants failed to disclose information about employment
prior to passing the bar exam.
EDWARD ANTONINO [#213908], 25, of Northridge
lost his license Dec. 30, 2001, and the Supreme Court is expected to
act shortly on a State Bar Court recommendation April 30, 2002, that
the license of ALLISON DONDERO [#208337], 28, of San Francisco
be cancelled as well.
Cancellation of a license is equivalent to never
having been admitted to practice.
In virtually identical stipulations, Antonino and
Dondero admitted they withheld information from the bar about legal
employment before passing the bar exam. Had the information been known
to the Committee of Bar Examiners, both stipulations state, it would
have "resulted in the denial of admission to the practice of law in
Antonino passed the February 2001 bar exam and
was sworn in as a lawyer June 5 of that year. Ac-cording to charges
filed with the bar court, he engaged in attempted extortion,
dishonesty, fraud, identity theft, misrepresentation to the court,
interference with the administration of justice and practicing law
before obtaining his license.
He worked as a secretary for a Los Angeles law
firm which was handling a breach of contract law-suit against Mexicana
Airlines by former employees. After leaving his job in January 2001,
Antonino filed a complaint against Mexicana in Los Angeles Superior
Court on behalf of more than 100 plaintiffs. He used the name of a
high school friend who is not a lawyer as the attorney of record and
listed the bar number of a woman attorney for whom he worked as an
extern. Neither of the parties was aware of Antonino's actions, nor
were any of the plain-tiffs. He listed his home address and phone
number as the contact numbers for the attorney of record.
The complaint was virtually identical to a
complaint filed earlier by the law firm.
A Los Angeles district attorney investigator
later found in Antonino's home copies of the complaint, a receipt
for the filing fee, and an eight-page list of Mexicana employ-ees that
turned up missing from the law firm. Antonino admitted to the
investigator that he drafted the complaint.
The investigator also found documents indicating
that Antonino was engaging in the unauthorized practice of law for
other "clients" before he became a lawyer. He applied for an
employer identification number for a business called California Legal
Aid, he signed a letter to at least one doctor soliciting clients on
letterhead of California Legal Aid, he signed retainer agreements with
two clients bearing the letterhead of Legal Aid Offices of Edward
Antonino, and he attempted to settle the clients' personal injury
cases with various claims adjustors.
Antonino subsequently pleaded guilty to identity
theft, filing a forged document and possession of stolen property.
Dondero graduated from law school in May 1999 and
after taking the July bar exam that year worked at the San Mateo
County district attorney's office as a post-bar law clerk while she
awaited the exam results. According to deputy district attorney Martin
Murray, she passed the bar exam in November and told her employer she
had been sworn in by her father, a San Francisco superior court judge.
Although she passed both the bar exam and the
professional responsibility exam, she had not received the required
moral character clear-ance when she started working.
Dondero provided a bar number, Murray said, but
eventually was tripped up when someone at the San Mateo County Bar
Association, which she joined, checked the number she gave them
against State Bar records and found a discrepancy. In the meantime,
Dondero received her moral character clearance and was sworn in to the
bar Oct. 2, 2000, the same day she was terminated by the DA's
Murray said she handled five jury trials during
her stint in the office, winning convictions in three, including her
successful prosecution of a contractor who was working without a
license. That conviction was set aside, another was dismissed with
prejudice and Murray was uncertain of the outcome of the third.
Dondero also handled 37 felony preliminary hearings and had a hand in
hundreds of matters.
"Fortunately the types of cases she was
handling were not ones with very violent offenders, so in terms of
ultimate damage to the safety of the public, there was not a lot of
damage," Murray said. "On the other hand, one was a DUI and those
have the potential to endanger the public."
Murray, who trains young DAs, said Dondero was
"progressing very well" in her fledgling career.
"You would hope at some point she can put this
behind her and practice law," he added.
Dondero and Antonino are eligible to reapply for
admission to the bar.