California Bar Journal
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Two new lawyers lose their licenses for withholding info
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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 this state."

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 office.

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.