Summary disbarment following bankruptcy-related conviction

A Sacramento bankruptcy attorney was summarily disbarred March 1 following his conviction for filing a false statement in a bankruptcy petition. The action marks only the sixth time a California attorney has been summarily disbarred. Three recommendations for summary disbarment are currently pending before the Supreme Court and two other attorneys whose summary disbarment was recommended by the State Bar Court resigned, making the recommendations moot.

WELDON R. REEVES [#62485], 50, also was ordered to comply with Rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.

The State Bar Court found that Reeves' conviction met the four requirements for summary disbarment: it was final, it was a felony, it involved specific intent to deceive, defraud, steal or make a false statement, and the offense was committed in the course of the practice of law.

Although the summary disbarment statute was enacted in 1986, the first time it was acted upon was 1992.

Not many attorneys meet the four requirements, explains Scott Drexel, chief counsel for the State Bar Court.

"The offense was serious enough that it was prosecuted criminally, the types of convictions are really the most egregious, and a client was the victim," he said.

Reeves' problems stemmed from actions taken in 1989, when he was hired to represent a client and two companies involved in managing hair salons and clothing alterations stores.

Reeves prepared and filed bankruptcy petitions on behalf of his clients. However, he included a false declaration stating that he had received as compensation for his work a 50 percent partnership in one of the stores worth $7,500.

In fact, the value of the partnership was worth substantially more.

Reeves was indicted by federal prosecutors in Sacramento in 1991 and eventually pleaded guilty in June 1995.

He was sentenced to six months in a community corrections center, three years probation and was ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.

Reeves' client also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud and was sentenced to 21 months in prison.

Although the State Bar Court recommended Reeves be summarily disbarred, he argued that there was no precedent for his case and that failure to grant him a hearing would violate his right to due process.

His "criminal conviction establishes a violation of his responsibilities to the bankruptcy court, but it was not an offense that warrants disbarment," argued Daniel Drapiewski, Reeves' attorney.

"No other California attorney has suffered license forfeiture for this type of misconduct."

The review department rejected his arguments. The crime he committed, the court said, is included in the summary disbarment statute, Reeves opted not to go to trial, and his right to due process was not violated.

Reeves "is presumed to have been aware of the consequences to his license as well as the criminal consequences of his plea," the court wrote.