LA attorney who advocated against client disbarred

A Los Angeles attorney who the State Bar Court said "became an advocate against her client" has been disbarred. In an unusual but not unprecedented action, the court's review department went well beyond the request of bar attorneys that GLORIA BRIMBERRY [#97447] be suspended for one year. Instead, the court recommended that the 50-year-old practitioner be disbarred. The Supreme Court agreed, and she was disbarred June 21.

Brimberry also was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.

The State Bar Court's hearing department had recommended a three-year stayed suspension, restitution and an actual suspension of six months, and when Brimberry sought review, bar attorneys asked that her discipline be increased to one year of actual suspension.

Repeated overreaching

The review department found a record it characterized as "exceptional" in displaying Brimberry's "repeated, deliberate overreaching of her clients for personal gain, and her repeated dishonesty."

On its own initiative, the court recommended disbarment.

In three matters which arose less than four years after Brimberry began to practice law, she "became an advocate against her client, unabashedly disregarding her clients' instructions in order to maximize her fees," the court wrote.

"In each of these three matters, (she) also threw aside a lawyer's fundamental duty of honesty during her protracted, stubborn pursuit of personal gain."

Violating numerous statutes

Brimberry was charged with numerous acts of misconduct, including the violation of 15 statutes and rules in one count alone.

In one matter, she signed her client's signature without authorization, deliberately misrepresented her client's county of residence, misappropriated $2,000 in excess of an agreed $500 fee, and showed gross negligence in providing legal services to a minor.

In another matter, she offered an illegal finder's fee to a client for helping her to obtain another client.

In a personal injury case, she knowingly filed pleadings falsely asserting that a case had settled, deliberately appeared in court without authorization, and intentionally made false representations to the court after the client had fired her and rejected a settlement.

Corrupt conduct

Had the settlement been accepted, Brimberry stood to receive a $20,000 fee. In that matter, the court found her conduct not only wilful, but corrupt as well.

Brimberry also represented a church which sought her services in a contract dispute and then decided not to take any action.

The church was forced to seek and obtain an award against Brimberry for unearned fees, and the State Bar Court determined separately that Brimberry refused to return $4,700 in unearned advanced fees.

Finding discounted

Although the hearing judge found that Brimberry enjoyed a good reputation in the community, the review department discounted the finding because her character witnesses were not aware of the extent of her wrongdoing.