|A Sacramento attorney who was first disciplined by the State Bar in 1988
and has a long record of subsequent misconduct was disbarred Sept. 24. JOSEPH
ANTHONY MESCE [#75299], 51, also was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the
California Rules of Court by notifying all pertinent parties of his disbarment. Introduced
to the bar's discipline system in 1987 after a conviction for carrying a concealed weapon
without a license, Mesce was formally disciplined seven times. His offenses include four
criminal convictions, misconduct toward clients ranging from failure to perform legal
services competently to not refunding unearned fees, and several instances of failing to
comply with conditions of his disciplinary probations.
In recommending that Mesce be
disbarred, State Bar Court Judge Eugene E. Brott noted that he has been disciplined seven
times. "The multiple acts of misconduct in this proceeding are serious and
graphically demonstrate that [Mesce] is either unwilling or unable to conform his conduct
to the requirements of the State Bar Act and the Rules of Professional Conduct,"
In the most recent case to come before the bar court, Mesce was hired to represent a
criminal defendant in 1995. The client and his wife paid Mesce $5,350, but several months
later became dissatisfied with his work and fired him. He refunded some of the advance
fee, but still owes the client $900.
He did not promptly refund the balance of an unearned fee in another criminal matter in
which he could not appear at trial because he was suspended from practice.
Mesce was suspended and placed on probation in 1994 and 1995, and did not keep his
address current with the bar. He was again suspended in 1996 for nonpayment of bar dues.
During that suspension, he agreed to represent a criminal defendant, although he told her
he was suspended. She understood he would use part of her retainer to pay his dues and
penalties so he could resume practice.
The bar court found that Mesce engaged in the practice of law while suspended and made
misrepresentations to a judge by stating that he did not have a written fee agreement with
the client and had not received any funds from the client prior to being reinstated.
In the 1994 discipline order, Mesce was required to take the professional
responsibility exam within one year. When he failed to do so, he was suspended in May
During the suspension, he accepted more than $7,200 in advance fees to represent a
defendant in a criminal case and a DUI. He did not appear at two hearings for which his
client received continuances, nor did he tell the client or his mother that he was
suspended. He asked for and received additional travel funds twice, sought another
continuance and finally appeared at the fourth scheduled hearing. At that time, he told
his client and his mother of his suspension.
The bar court found that Mesce engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, withdrew
from employment without protecting his client's interests, failed to promptly refund
unearned fees, and committed acts of moral turpitude. He also failed to cooperate with the
Mesce's record includes convictions for carrying a concealed weapon without a license,
contempt of court, possession of methamphetamines, battery and failure to appear on a
misdemeanor charge. He was suspended in 1993 for failure to perform legal services
competently, communicate with clients or refund unearned fees, and for violating court
orders, depositing personal funds in his client trust account and writing bad checks. He
failed to comply with various conditions of probation.