California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 1999
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


REGULARS

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Front Page - October 1999
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News
Johnson confirmed for second term as bar's top prosecutor
Courts serve up mixed rulings on State Bar
Ethics association elects Karpman president
Six new governors join bar board
New group targets health care fraud
Public law section creates online library of public law links
JoAnne Spears honored
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Trials Digest
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Opinion
Slaying an imaginary dragon
The perfect ending: Results
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From the President - This bar year ends on a high note
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Letters to the Editor
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Public Comment
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Legal Tech - Tips for network administrators
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New Products & Services
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1999 Honors
State Bar cites pro bono service
Young lawyers salute San Diego sole practitioner for outstanding service
State Bar hails 'lawyer's lawyer'
Aided by attorney, parolee cited, hired
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MCLE Self-Study
The Rigors of Fee Agreements
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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Discipline
Ethics Byte - Before you sue for fees, think again
Woman who impersonated husband ordered reinstated
Attorney Discipline

DISCIPLINE

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Woman who impersonated husband ordered reinstated
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Ten years after being disbarred for impersonating her abusive husband and taking the bar exam for him, an Agoura Hills attorney was ordered reinstated by the California Supreme Court. Although both the State Bar Court and its review department recommended the reinstatement of LAURA BETH SALANT [#112412], 43, bar prosecutors said she had not proved her rehabilitation and asked the court to block her readmission. With a two-sentence order, the high court told the bar to readmit Salant to practice. She has worked as a paralegal for the Internal Revenue Service in Los Angeles since 1990.

Salant drew national attention when, seven months pregnant, she cut her hair, donned men's clothing and smudged her thumbprint before taking the July 1985 bar exam for Morgan Lamb, then her husband. Lamb had failed the exam once and had been fired by the law firm where he worked. His score soared when Salant took the test and received the ninth highest score in the state.

Salant worked as an attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission and was fired when her actions came to light.

She pleaded no contest to felony impersonation, was fined $2,500, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

Lamb was convicted of false impersonation and forgery, and also was put on probation for three years.

Salant told investigators her husband was abusive, that he screamed regularly, threw heavy objects at her and threatened to kill her and her unborn child.

Seriously ill with diabetes, she was admitted to the hospital immediately after the bar exam and gave birth to a daughter.

She divorced her husband while disciplinary proceedings against her were underway, but although the Supreme Court said it sympathized with her plight, it disbarred her in 1989. Then-Justice Marcus Kaufman dissented, citing the "absolutely unique" and "nightmarish" circumstances that affected Salant's mental and physical health.

"While disbarment in this case will doubtlessly be applauded in some circumstances, it is wholly unwarranted," Kaufman wrote. "It serves only to punish an apparently talented lawyer whose misconduct resulted from the most desperate, life-threatening circumstances."

In seeking her readmission to the bar, Salant passed the bar exam in 1996. But bar prosecutors argued that she was still not morally fit to practice.

At a trial before the State Bar Court, Judge Carlos Velarde ruled that Salant was rehabilitated and regretted her actions. The court's review department agreed. Judge Ronald Stovitz wrote, "In over 11 years since her very serious but unique misconduct, (Salant) has amassed a most impressive record of employment, outstanding character evidence and psychological rehabilitation."

Bar prosecutors asked the Supreme Court to review the bar courts' reinstatement recommenda-tion, arguing that Salant had been less than truthful in statements concerning her efforts to protect herself from her ex-husband. She had told the bar court that she had sought and obtained a restraining order against Lamb, when in fact she had not done so.

Bar prosecutors argued that her statements indicated a lack of rehabilitation.

Salant also had failed to file an affidavit required by rule 955 of the California Rules of Court, attesting that she had notified all clients and pertinent parties of her disbarment. She said her former attorney told her he would take care of the affidavit.

Salant told the courts she has undergone psychotherapy for eight years and has turned her life around.

She was readmitted to the bar Aug. 18.