|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
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,
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
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.