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Nearly 20 years later, a second disbarment

A Granada Hills attorney who was disbarred in 1986 has lost his license a second time. ALVIN GILBERT TENNER [#37046], 69, was disbarred for the second time Dec. 17, 2004, and ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court. A State Bar Court hearing judge found he committed 21 acts of misconduct in four client matters as a result of his actions between 1998 and 2001 and recommended an actual two-year suspension.

The State Bar sought Tenner’s disbarment and appealed to the bar court’s review department. It concurred with the hearing judge’s finding that Tenner failed to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, release client files, maintain respect for the courts, report judicial sanctions, return unearned fees or cooperate with the bar’s investigation. The judge also found he committed acts of moral turpitude and improperly withdrew from representation.

The review department increased the recommended discipline to disbarment after finding that “the risk of (Tenner) repeating his misconduct would be considerable if he was merely, once again, suspended.”

Tenner was disbarred in 1986 and reinstated in 1992.

Tenner’s misconduct began six years after the reinstatement and involved four clients.

In the first case, he represented the plaintiff in a civil action against an auto dealer and a bank. Tenner did not file any opposition to the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and the motion was granted. He took no action to set aside the judgment and did not appear at a hearing on costs and attorney fees; the court awarded costs and fees totaling $28,610.

Tenner never informed his client about the judgment. When the client’s son contacted him, he said the trial had been continued and a new date was not set. He later told the son that the trial was rescheduled. When the client received a notice about the judgment, Tenner said he’d check into it, but did not communicate with the client or his son for two months.

A new lawyer advised Tenner to file a motion to set aside the judgments, but when he did, the motion was denied. The new lawyer filed a motion to vacate the judgments based on Tenner’s misconduct. He did not appear at a hearing and the motions were granted. The court ordered Tenner to pay nearly $5,000 in attorney fees to the defendants but he did not do so. He did not appear at a later hearing and was sanctioned $1,500.

In a second matter, he was retained to file a lawsuit. Although he filed a complaint, he did not perform discovery or prosecute the matter further. He did not appear at an order to show cause hearing and the case was dismissed, although Tenner later had it reinstated.

He communicated with his clients only twice during the course of the litigation but did not advise them their complaint was dismissed.

In a third matter, he filed a civil lawsuit but did not respond to cross-complaints or cooperate with discovery proceedings, even failing to comply with a court order compelling discovery. The court ordered default judgments against Tenner’s client totalling $61,512.

He told the client her complaint was dismissed but said he would take action to set aside the default judgments. He did not do so.

In the final matter, also a civil case, Tenner did no work and did not return his client’s phone calls, return her unearned fee or provide her file.

Tenner’s first disbarment was his fourth disciplinary action. His misconduct began in 1972 and in each disciplinary proceeding, he argued that alcoholism was at play. The second time he was disciplined, in 1980, the Supreme Court observed that his misconduct normally would warrant disbarment but said he demonstrated “strenuous rehabilitative efforts over a substantial period of time, including that he had stopped drinking.”

When he was reinstated in 1991, Tenner admitted he continued to drink alcohol until 1985, which violated the terms of his prior disciplinary probation. In recommending that he be disbarred again, Judge Made Watai wrote that Tenner’s “past and present misconduct shows an extensive and broad range of misdeeds involving recurring types of misconduct, which we conclude demonstrate his habitual disregard for the interests of his clients and which warrant disbarment in the absence of compelling mitigating circumstances.”

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