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Attempt to resign rebuffed; lawyer disbarred instead

Los Angeles attorney DAVID BRIAN WEINTRAUB [#152571], 45, who was thwarted in his attempt to resign one day before his disbarment was to take effect, was disbarred July 27. In an unusual twist, Weintraub’s case went to the State Bar Board of Governors in August, after the State Bar Court had forwarded his resignation to the Supreme Court under required procedures. California Rules of Court permit the Supreme Court to reject a lawyer’s resignation with charges pending if the board of governors reports a disbarment order.

Bar officials believe a similar timing scenario occurred only once before.

Rick Zanassi, chief assistant general counsel, said that in 1991, an attorney facing disbarment failed to appear for oral argument before the Supreme Court and instead sent a letter asking that he be allowed to resign. “The court found it was too late and disbarment was justified,” Zanassi recalled. 

In Weintraub’s case, State Bar Court Judge Richard Platel recommended Weintraub’s disbarment last February, finding that he committed acts of moral turpitude by misappropriating client funds and that he failed to maintain client funds in trust or promptly disburse them.

The bar court transmitted the recommendation and file to the Supreme Court, which ordered Weintraub’s disbarment June 27. It was scheduled to take effect July 27.

On July 26, Weintraub submitted his resignation, which the bar court was required to file and send to the Supreme Court under a board of governors resolution.

Asking the board to recommend that the high court reject the resignation, State Bar Court chief counsel George Scott told the board it could make an exception to its resolution “in this particular case in view of the disbarment order and the untimely filing of the resignation.”

Permitting lawyers to resign with charges pending furthers a set of goals, Scott said, that include the prompt resolution of disciplinary proceedings and the efficient use of resources. Those goals were not furthered by Weintraub’s last minute action, he said.

In 2002, Weintraub had received a $22,000 settlement for a personal injury client and, under the fee agreement, was to receive $7,260 as his fee. The client’s two medical providers were to receive $3,981 and $3,100 respectively. Although Weintraub told the client he’d received the settlement and offered a partial distribution pending possible reduction of the medical bills, the client opted to wait and receive the full amount. He believed the final distribution would take about a week.

Months later, after sending Weintraub two letters without a response, the client complained to the State Bar. Weintraub, who testified he did not receive either letter, then sent a proposed disbursement to the client that was accepted. After paying the client $7,449 and paying the two medical providers, both doctor bills were reduced and the client received another $3,581 from Weintraub, 17 months after the settlement originally was paid.

During the intervening months, Weintraub was required to keep more than $14,000 in his trust account, but he allowed the balance to fall below that amount several times. At one point, the account was short $12,738, the amount the court found he misappropriated.

Because Weintraub did not file a pretrial statement, Platel precluded him from presenting witnesses or evidence, but he was allowed to testify.

Weintraub “has expressed no remorse for his misconduct,” Platel wrote in his decision. “He has shown a cavalier attitude toward his client and toward these proceedings. There is no explanation as to the cause of the misconduct, if any, and what happened to the misappropriated funds.”

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