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Romance trumps ethical duties — and leads to discipline

A California lawyer who allowed a romantic relationship to interfere with her legal responsibilities to her clients faces discipline after the State Bar Court found her actions were “a recipe for exactly how not to act as an attorney.” LISA JANE JACKSON [#196208], 50, of Pacific Palisades was disciplined in Connecticut for mishandling two settlement checks and falsely notarizing two deeds. The California bar court found last month that her misconduct warrants discipline here and recommended a four-year stayed suspension, two years’ actual suspension and four years of probation. The recommendation goes to the California Supreme Court for approval.

Jackson was the attorney for Brian Carey, and eventually the two became romantically involved and lived together in one of three California properties Carey owned. At some time, he transferred ownership of the three properties to his older brother, Raymond, who lives in Connecticut.

The couple moved to Connecticut, where they lived with Raymond and helped him operate his business, Carey Industries Inc., which was experiencing financial problems. Jackson became a licensed notary public and was admitted to practice law in Connecticut in 2002. She represented Carey Industries and Brian and Raymond Carey (individually and collectively) in multiple legal matters without a retainer agreement.

When a dispute arose between the brothers over Raymond’s handling of a family trust, Jackson sued him on behalf of Brian and his sister.

In addition, Jackson and another lawyer represented Raymond in a civil suit in Maryland that settled. Jackson received two checks, for $3,500 and $13,500, both payable to Raymond. Brian collected and endorsed both checks. Jackson also endorsed the smaller check, deposited it in her bank account and did not notify Raymond. She did not endorse the second check or deposit it in her account, but she did not notify Raymond that his brother had taken the check.

Raymond disputed Jackson’s testimony that he knew of and approved Brian’s practice of signing Raymond’s name on checks and other important documents.

In other litigation, Jackson was awarded $1,679 in costs against Raymond; in another, Brian obtained a net cost award of more than $10,000 against Raymond.

In 2004, Brian took out a $125,000 mortgage on one of the California properties he had transferred to Raymond. To obtain the loan, Jackson falsely acknowledged Raymond’s signature on a deed of trust and a grant deed, as well as on a loan signature affidavit. Although Jackson admitted she knew Brian signed Raymond’s name on the deeds, she said Raymond authorized her to notarize the signatures as his.

The State Bar Court found her testimony not believable and pointed out it was inconsistent with an affidavit she submitted in Connecticut and contradicted Raymond’s testimony.

The court found that Jackson failed to preserve client funds and committed acts of moral turpitude. It rejected bar prosecutor’s efforts to prove she entered into an improper business transaction with a client or was a witness before a jury.

In recommending Jackson’s suspension, Judge Richard Platel said her conduct significantly harmed Raymond and she demonstrated a lack of insight into the seriousness of her actions. Jackson’s “intimate relationship with Brian took center stage to any ethical responsibility due to her client Raymond,” Platel wrote.

“An attorney with even a modicum of common sense and of her ethical responsibilities knows that she must not side with one client against another and that her duty of loyalty to Raymond as his attorney was not diminished merely because he was at odds with Brian — her boyfriend,” Platel wrote. Jackson’s “blind devotion to Brian caused (her) to repeatedly take actions that violated her duties to Raymond and caused significant harm to him.”

Platel also ordered Jackson to make restitution to Raymond and to prove her rehabilitation. In Connecticut, she was suspended for one year and was ordered to take the MPRE and make restitution in the amount of $16,500.

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