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Hemet lawyer faces charges for using client trust funds

A Hemet attorney who pleaded guilty as his embezzlement trial was coming to an end faces disbarment on a separate issue if the California Supreme Court approves a recommendation by the State Bar Court. The court recommended in October that KEVIN ANDREW SPEIR [#119044] be disbarred for using client trust account funds for his own use in five separate instances. Speir, 54, who is active in his community through volunteering and local theater productions, claimed he had received permission from his clients to borrow the money from the trust account. Also, he paid all his clients back.

State Bar Court Judge Donald Miles noted in his Oct. 23 decision that three clients corroborated Speir’s contention that they had agreed to a temporary loan, and those charges were dropped. But others said they had not agreed to a loan, and at least one claimed that she had to press Speir to get the money due her in a timely fashion.

Miles noted that Speir had a number of mitigating circumstances: he had no prior discipline; he stipulated to a number of facts; he had some good character witnesses, and he repaid all money taken prior to any complaint being made to the State Bar or the initiation of disciplinary proceedings.

Still, Miles wrote, “Misappropriation of client funds has long been viewed as a particularly serious ethical violation. It breaches the high duty of loyalty owed to the client, violates basic notions of honesty and endangers public confidence in the profession.” Speir never showed any remorse or acknowledgement of his wrongdoings, Miles wrote.

Instead, Speir “continued during his testimony in this matter to falsely assert that his actions in withdrawing client funds from his CTA were authorized and appropriate.”

Also, Miles wrote, there was no indication that the circumstances that Speir said led him to use his clients’ funds — marital stress and financial problems — “have been resolved or will not result in future misconduct.”

The decision in favor of disbarment came less than two months after Speir changed his plea from not guilty to guilty right after Deputy District Attorney Elise Farrell made her initial closing argument in the case. He had been charged with felony theft from a dependent adult, felony grand theft and felony embezzlement of more than $100,000 by an official agent. Prosecutors said Speir, who was administrator of the estate of Fred Fox Sr., properly disbursed money from the estate to one of Fox’s sons, Brian, but stole it from Fox’s other son, Fred Fox, Jr., who suffered from a mental disorder.

According to Michael Jeandron, spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney’s office, Speir used more than $100,000 of Fox’s money to pay personal and business expenses, including money owed to employees, clients and his estranged wife. Speir also filed a slander suit against the Fox family after Brian Fox reported that the lawyer had stolen from the estate.

On Nov. 2, Speir was sentenced to 270 days jail and three years’ probation with the condition that after 90 days, he can be released to a home detention program for the rest. He was ordered to pay restitution to Fred Fox.

Because a disbarment recommendation is already going forward, the State Bar will not now take action on the conviction, said Interim Chief Trial Counsel Russell Weiner.

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