California Bar Journal
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Attorney convicted of killing client/lover resigns from bar

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The state Supreme Court accepted the resignation of JAMES CANDEE BOTTOMLEY [#63509], 53, of Carlsbad from the California bar, nearly a year after the former real estate attorney was convicted of murdering a client with whom he had an affair. Effective Aug. 12, 2001, Bottomley resigned with charges pending before the State Bar. In May, he was suspended following an Aug. 8, 2000, second-degree murder conviction for the shooting death of Marietta Birbilis, 46.

Bottomley had admitted killing Birbilis, an Escondido nurse, but said she was accidentally shot while trying to wrest away a gun he had turned on himself in a faked suicide attempt. Birbilis was shot five times at close range. A jury found Bottomley guilty of second-degree murder, deciding prosecutors had not proven the premeditation necessary for a first-degree murder conviction.

The pair began dating while he represented Birbilis in removing a lien her husband had placed on her home during divorce proceedings. Bottomley asked her to marry him even though both were still married to other people.

But six months later, he grew angry that she was dating other men and had refused a Valentine's Day date. The day after the holiday, Bottomley shot Birbilis at her home. A 63-year-old man Birbilis also was dating witnessed the attack.

Bottomley was arrested after driving himself to a lake and threatening to shoot himself in a brief standoff with authorities.

Bottomley was sentenced in June to 40 years to life in state prison. In court documents, psychotherapists said he was suffering from mental problems and showed compulsive behavior, such as keeping a 700-page journal detailing his relationship with Birbilis.

In 25 years of practice, Bottomley had never been disciplined by the State Bar. He attended Stanford University and Hastings College of Law, gaining admission to the bar in 1975.