ON APPLICATION OF STATE BAR, SUPERIOR COURT ASSUMES JURISDICTION OVER FORECLOSURE LAW PRACTICE

MEDIA CONTACT:  Diane Curtis   415-538-2028   diane.curtis@calbar.ca.gov

San Francisco, February 11, 2009 — State Bar of California prosecutors today obtained a Superior Court order effectively shutting down the Sherman Oaks, San Diego and Riverside law offices of attorney Mitchell Roth.

Roth (Bar No. 77962) has been hospitalized due to severe depression since Jan 23. A member of the bar since 1977, he recently expanded his law practice –  which had included credit, debt and collections, general civil litigation, personal injury, medical malpractice, wills and trusts, and probate – to foreclosure cases.

Estimated at more than 2,000, Roth’s foreclosure clients were referred to his law offices by a company doing business as United First, which is not a law firm. His phone message refers foreclosure clients back to United First.

 “Given the belief that many of Roth’s cases are open and active foreclosure defense litigation cases wherein the clients are subject to losing their homes and facing eviction, a delay in making orders for assumption of Roth’s law practice will result in substantial injury to clients or others,” the State Bar wrote.

On Jan. 30, Roth was declared a vexatious litigant by Judge Manuel L. Real of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and was ordered to refund fees paid by nine clients with matters pending in that court.

The order obtained  by State Bar Deputy Trial Counsel Rizamari C. Sitton was issued pursuant to California Business and Professions Code section 6190, which permits the Superior Court to assume jurisdiction over a law practice where the attorney has become incapable of providing the quality of service necessary to protect the interests of a client or  if there is an unfinished client matter for which no other active member of the State Bar has agreed to accept responsibility.

Through his attorney, Paul J. Virgo, Roth consented to the Superior Court’s assumption of jurisdiction over his law practice.

The State Bar will inventory the files of the law firm and notify clients as quickly as possible of the Superior Court’s order and of the availability of client files from the State Bar. Clients who wish to inquire about files can do so by calling the State Bar at 213-765-1649.

The State Bar’s action in this matter comes less than a month after the State Bar posted on its Web site an “Ethics Alert” cautioning California attorneys about some of the ethical pitfalls facing attorneys who form business relationships with non-lawyer foreclosure consultants.  That alert can be found at http://calbar.ca.gov/calbar/pdfs/ethics/Ethics-Alert-Foreclosure.pdf.

Founded in 1927 by the State Legislature, the State Bar of California is an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court, serving the public and seeking to improve the justice system for more than 80  years. All lawyers practicing law in California must be members of the State Bar. By February 2009, membership reached more than 221,800.

###