FIRST DISCIPLINARY CHARGES FILED AS A RESULT OF MCLE AUDIT
San Francisco, Oct. 3, 2012 – The State Bar announced today that it has filed disciplinary charges against three attorneys as a result of stepped up enforcement of Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirements.
The attorneys falsely reported to the bar that they had fulfilled the requirement to complete 25 hours of MCLE, according to charging documents filed Monday in State Bar Court. The three cases mark the first disciplinary action to result from the State Bar’s increased scrutiny of MCLE compliance. More charges are expected in coming weeks. A total of 27 lawyers were referred to the Office of Chief Trial Counsel as a result of last year’s random audit of 635 lawyers.
Charges were filed against Hal Erwin Wright, 58, of Davis (bar #157814); Leah Singer-Lamstein, 45, of San Rafael (bar #161413); and Jeffrey J. Parish, 68, of Alamo (bar #47046). Because the offense charged involves moral turpitude, it carries with it the possibility of actual suspension or disbarment, according to the bar’s disciplinary standards.
“It is truly unfortunate that we need to take this action against any lawyer,” State Bar Executive Director/CEO Joe Dunn said. “Lawyers can easily avoid this problem by simply meeting the well-known MCLE requirements that have been in place for 20 years.”
The State Bar requires active attorneys, except those statutorily exempt, to take 25 hours of continuing education courses every three years, including four hours of legal ethics and an hour each of elimination of bias and detection and prevention of substance abuse or mental illness. Lawyers must keep documentation for at least a year after their compliance is due.
In July, the State Bar expanded its audit to 2,600 attorneys whose last names begin with the letters H through M. That audit, which represents 5 percent of attorneys whose MCLE requirements were due this year, is still in progress. Next year, the bar plans to audit 10 percent of attorneys whose MCLE requirements are due. Those attorneys’ names begin with the letters A through G.
For more information about MCLE requirements and reporting, visit the State Bar’s MCLE web page.
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 October 2012, membership reached 238,000.