REVIEW DEPARTMENT ORDERS TWO ATTORNEYS DISBARRED DESPITE SIGNIFICANT FACTORS IN THEIR FAVOR
San Francisco, Feb. 11, 2013 – The State Bar Court’s Review Department has affirmed disbarment recommendations in two recent attorney misappropriation cases, despite significant mitigating circumstances in both matters.
In separate decisions filed Feb. 7, the Review Department found that Gregory Fulton Stannard of Culver City, Calif. and Karl Werner Schoth of Glendora, Calif. had both misappropriated large sums of money from multiple clients and that the mitigating circumstances did not outweigh the aggravating factors in their cases. Both attorneys have been on involuntary inactive status since last year, when the State Bar Court Hearing Department recommended disbarment for each.
“The Office of Chief Trial Counsel is pleased that the Review Department agreed that Mr. Stannard’s and Mr. Schoth’s conduct warranted disbarment,” said Acting Assistant Chief Trial Counsel Kevin B. Taylor.
Stannard [Bar # 108674] was accused in two consolidated cases of misappropriating more than $68,000 belonging to three clients over a period of six years. According to the Review Department, Stannard, 56, used much of the money to pay personal expenses, including therapy bills and his children’s school tuition. Stannard’s refusal to turn over settlement money in one of the cases caused a former client’s credit to be damaged and an unpaid medical lien holder to garnish 25 percent of her wages.
Stannard had argued that disbarment was too harsh because his misconduct was aberrational and resulted from extreme emotional difficulties. But the Review Department found that his personal troubles and other factors in mitigation were “not sufficiently compelling and do not predominate when weighed against his serious misconduct and aggravating factors.”
“Stannard misappropriated a significant sum. Consequently, to avoid disbarment under the standard, he must prove that the most compelling mitigating circumstances clearly predominated in this case. We conclude that he has not met his heavy burden,” Presiding Judge Joann M. Remke wrote.
Similarly, the Review Department found Schoth’s mitigation evidence “impressive,” but not enough to overcome “the seriousness of Schoth’s misconduct, which occurred over a long period of time and was aggravated by additional dishonesty and significant harm to a client who was destitute and in poor health.”
Schoth [Bar # 113572] is accused of misappropriating $136,430 from five clients over a year-and-a-half, using the money to pay his family’s expenses. According to State Bar Court documents, Schoth, 58, said he began suffering personal problems following the sexual assault of a family member, which led him to drink heavily and his previously successful law practice to decline. Also in mitigation, Schoth had no prior record of discipline, was open and cooperating during State Bar proceedings and showed remorse.
Even so, the Review Department noted that his misconduct placed him on the “most serious end of the misappropriation spectrum given the amount of funds involved, the number of clients, and the length of time during which the misappropriations occurred.”
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 2013, membership reached 242,000.