CLAREMONT COMMISSIONER DISBARRED
The California Bar Journal reports that Claremont Community Services Commissioner Stacey Matranga (photo, right) was disbarred on October 28. According to the Bar Journal's December edition:
Matranga committed 17 acts of misconduct in seven matters. Among other things, Matranga misappropriated $21,000 of client funds without any explanation for five months. She also “flagrantly breached her fiduciary duties in seven client matters,” State Bar Court Judge Richard Honn found, and she abandoned clients, did not comply with a court order, and failed to perform legal services competently, return client files, communicate with clients, promptly return client funds and account for or maintain client funds. She also she commingled funds in her trust account and committed acts of moral turpitude.
Matranga had her office in Ontario, but is a Claremont resident.
It's our understanding that the State Bar Court takes client trust account issues very seriously, and any sort of irregularity can be grounds for disciplinary action. Generally, however, the Bar is not quick to pull an attorney's license, so any first offense that results in disbarment must be a serious matter, at least to the Bar.
It appears from the State Bar's records that the combination of client fund issues, together with Matranga's failure to return client documents and files, her lack of communication with clients, and her failure to cooperate fully with the Bar's investigation led to her disbarment. As Judge Honn explained in his decision in this matter:
It is settled that an attorney-client relationship is of the highest fiduciary character and always requires utmost fidelity and fair dealing on the part of the attorney. (Beery v. State Bar (1987) 43 Cal.3d 802, 813.) In this matter, respondent had flagrantly breached her fiduciary duties in seven client matters, including failure to return unearned fees of almost $5,000 to two clients and misappropriation of more than $21,000 in five months. Such misconduct reflects a blatant disregard of professional responsibilities.
Moreover, the misappropriation of client funds is a grievous breach of an attorney’s ethical responsibilities, violates basic notions of honesty and endangers public confidence in the legal profession. In all but the most exceptional cases, it requires the imposition of the harshest discipline – disbarment. (See Grim v. State Bar, supra, 53 Cal.3d 21.)
The State Bar's website has the Bar Court's decision online or you can find it here: