Santa Monica attorney Mona Falah faces a stayed three years' suspension, three years' probation and two years of actual suspension following poor accounting that resulted in disparities in her client trust account, according to a recent California State Bar filing.
Falah's sentence would remain until she proves her rehabilitation and fitness to practice law, according to the 17-page decision issued July 6 by the state bar.
Falah was charged with eight counts of misconduct in a single client matter, including three counts of failing to maintain client funds in her client trust account and three counts of misappropriation, in addition to failing to promptly release her client’s file, and commingling, according to the decision.
Falah stipulated to the alleged misconduct except for the misappropriation charge, but the state bar court found her culpable on all eight counts, according to the decision.
The state bar's decision is pending final action by the California Supreme Court, an appeal before the state bar's Review Department or expiration of time in which parties to may request further review within the state bar court.
Falah was admitted to the bar in California on Dec. 9, 2011, according to her profile at the state bar website.
The allegations against Falah stemmed from a 2014 marital dissolution case in which her client paid $3,500 in advance fees, which she deposited into her client trust account, according to the decision. There then following a series of transactions, including a deposit of $69,320, $72,820 received from Falah's client and distributions of $59,000 to her client and third parties, according to the decision.
The account later fell short, which ultimately led to the allegation that Falah dishonestly or grossly negligently misappropriated $966.88 of her client's funds. "The mere fact that [Falah]’s CTA balance fell below $967.28 raises an inference of misappropriation," the decision said.
Falah "has failed to rebut the presumption of misappropriation, however, the misappropriation was not intentional but grossly negligent," the decision said. .
Falah's accounting ledger revealed that she did not keep accurate records of the funds she held on her client's behalf, according to the decision. "Moreover, [Falah] acknowledged that her poor accounting skills resulted in disparities between her ledger balance and the actual CTA balance," the decision said.