MODESTO – Attorney Justin Thomas Allen, who practices in Modesto, was suspended on March 18 from practicing law for six months and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to failing to comply with conditions attached to an earlier disciplinary probation order.
This suspension was ordered after Allen failed to schedule a meeting with his probation deputy by deadline, failed to timely submit two quarterly written reports and proof of restitution payments to the State Bar and failed to make installment restitution payments in three client matters as directed.
“In aggravation, Allen had a prior record of discipline,” the July discipline report from California Lawyer said. “In mitigation, he entered into a full stipulation prior to trial.”
On April 18, the State Bar issued an additional order suspending Allen from the practice of law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) as required under the terms of the previous disciplinary order.
Allen’s prior record involved a suspension from the practice of law for 60 days and ordered to take the MPRE.
“He was also placed on two years’ probation and faces a two-year suspension if he does not comply with the terms of his disciplinary probation,” the Feb. 21, 2015, State Bar report said.
The State Bar report explained that in 2015, Allen stipulated to misconduct in three client matters, including failing to perform legal services with competence, take steps to avoid reasonably foreseeable prejudice to his clients, keep his client informed of significant developments, cooperate or participate in a disciplinary investigation and refund unearned fees or release client files.
“Allen was hired in 2012 to represent a woman in a breach of contract matter and made a series of missteps starting with filing her lawsuit in the wrong court,” the report said. “He signed a stipulation to transfer the matter to the appropriate venue, stating the client would pay the transfer costs, but did not inform the client of the venue change or get her permission to file the stipulation.”
The report further explained that when the defendants in the suit filed a cross complaint against the client, Allen did not inform her and later waived her right to jury trial without getting her permission. He then failed to respond to a request for documents by the defendants’ attorneys, later sending an email to the client saying he was ill and that she “may want to hire a healthy attorney.”
When the client’s mother came to Allen’s office to obtain her daughter’s file, Allen made her sign a substitution of attorney form without explaining it to her. The form listed the wrong address for the client, which resulted in the client not getting correspondence, motions or orders from the court or opposing counsel, and the court entered sanctions against the client. After the client filed a complaint against him, Allen did not respond to letters from a State Bar investigator seeking a response to the allegations.
“In one of the other matters, a man paid Allen $7,770 in advanced fees to represent him in an ongoing family law matter,” the report said. “Allen appeared in court to continue a hearing date and filed a declaration to request custody in the matter, neither of which benefited the client.”
He performed no legal services of value on his behalf, the report continued. Then on Jan. 29, 2014, less than two weeks before the scheduled hearing date, Allen sent a text to the client saying he was experiencing severe health problems and suggested he get a new lawyer. After receiving the message, the client demanded a refund and his file.
“When Allen didn’t oblige, the client filed a police report with the Turlock Police Department and a complaint with the State Bar,” the report said. “On Feb. 13, 2014, the client sent a text to Allen again requesting his file. Allen responded with: ‘per State Bar rules I will provide a digital copy to Turlock PD for free. Paper copies, if I have any, are .50 cents per page.’”
The report further explained that soon after, the client’s new attorney tried to get Allen’s signature on a substitution of attorney form but was unable to and had to file the document without it. Allen then delivered an incomplete file to the new attorney.
“As of the date of his stipulation he had not returned the full file and had not refunded the advanced fees,” the report said. “Allen was ordered to pay $11,910 plus interest in restitution. In mitigation, Allen had no prior record of discipline and entered into a pretrial stipulation with the State Bar.”