LOS ANGELES — The State Bar Court of California ruled to place Laguna Beach attorney Phillips Ranta Sweet on one year of probation for failing to meet the Minimum Continuing Legal Education hours to keep his license in good standing.
The probation went into effect Nov. 20, according to the State Bar's website.
Court documents stated that Sweet, 51, under penalty of perjury, said on Jan. 12, 2014, that he had completed the necessary 25 hours during the compliance period of Feb. 1, 2011, and Jan. 31, 2014. Sweet did not provide documentation for the hours, which the State Bar Court deemed “grossly negligent.” The attorney was notified that he would undergo an MCLE audit July 7, 2014. The State Bar gave Sweet until Aug. 21, 2014, to submit proof of his hours.
On Oct. 1, 2014, Sweet contacted the State Bar to tell them he would need to retake his hours because the laptop that held his proof of completion had been stolen. The attorney gave the names of several MCLE course providers that he believed he had used to complete his hours, but only one of the 25 hours could be confirmed. Court documents do not indicate if Sweet completed the hours after the investigation.
The State Bar Court took into account several mitigating factors when determining sentencing. In the attorney’s career, he had no prior record of discipline which the State Bar felt deserved “significant” mitigation. Also, Sweet brought in six character witnesses to testify on his behalf including two former colleagues, a realtor, an accountant, a classic car maintenance shop owner, and a friend. Each individual had known Sweet for at least four years. Sweet was also able to provide proof of his extensive pro bono work for mitigation. The attorney has lent his services to the setting up of two nonprofit organizations, helping a small business to incorporate, and aiding in an elderly dispute.
Finally, Sweet entered into a pre-filing stipulation to save the State Bar time and resources.
During Sweet’s one-year probation, the attorney mustsubmit quarterly reports of his business dealings to the Office of Probation. Any updates to his personal or professional situations will also need to be provided to the office within 10 business days.
Sweet must pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination. Failure to pass the MPRE or adhere to any of the terms of his probation will result in a one-year suspension without hearing. Sweet will be responsible for covering all court costs, which at the time of sentencing totaled $3,139. The costs are subject to increase, in which case Sweet will need to pay the additional fees.
According to Sweet's profile page on the State Bar website, Sweet was admitted to the State Bar in October 1994.
Court documents for all State Bar Court of California cases can be found online at calbar.ca.gov.