Attorney suspended for practicing law while ineligible

By Olivia Olsen | Mar 3, 2017

LOS ANGELES — Bakersfield attorney Richard Eugene Harrold recently was disciplined by the State Bar Court of California, court documents show.

Harrold, a prosecutor in Kern County, according to the California Bar Journal website, was determined not eligible to practice law for 30 days in the state after his failure to respond to an audit of his Minimum Continuing Legal Education hours or pay the late fee, and practicing law while not having entitled status. He also received three years' probation.

Harrold's suspension began Dec. 4, 2016, and he was listed as active as of March 2, 2017, according to his profile page on the State Bar of California's website.

According to court documents, Harrold was initially contacted by the State Bar’s Office of Member Record and Compliance on July 7, 2015, to inform him that he had been selected for an audit of his MCLE compliance. The notification letter, which was sent to the district attorney’s office in Kern County, gave Harrold until Aug. 21, 2015, to submit his proof of compliance and outlined that a $75 late fee would be required if he did not provide the necessary information by the final deadline at the end of October. The letter also informed Harrold that he would be immediately placed on “Not Eligible to Practice” status if he failed to respond.

The attorney admitted that though the envelope was labeled “MCLE AUDIT CORRESPONDENCE,” he did not open the letter or read its contents.

A second letter was sent Aug. 31, 2015, stating that if the attorney became ineligible, he would need to pay a $200 reinstatement fee. Harrold admitted to ignoring the second letter. A third attempt was made to contact the attorney which also went unanswered, and four emails were sent. On Oct. 31, 2015, the attorney was placed on “not entitled” status.

Between Nov. 2-16, 2015, Harrold represented the people of California in 21 hearings while not an active member of the State Bar. The State Bar Court deemed this to be “grossly negligent,” and considered this an aggravating circumstance in determining discipline.

The State Bar Court took into consideration several mitigating circumstances in Harrold’s case. The attorney displayed “spontaneous candor and cooperation” upon learning of his status as he immediately informed all parties in the 21 hearings in which he participated. Harrold also informed the State Bar Court that he represented the people of California in at least three hearings in which he was not listed on the docket. The attorney also showed remorse by taking immediate steps to rectify the situation.

In addition, Harrold provided the State Bar Court with proof of his pro bono efforts and community service. Starting in 2009, the attorney has volunteered to coach several youth sports. Harrold also entered into a pre-filing stipulation, which saved the State Bar time and resources.

Harrold 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. The attorney will be responsible for covering all court costs, which at the time of sentencing totaled $4,551. The costs are subject to increase, in which case Harrold will need to pay the additional fees.

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