SAN FRANCISCO — Brentwood attorney Walter Lee Davis has been disbarred in the wake of charges of professional misconduct, according to the State Bar of California website.
The ruling, which was effective Dec. 4, 2016, by order of the state Supreme Court, stemmed from charges against Davis that involved endorsing personal-injury settlement checks, misappropriating client’s settlement funds, and mishandling his client trust account.
According to court documents, the first count of misconduct — referred to as the Cook Matter — allegedly involved several violations of the California Rules of Professional Conduct. Davis was hired to represent a client in a personal injury suit. On Aug. 4, 2014, Davis signed a claim release on behalf of the client without authorization. On Aug. 12, 2014, Davis received $9,000 in settlement funds — at least $6,000 of which the client and the client’s medical provider were entitled — but failed to notify the client. Davis failed to maintain a balance of $6,000 in his client trust account and allegedly misappropriated the funds. In addition, Davis relayed to the client that he had not received the settlements funds, alleging they had been mailed to an incorrect address, and did not provide the client with an accounting of the funds when asked.
On Sept. 19, 2014, Davis allegedly engaged in similar acts of misconduct with a second client. On that date, according to court documents, Davis received settlement funds totaling $7,800 on behalf of his client, but failed to notify the client. He then proceeded to endorse the check without the client’s authorization and deposited it into his client trust account. Davis allowed the account balance to fall below the $5,200 owed to the client and his medical providers. The attorney told the client in this matter, as in the first, that he had not received the settlement funds.
The State Bar Court of California recommended that Bentley be disbarred.
A notice of disciplinary charges was sent to the attorney via mail to the address provided on his membership record. Several further attempts to contact Davis via different mediums were made to no avail. In the aftermath of the State Bar employing reasonable diligence to contact Davis with no response, a default plea was entered into record. Davis had 45 days from the date when the default was entered to request a have his it set aside or vacated. No such request was made.
Under Rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court, Davis will be required to notify all his clients of the ruling, deliver any papers necessary to clients in regards to their cases, return any fees that remain unearned, and alert opposing counsel in any pending litigation of his disbarment.
According to his profile page on the State Bar website, Davis was first admitted to the State Bar in 1981.
Court documents for all State Bar Court of California cases can be found online at calbar.ca.gov.