L.A. attorney disbarred following admission to serious misconduct

By Karen Kidd | Sep 22, 2017

Los Angeles attorney Andrew James Stern, who has practiced for more than 45 years, has been disbarred by the California State Bar after admitting to eight counts of serious misconduct, according to a recent decision.

The misconduct involved Stern's client trust account and two client matters, according to the state bar's Aug. 7 decision and order of involuntary inactive enrollment. Stern admitted to commingling and using this client trust account for improper purposes for almost four years, according to the 38-page decision, disbarring Stern.

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.

Stern was admitted to the bar in California on Jan. 5, 1972, according to his profile at the state bar website.  

Stern also admitted to improperly representing multiple clients whose interest had the potential to conflict and "engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty or corruption by deliberately breaching is fiduciary duties and committing fraud against a client," the decision said. Stern also admitted he failed to notify the state bar that a civil judgment in a fraud case had been entered against him, according to the decision.

On 72 occasions, starting Aug. 13, 2011, and continuing for nearly four years, Stern deposited personal funds, including earned legal fees, totaling $606,800, into his client trust account and there after withdrew or disbursed those amounts "as needed," the decision said.

In September 2014, a superior court jury handed down a lengthy judgment that included finding Stern guilty of fraud, that he had acted with recklessness and malice and with professional negligence with regard to a trust, according to the decision. Stern did not notify the state bar of that judgment against him, apparently because he did not believe he was required to do so in addition to the superior court having done so, according to the decision.  

A 1994 discipline, in which Stern received a suspended suspension of three years after admitting to writing checks on his client trust account when there was insufficient funds to cover them, was considered an aggravating factor in the state bar's recommendation that he be disbarred.

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