Brea attorney Dennis Patrick O'Connell has been recommended to receive a partially stayed three-year suspension and probation by the California State Bar after being found culpable in 16 counts of misconduct in four client matters, according to a recent filing.
O'Connell's three-year suspension would be stayed and he be placed on probation for three years, according to the 27-page decision issued Sept. 7 by a state bar court hearing department. That probationary period would be "subject to a two-year actual suspension and until he proves his rehabilitation, fitness to practice and present learning and ability in the general law," the decision said.
O'Connell had been charged with 19 counts of misconduct in the four client matters, which included failure to perform with competence, failure to release client files, accepting fees from a non-client, appearing for a party without authority and improper fee-splitting, according to the decision.
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 may request further review within the state bar court.
O'Connell's recommended discipline was among the dispositions filed earlier this month by the state bar court's hearing department for September.
O'Connell was admitted to the bar in California on May 29, 1981, according to his profile at the state bar website.
In a previous discipline that took effect in September 2013, O'Connell, then 64, received a stayed two-year suspension was placed on two years' probation with an actual 30-day suspension, according to information on his profile. The discipline was handed down after O’Connell stipulated to misconduct in two client matters, including failing to perform legal services with competence or to return unearned fees.
O’Connell reimbursed the fees paid to both clients after the State Bar initiated a disciplinary investigation, according to his profile.
In 2001 O’Connell was privately reproved after he stipulated to two counts of misconduct in a criminal defense matter involved modification of a criminal sentence and release of his client from incarceration, according to his profile. In that case, O'Connell allegedly failed to perform legal services with competence or respond to reasonable status inquiries, according to his profile.