LOS ANGELES (Northern California Record) — West Covina attorney John Fredrick Norris faces suspension and probation with conditions following recommendations in a State Bar of California decision issued March 23 over allegations of commingling.
The state bar court found Norris culpable in a single-count notice of disciplinary charges that he improperly paid personal expenses from his client trust account, according to the 13-page decision issued by the state bar court.
The state bar court recommended the California Supreme Court hand down a stayed one-year suspension against Norris and impose a year of probation with conditions, including 30 days of actual suspension. The state bar court also recommended Norris be required to take and pass the multistate professional responsibility exam within a year of the effective date of a Supreme Court order handed down in the matter and that Norris also pay the state bar's costs in the proceedings.
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 can request further review within the state bar court.
Norris' recommended discipline was among the dispositions filed earlier this month by the state bar court's hearing department for March. Norris was admitted to the bar in California on June 8, 1992, according to his profile at the state bar website. Norris had had no prior discipline before the state bar, according to his profile and the state bar court's decision.
The single count of commingling in the notice of disciplinary charges involved 12 separate payments for Norris' personal expenses from his client trust account, or CTA, which was considered "a significant aggravating circumstance," the decision said.
"[Norris], however, contends, as a matter of law, he cannot be guilty of commingling because there were no client funds in his CTA when he paid the foregoing 12 personal expenses totaling $1,695.79 from his CTA," the decision said.
The state bar court ruled that Norris' argument must be rejected in light of precedent that establishes an attorney who deposits his/her own funds into a client trust account and then pays personal expenses from that account is commingling.