By Karen Kidd | Jun 10, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO – Longtime Simi Valley attorney James Stewart Richards faces disbarment by default following a California State Bar Court recommendation after his 2015 conviction for tax evasion.

The state bar court also recommended Richards be ordered to pay costs in the matter, according to the nine-page decision and order of involuntary inactive enrollment issued May 29 by the state bar court. The California state bar court's recommendation included an involuntary inactive enrollment order that rendered Richards involuntarily enrolled as an inactive member of the State Bar of California.

The state bar court's recommendation 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.

Richards has been on interim suspension since June 2016 following a conviction for tax evasion. The previous January, Richards, then 69, was sentenced by a judge with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California to two years in prison for tax evasion, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release. Richards' sentencing followed his guilty plea to tax evasion the previous May, according to an earlier DOJ statement.

Richards owed more than $170,000 in taxes he didn't pay between 1994 and 2003, according to the justice department.

Richards' recommended discipline was among the dispositions filed earlier this month by the state bar court's hearing department for May but was only recently made available on his profile at the state bar's website.  

Richards was admitted to the bar in California on Jan. 5, 1972 and in Hawaii Oct. 16, 1986, according to his profiles at the state bar association websites in those states. Richards is "restrained from practice," according to his Hawaii State Bar Association profile.

Richards failed to appear for his scheduled four-day trial in February and his default was subsequently entered. The office of chief trial counsel has had no contact with Richards since the default was entered and there are no disciplinary matters or investigations pending against him, according to the decision.

Richards had a nearly spotless record of discipline. The only other matter in a 45-year career was a private reproval in June 1993 after he stipulated to a charge in Hawaii of failing to perform with competence, according to the California decision.

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