Santa Monica attorney faces suspension for allegedly accepting settlement offers for dead client

By Karen Kidd | Jan 3, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO (Northern California Record) – Santa Monica attorney Edmond Elias Salem faces disbarment following a recently announced California State Bar Court recommendation over allegations he settled a case on behalf of a deceased client.

The state bar court recommended Salem receive a one-year suspension with all but 90 days stayed and that he be placed on two years' conditional probation, according to the 20-page decision issued Dec. 11 by the state bar court.

Salem was charged with two counts of concealing a material fact from opposing counsel and two counts of simulating a client's signature on two different settlement agreements.

The state bar's recommendation is pending final action by the California Supreme Court, an appeal before the state  bar's review department or expiration of time when parties can request further review within the state bar court.

Salem's recommended discipline was among the dispositions recently filed by the state bar court's hearing department.  

Salem was admitted to the bar in California on Dec. 2, 2003, and in Illinois in May 2000, according to his profile at the California State Bar website. Salem had no prior record discipline in either state, according to his profile.

Allegations against Salem stemmed from his representation of a client who hired him in February 2009 to represent him in claims arising from an automobile accident, according to the decision. The client died in May 2012.

Salem subsequently accepted settlement offers on his client's behalf and signed the client's name to required settlement documents and settlement checks, which he deposited into his client trust account. Salem also disbursed the proceeds of the settlements, less his fees and expense, to his client's estate.

In May 2014, the insurance company discovered the client had died and demanded the settlement funds be returned. About five months later, the insurance company filed a complaint with the state bar. The insurance company settled its claim against Salem in March 2017.

Salem should have been forthcoming, according to the decision.

"(Salem's) mistaken impression that he did not have to disclose the fact that his client died before disbursing the settlement proceeds was in error – a fact (Salem) would have discovered if he had researched the issue," the decision said.

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