In the Matter of Cohen, State Bar No. 94674

2019 WL 5584962 (2019)

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In the Matter of Cohen, State Bar No. 94674

California State Bar Review Department
2019 WL 5584962 (2019)

KD

Facts

Attorney Lottie Wolfe Cohen (defendant) represented Maria Calderon in a case that settled for $98,000. Cohen deposited the settlement funds into a client trust account (CTA). Calderon asked Cohen to disburse Calderon’s portion of the funds in installments. After writing the final check to Calderon, Cohen transferred funds from the CTA to Cohen’s general operating account. When Calderon tried to cash the final check, it was returned for insufficient funds (NSF). Cohen subsequently paid Calderon. Cohen also represented Adam Calhoun in a case that settled for $15,000. The settlement proceeds were to be paid, in part, to several of Calhoun’s medical providers. Cohen placed the settlement funds in a CTA and issued checks to the providers, one of which was returned for NSF. The CTA lacked sufficient funds for several reasons, including Cohen’s overpayment of another client. Cohen subsequently paid the relevant provider. The Office of Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar (OCTC) (plaintiff) filed charges. Before the hearing judge, Cohen failed to introduce certain records relating to the CTAs, including a written ledger for each client and a written journal for each bank account. Evidence established that Cohen failed to routinely monitor the CTAs to ensure that they were appropriately funded. The hearing judge dismissed the OCTC’s claims for moral turpitude based on the NSF checks. However, the hearing judge found Cohen culpable of two counts of moral turpitude for misappropriating client funds, two counts of failing to keep client funds in trust accounts, and two counts of failing to maintain records of client funds. The hearing judge recommended a six-month suspension. Cohen appealed to the Review Department of the California State Bar.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Honn, J.)

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