The public should be concerned about any attorney that represents them or the other party, as some attorneys to put it mildly, are not ethical. The CA Bar association offers one means of checking the license status of each attorney.
One such attorney appears to be Jerald Scott Bennett whose disciplinary record, available from the California bar association speaks for itself. Any person has to ask themselves how this individual can even practice law in this state whereas other attorneys are disbarred for minor actions in comparison? This of course does not inspire confidence in the bar association process for handling complaints, as although this attorney was prohibited from practicing law on several occasions, his license is currently active.
California Bar Journal Discipline Summaries
Summaries from the California Bar Journal are based on discipline orders but are not the official records. Not all discipline actions have associated CBJ summaries. Copies of official attorney discipline records are available upon request.
November 12, 2010
JERALD SCOTT BENNETT [#123450], 53, of Lake Elsinore was suspended for four years, stayed, and was placed on four years of probation with a two-year actual suspension. The order took effect Nov. 12, 2010. He received credit for a period of inactive enrollment that lasted two years, from May 2008 to May 2010.
Bennett successfully completed the Alternative Discipline Program after demonstrating a connection between his misconduct and his mental health issues. He stipulated to nine counts of misconduct in seven matters: charging and collecting an illegal fee, disobeying a court order, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, committing acts of moral turpitude and failing to cooperate with the bar’s investigation or comply with probation conditions.
Most of the charges stemmed from doing legal work while he was suspended for not responding to disciplinary charges filed against him. He also was on probation in a separate case but did not file a required affidavit with the Supreme Court stating that he notified his clients, opposing counsel and other pertinent parties of his suspension.
The underlying discipline was imposed for failing to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees, return client files, account for client funds, communicate or cooperate with the bar’s investigation and he improperly representing clients with potentially conflicting interests and committed acts of moral turpitude.
November 11, 2004
JERALD SCOTT BENNETT [#123450], 46, of Lake Elsinore was suspended for two years, stayed, actually suspended for one year and until he makes restitution, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Nov. 11, 2004.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Bennett committed 12 acts of misconduct in two cases, including failing to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, promptly release client papers, refund unearned fees or cooperate with the bar’s investigation. He also represented potentially adverse interests without their informed consent and committed an act of moral turpitude.
In the first, he represented a married couple’s interests in a revocable trust created by the husband’s deceased mother and in an unlawful detainer action filed against them by the husband’s sister. The property in question was the couple’s house; its title was held in the trust. The couple agreed to pay $10,000 as advance fees, but Bennett accepted a promissory note secured by the husband’s insurance settlement from an unrelated matter.
At the same time, the husband’s younger brother hired Bennett to represent him in purchasing the couple’s house. He paid Bennett $5,000 as advanced fees and he paid the $10,000 fee his brother owed.
Bennett was representing potentially conflicting interests, but did not inform the clients or obtain their written consent. He failed to appear at a hearing and the husband’s sister was appointed executor of the trust.
Because Bennett did not file an answer on the wife’s behalf in the unlawful detainer matter, default was entered against her. Bennett did not inform her, took no action to set aside the ruling, and the wife was prevented from presenting a defense at the subsequent trial. At the conclusion of the trial, Bennett was ordered to file briefs, but did not do so. Judgment was entered against the married couple in the amount of $4,083, plus $193 in costs. Bennett did not inform the clients and did not return their phone calls. They were served with eviction papers and eventually their house was sold by the trust.
A week later, they fired Bennett and asked for a refund and the return of their file. They obtained the file only after intervention by the State Bar. Two refund checks were returned due to insufficient funds, and two were honored by the bank.
In a probate matter, Bennett told his client he had sent letters to a bank and an insurance company when he had not, nor did he perform any work involving beneficiary designations. The client fired Bennett and asked for a refund of the $2,000 advance fee, which he never provided. He also did not provide an accounting of the advance fees or return documents related to the case.