STATE BAR USES AUTHORITY TO PROSECUTE NON-ATTORNEYS RUNNING LAW OFFICE AND SETTLING CASES

MEDIA CONTACT:  Diane Curtis   415-538-2028   diane.curtis@calbar.ca.gov

San Francisco, February 05, 2009 — State Bar of California prosecutors, working with the Orange County District Attorney’s office, have shut down the Westminster satellite office of Upland attorney Walter S. Martinez.

The Monday action followed receipt of an order from Orange County Superior Court Judge Frederick Horn giving the State Bar authority to assume jurisdiction over the Law Office of Walter S. Martinez and/or L&M Legal Services in Westminster. Two office administrators were ordered to cease and desist from practicing law.

Prosecutors in the bar’s Office of Trial Counsel said Martinez (#153163) had little or no contact with many of the clients at his Westminster office, which handled primarily personal injury claims. Clients’ cases were normally handled,  from intake through settlement, by non-attorney Lisa Marie Tran and other office staff, none of whom are attorneys, according to prosecutors.

Business and Professions Code, section 6126.3, gives authority to a Superior Court, on its own motion or upon application of the State Bar, to assume jurisdiction of the “practice” of a person who is not a lawyer. Assumption of a law practice by Superior Court under §6126.3 is based upon the court finding that a person has engaged in the practice of law without being an active member of the State Bar or otherwise authorized to practice in California and that the interest of a client or interested person or entity will be prejudiced if the court does not assume jurisdiction.

Founded in 1927 by the State Legislature, the State Bar of California is an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court, serving the public and seeking to improve the justice system for more than 80  years. All lawyers practicing law in California must be members of the State Bar. By February 2009, membership reached more than 221,800.

###