Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Wilson Quit State Bar Under Pressure, Documents Reveal
Uptown Community Activist Alleged to Be Practicing Law Illegally
by LEO E. LAURENCE
Copyright © 2008 by Leo E. Laurence • All rights reserved
Leo Wilson chairs numerous community organizations and is enormously popular, but official State Bar records reveal another side of his life.
Wilson chairs the Hillcrest Town Council meetings — an organization limiting voting to Hillcrest residents — even though he lives in Park West. He also chairs the Park West/Banker’s Hill Community Association and has been advising the Hillcrest Business Association (HBA) and the Hillcrest Maintenance Assessment District. Additionally, he chairs the Uptown Planners and the Community Planning Committee.
Many think he’s an attorney, and he was recently accused of practicing law without a license in last month’s Zenger’s Newsmagazine. He was described as “legal advisor” to the “Safe Streets Now” program in a San Diego Union-Tribune story in 2005.
But a search of records of the State Bar Court of the State Bar of California reveals that he has been officially accused of practicing law without a license in the past.
Wilson has repeatedly said he left the practice of law because he had AIDS.
“I looked like a walking skeleton,” Wilson said in an interview. “I was extremely sick and ex-pected I’d be dead in a couple months. You can’t do a thing when you’re dying. I just had to walk away from it. The (State Bar investigator) told me to ‘just walk away from it’. These were some un-fortunate loose ends (to my practice that) I was unable to put together.”
Wilson was admitted to the State Bar in 1985. He resigned from the State Bar in 1992 “with charges pending,” official records show.
He was employed by Joe Tropiano in June of 1989 to represent him in a civil matter, and was paid $500 as advanced attorney fees, when he was licensed to practice law in California, according to documents of the State Bar Court.
However, a complaint filed with that court on December 11, 1992 says Wilson “failed to complete the performance of services for which (he) was employed, including failing to communicate with Tropiano despite his repeated attempts to contact (Wilson).”
The Superior Court served Wilson with a notice-to-appear in court for failing to file a Joint-Issue Memorandum, a necessary document in a civil case. That court’s hearing was to be cancelled if Wilson filed the necessary document and agreed to pay a $50 sanction.
Wilson did neither.
He was again served with a court order as to “why additional sanctions should not be imposed” on him.
Wilson again failed to appear in court, and another $50 sanction was imposed.
Still, the document “was not filed, the sanction was not paid and (Wilson) once again failed to appear in court as ordered,” according to the documents of the State Bar Court.
Wilson was then sanctioned another $100.
Still, he failed to appear as ordered by the court, and was sanction yet an additional $300.
And, he even failed to pay it “in willful violation of (his) oath and duties as an attorney.”
Wilson claims Tropiano’s claims were “completely bogus.”
The same client, Tropiano, paid Wilson $100 as a retainer to represent him in a landlord-tenant case.
However, “subsequent to filing a complaint in the matter … (Wilson) failed to complete the per-formance of services for which (he) was employed,” the State Car Court’s complaint reads; and, he “failed to refund all, or any portion of, the unearned fees paid to (him).”
Tropiano also hired Wilson in mid-1989 to represent him in another eviction proceeding, and paid $800 in advance attorney fees.
“Thereafter, (Wilson) failed to perform the services for which (he was) employed, including failing to file an unlawful detainer action in the matter. (Wilson) failed to communicated with (his client) despite his repeated attempts to contact (Wilson),” and “failed to refund (to his client) all, or any, of the unearned fees paid by him.”
During an investigation of these charges by an investigator for the State Bar of California, one letter was sent to Wilson’s address as shown on official membership records, but was returned as “undeliverable.” A second letter was sent to an address held by the Department of Motor Vehicles, however, and apparently was received by Wilson.
However, the State Bar Court says Wilson “failed to respond or otherwise cooperate and partici-pate with the state Bar in (its) investigation.”
In yet another case before the State Bar Court, Wilson has been employed by Cynthia H. Stone in a divorce proceeding.
“While employed by Stone to represent her … (Wilson) requested and received a loan from Stone in the amount of $5,000” with interest at 10% and full repayment by February 15, 1991.
“(Wilson) entered into a business transaction adverse to (his) client on terms that were neither fair nor reasonable, and without disclosing or transmitting in writing the terms of the transaction in a manner which should have been reasonably understood by Stone.
“(Wilson) failed to advise Stone in writing to seek the advice of independent counsel with respect to the transaction … and failed to obtain Stone’s consent in writing to the terms of the transaction.”
Wilson subsequently failed to make the promised interest payments to Stone, according to the State Bar’s Court.
Wilson did issue a personal check for $650 as partial payment on the loan, but the check bounced. As of the date of the State Bar’s proceedings against him (1992), Wilson still had not repaid Stone.
In this case, Wilson again failed to cooperate with the State Bar’s investigation.
The State Supreme Court in 1991 issued an Order suspending Wilson
from membership in the State Bar of California for failure to pay his membership fees. In effect, he had been disbarred.
“While you were under suspension from the State Bar of California, (Wilson) was employed by George S. Louis to handle a bankruptcy matter” in federal court. He received a $200 advance retainer.
However, he “failed to perform the services for which (he was) employed” and “failed to refund to Mr. Lewis the unearned attorney fees …”
“Furthermore, (Wilson) failed to advise Mr. Lewis that (he) was suspended from the practice of law.”
Wilson again refused to cooperate with State Bar investigators or maintain a current address in this additional matter.
State Bar records show on December 25, 1992, there was a “resignation with charges pending.” Wilson has repeatedly said that he resigned because he had AIDS and “went out totally sick.”
He is not now licensed to practice law in California. However, Scott Crowder, a director of the Hillcrest Business Association has seen a voucher paying him for legal advice, with the word “legal” crossed out by hand.
For comment, contact Leo Laurence at (619) 757-4909 or at firstname.lastname@example.org