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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Where there's a will...there's a way to get disbarred!

The California State Bar Court Review Department has recommended that Linda Lowney be disbarred due to her apparently taking advantage of an elderly client who had retained her to help him plan his estate.

Lowney, age 35, eventually became romantically involved with the elderly client, who was 85 years old and who's health was deteriorating due to advanced emphysema and cancer.  He had assets of over a million dollars.   She "married him shortly before he died, after filing a false confidential marriage license" which falsely claimed they were living together, in order to keep this all a secret from the client's minor daughter and his family. Lowney then misappropriated nearly $340,000 of his assets shortly before his death.

The review department summarized its basis for the recommendation:
In simple terms, [Lowney] took financial advantage of a sick, elderly client - conduct the hearing judge rightly called "heartless and egregious." Given [her] lack of insight, we agree with the hearing judge that "disbarment is the only adequate means of protecting the public from further wrongdoing."

Lowney promised to take care of the elderly client at which he transferred $340,000 to a joint account he opened with her.  His family in Norway was aware of this but was not concerned since they understood that the money would be used for the client's care and that the unused portion would be returned.

After the client's death, Lowney moved the joint funds into her own bank account and filed a petition to remove the Norwegian nieces as co-trustees of the trust created for the client. The court denied the petition and imposed sanctions on her. The Norwegian nieces filed a bar complaint.

Lowney then filed a first amended spousal property petition. The court granted summary judgment against Lowney because the false application rendered the marriage void. The First District Court of Appeals affirmed and referred its opinion to the State Bar.

Lowney has had no prior discipline in thirty years of practice.

The hearing department's order can be found here.

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