Attorney Licensee Profile
Robert Thomas Burns #149060
This licensee is prohibited from practicing law in California by order of the California Supreme Court.
License Status: Disbarred
Address: 11727 Barrington Ct #209, Los Angeles, CA 90049
County: Los Angeles County
Phone Number: (818) 784-9901
Fax Number: Not Available
Email: Not Available
Law School: San Fernando Valley College of Law; Woodland Hills CA
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 licensee discipline records are available upon request.
January 11, 2003
ROBERT THOMAS BURNS [#149060], 52, of Los Angeles was disbarred Jan. 11, 2003, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Burns committed multiple acts of misconduct in six matters, including failure to perform competently, respond to client inquiries, refund unearned fees or promptly pay out client funds, and he improperly withdrew from employment, charged an unconscionable fee and committed acts of moral turpitude.He repeatedly accepted employment and advance attorney's fees and then failed to perform the legal services. In some cases, he stopped communicating with his clients. He ignored requests that he refund the advance fees.In one matter, through his client, he met a criminal defendant who was accused of first degree murder. The client was represented by a public defender, but after explaining his circumstances to Burns, Burns offered to represent him. The man was awaiting release by the IRS of more than $70,000. When the money was released, the attorney handling the IRS levy was instructed to give it to Burns, who deposited it in his client trust account. Burns tried to substitute in as defense counsel but told the court he needed two months to prepare for the preliminary hearing. The judge denied the motion, so the public defender appeared at the hearing, which was scheduled that day. The client was bound over for trial.The client then hired Burns and signed a retainer agreement for $150,000; $70,000 was from the IRS refund and the remainder was to be paid upon completion of the trial. The agreement was backdated three months.Burns never filed a substitution of attorney, performed no legal services for the client and did not return any of his phone calls.The nephew of the murder victim filed a request that Burns and the defendant be restrained from using any of the IRS refund and that Burns provide an accounting of the money he had received.Because he could not reach Burns, the client began to act as his own attorney. Burns fought to keep the disputed funds, of which he said only about $5,000 was left. The court ordered him to turn over that money. In responding to interrogatories, Burns provided false answers to the court, committing acts of moral turpitude.Burns has three prior disciplines dating back 10 years, all involving similar misconduct.In recommending disbarment, Judge Paul Bacigalupo wrote, "It appears that [Burns] has walked away from the practice of law and has disregarded his ethical obligations to his clients and to this court. . . . He simply refuses to, or for some unexplained reason, cannot comply with the professional obligations placed upon him as an attorney in this state."
May 11, 2002
ROBERT THOMAS BURNS [#149060], 52, of Los Angeles was suspended for three years, stayed, actually suspended for two years and until he makes restitution and the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect May 11, 2002.In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Burns committed six acts of misconduct in an armed robbery case in which he represented a defendant who paid him $13,000. After his client was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison, Burns told him there were problems with some eyewitnesses who claimed they were pressured by the district attorney into making identifications they were unsure of. Burns said he would file a notice of appeal. The client's brother found one of the witnesses, brought her to Burns' office for an interview and paid $1,000 toward the $5,000 filing fee for the appeal. Despite promises that the appeal would be filed, and eventually saying the appeal was filed, in fact it never was. Burns did not respond to three letters from the client, who eventually filed a habeas corpus petition on his own. It was denied, and the court told the client he needed to submit a declaration from Burns that the client had tried to appeal on a timely basis. Burns did not respond to the client's request for a declaration, although the court did allow the client to file a belated notice of appeal.He did not refund any of the $1,000 fee for the appeal.The court found that Burns failed to perform legal services competently, respond to client inquiries, return a client file, refund unearned fees or cooperate with the bar's investigation, and he committed acts of moral turpitude.Burns has been disciplined twice previously, in 1998 for failing to perform legal services competently or communicate with a client and improperly withdrawing from employment, and in 1996 for failing to comply with conditions attached to an earlier agreement in lieu of discipline. In the underlying matter, he failed to perform competently or return a client's file and he improperly withdrew from employment.
November 17, 1996
ROBERT THOMAS BURNS [#149060],46, of Los Angeles was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for two years with 60 days actual suspension, effective Nov. 17, 1996. He also was ordered to pass the MPRE.Burns' misconduct involved his failure to comply with conditions attached to a 1994 agreement in lieu of discipline involving four litigated matters. Beginning in 1988, Burns worked as a law clerk for a firm and continued there after he passed the bar exam in 1990. In 1992, he left the firm to start his own practice and took four client files with him, with the understanding that he would locate new counsel for the clients.However, his former employer was listed as attorney of record for the four clients and Burns neglected to file proper substitution forms, obtain new counsel or return the files when requested.One client's case was dismissed, but it was later set aside and proceeded appropriately.Burns' misconduct consisted of multiple acts of wrongdoing and he failed to participate in the current discipline proceedings prior to the entry of default -- both considered aggravating circumstances.In mitigation, Burns contacted his former employer and completed the proper transfer of files to clients or new counsel. Little weight was given his prior discipline-free record, since his misconduct began less than three years after he passed the bar.
California Lawyers Association (CLA) is an independent organization and is not part of The State Bar of California.