Attorney Licensee Profile
Ronald E. Lais #66511
License Status: Resigned
Address: PO Box 52562, Riverside, CA 92517-2562
County: Riverside County
Phone Number: (951) 534-3198
Fax Number: Not Available
Law School: Western State Univ; 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.
December 1, 2000
RONALD E. LAIS [#66511], 58, of Anaheim Hills was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual two-year suspension, and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Dec. 1, 2000. Lais subsequently resigned with other charges pending March 11, 2001.In three consolidated cases, the State Bar Court’s review department found that Lais pursued a frivolous case, filed another case in bad faith and failed to report a $10,000 sanction order, and engaged in moral turpitude. The court rejected bar prosecutors’ recommendation that Lais be disbarred, and also rejected Lais’ request that he be exonerated of all charges.In the first matter, Lais represented the husband in a marital dispute involving his refusal to provide his wife court-ordered community property. Lais appealed a court order that the husband pay his wife more than $500,000. The court of appeal ruled that the appeal was frivolous and imposed sanctions of $3,662 against the husband and an equal amount against Lais.The bar court’s hearing judge found no proof that Lais violated the State Bar Act by pursuing an unjust action; the review department reversed that finding.In the second matter, Lais represented a wife who was engaged in a custody battle with her husband, who had been awarded custody of their two children in Minnesota. Just before Christmas 1993, Lais accompanied the wife to Minnesota, where she attempted to take the children from her ex-husband’s home. Lais waited in a car just off the husband’s property.He and his client were arrested; Lais was charged with burglary and depriving the husband of his parental rights, charges that were later dropped. Lais provided misleading information to sheriff’s deputies and gave them an old custody order which he knew had been changed to give the husband custody.The review department upheld the hearing judge’s finding that Lais committed moral turpitude by assisting and advising his client to violate a court order.In a third matter, Lais filed a civil complaint in Riverside on behalf of the wife in a family law case, although the matter already had been decided in Los Angeles. The Riverside court found the complaint had no grounds and was filed to harass and ordered Lais to pay $14,675 in attorney’s fees. The court later reduced the sanctions to $10,000, but Lais did not pay and discharged his obligation in bankruptcy.Although Lais contended he committed no misconduct in the Riverside case, the review department found that he failed to report the sanction order.In mitigation, Lais practiced for many years without discipline, has a record of charitable activities and tried to correct the problems surrounding his misconduct.However, he has a prior record of discipline involving misconduct in five client matters: he failed to promptly refund unearned fees, communicate with clients, provide competent legal services or promptly pay settlement funds, and he withdrew improperly and violated trust account rules.At the time of his resignation in March, Lais faced two different sets of charges, one involving 16 counts and the other 27 counts, stemming from eight separate cases. For the most part, the allegations charge failure to perform legal services competently or refund unearned fees and numerous instances of moral turpitude.
August 13, 1999
RONALD E. LAIS [#66511], 57, of Anaheim Hills was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 90-day suspension and until he makes restitution, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Aug. 13, 1999.The State Bar Court's review department increased the level of discipline recommended by a hearing judge after finding that Lais committed 12 ethical violations in five client matters. It increased the length of actual suspension and added some probation conditions.In the first matter, Lais was asked by a friend to handle a legal malpractice case for another individual. Lais' friend paid $10,000 for the client's representation. Shortly after receiving the money, the client met with Lais' associate, but did not sign a retainer agreement because he was concerned about the purported non-refundability of the $10,000.When Lais learned of the client's reluctance, he advised that his office would advance the costs. The client agreed. Four days later, however, the client wrote a letter to Lais complaining that he was unhappy about dealing with an associate rather than Lais, and he asked for a refund of the $10,000 and the return of the file.Neither Lais nor the associate learned about the letter until after they filed the malpractice complaint two days later.Lais wrote a letter informing the client that the suit had been filed, describing the $10,000 as "basically a non-refundable deposit toward attorney fees," and indicated that any refund would belong to the client's friend who had paid the money.A few weeks later, Lais' office mailed interrogatories to the client, who did not respond. The client later asserted he had not authorized Lais' firm to litigate the case and again asked for a return of the $10,000, warning that he would complain to the State Bar.Lais' associate asked the client to cooperate in order to avoid sanctions and prejudice to his case, and sent a substitution of attorney form which the client did not sign.Eight months later, Lais sent a bill to the client and offered to return about $4,800 if the client would withdraw his State Bar complaint.Although the court found that Lais should have communicated more clearly with his client, it rejected bar prosecutors' argument that Lais appeared for the client without authority. It found that he should have refunded more than $8,400 and that he did not cooperate with the bar's investigation of his conduct.In another malpractice case, Lais' office did not notify his client that a cross-complaint was filed against her. Two motions to withdraw as her counsel were rejected, but Lais did not prepare for or appear at trial and a default judgment was entered against his client.He failed to keep his client informed about developments in her case, provide competent legal services or return her file, and he withdrew from representation without protecting the client's interests.In another matter, a couple hired Lais and paid him $2,900 to handle a guardianship matter involving their grandson. Several days later, they said they had changed their minds and asked for a refund.Lais did not respond to a letter or several phone calls, so the couple complained to the State Bar. He then negotiated an agreement under which he would substitute out of the case and refund the fee if they would withdraw their bar complaint.Lais was advised by the bar that any attempt to induce withdrawal of a complaint involved moral turpitude.The review department found that he disregarded the warning and committed an act of moral turpitude, and he failed to respond to clients' status inquiries or refund advanced fees.Lais also induced another client to withdraw a disciplinary complaint in a fourth matter, and he improperly deposited client funds in a general account rather than a client trust account.In mitigation, Lais had no record of discipline for 15 years, presented witnesses who attested to his good character, and performed substantial volunteer work.
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