What constitutes wilful misconduct by an attorney who misappropriated client funds?

California, United States of America

The following excerpt is from Inniss v. State Bar, 143 Cal.Rptr. 408, 20 Cal.3d 552, 573 P.2d 852 (Cal. 1978):

Petitioner asserts that his misconduct was not wilful, as it was caused by the chaotic state of his practice and his own lack of funds. Neither of these factors, however, affects the wilfulness of his conduct in misappropriating his client's funds. Moreover, we have held that where a pattern of habitual offenses exists, even though the offenses may individually amount to no more than negligence or gross negligence, such consistent misconduct can only be regarded as deliberate and wilful. (Ridley v. State Bar (1972) 6 Cal.3d 551, 560, 99 Cal.Rptr. 873, 493 P.2d 105; Grove v. State Bar (1967) 66 Cal.2d 680, 683, 58 Cal.Rptr. 564, 427 P.2d 164.) We conclude, therefore, that petitioner's misconduct in the seven matters before this court must be considered as wilful misconduct in violation of his oath and duties as an attorney and that petitioner has failed to meet his burden of showing that the board's findings are not supported by the evidence. (E. g., Nizinski v. State Bar (1975) 14 Cal.3d 587, 595, 121 Cal.Rptr. 824, 536 P.2d 72.)

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