Page images

[Civ. No. 2032. Second Appellate District.–July 24, 1916.) In the Matter of the Application for the Disbarment of


OF CLIENT—SUFFICIENCY OF EVIDENCE.—In this proceeding for the disbarment of an attorney at law for violating his oath in certain transactions involving the property of a client, it is held that on the record the court was justified in determining that the accused violated such oath, that the client reposed confidence in him, and that he


CLAIM OF ACCUSER.-A judgment suspending an attorney at law for one year "and thereafter until the claim of the accuser is fully paid,” is warranted, if the amount is ascertained, but is too uncertain to be enforced, except as to the stated period of one year, where the corporate stock wrongfully purchased by the attorney with the money of his client is not shown to be wholly worthless, and the amount

lost thereby is not determined. ID.-SUSPENSION OF ATTORNEY FOR UNLIMITED PERIOD.-In a disbarment

proceeding an attorney may be suspended for a period not necessarily limited as a fixed and determinate period of time, but for an uncertain time, subject to the right of the accused to relieve himself therefrom by making restitution of a stated amount of money which he had improperly obtained by means of his misconduct.

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County disbarring an attorney at law from practice. Fred H. Taft, Judge.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.

Gray, Barker & Bowen, Wheaton A. Gray, and Bennett & Carey, for Appellant.

Schweitzer & Hutton, for Respondent.

CONREY, P. J.-The Los Angeles Bar Association filed in the superior court of Los Angeles County an accusation verified by the oath of one Grace A. Hilborn, charging that Wilson H. Soale had violated his oath as an attorney and counselor at law by the commission of certain acts therein described. An answer was filed denying the facts alleged as showing defendant's misconduct. After trial of the issues thus presented the court found that all of the allegations of the ac

cusation are true, and it was ordered that the accused, Wilson H. Soale, be deprived of the right to practice as an attorney at law in the state of California for one year from date hereof, and thereafter until the claim of the accuser, Grace A. Hilborn, against said accused is fully paid." From this judgment he appeals.

In September, 1909, and thereafter during the occurrence of the transactions involved in this case, Mr. Soale, as a member of the firm of Soale & Crump, was engaged in practice as an attorney and counselor at law in the city of Pasadena, California. At the beginning of these transactions the lady now known as Grace A. Hilborn was Grace Hilborn Jenkins, the wife of one Jenkins. In September, 1909, Mrs. Jenkins went into the office of Soale & Crump and entered into a discussion with Mr. Soale concerning her business affairs and her property. As a result of that discussion, as she was expecting to be absent from Los Angeles County for some time, Mrs. Jenkins executed to Mr. Soale and Mr. Crump, as copartners, a general power of attorney, which, among other things, authorized them to convey real property for her and in her name. According to her testimony this was done pursuant to a sug. gestion by Mr. Soale that she would do well to let them care for the property and look out for it for her. Acting under this employment and authority, an exchange of property was negotiated by which, in return for five acres of land owned by Mrs. Jenkins near Alhambra, she acquired one thousand dollars and a house and lot in Pasadena, which we will designate as the Summit Avenue property. The matters complained of in this proceeding relate to an additional transaction in which Mrs. Jenkins received four thousand shares of stock of a corporation called the Automatic Car Coupler Company, in exchange for the Summit Avenue property.

In January, 1910, Mrs. Jenkins consulted Mr. Soale about obtaining a divorce from her husband, and an agreement was made as to the amount of the fee to be paid to Soale & Crump for their services in that matter. Such is the effect of the testimony of Mrs. Jenkins. The complaint in the divorce action was not filed until some months after the first consultation, and it was during that interval that the transactions occurred which are the subject of the complaint herein.

The Automatic Car Coupler Company appears to have been incorporated in the early part of the year 1909, with a capital

31 Cal. App.-10

stock of fifty thousand shares of the par value of one dollar each. It was organized in Pasadena, and its principal business grew out of an automatic car coupler invention which was transferred to the corporation in return for certain shares of the stock. At the same time shares of treasury stock were sold at ten cents per share, and from time to time during the year 1909 the price was advanced by resolution of the directors of the corporation until they had raised it to par for sales by the company. Mr. Soale was one of the early stockholders. He owned four thousand shares of stock acquired at ten cents per share. Soale & Crump also owned one thousand shares of stock. The four thousand shares belonging to Mr. Soale are the same shares that were transferred to Mrs. Jenkins in exchange for the Summit Avenue property, and under the circumstances to which we shall refer. In November, 1909, Mr. Soale caused the four thousand shares to be transferred to his son-in-law, Lewis Sprague, and left the new certificate with Mrs. Sprague for her husband. Soale received no consideration for this transfer.

Dr. D. T. Bentley, a retired physician residing in Pasadena, was engaged in the real estate business. He was acquainted with Mr. Soale and occasionally consulted him in regard to legal matters. Mr. Soale informed him that Mrs. Jenkins wanted to trade her Summit Avenue property for stock. Thereupon Dr. Bentley called upon Mrs. Jenkins and entered into negotiations with her for the transfer of her property to Sprague in exchange for the four thousand shares which were represented as the property of Sprague. Thereupon Mrs. Jenkins called upon Mr. Soale and told him of Dr. Bentley's proposition, and that she had told Dr. Bentley that she would do just exactly as Mr. Soale said, and asked him if he knew anything about the automatic car coupler stock. Soale replied that he had stock in the company; that he was surprised that any stock had been offered for sale; that it was a splendid company, had five hundred dollars in the treasury, and that she would be very lucky to get it. He said: “I have stock in it myself, so I can watch and care for it for you just exactly and take care of it for you. You leave it to me." A few days later she called at the office and Mr. Soale told her that the deed was made out and ready for her to sign and the certificate of stock ordered. She signed the deed and he handed her the certificate. The

terms of the transaction were that in exchange for the stock, received at a valuation of four thousand dollars, Mrs. Jenkins transferred the Summit Avenue property at a valuation of five thousand dollars, but subject to a two thousand dollar mortgage, and in addition thereto paid one thousand dollars. This one thousand dollars was paid by checks to the order of Sprague, indorsed by him, and the proceeds received by Soale. The only way in which Mr. Soale paid over the money to Sprague was by using it in payment of bills incurred for the support of Sprague and his family. It seems that Sprague had never been able to support his family, and that Mr. Soale was in the habit of contributing largely to the support of that family by paying its bills along with his own.

During these negotiations Mr. Soale stated to Mrs. Jenkins that he had been looking this thing up, and Lewis Sprague was a man about town who wanted a home and was willing to trade, but did not tell her, and she did not know until long afterward, that Sprague was Soale's son-in-law, or that any financial or business relations existed between Soale and Sprague. Immediately after the Summit Avenue property was conveyed to Sprague, Mr. Soale placed that property in the hands of real estate agents for sale. In placing the property with B. 0. Kendall Company, as agents, he gave à price of five thousand dollars, and stated that “it is a snap and will not be on the market long until it is sold.” The deed by which Mrs. Jenkins conveyed the Summit Avenue property to Lewis Sprague was executed on the second day of March, 1910, and recorded July 28, 1910. On the same day, and immediately following the record of that deed, there was recorded another conveyance executed July 26, 1910, whereby Lewis Sprague and his wife conveyed the same property to Wilson H. Soale. A few months later Mr. Soale conveyed the Summit Avenue property to a purchaser subject to the existing two thousand dollar mortgage, and received a further consideration of two thousand dollars. He testified that this two thousand dollars went to Sprague, his son-in-law; but he further stated that this was done by paying bills amounting to two thousand dollars and a great deal more for the sustenance of his son-in-law and his family. They were paid with Soale's checks. “That is the way the business was carried on most of the time they were married. I

was disbursing agent for the whole family and they brought the bills to me.

Dr. Bentley claimed a commission for negotiating the trade in which he acted as agent. When Mrs. Jenkins informed Mr. Soale that Bentley wanted to charge her a commission, Mr. Soale said: “Never mind; you leave it all to me. I will see Bentley and see what can be done. You leave it all for me." Later he told her that he had managed to get Dr. Bentley down to $50, and she paid that amount through Soale to Bentley. Soale paid Bentley an additional sum of $150 out of the one thousand dollars obtained from Mrs. Jenkins in the trade, but did not inform Mrs. Jenkins, and she did not know that anything was being paid to Bentley other that the $50 paid as above stated.

Many of the facts given in the foregoing statement were denied by appellant in his testimony, but are supported by other evidence. We give them as the facts in the case because the court found that all of the allegations stated in the accusation are true, and it is necessarily implied that the court found these facts in accordance with the testimony of the accusing witness and against the testimony of appellant. Under the well-established rule, a court of appeal must assume the facts to be as found by the trial court when those facts find support in the evidence, notwithstanding other evidence to the contrary.

Aside from their contention that some of the facts above stated are not supported by the evidence, counsel for appellant insist that there is no evidence to support the implied finding that the shares of stock transferred to Mrs. Jenkins were not substantially worth four thousand dollars, or one dollar per share, as they were assumed to be in making the exchange. They further contend that, even if appellant defrauded Mrs. Jenkins in the transaction, he was not in that transaction acting as an attorney at law, and could not be said to have violated his oath and duty as an attorney at law by anything that he did therein. Finally they say that the court exceeded its authority in rendering the judgment, which not only ordered that the accused be deprived of the right to practice as an attorney at law in the state of California for one year from the date thereof, but further deprived him of that right “until the claim of the accuser, Grace A. Hilborn, against said accused is fully paid."

« PreviousContinue »