Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/23/2012 01:34:57 PM PST

View: Reiss decision

The State Bar Court has recommended that an attorney who defended former Rancho Cucamonga Councilman Rex Gutierrez in a highly publicized county corruption case be disbarred, determining he exposed his clients to “significant financial harm.”

James Vincent Reiss, who has practiced law for 25 years, said Thursday that he has appealed the court’s decision and anticipates a response within 90 days.

Should his appeal be rejected, Reiss said he likely would be able to request that his privilege to practice law be re-instated after five years. He declined further comment.

Reiss has been charged with 16 acts of misconduct involving five clients that occurred between 2001 and 2010. The conduct entailed Reiss lying to clients about the status of their cases, some of which he never filed with the court, and on at least two occasions telling clients he had negotiated settlements when in fact he hadn’t, according to the 24-page decision handed down on Feb. 1.

One of the most egregious of Reiss’s acts include what the court is calling the theft of $68,500 from a client in March 2007. Reiss told his client he had negotiated a settlement when in fact he hadn’t, and requested his client write him a check in the amount of $68,500 and make it payable to Reiss’s client trust account. Within a month of the check being deposited, the balance in Reiss’s client trust account dwindled to $273.49.

In another case from February 2008, Reiss owed a client a refund of $25,000 for legal services not rendered. Over a five-month period – from February to May 2008 – Reiss wrote the client five checks, each in the amount of $12,500, in an effort to reimburse his client. All of the checks bounced, and the client was never reimbursed.

Between 2005 and 2007, Reiss loaned a client in a personal injury case $19,850 so she could make her mortgage payments after losing her job, but Reiss never put the terms of the loan in writing. And in 2008, Reiss told a client in a breach of contract and fraud lawsuit that he had settled the case for $250,000, when in fact he requested in September 2001 that the court dismiss the case, which the court granted.

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