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ACSOLCaliforniaGeneral News

Attorney Ordered to Reimburse Attorney Fees to Registered Citizen

A Los Angeles attorney was recently ordered to reimburse most, although not all, attorney fees paid by a registered citizen and a family member seeking to obtain relief from registration after an arbitrator from the L.A. County Bar Association found that the clients “were clearly given bad advice”.

The attorney in this matter advised his clients that the best available relief from registration was a Writ of Mandate.  The attorney also advised his client that he was not eligible to apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation (COR).

The registered citizen paid the attorney a total of $4,500 for preparation and filing of a Writ of Mandate which the court denied.  Due to the attorney’s advice, the registered citizen did not apply for a COR although he was eligible to do so at the time.  The registered citizen’s eligibility to apply for a COR later ended due to passage of a new state law affecting individuals convicted of Penal Code Section 311.11.

The arbitrator in this case found that the registered citizen was harmed because “both the option to file a Writ of Mandate and that of obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation were closed off to persons” in the position of the registered citizen.  The arbitrator also found that the harm was solely attributable to the attorney due to his failure to advise the client that he was eligible to apply for a COR.

“Clients were clearly given bad advice and should have been given the option of filing for a Certificate,” the arbitrator ruled.  Based upon this ruling, the arbitrator ordered the attorney to reimburse $3,000 to the clients.  The arbitrator allowed the attorney to keep $1,500 of the fee because it was uncertain that the registered citizen would have been granted a COR.

During the arbitration, the registered citizen was represented by attorney Chance Oberstein who is vice president of California RSOL.

Join the discussion

  1. j

    This is another example of the moving target (always one more step beyond reach) that the legislators have used in the case of the COR to perpetuate stigma and punishment to registrants. COR’s should be available to all based on the dates and laws in effect at the time of their sentencing. Anything short of that is a breach of the constitution and should be challenged.

    The individual in this case should be granted a COR especially based on the egregious and damaging tactics used by his former attorney.

    • Q

      These unscrupulous attorneys mine data from the web and do mass mailings to commit their form of fraud; and the attorney that Chance went after is a fraud.They offer false hope. I’ve received several solicitations from attorneys in the mail promising to get me off of the registry for a fee. They call themselves “experts,” but in reality are nothing more than peddlers of falsehood. I would have loved to see the look on that frauds face as he was getting the legal crap knocked out of him by Chance, a REAL expert.

      • Nicholas Maietta

        I write letters to the California State Bar each and every time i see one of these letters.

        In time, something should begin to happen.

        • Eric Knight

          You bring up a good point, Nicholas. I suggest everyone who gets a letter to forward it to a clearinghouse email account so that the attorney be vetted. The account should be controlled by someone at CA RSOL to ensure that personal details that are in the letter are not exposed.

          To be quite frank, not all attorneys who may advertise via email are scams, but for the most part they are, and to be able to vet them all in one location for either warning or recommendation would be very helpful.

          One more point: Not sure it was possible, but couldn’t the judge recommend a COR hearing even though it’s too late, as the circumstances have rendered it impossible for the original claimant to have done so based upon the faulty decision?

        • Q

          It’s been my experience (two times) that any solicitations via snail mail or email should be ignored and tossed into the round file. My sister was fortunate Chance was willing to help in this case.

          She is not getting everything back, but at least she is getting something. The first time I fell for this scam was in 2001 as I recollect. This attorney took my money and a few weeks later came back saying that my case was hopeless and that I “would never get off of the registry.”

          I really do wish I was there to see the look on this attorneys face as described by my sister. She said it was something between confusion and disbelief because after all, I’m a “sex offender.” I know that there is at least one lawyer that wont be ripping off people on the registry anymore.

          BTW; after this guy got the money we never spoke to him. Everything went through his secretary. In fact I never spoke to the guy and I’m not sure if my sister ever did either.

          So the moral of the story is; be highly skeptical if you are contacted by an attorneys office through the mail or email with offers of help getting off of the registry, because if you think about it that’s ass backwards. Normally it’s the registrant who seeks out and contacts an attorney for help getting off of the registry, usually after thoroughly checking the attorneys track record out.

          Yes; this scam artist did in fact directly cause me to lose the opportunity to apply for a COR. But Chance is my attorney and I’m real happy about that, because Chance, being Chance, is using his creative thought processes, as well as a ton of research and hard work to help me get “off the train” that is the sex offender registry.

          One last thought; if anyone out there thinks and believes their case is hopeless because of what some lawyer or someone else told them, or what they have heard. That they will have to be on the state sponsored hit list for life and are resigned to this conclusion I suggest you give yourself a break, do yourself a favor, speak to someone like Chance who has a proven track record. You never know; you may be in for a pleasant surprise!

          BTW – my day in court is next month! If all goes well I may be free next month!!! And if that doesn’t work there is a plan B.

  2. Jc

    I am confused. Can you please explain where it says 311.11’s can’t receive a COR of be relieved of the duty to register? I cannot seem to find it.

    • Joe

      The passing of AB 20 prohibits those convicted of PC 311 offenses to get a dismissal / expungemenet of their conviction under PC 1203.4. It became effective on 1/1/2014. A dismissal is a requirement for a CoR. Without it a CoR is not possible.

      Which is bizarre since, best that I can tell, PC 4852, the section dealing with CoR, STILL specifically lists a shorter waiting period (7 years) for those convicted of PC 311.xx than other 290 offenses.

      Aaahhh, so many lawsuits to file…..

      • j

        More retroactive punishment.

        • Jc

          But if you went to state prison your not eligible for 1203.4 anyways but are still eligible for cor after 10 years is my understanding. It’s so confusing.according to what I have read an expungement is only requires for misdemeanors. If it was a felony and you did not receive probation you are eligible for cor.

        • Joe

          “But if you went to state prison your not eligible for 1203.4 anyways” – that is entirely incorrect. In the last 20 or so years there were some sections that are ineligible to get 1203.4 relief.
          (Section 269, subdivision (c) of Section 286, Section 288, subdivision (c) of Section 288a, Section 288.5, Section 288.7, or subdivision (j) of Section 289)

          As of Jan 2014 PC 311 offenses were added to that list. It does not address CoRs per se, but since a dismissal under 1203.4 is required for a CoR it is essentially the same thing. It is unclear if that date, Jan 2014, refers to the date of commission or conviction or what. Be the one who finds out.

          IF you can get relief under PC 1203.4 you can apply for a CoR. However, even getting a CoR will NOT relieve you from the registration requirement for most (not all) felonies, rendering the CoR pointless in my opinion.

          Everyone should also be aware of the possibility of reducing a felony to a misdemeanor under 17(b) for some section if no prison sentence was issued, and look up the list of wobblers.

          http://www.recordgone.com/california_felony_wobblers.htm

          The pertinent section to read and understand are

          PC 1203.4
          PC 4852
          PC 290.5

          easy to google.

        • Jc

          This is how I have read everything,

          If you were convicted of a felony and confined in a state prison on May 13, 1943, or
          convicted of a felony after that date and committed to a state prison, institution, or
          agency, you may file a petition for a certificate of rehabilitation and pardon if you can
          demonstrate the following: (1) That you have resided continuously in California, after
          leaving prison, for the five years immediately preceding the filing of this petition; (2) That
          you have completed the applicable rehabilitation period set forth below in Section 2 of
          these instructions; and (3) That you have lived an honest and upright life, conducted
          yourself with sobriety and industry, exhibited a good moral character, and conformed to
          and obeyed the laws of the land since being released. (Penal Code §§ 4852.01(b);
          4852.03; 4852.05; 4852.06.)

          If you were convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor sex offense specified in Penal Code
          Section 290, and you were placed on probation, you may file a petition for certificate of
          rehabilitation and pardon if you meet all of the following requirements. (1) You have
          obtained relief under Penal Code Section 1203.4; (2)

          The requirement to have received a dismissal under 1203.4 seem to only apply to those who were places on probation and not to those who served time in prison. As backwards as that may sound. If someone can show me the requirement for an ex felon who served time in prison who has to pursue 1203.4 please let me know. As I see it if you have done prison time and the sex offense isn’t specifically prohibited than after10 years you can apply for cor

    • Q

      I was shown a little add on of a few words (seemingly more like snuck in) that closed what someone considered a loophole, making it virtually next to impossible for someone convicted of 311.11 to be relieved of their “duty” (more like forced under pain of imprisonment) to register. Chance showed me in his office one day, but I can’t seem to find it on the very wordy and long winded CPC 311.11 doc. Perhaps you should seek counsel with an experienced attorney because there just might be something about your case that will give you a chance to get off of “the train” in spite of what that law says.

  3. mike r

    This is exactly what I am talking about when I say people and states can be held liable in civil courts for harm that they have caused a individual. It has nothing to do with the constitutional issues or with the legality of the registry it simple cause and effect issue. The state is at minimum partially liable for the harm being caused by the publicly accessible website and for distribution of current addresses and current photos which would otherwise not be public records……..

  4. USA

    Great article. When I plead no contest to (1) battery case years ago, my counselor looked me in the eye and stated I would on register until I had the wobbler reduced to a misdemeanor. I took his advice very seriously. I found this to be untrue. I attempted to call him after and he never returned my calls/he is now a Commisioner in OC.

  5. JM

    After paying our attorney 25,000 he abandoned our case after our son would not accept the plea and his phone had been disconnected. I needed to get something back in order to hire another attorney.

    In counties where there is no local bar, you must file with the State Bar. You also must pay the State Bar 25% of the amount you are requesting back, so I only requested half.

    It’s a lot of work, but for me, worth it. I had to travel from San Diego to Sacramento to attend the hearing. After winning my case, I also had to keep in constant contact with the State Bar since the attorney ignored their orders and never sent a check. In the end, and after two years, I collected what the State Bar had ordered him to refund.

  6. Harry

    I hired and local attorney, about 12 years ago, and gave him about $4500 retainer and he did some work, however, he never finish it. He has about $500 in un-use retainer. I have been by his office several times and receptionist left notes to-call me. I have not yet received that call.

    • Q

      I’d call someone like Chance or someone with similar experience to see what can be done about this. Why? Because what this attorney is doing totally sucks!

  7. Joe

    I was under the impression that a violation of PC 311.xx excluded one from being granted a dismissal / expungement under PC 1203.4, the required basis for CoR application, AS OF (I believe) 1/1/2014, per AB 20 – meaning, IF the offense was COMMITTED AFTER that date.

    Is this not correct?

    • Justice For ALL

      This pertains to my interests as well. Can anyone shed some light on this?

  8. mch

    ‘d say that the great majority of us that had been arrested for their first time ever acted like deer in the headlights. I was crushed, humiliated, ashamed and completely lost. I hired an attorney that came recommended because she was a “good person.” Wrong qualifications for sure, but when one is in that fearful, panicked state of mind, what do you do, but grab the first person that offers any hope. She did little to advocate for me and at a cost of $20K it was money poorly spent. I came back to her asking for my file, which she had lost! Totally incompetent and rattle brained. Turned out she was friends with the DA and didn’t want to make him angry. I hired another attorney to file a modification, provided everything he needed in an organized binder, paid him $3500 for two conversations with the judge; I had some harsh words and he did give back half of my money. Finding a good, competent and qualified attorney is a difficult task, if not impossible given the financial status of most registrants seeking post conviction relief. Attorneys are expensive and we just can’t afford the best ones available. I have nothing else left to sell to pay an attorney, so what do you do?

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