A candidate for the bench in Clark County Family Court Department B has been publicly reprimanded by the State Bar of Nevada for problems with his client trust account.
The reprimand was filed July 11 against attorney Joseph A. Scalia II, about a month after the primary elections, for 12 violations of professional conduct rules in two separate cases. It wasn’t the first time Scalia has faced disciplinary action from the bar. He also received a letter of reprimand in February and another one in June 2012 in different cases.
Both letters of reprimand were for violations of rules of professional conduct in connection with grievances filed against Scalia by former clients.
“I made a mistake, I owned up to it. and I fixed it,” Scalia said last week of the July reprimand. “I got my accountant to resolve all of these things. It was an accounting problem, not a legal problem.”
Scalia, 50, is running for the open nonpartisan Family Court seat against attorney Linda Marquis.
On or about Nov. 28, 2011, Bank of Nevada notified the State Bar that Scalia’s trust account had become overdrawn by $1,529 when a check for $2,601 was presented for payment, the public reprimand said. The State Bar investigated.
“The investigation revealed that, from approximately November 2011 through August 2012, you failed to properly maintain funds in your client trust account,” the reprimand reads. “Your initial response to the State Bar’s letter of investigation did not explain the issues for the overdraft and, further, the trust account issues were not resolved until well after the State Bar began its investigation.”
Scalia later told the State Bar that he was dealing with family issues and acknowledged that he had not properly supervised the management of his trust account, according to the reprimand. During the time period at issue, he said he had reduced the number of hours of his accounting staff from 30 hours per week to 12 hours per week, and because the settlement funds from his personal injury cases amounted to less than 5 percent of his business, his trust account did not receive the attention it deserved.
For that, Scalia violated rules of competence, safekeeping property, supervision, and bar admissions and disciplinary matters and misconduct, the reprimand said.
Scalia said that is when the economy was slow and he had to lay off staff.
But he added: “We really never did a lot of personal injury work to begin with.”
The reprimand also said that attorneys and staff assigned to a client repeatedly failed to communicate with the client and repeatedly asked the client to resubmit documents the client had previously provided Scalia’s office. Scalia’s office also failed to timely handle the out-of-state divorce decree in this client’s matter with the Eight Judicial District Court. The application was rejected twice as Scalia’s office failed to follow the appropriate filing procedures.
On May 7, 2012, the client asked for a refund, but it wasn’t until after the State Bar performed a status check in February 2013 that the client received a refund. In this case, Scalia violated rules of competence, diligence, and communication, among others.
The February letter of reprimand said that Scalia violated three rules of conduct after taking eight months to provide a client with a copy of his file.
The June 2012 letter of reprimand was about a grievance for an opposition to a motion that wasn’t filed until a day before the hearing on the motion. An attorney working for Scalia’s firm admitted that he failed to file the opposition to the motion, according to the letter.
In this case, Scalia violated rules of diligence, communication and supervision, among others.
Scalia on Tuesday said the issues in the two letters of reprimands were because of “mistakes of inexperienced attorneys.”
At the time, he said he was helping an attorney get his business back on track. He also was helping an attorney who had been disbarred, and he had hired an attorney who claimed he was experienced, but wasn’t. That resulted in things getting off track.
Scalia said he has since made changes and instituted more oversight.
Contact Yesenia Amaro at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0440. Find her on Twitter: @YeseniaAmaro.