A Bakersfield family law attorney has been disbarred after she failed to show for trial in State Bar Court on charges she misappropriated nearly $1 million that was supposed to be held in trust on behalf of a client.
The disbarment of Heather Stanley, 46, took effect Jan. 28, according to State Bar records, and she has been ordered to pay restitution of $955,000 — plus 10 percent interest per year from May 2, 2011 — to the client who brought the allegations against her.
Stanley could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday morning.
A default judgment was entered against Stanley on May 16, 2017, after she failed to appear for trial, according to State Bar Court documents. The court issued an order of the judgment and notified Stanley that if she didn't move to set aside the default it would recommend her disbarment.
Stanley didn't seek to have the disbarment set aside or vacated within the 45-day period, the documents said, and months later the court still had not heard from her.
According to the documents, Stanley had already been given a postponement from an earlier trial date after saying she couldn't attend as she had undergone "major surgery" in late 2016.
The counts filed against her alleged she failed to deposit client funds in trust, failed to render an account of the funds, lied to State Bar investigators and acted "dishonestly or with gross negligence."
In August 2010 and May 2011, Stanley received two checks on behalf of a client totaling $1,052,311.57. In 2013, she took $955,000 for her own use, according to disciplinary charges brought by the Office of Chief Trial Counsel in 2016.
The State Bar said Stanley ignored eight requests from her client to account for the money and, when confronted by a State Bar investigator, falsely said she bought cashier's checks and returned the money to the client, according to the charges.
The State Bar issued a "consumer alert" in early February of last year notifying the public of the charges against Stanley.
The State Bar has urged anyone who believes he or she has been the victim of attorney misconduct to file a complaint with the agency.