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Santa Clara Attorney Suspended by State Bar for Improperly Charging Clients

The California State Bar suspended Santa Clara attorney John Mlnarik for at least a year, with three years of probation, for billing clients without their knowledge or written authorization, and in one case even though the contracted services hadn’t been provided, according to a ruling published at the end of November by the California State Bar Court in San Francisco.

Mlnarik’s attorney, Merri Baldwin issued a statement on Wednesday.

“Recent press articles have gotten many of the facts and details incorrect, but we don’t want to hash out the details in the press.


“What I can say is that John has always worked hard for clients and his community,” Baldwin continued. “Those who know him understand his high standard of ethics and that he takes responsibility for mistakes. While he is disappointed in himself for what happened, he has taken responsibility and will continue to serve his community during his suspension and looks forward to practicing law again when the year is over. The firm John founded will continue to provide excellent and uninterrupted service to its clients.”

Mlnarik didn’t face a more severe penalty — possible disbarment — because this is the first professional disciplinary action against him and Mlnarik’s cooperation, “extraordinary good character,” attested to by his service in professional organizations and service clubs, and his active participation as a member of St. Justin’s parish.

The complaints against Mlnarik involved charging credit cards without client knowledge and authorization.

In the first, a mortgage loan refinance negation, in 2016 Mlnarik charged a credit card $14,000 in legal fees without the client’s written consent or knowledge and before all of the services had been performed. After the complaint was filed in 2018, Mlnarik refunded the money.

In the second case, Mlnarik was engaged to represent a client in a lawsuit in 2016. After a disagreement about how to proceed in the case in 2017, the attorney withdrew from the case and attempted to charge the client’s credit card $6,200. When the transaction was refused, Mlnarik’s office attempted to charge the card for three $1,000 transactions, one of which was processed.

Mlnarik has accepted responsibility for the misconduct. In addition to complying with the terms of his probation, he must also attend the State Bar Ethics School and the State Bar Trust Accounting School and pass examinations in both, as well as the Multistate Profession Responsibility examination.


Editor’s Note: The Mlnarik Law Group Inc has represented the Santa Clara Weekly in a lawsuit. The firm also advertises in the Weekly.


  1. kia friedman 5 years ago

    My name is Kia Friedman and I was responsible for reporting John Mlarnik to the CA State Bar. I would like to respond to this article as there’s more to this story. Merri Baldin’s representation of Mlarnik’s actions misstate the reality of what happened. Not only did he do what the CA State bar states, he also fabricated documents and forged, yes, forged signatures in order to defraud me and a financial institution. He copied and pasted my signature which was easy to catch. I also had a very well known forensic handwriting analyst make their analysis and attest to the forgery and write up a full report. It is very misleading to state that Mlarnik paid me back when I reported him to the State Bar. After Mlarnik lost in fee arbitration, unanimously from a panel of 3 judges, he then refused to pay me back by suing me instead. I had to counter sue him for conversion and other causes. I believe his tactic was for me to surrender my pursuit of justice by having me rack up all kinds of legal bills which I did. Then he dismissed the case for no reason and refused to pay my legal bills. Even his fee agreement states the prevailing party is owed on legal costs when there’s a dispute. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I would be eager to correct your article or write a letter to the editor with a correction

  2. John Martin 5 years ago

    I was taken by John and Company during my case. Mine was not credit card fraud but cash. Wish I would have used my card instead. What goes around comes around. How’s it feeling John?

  3. JLM 4 years ago

    Mlnarik’s defunct firm is being sued by another former client. (See In re: Garia v. The Mlnarik Law Group, Inc.; Santa Clara County Case #19CV359369).

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