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.