Lawyer Suspended for Celeb Photoshop Pics in Best Disciplinary Ruling Ever
This opinion (via The Recorder) was promising by page 2, when the court noted that "Respondent denied the allegations contained in the NDC and then wrote a 16-page soliloquy with little to no rational connection to the charges at hand." By the time the opinion got through a Natalie Portman comparison and a Barack Obama mention, it was even better than that dude who slept with more than a half-dozen of his divorce clients.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the tale of Svitlana Sangary, a lawyer who, according to the California State Bar's allegations, photoshopped herself into pictures with celebrities to post on her website, withheld a client's file, and refused to participate in the disciplinary hearings, citing her First Amendment right to remain silent.
No, that is not a typo.
Sangary Has Much Famous Friends
This whole ruckus started because someone filed a false advertising complaint with the bar over Sangary's many pictures with celebrities that are (for now) still posted on her website. But just in case, here's the consolidated version circulating on Twitter:
Yeah, I'm no expert, but those appear to be fake. The State Bar thought so too, and initiated an investigation in 2012. Sangary refused to participate in the investigation, missed status conferences and mediation sessions, and then, in 2014, someone else complained to the bar about the apparently faux photos, which were still on her website.
When she did finally respond with the aforementioned soliloquy... well, just read what she wrote:
Also, with regard to false statements and misleading advertisement, none other than Natalie Portman comes to mind. The online media extensively covers the controversy surrounding Natalie Portman's performance in the film Black Swan. The ballet dancer who performed in the Black Swan, Sarah Lane, has come forward to revel [sic] a "cover up" and says that Natalie Portman's head was superimposed onto Sarah Lane's body, and that Natalie Portman lied [citation]
Despite the foregoing, Natalie Portman has won an Oscar for her performance in Black Swan.
It keeps going, with a recitation of her admittedly impressive resume (immigrated in her twenties, "passed LSAT [sic] without taking the preparation course," graduated cum laude from Pepperdine Law, and passed the bar). She also once got an email from President Obama, asking for a donation, which she included as Exhibit 30 to her 16-page soliloquy.
She concludes on a patriotic note: "God Bless America!"
Sangary Sabotages Herself
One gets the impression, from the opinion, that had Sangary taken down the photos in 2012 or so, that she would've gotten off with a slap on the wrist. Instead, she kept the photos online, refused to participate in the investigation, and a last-minute continuance was denied. She sat at her table during the proceedings, working on an appeal of the denied continuance.
Then on the stand, she asserted a First Amendment right to remain silent.
Meantime, a complaint was made to the Bar about Sangary's refusal to turn over a client's file. In her response, she submitted an email that she had previously sent to another attorney, citing case law about an attorney's duty to turn over client files.
To reiterate: She gave the bar evidence that she knew about a duty that she later violated.
In the end, Judge Donald F. Miles' recommendations showed no mercy: a six-month actual suspension, a two-year stayed suspension, and a three-year term of probation with heavy compliance requirements (ethics class, probation officer check-ins, Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, and more).
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