Michael Avenatti, the attorney famous for representing Stormy Daniels, has survived a challenge to his legal license over supposedly unethical and fraudulent behavior. The California Bar has finished its investigation and determined that no further action is warranted.
The investigation began due to a complaint from another attorney. That attorney represents a variety of creditors who have claims against Tully's, a now-defunct coffee chain out of Seattle. Avenatti once ran the parent company under which the coffee stores operated. The attorney who filed the complaint alleged that Avenatti stole tax money from employee paychecks and took an illegal transfer from the business to pay for his law firm's bankruptcy.
Avenatti, who is not known for being reserved about his opinions, called the entire investigation the product of a lie. He no longer owns the parent company that is responsible for Tully's and denies responsibility for the judgments that creditors have won against the chain.
When complaints are filed with a state's bar association, the bar reviews all the allegations closely. If the conduct isn't an ethical violation or there's no real evidence of one, the case is closed and both the attorney facing an investigation and the person filing the complaint are notified.
Had the bar decided to proceed with a formal investigation, there likely would have been a formal hearing before a disciplinary board at some point. If the bar association then found that the allegations were true, the attorney involved could have faced a number of penalties, including:
- Restrictions on his or her practice
- Monitoring, designed to prevent further issues
- Reprimands that would remain part of the attorney's permanent file
- Suspension of his or her license to practice
And, ultimately, the attorney could be disbarred entirely -- although that is usually reserved for the most serious violations. Reinstatement can take years -- if it ever happens.
While you might hope that no one would ever make a complaint that might affect someone's livelihood without proof, it does happen. It's important, however, to never take any allegation that might endanger your law license lightly -- even if you are absolutely certain that you are innocent. Experienced representation can help you weather an investigation if your case goes that far.