A judge is recommending disbarment for a Palm Desert family law attorney accused of misappropriating more than $32,000 of a client's money and telling an investigator that the victim's trust account had been hacked, a State Bar spokeswoman said today.
The State Bar of California last April formally accused Jennifer Jo Beerman of failure to maintain client funds in a trust account, misappropriation, misrepresentation and failure to pay client funds properly.
Beerman agreed to disbarment at a disciplinary hearing last week at the
State Bar Court in downtown Los Angeles, according to State Bar spokeswoman Laura Ernde.
Beerman's disbarment must be approved by the state Supreme Court and
wouldn't take effect until then, but State Bar Court Judge Richard A. Platel
ordered Beerman's license inactive, effective Sept. 8, Ernde said.
The State Bar alleged that between April and October 2011, Beerman did
not maintain the balance of funds received and deposited for a client she
represented in a divorce case.
According to the State Bar, Beerman misappropriated more than $32,000 of
the client's money in the same time period, and told the client and a State
Bar investigator that the client's trust account had been hacked when a check
was returned because of "insufficient funds'' in the account.
"This statement was false. At the time (Beerman) made this statement to
(the investigator), (Beerman) knew that her client trust account had not been
`hacked' ...,'' according to the the State Bar's charging document.
The disbarment document filed in State Bar Court Wednesday stated that
Beerman's "misconduct evidences multiple acts of wrongdoing'' and
"significantly harmed a client.'' Beerman's eight-month delay in repaying
$28,000 to her client "resulted in the loss of her ability to purchase her own
home after a divorce, forcing (the client) to impose on the kindness of friends
and relatives to survive.''
Beerman "sought to conceal the truth'' by telling her client someone
had hacked the account, the document stated.
Beerman wrote in her response to the charges that between April and
October 2011, she "experienced serious medical problems'' and due to the
severity of her medical issues, her "conduct was not willful nor
"Further, without knowledge and authorization, an individual mishandled
(the client) trust account,'' Beerman wrote.
Beerman did not immediately reply to a request for additional comment.
To date, no criminal charges have been filed against her in Riverside County.
The State Bar posted a "consumer alert'' on Beerman's profile on its
website, saying that it had filed charges against her in April. The public can
use the State Bar's website to get information on attorneys.
Beerman, a former Riverside County deputy district attorney who has her
own law practice in Palm Desert, attended California Western School of Law in
San Diego and was admitted to the State Bar in May 2000. While she was with the Riverside County District Attorney's Office, she was named Misdemeanor Trial Deputy of the Year in 2004.
In her current practice, she handles criminal defense and several areas
of family law, including divorce, adoption and child support and custody,
according to her website.