In re In re Serota, Nos. 57960

Docket Nº59551
Citation309 P.3d 1037, 129 Nev. Adv. Op. 66
Case DateOctober 03, 2013
CourtSupreme Court of Nevada

309 P.3d 1037
129 Nev.
Adv. Op. 66

In the Matter of DISCIPLINE OF Ronald N. SEROTA, Bar No. 7904.
In the Matter of Discipline of Ronald N. Serota, Bar No. 7904.

In the Matter of Discipline of Ronald N. Serota, Bar No. 7904.

Nos. 57960, 59551, 60719.

Supreme Court of Nevada.

Oct. 3, 2013.



Ronald N. Serota, Las Vegas, in Proper Person.

David Clark, Bar Counsel, and Glenn Machado, Assistant Bar Counsel, Las Vegas, for the State Bar of Nevada.


Before PICKERING, C.J., GIBBONS, HARDESTY, PARRAGUIRRE, DOUGLAS, CHERRY and SAITTA, JJ.

OPINION

PER CURIAM:

These bar matters, though separately docketed, all involve the same attorney, Ronald N. Serota, Bar No. 7904. They are not consolidated; however, we have elected to resolve them in a single disposition.1

Docket No. 57960 is an automatic review of a Southern Nevada Disciplinary Board hearing panel's recommendation that Serota be disbarred from the practice of law in Nevada. SeeSCR 105(3)(b). Serota misappropriated $319,000 in client funds that were to be used

[309 P.3d 1038]

to satisfy a judgment in a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) action against the client. He asks us to impose a lesser sanction, contending that because of mitigating factors, we should merely suspend him from the practice of law and/or refer him to a diversion program. On de novo review, we conclude that disbarment is the proper sanction and therefore approve the panel's recommendation.

Docket No. 59551 is an original petition by bar counsel advising us that Serota has been convicted of a felony for the same conduct underlying the disciplinary matter. SeeSCR 111(4). Docket No. 60719 is an original petition by Serota seeking dissolution of our prior order temporarily suspending him from the practice of law.2SeeSCR 102(4)(d). We conclude that the petitions in Docket Nos. 59551 and 60719 have been rendered moot as a result of our decision in Docket No. 57960 that Serota be disbarred from the practice of law.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Docket No. 57960

Serota represented a client in an action by the SEC. The SEC alleged that the client engaged in accounting practices that were violative of federal law. On August 3, 2009, Serota's client signed a consent to entry of judgment, which was filed with the federal court on August 27, 2009.

In anticipation of this negotiated outcome, the client paid Serota all of the monies necessary to satisfy the judgment in advance, by way of 14 checks totaling $319,901.59 written between July 2 and July 24, 2009. The checks were deposited into Serota's client trust account. Each check contained a notation indicating that it was for some aspect of the SEC action.

Meanwhile, on July 16, 2009, a check from Serota's client trust account was written to Beverage Plus, a company in which Serota had an ownership interest, for $225,000. Despite this misappropriation, Serota continued to accept additional checks from the client until the client had paid him the entire amount of the anticipated judgment in the SEC action. On July 28, 2009, a check from Serota's trust account was written to Clean Path Resources, another company in which Serota had an interest, for $94,000. Thus, Serota had misappropriated virtually the entire amount of the judgment prior to having his client sign the consent to entry of judgment on August 3, 2009.

Pursuant to the signed consent, final judgment was entered against Serota's client in the SEC action on September 25, 2009. The final judgment ordered the client to, among other things, pay a total judgment of $319,901.59 within 10 business days. On October 7, 2009, just two days before the judgment was to be paid, Serota admitted his misappropriations to the state bar.

Consequently, the state bar filed a complaint against Serota alleging that his conduct violated RPC 1.15 (safekeeping property), RPC 3.4 (fairness to opposing party and counsel), and RPC 8.4 (misconduct). Thereafter, a formal disciplinary hearing was held, at which the state bar put on evidence of Serota's misappropriations and of aggravating circumstances it alleged were present in this matter; the defense focused primarily on mitigating circumstances that it alleged were present.

The disciplinary panel found unanimously that Serota had violated RPC 1.15 and RPC 8.4. It recommended, by a 4–1 vote, that Serota be disbarred and ordered to pay the costs of the proceedings. Consequently, Serota's disciplinary matter was forwarded to us for automatic review pursuant to SCR 105(3)(b).

Docket Nos. 59551 and 60719

Bar counsel subsequently filed an original petition pursuant to SCR 111(4), Docket No. 59551, informing this court that Serota was convicted in the Eighth Judicial District Court of one count of theft, a category B felony pursuant to NRS 205.0832 and NRS 205.0835, for the same conduct underlying

[309 P.3d 1039]

the disciplinary proceeding. Thereafter, Serota filed an original petition pursuant to SCR 102(4)(d), Docket No. 60719, seeking dissolution of our November 18, 2009, order of temporary suspension entered in Docket No. 54856.

DISCUSSION

We review a decision of a hearing panel recommending disbarment automatically. SCR 105(3)(b). The panel's findings must be supported by clear and convincing evidence. SCR 105(2)(e); In re Discipline of Drakulich, 111 Nev. 1556, 1566, 908 P.2d 709, 715 (1995). Although persuasive, the panel's findings and recommendations are not binding on us. In re Discipline of Droz, 123 Nev. 163, 168, 160 P.3d 881, 884 (2007). Our review is conducted de novo, requiring us to exercise independent judgment to determine whether and what type of discipline is warranted. SCR 105(3)(b); In re Discipline of Stuhff, 108 Nev. 629, 633, 837 P.2d 853, 855 (1992). The paramount objective of attorney disciplinary proceedings is “to protect the public from persons unfit to serve as attorneys and to maintain public confidence in the bar as a whole.” State Bar of Nev. v. Claiborne, 104 Nev. 115, 129, 756 P.2d 464, 473 (1988). In determining the proper disciplinary sanction, we consider four factors: (1) the duty violated, (2) the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1 practice notes
  • Page v. State (In re Ross), No. 66535
    • United States
    • Nevada Supreme Court of Nevada
    • 5 Marzo 2015
    ...by way of a formal, written motion, not by way of a letter addressed to the clerk. In re: Discipline of Serota, 129 Nev. ___, ___ n.5, 309 P.3d 1037, 1040 n.5...
1 cases
  • Page v. State (In re Ross), No. 66535
    • United States
    • Nevada Supreme Court of Nevada
    • 5 Marzo 2015
    ...by way of a formal, written motion, not by way of a letter addressed to the clerk. In re: Discipline of Serota, 129 Nev. ___, ___ n.5, 309 P.3d 1037, 1040 n.5...

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT