The State Bar of California seized the practice of Chad Padilla, a West Hollywood resident who allegedly repeatedly engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.
George Cardona, the State Bar Chief Trial Counsel, announced that in September 2020, the State Bar sent Padilla a cease and desist notice, advising him that his admitted practice of providing legal advice to pro per litigants (people representing themselves in court cases) constituted the unauthorized practice of law (UPL) in violation of California statutes. In response to a State Bar Office of Chief Trial Counsel (OCTC) investigator, Padilla asserted he was doing nothing wrong and sent the investigator an email with a list of judges he claimed allowed him to do what he was doing, despite not being a licensed attorney. However, the cease and desist notice stated at least one Superior Court judge had warned Padilla that as a nonattorney, he was not allowed, and could face criminal liability, if he continued to represent clients.
Padilla ignored the cease and desist notice and continued his UPL. On July 13, 2022, the Superior Court of Los Angeles County issued an interim order assuming jurisdiction over Padilla’s UPL and authorizing OCTC to seize client files from the Fountain Avenue apartment that Padilla used as an office.
In accordance with the order, OCTC seized six boxes containing client files, along with a laptop.
“Unauthorized practice of law puts its victims at huge risk that their unwitting hiring of unlicensed and unqualified individuals will prejudice their cases, sometimes with life-altering consequences,” said Cardona. “Meanwhile, those who engage in the unauthorized practice of law take their fees and move on even when they fail to deliver what they promised.”
The State Bar’s 2020 cease and desist order was based on a complaint received about Padilla from an attorney in 2019. The State Bar sought the order issued by the Superior Court after receiving two additional attorney complaints regarding Padilla in November 2020 and September 2021.
The first complaint alleged that Padilla engaged in UPL by assisting a plaintiff in preparing pleadings and discovery responses and impersonating the plaintiff in correspondence sent using Padilla’s email address. The complaint also noted that the client’s request to have Padilla serve as his representative in a mediation was denied in light of the prior cease and desist notice. In the second complaint, a client believed he had a contingency fee agreement with Padilla for representation in a case in which Padilla provided legal advice and sent emails to opposing counsel pretending to be the client.
Padilla has never been a licensee of the State Bar of California. The OCTC investigation revealed he deliberately misled clients, judges, and the public that he was entitled to represent and assist pro per litigants and perform legal services on their behalf. He continued to do so despite receiving the cease and desist notice from the State Bar.
Clients or former clients of Chad Padilla seeking the return of their files may contact the State Bar’s dedicated bilingual phone number at 213-765-1737.
The State Bar has a unit dedicated to investigating and addressing the unauthorized practice of law. People who have been targeted by someone who is not licensed to practice law can file an unauthorized practice of law complaint with the State Bar. There is no cost, and U.S. citizenship is not required; the State Bar will not ask complainants about their citizenship or immigration status. The online complaint form is available in English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese.
As a warning to the public, cease and desist notices are posted, by county, on the State Bar website.
The State Bar of California’s mission is to protect the public and includes the primary functions of licensing, regulation and discipline of attorneys; the advancement of the ethical and competent practice of law; and support of efforts for greater access to, and inclusion in, the legal system.