Samuel F. Napoli of the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel for the Pittsburgh region proposed David S. Posner as the conservator of White’s law practice, and White’s attorney, Amy J. Coco, voiced no objection.
White, who was not present in court Thursday, intends to cooperate with Posner, who serves on a conservatorship committee of the Washington County Bar Association. A conservator takes over when a lawyer must abruptly cease practicing law for any number of reasons, such as illness or death, and, while not acting as the clients’ attorney, facilitates the process of finding them new legal representation.
White’s suspension begins Friday, April 14, and since the Office of Disciplinary Counsel issued its petition for his suspension in mid-March, he has been winding down his practice of law, his Pittsburgh attorney told President Judge Katherine B. Emery Thursday morning. Emery ordered a “stay,” placing a hold on White’s cases until further order of court, with the exception of a divorce case scheduled next week before Judge Michael Lucas.
Earlier this month, White and his three associates had approximately 140 open client files, including filed and not-yet-filed civil cases and about 45 federal bankruptcy cases.
White and his associates have notified nearly all of the clients, and attorney Megan Patrick is working with White to transfer case files and close his law practice. Coco said White has not accepted new cases since the suspension order was filed March 15.
Coco and Napoli each declined comment after the approximately 45-minute proceeding.
A petition from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel states five clients entrusted White with a total of $118,298 between December 2015 and late November of last year. White deposited those funds into a professional trust account in his name. As of Dec. 30, the account was drawn down to $12,954 because of payments “unrelated to his entrustments,” the petition said.
The office alleged White misappropriated the remaining $105,344. However, once the office adjusted its tally of the funds entrusted to White and accounted for additional funds in the trust, it put the amount of the deficiency at $96,446 as of Jan. 18.
Coco wrote in a filing seeking to block the temporary suspension that her client had “sought help for a pathological gambling addiction” and placed himself on a list for exclusion from state casinos.
State authorities took the step of asking the court for White’s emergency suspension when he refused to tender his voluntary resignation from the state bar, according to the state’s filing.
White, a Democrat, won a 46th District seat in the state House of Representatives in 2006, serving until he lost a re-election bid to Republican Jason Ortitay.
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Judge appoints conservator for Jesse White’s private practice of law