In an emergency petition, the Nevada State Bar is seeking to suspend the license of a politically active Las Vegas attorney, alleging he misappropriated tens of thousands of dollars in client funds and tried to cover up his actions.
The bar called attorney Barry Levinson a "substantial threat" to the public and said it wants the Nevada Supreme Court to issue a "swift and immediate suspension" of his license while the bar conducts formal disciplinary proceedings against him.
"In short, Levinson has repeatedly misappropriated funds and has compounded his misconduct by repeatedly lying to clients and the State Bar regarding his delay in disbursing funds to the appropriate parties," according to the bar in a 24-page complaint filed late last week. "Levinson's lies, combined with his failure to cooperate, constitute an obstruction to the State Bar's investigation, as does Levinson's failure to provide information requested."
Disciplinary proceedings against Levinson could result in an additional suspension or disbarment.
Levinson said Monday that the allegations "are not true" and that he plans a response.
"I haven't even had a hearing on it, and that's my right," Levinson said. "We have a response that we're filing this week."
Levinson, who was admitted to the Nevada bar in December 1998, is listed on the secretary of state's website as the secretary for the conservative Tea Party of Nevada. But Levinson said he is not that active with the party anymore.
In its petition, the State Bar said Levinson committed the "cardinal sin for lawyers by misappropriating money that he was entrusted with for safekeeping."
On its website, Levinson's firm lists bankruptcy, foreclosure and personal injury cases among its specialties.
The bar sent Levinson a letter of investigation in July 2011 but didn't receive a "substantive" response until Feb. 1, the bar petition said.
"Despite Levinson's obstruction, the State Bar through substantial effort, continuously discovered bank accounts utilized for settlements and pieced together the information contained in this petition," the petition said.
Dawn Reid, an investigator for the State Bar Counsel David Clark, said in a sworn affidavit that she examined 29 accounts from six banks tied to Levinson. Records were obtained from August 2007 through July.
Bar officials said they don't have a handle on the amount of money misappropriated, other than it is likely tens of thousands of dollars. Investigators had a hard time tracking the money because Levinson put funds from newer client settlements into accounts for older settlements, officials said.
The bar asked the Supreme Court to preclude Levinson from representing his current clients and accepting new ones.
All proceeds from Levinson's practice should be deposited into a trust account and no withdrawals made without Clark's approval, the bar requested.
"Levinson remains a threat as long as he is licensed and in good standing with this court," according to the petition.
Contact Jeff German at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-8135.