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Las Vegas lawyer disbarred; restitution ordered

A Las Vegas lawyer has been disbarred for at least five years by the Nevada Supreme Court.

Philip Singer, 45, was suspended in November 2008 and later filed a conditional guilty plea with the State Bar of Nevada admitting to several acts of misconduct. He also agreed to accept disbarment and pay about $67,000 in restitution.

The Supreme Court rejected Singer’s guilty plea in 2010 after ruling that the conditions it imposed on his disbarment were inadequate to protect the public. The original resolution called for Singer to wait three years from his suspension date to seek reinstatement of his law license.

Under the new agreement, Singer pleaded guilty to multiple counts of misconduct, including misappropriation and failure to communicate with clients. The new deal called for Singer to be disbarred for five years from his suspension date and to pay restitution. It also required him to submit to binding arbitration with the State Bar Fee Dispute Arbitration Committee on matters totaling $32,200.

“Having reviewed the record, we approve the revised conditional plea agreement, with one exception,” the Supreme Court’s Dec. 21 order said. “Based on the egregiousness and frequency of Singer’s misconduct, we disbar Singer from the practice of law for a period of at least five years from this date forward.”

Singer obtained his Nevada law license in October 2001. He must pass the Nevada bar exam again before his license can be reinstated.

Under current Nevada Supreme Court rules, disbarment is irrevocable.

According to the high court’s 2008 order of suspension, “Singer appears to have misappropriated funds from clients and third-party lienholders, accepted and cashed retainer checks without performing any services, and commingled client and personal funds.”

In a petition seeking Singer’s suspension, the State Bar outlined “a pattern of failing to safekeep trust account monies and refusing to respond to the State Bar.” The bar attributed Singer’s lack of response to his “flippant attitude.”

According to the petition, an audit of Singer’s trust account revealed “that there were many settlements deposited in which the complete amount was not distributed.”

Singer handled divorce, personal injury and criminal cases. He represented Nicolas Serrano-Villagrana, the drunken driver whose pickup plowed through a bus stop in 2004, killing a 4-year-old boy.

Serrano-Villagrana, an illegal immigrant who claimed someone else was driving the truck, was convicted in 2005 and received a 12- to 40-year prison sentence.

Singer also represented Miseal Arcadia, who was convicted of second-degree murder with a deadly weapon in 2006 in connection with the shooting death of his wife’s lover in Mesquite.

A new trial was granted after District Judge Donald Mosley found Singer’s representation of Arcadia to be substandard. The defendant later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received a sentence of 10 to 25 years in prison.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

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