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The State Bar of California has reinstated the law license of Lenore Albert-Sheridan, a Huntington Beach attorney and Democratic candidate for District Attorney who was suspended in February.
The State Bar updated its website Friday, June 1 to reflect the change, although the actual date of reinstatement is listed as March 16. Candidates for district attorney must have a license to practice law.
The change comes four days before the June 5 primary election, where Albert-Sheridan is one of four candidates running for District Attorney. The other candidates are incumbent District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and Supervisor Todd Spitzer, both Republicans, and Democrat Brett Murdock, an attorney and former mayor of Brea.
Albert-Sheridan said she received a letter from the State Bar on June 1 notifying her of the reinstatement of her license.
“With only two business days before the election, it is unclear how much of the damage looming over the campaign can be fixed. There is no rhyme or reason to the timing of the State Bar’s letter,” said Albert-Sheridan Friday. She said she has not communicated with any officials at the State Bar.
Her license was suspended effective February 14, for a minimum of 30 days or until she pays fines to the State Bar. She owes more than $5,738 in sanctions and $18,000 in other fees.
Six days after her suspension, on February 20, Albert-Sheridan filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Although two attorneys filed a lawsuit March 19 seeking to remove Albert-Sheridan from the ballot, a judge determined in April that it was too early to say whether she would be qualified to serve as District Attorney, given she could pay the fees and be reinstated by the State Bar before election day.
A spokeswoman for the State Bar, Rebecca Farmer, said the agency determined the money Albert-Sheridan owes “may be dischargeable in Chapter 13 bankruptcy,” meaning the court could decide she is no longer obligated to make those payments.
“Federal law prohibits the conditioning of a license based on dischargeable debt,” Farmer said in an emailed statement, adding the State Bar could still take action against Albert-Sheridan if the bankruptcy court decides those debts can’t be cancelled.
Albert-Sheridan’s bankruptcy case is still pending, and the court has made no decisions about which of her debts can be cancelled.
Farmer was not available Friday night to answer additional questions about why the State Bar notified Albert-Sheridan about the lifting of her suspension three months after it became effective, or before a court decision on her bankruptcy case.
Lee Fink, an attorney who helped bring the lawsuit challenging Albert-Sheridan’s ability to appear on the June primary ballot and a Murdock supporter, said State Bar officials told him in April Albert-Sheridan was still suspended.
He argues that case law suggests the Bar does not need to reinstate Albert-Sheridan’s license until the bankruptcy court actually approves her bankruptcy plan, in case “the debtor had a dubious record and was perhaps gaming the system.”
Fink also argues the Bar cannot lift the suspension absent an order from the state Supreme Court, which is the final authority on attorney discipline.
Albert-Sheridan is campaigning as a consumer protection attorney who would protect people from consumer fraud, corruption, and reduce mass incarceration.
She originally sought the title of “civil rights attorney” as her ballot designation, but a judge later struck that from the ballot.
She will appear on the ballot with no official title.
Contact Thy Vo at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.