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Hawaii attorney disbarred for dishonesty in handling of apartment deed

By Star Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 11:32 a.m. HST, Oct 23, 2013

The Hawaii Supreme Court issued an order Tuesday disbarring attorney Michael R. Salling from the practice of law.

The high court said Salling, 65, violated Hawaii Rules of Professional Conduct by "dishonestly" trying to gain fee-simple title to his client's apartment against her wishes.

At the time, the apartment was worth about $400,000, according to the court.The court said Salling used a power of attorney he prepared for his client to execute shortly before her death; misrepresented the authenticity of the invalid deed before a notary public; recorded the invalid deed, and misrepresented that the apartment had been given to him as a gift to avoid paying taxes.

The court also said Salling "does not recognize the wrongful nature of his conduct or show remorse and evinces no intention to pay restitution."

In an email statement, Salling said after the woman's death in 2006, her family settled a lawsuit over the Honolulu Tower condominium where they had lived together. He said the family "retaliated by filing an unmerited complaint" with the disciplinary counsel.

The disciplinary counsel's office conducts investigations of unethical complaints against  Hawaii lawyers.

The court said the disbarment order will take effect 30 days from Tuesday.

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Lawyer disbarred over condo dispute

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LMO wrote:
Now he'll have to get an honest job!
on October 23,2013 | 01:54AM
HanabataDays wrote:
Takes some serious bad action to get disbarred on the first go-round without even a prior suspension. Obviously this was no unmerited complaint by someone who merely wanted to stir up trouble.
on October 23,2013 | 02:35AM
none wrote:
"Dishonestly" aren't they all like that.
on October 23,2013 | 05:28AM
RichardCory wrote:
About as much as you and I, I'd assume. We are all equally human. What exactly makes you think you're better?
on October 23,2013 | 06:15AM
beachbum11 wrote:
Sounds like a lawyer
on October 23,2013 | 07:53AM
cojef wrote:
A shyster lawyer finally got his due. No intention to pay restitution? Does it mean he gets to keep the $400,000 HonoluluTower condo? Whew! nasty guy.
on October 23,2013 | 06:02AM
allie wrote:
on October 23,2013 | 07:42AM
medigogo wrote:
I still don't understand what's happened. Can the news report be a little more specific? It surely sounds criminal to me so far. So why is he not charged? And if no criminal action at all, what's the basis of the SC's action to disbar him?
on October 23,2013 | 08:21AM
czt1dave wrote:
"Misrepresented"...you mean lied, right?
on October 23,2013 | 08:47AM
pakepali wrote:
A little bit off topic - does anyone know why this article did not appear in the hard copy print edition?
on October 24,2013 | 05:08PM
kokuaguy wrote:
This previously posted comment disappeared from the website at some point and I have emailed reporter Ken Kobayashi to inquire about the reason for this. So, here it is again, off my Facebook Timeline from October 26, 2013. [Those who have seen the published reports in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser regarding my "disbarment" may be interested in the comment that I just posted on the newspaper's website. Here is the text. A letter based on this comment will be submitted for immediate publication to the Star-Advertiser by Michael Salling: "Mr. Kobayashi's handling of this story was professional and objective, and I appreciate the opportunity he gave me to provide input for his stories. Certain corrections need to be made, however, and additional information is required for the public to understand the background and circumstances. First and foremost, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel wrongfully failed to provide to the Supreme Court any findings based on the testimony and written records of the last medical doctor to speak with Beatrice Lee (my "partner", as ODC complainant Annelle Lee admitted in Bea's draft obituary.) Dr. Bradley Chun saw Bea at Queens in late November after her first small stroke, and noted in his records that she intended to change her Will and make me the recipient of her condominium. He also noted in his records that I was "the love of her life" and that she was fully competent to make these decisions. Bea died of a second massive stroke less than two weeks later. Dr. Chun testified before the ODC at length about all of this. For the ODC to ignore this testimony and report to the Supreme Court that I acted "against her wishes" is a gross miscarriage of justice. In fact, my intention was to carry out her wishes. Likewise, for the ODC to maintain that I have not attempted to make restitution is a blatant falsehood. In settling the litigation that Bea's niece brought against me I stipulated to judgments in the neighborhood of $100,000 (mostly for attorney fees) and deeded the condo back. The family is free to garnishee my monthly income of $1,500 but have not attempted to do so. The sole beneficiary of Bea's $300,000 cash trust at the time of her death was her sole heir, her grandson, who was the only grandchild of two sets of grandparents and was a playmate of my own child for years. I have attempted to reach out to Bea's family without success to obtain forgiveness and closure. I remain willing to meet with them at any time. Following Bea's death (which occurred during my divorce proceedings) I had a "nervous breakdown" and subsequently have been diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder and possible PTSD. Thankfully, until my recent retirement, I was able to continue with the teaching career that I embarked on after the 1993 judgeship "debacle" which was mishandled by the ODC and resulted in a highly publicized and unjust 6-month license suspension making me me unemployable in the Honolulu legal community. Anyone interested in further information may contact me at the following email address: sallingm@gmail.com. Mahalo for reading this comment.]
on July 2,2014 | 08:51PM
kokuaguy wrote:
It should be noted by those who read this story and those who commented, that not one comment was entered on this Friday October 2013 story on the Star-Advertiser website after I submitted the one above ( I'm kokuaguy.) In addition, not one email regarding this matter has been received by me so far at the above address in response to my offer to communicate about this matter and provide background information. Thus, I feel confident that the above comment was sufficient to gain acknowledgment from most readers that there are two very different sides to this sorry tale, and to satisfy many regarding the basic nature of the seven year relationship between myself and Beatrice Hiyoung Lee. Certainly in the final years it was in no way even remotely that of attorney/ client, as the Office of Disciplinary Counsel inaccurately represented to the Supreme Court. But in light of their dismal and dishonest treatment of me in 1993, I should not have been surprised by the unjust and unconscionable outcome. All the Disciplinary Counsel has succeeded in doing is making it impossible for me to do the kind PRO BONO work for poor and disadvantaged clients that has been the primary reason I kept my law license active over the past 20 years.
on July 3,2014 | 11:00AM
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