Byline: Mike McKee RECORDER STAFF WRITER
A state appellate court on Wednesday referred a Pacifica lawyer to the State Bar for
investigation, disturbed that she might have manipulated a now-deceased elderly
client into marrying her and changing his trust documents for her benefit.
"We find the circumstances of this case to be troubling," Justice Robert Dondero
wrote in an unpublished ruling for. "In
particular, an inference may be drawn that appellant, a licensed attorney, knowingly
made a false representation on a recorded instrument in an attempt to take advantage
of a client in order to secure a portion of his estate for herself."
But Linda Lowney's lawyer, Brian Beckwith of Palo Alto, called the appeal court's
action "really inappropriate," saying his client's a "very truthful person" whose
marriage to octogenarian Thor Tollefsen was based on love, not mercenary motives.
Beckwith accused Tollefsen's nieces of trying to "assassinate" Lowney's character.
Lowney, who was admitted to practice law in California in 1978, didn't return a call
At issue in Estate of Tollefsen, A123071 , was whether Lowney's "confidential
marriage" to Tollefsen on Jan. 28, 2007, was valid. On, a San
Mateo County Superior Court judge ruled last year it wasn't.
The First District affirmed, ruling that "the Legislature has explicitly stated that
is a necessary condition before a couple may validly apply
According to the ruling, Lowney claimed to have lived with Tollefsen in Daly City
but didn't dispute the nieces' contentions that she hadn't.
In court papers, Beckwith said the couple first met in 2001 when Tollefsen came to
Lowney to help with an eviction. After that, he said, she drafted some estate
planning documents for him and they became romantically involved in March of
When they married, Beckwith wrote, Lowney wanted the marriage kept confidential
because she thought her college-age daughter would object.
Tollefsen's relatives, however, contend that Lowney swept into Tollefsen's life,
married him illegally and then induced him to give her access to an account valued at
In his court papers, Beckwith said the attempt to paint Lowney as a "predator" was
"improper and misleading."
"There is no dispute," he added, "that both parties entered into the marriage
Beckwith said Wednesday that Lowney's opponents in the estate dispute filed a
complaint with the State Bar in 2007. But he didn't know what, if anything,
happened to it.
Interim State Bar Chief Trial Counsel Russell Weiner was out of the office
Wednesday, and Supervising Trial Counsel Donald Steedman didn't return a call
seeking to find out whether the State Bar had initiated an earlier investigation.
State Bar policy, however, requires investigations suggested by judges or justices.
Original story here
Original story here
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