San Jose lawyer faces disbarment

A San Jose lawyer is facing disbarment for misconduct in his handling of cases for five clients from the local Southeast Asian community who spoke limited English.

Sterling Harwood, 58, signed a stipulation with State Bar Court prosecutors in San Francisco on Aug. 17. In the document, he acknowledged violations of laws and rules of professional conduct in the five cases and agreed that the recommended discipline is loss of his license to practice law.

The case is now before the state Supreme Court, which will have the final say on whether Harwood should be disbarred. In the meantime, he is on inactive status and unable to practice law.

In one case, Harwood missed the deadline for a client to file a wrongful death lawsuit after the client’s wife died of complications following surgery.

In another case, he caused a client to lose a slip-and-fall lawsuit.

In several personal injury cases, Harwood failed to notify his clients when he received their medical payments and settlement funds.

He still owes three former clients more than $11,000, according to State Bar spokeswoman Laura Ernde.