Attorney in Trouble for Defiantly Photoshopping Herself into Celebrity Shots

Monday, September 22, 2014
Svitlana Sangary with President Obama and Vice President Biden (photos: Sangary website)

Attorney Svitlana Sangary links from her website to a picture of herself and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa published in a Russian-language weekly newspaper in 2006.

The photo is almost certainly fake, along with 50-plus pics of her with celebrities, including President Obama, that reside on the site. She refuses to take them down and that defiance, the photos themselves and some other shenanigans earned the Los Angeles lawyer a recommended six-month suspension of her legal license by State Bar Judge Donald F. Miles.

The judge said (pdf) Sangary’s misconduct included posting the photos, not cooperating with the State Bar investigation and failing to send the case file of a former client to their new attorney. He also recommended the Bar give her a two-year stayed suspension and three years of probation with detailed compliance requirements.

Some observers speculated that her refusal to take down the pictures and a nonsensical 16-page defense of her actions had something to do with the punishment, rarely meted out to lawyers. “There is a popular expression, ‘sweet sixteen,” she wrote. “The foregoing 16 pages can be characterized as bitter-sweet sixteen, in SANGARY’s view.”

Bitter-sweet they are. And maybe a little nuts. The judge quoted from the “bizarre soliloquy”:

“With regards to false statements and misleading advertising, none other than Natalie Portman comes to mind. The online media extensively covers the controversy surrounding Natalie Portman’s performance in the Black Swan. The ballet dancer who performed in the Black Swan, Sarah Lane, has come forward to revel [sic] a “cover-up” and says that Natalie Portman’s head was superimposed on to Sarah Lane’s body, and that Natalie Portman lied.”

Sangary said in court documents that she immigrated to the United States in her 20s. Her website says she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in economics from Odessa State University of Economics in Ukraine before getting a law degree at Pepperdine University School of Law. Sangary was admitted to the bar in 2004.

Although she “demonstrated lack of insight” and exhibited “contemptuous conduct during proceedings,” she also revealed an unswerving love of celebrity. Her page of photographs, though no longer linked to from the home page, included as of Sunday night pictures of her practically cheek-to-cheek with the likes of ex-President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Vice President Biden, ex-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Donald Trump, Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, George Clooney, Larry King and James Gandolfini.

“These photographs were part of an advertisement and solicitation for future work . . . and they were false, deceptive, and intended to confuse, deceive and mislead the public,” Judge Miles wrote. The investigation began in 2012 after complaints about the pics.

The judge took note that Sangary refused to take the witness’ oath when called to testify by the State Bar at her June 8 trial and only relented when the judge insisted. She then claimed a “First Amendment” right to remain silent (not Fifth Amendment).

The California Supreme Court gets the last say on disciplinary recommendations.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

California Attorney Faces Suspension after Photoshopping Herself into Celebrity Photos (by Abby Ohlheiser, Washington Post)

Lawyer Suspended for Celeb Photoshop Pics in Best Disciplinary Ruling Ever (by William Peacock, Strategist)

California Lawyer Facing Suspension for Photoshopping Herself into Celebrity Photos (by Evan Sernoffsky, San Francisco Chronicle)

Suspension Proposed for L.A. Attorney over Doctored Celebrity Photos (by Kate Mather, Los Angeles Times)

In the Matter of Svitlana E. Sangary (State Bar of California) (pdf)

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