Any one of several initially plausible theories, ranging from the state-bar's incompetence to its viciousness, might explain the severity it inflicted on Dahlin.
The first theory, suggested by scattered state-bar commentary, is that Dahlin, in reality, was disbarred for associated conduct rather than, as ostensible, the commingling of funds. The bar court wrote vaguely of the general aroma of dishonesty surrounding the "misappropriation," and though only sporadically, it alleged certain specifics, most significantly accusing Dahlin of prematurely representing to a superior-court judge that he had distributed all trust funds. Now, if this allegation were true, the offense would be very serious misconduct, certainly involving moral turpitude. Dahlin not only would have lied to the court but, committing the perfidy of disloyal dishonesty, lied to thwart the court's efforts to protect his clients' rights.
This theory implicates the state-bar's incompetence because if what's alleged were true, the bar—basing its case on the wrong infraction and, consequently, driven to exaggeration to justify disbarment—would have demonstrated by practically ignoring the truly disbarrable acts of dishonesty and disloyalty that it fails to grasp even the concept of moral turpitude. In some ways, this rings true. To the state bar, the worst misconduct involves money—regardless of how slight the attorney's fault—simply because the state bar is the payer of last resort when client funds are misappropriated.
But the theory caricatures the incompetence of the state bar, which disbarred Richard Fine for a single alleged misrepresentation to a judge. Extreme caution in accepting the allegations that this theory relies on is warranted, due to the state bar's lack of credibility. Its allegations of misrepresentation should not be granted automatic credence, particularly when the findings omit Dahlin's counter-contentions. More likely, the bar court, which didn't quote Dahlin's language or the superior court's, lacked a case against Dahlin for dishonesty or disloyalty.
The second competing theory has Dahlin disbarred for challenging the state bar's authority. Dahlin thinks his insistence on redacting confidential information incurred the state bar's enmity, but redaction doesn't affront the prosecutor. To the contrary, the more onerously state-bar prosecutors can burden a respondent, the happier they are; this explains the absence of a page limit on pleadings and petitions. The state bar is delighted when the respondent insists on laboring harder, as it furthers the bar's war of attrition and realizes the bar's hope of exhausting respondent or his resources.
The last possibility is that the state bar's animus was personal: the prosecutors and judges disliked the man. Personal prejudices shape an unaccountable police agency free to implement them, but which of Dahlin's traits could make the entire bar apparatus hate him? To answer the question, you must know more about Dahlin, something easy enough to discover: Dahlin is gay and demonstratively so; colloquially, he's a flaming homosexual, and to prove it, he made a gay movie.
State-bar homophobia is ironic in that Lesbians predominate among its deputy trial counsel. (Our Prosecutrix, Melanie J. Lawrence, swaggered into the courtroom looking like a boy.) Ironic but not contradictory, as Lesbians, who reject men, tend to be most offended by those returning the favor.
Public knowledge of Dahlin's sexual deviance helps discern the source of the state-bar's animus, but how many respondents whose offensive traits aren't so public receive the spite of the unaccountable state bar, effecting all the prejudices inherent in a mentally aberrant clique?