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Discipline Report

Recent disbarments, suspensions and probations in California

June 2016

Disbarment

Suspension

Probation

Public Reproval

Disbarment

Jack Israel Adler
State Bar # 97380, Moreno Valley (March 18, 2016)

Adler, 68, was disbarred by default after he failed to participate in the State Bar’s disciplinary proceeding against him. The procedural requirements for adequate notice were satisfied. Adler was found culpable of failing to file a declaration of compliance with the State Bar as required by the California Supreme Court in the terms of an earlier disciplinary order (Cal. R. of Court, Rule 9.20)). He had been disciplined twice previously.


Stanley Alari
State Bar # 53058, Nevada City (March 19, 2016)

Alari, 82, was disbarred after he stipulated to failing to file a declaration of compliance with the State Bar as mandated in an earlier disciplinary proceeding (Cal R. of Court, Rule 9.20)). He had two prior records of discipline.


Richard Eugene Ashbran
State Bar # 60467, Glendora (March 19, 2016)

Ashbran, 68, was disbarred after he stipulated to failing to maintain an appropriate balance in his client trust account and misappropriating funds from that account—misconduct involving moral turpitude.

Ashbran received several installments for a $20,000 settlement secured as a subrogation claim against a third party responsible for causing a fire and damaging property. He was entitled to a fee of $2,000, but misappropriated an additional $17,050 from the account for his own business operating expenses.

In aggravation, he committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed his client, and also had a prior record of discipline.


Floyd George Belsito
State Bar # 103635, Santa Ana (March 18, 2016)

Belsito, 81, was disbarred by default after receiving adequate notice of the disciplinary proceedings against him, but failing to appear or seek to have his default set aside or vacated. He was found culpable of 15 counts of misconduct involving seven client matters.

The wrongdoing included: three counts each of practicing law and charging and collecting a fee for that work in a jurisdiction in which he was not entitled to practice; four counts of charging and collecting fees before completing work in home mortgage loan modification matters; three counts of failing to clearly indicate solicitations for legal work; and two counts of failing to release client files after being requested to do so.


George Darrell Berglund
State Bar # 133677, Half Moon Bay (February 19, 2016)

Berglund, 68, was disbarred after being found culpable of six counts of professional misconduct in a single client matter—including two counts each of failing to maintain confidential client statements, breaching the duty of loyalty to the client, and misrepresentation involving moral turpitude.

He represented one client, who was also an attorney, in a divorce and civil matter—but she terminated the relationship after about seven months, requesting her client fee and indicating that remaining fee issues would need to be resolved through arbitration. Berglund then filed an amended reply as her “former attorney,” in which he divulged information gleaned during their confidential communications; his reply also contained several false and disparaging statements about her. He subsequently filed two complaints against the former client, who was also a psychologist counselor, with the Board of Psychology—which also disclosed confidential communications and contained a number of false and disparaging statements about her.

In aggravation, Berglund had a prior record of discipline and committed multiple acts of misconduct. The State Bar Court judge also found his repeated argument that attorneys “can reveal confidential information any time the client discloses the confidences to a friend” to be unsupported and misguided—and demonstrated a lack of insight constituting significant aggravation. Finally, the judge noted Berglund “was hostile and unprofessional with the court and opposing counsel” during his disciplinary proceeding, which was deemed another significantly aggravating factor.

He was given nominal mitigation credit for the five witnesses who attested to his good character, since several of them “did not demonstrate an understanding of the full extent of the present misconduct.”

In a 110-page amended response to the initial notice of disciplinary charges filed against him, in a 10-day trial, and 285-page closing brief, Berglund had argued that no discipline was warranted—a claim the judge rejected, while underscoring his “lack of appreciation for two of the most fundamental attorney duties—confidentiality and loyalty.”


Ashley C.L Brown
State Bar # 210159, Garden Grove (March 18, 2016)

Brown, 48, was disbarred after being found culpable of three of the five counts of professional misconduct with which he was charged, in addition to two counts of “uncharged but proved” misconduct.

Specifically, the misconduct included: failing to maintain an earnest money deposit in a trust account and then misappropriating it—an act involving moral turpitude, breaching his fiduciary duty to his clients, failing to account for the clients’ funds, and failing to promptly refund their funds after being requested to do so.

Brown acted as the escrow agent and attorney for the seller in a real estate transaction in which the seller initially acquired the bank-owned property from a website, intending to resell it immediately with concurrent escrows. The arrangement is legal provided it meets some conditions. He received $30,000 from the purchasers as earnest money, and placed it in his client trust account—subsequently making several incremental disbursements from the funds, even though the buyers had not authorized the payments.

After the buyers backed out of the deal, Brown made additional distributions from the intended escrow funds. The buyers sued him, along with the putative property owners and broker alleging conversion, fraud, breach of contract, and a number of other claims. The lawsuit was eventually settled, with the buyers losing $6,500 of their original deposit.

In aggravation, Brown committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed the buyers, to whom he owed a fiduciary duty. The State Bar also found he was indifferent to the consequences of his misconduct, failing to “demonstrate any realistic recognition of or remorse for his wrongdoings.” In mitigation, he had practiced law for 12 years without a discipline record.


Jacob Dong Hun Chang
State Bar # 174476, Van Nuys (March 18, 2016)

Chang, 47, was disbarred by default after he failed to appear at his disciplinary proceeding, despite adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He was found culpable of four counts of professional misconduct: failing to deposit client funds in trust, failing to obey a court order, issuing checks from an account with insufficient funds—an act involving moral turpitude, and failing to cooperate with a State Bar investigation. He had been disciplined twice before.


Kenneth Matthew Cooke
State Bar # 159341, San Diego (February 19, 2016)

Cooke, 49, was disbarred by default after he failed to participate in the disciplinary proceeding on the charges filed against him. The State Bar determined he had received adequate notice to do so. He was found culpable of four counts of misconduct: failing to respond to multiple client case status inquiries, failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to provide an accounting of client funds, and failing to return unearned advanced fees. He had been disciplined by the State Bar twice before.


Victor Dewitt
State Bar # 53408, Placentia (March 19, 2016)

Dewitt, 77, was disbarred by default after he failed to appear, either in person or through counsel, at his disciplinary proceeding or to have the default order against him set aside or vacated. The State Bar had used reasonable diligence to notify him of the proceeding.

He was found culpable of three acts of professional misconduct: failing to promptly release a client’s papers and property after being requested to do so, failing to render an accounting of the client’s advanced legal fees, and failing to cooperate with the State Bar’s investigation of the misconduct alleged. Dewitt had one prior record of discipline.


Lorraine Dickson
State Bar # 220841, Santa Ana (March 18, 2016)

Dickson, 41, was disbarred after failing to refund a former client $5,000 in unearned attorney fees, plus a $300 fee for filing the arbitration awarding the client that amount. She did not respond to several letters by the State Bar urging her to comply and emphasizing the consequences were involuntary inactive status until full payment was made.


Richard Kiernan Griffith
State Bar # 41807, Honolulu, Hawaii (March 19, 2016)

Griffith, 78, was disbarred by default. He failed to participate in a State Bar disciplinary proceeding on charges filed against him, despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He was found culpable of failing to obey a court order requiring him to file a declaration of compliance as required in a discipline order imposed earlier (Cal. R. of Court, Rule 9.20). He had two prior records of discipline.


Don Harding Haycock
State Bar # 49508, Los Angeles (February 19, 2016)

Haycock, 84, was disbarred by default after he failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, in his disciplinary proceeding. The State Bar determined the procedural requirements of notice were satisfied. He was found culpable of five counts of professional misconduct in a single client matter. The wrongdoing included: failing to report $3,000 in judicial sanctions to the State Bar, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, and three acts of misrepresentation—one related to unauthorized practice, one in a letter to the State Bar, one in an application to an appellate court—all involving moral turpitude.


Stevan John Henrioulle
State Bar # 57282, Foster City (March 18, 2016)

Henrioulle, 70, was disbarred along with a former law partner after a hearing judge found them culpable of engaging in a widespread scheme to defraud their clients. They were also found culpable of extensive misconduct in nine client matters—including failing to perform with competence, communicate with clients, return unearned fees, and render accountings. In addition, they were found to have aided and abetted the unauthorized practice of law.

Henrioulle and another attorney set up a law firm together, hiring a former attorney to work as their litigation manager. Though the manager had resigned from the bar with disciplinary charges pending, he did unsupervised intakes of the clients, and had a business card and diplomas identifying him as a lawyer. The clients, most of whom spoke English as a second language, were required to sign a fee agreement requiring an initial nonrefundable “retainer of between $3,995 to $4,500 in addition to a monthly fee ranging from $500 to $850—regardless of whether services were provided. Most of the clients were also financially strapped—seeking help to avoid foreclosures and evictions.

After receiving numerous complaints about the law partners, the State Bar filed two Notices of Disciplinary Charges against them: one alleged 38 counts of professional misconduct, the other alleged six counts.

On appeal, Henrioulle claimed his due process rights were violated by the judge limiting his presentation of evidence—a contention rejected by the State Bar panel as not raised at trial, and also unsupported by the evidence.

The panel rejected the hearing judge’s finding that the two attorneys engaged in a scheme to defraud their clients “by exploiting them for personal gain and accepting employment without an intent to perform.” Instead, it found the pair did provide services, with varying degrees of competence or success, but did so “with a habitual disregard of clients’ interests.”
In aggravation, Henrioulle caused significant harm to many clients—most of whom lost their homes and had their cases dismissed—and overreached to take advantage of vulnerable individuals. In mitigation, he had no record of discipline in 36 years of practicing law, stipulated to some facts and some culpability, and presented three declarations and four witnesses attesting to his good character.


Christian Kelley Jensen
State Bar # 214239, Lafayette (March 19, 2016)

Jensen, 50, was disbarred by default after he failed to appear at the trial charging him with 11 counts of misconduct stemming from two consolidated matters. The procedural notice requirements had previously been satisfied, and he did not act to have the default order set aside or vacated.

He was found culpable of 10 of the counts charged. In one case, his misconduct included: failing to promptly pay funds due to a client, misappropriating client funds—an act involving moral turpitude, failing to promptly notify a client of significant case developments and of settlement proceeds received, and failing to maintain client funds in a trust account.

In the other, he was found culpable of failing to perform legal services with competence, improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to return unearned fees, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, and misrepresenting several facts to a State Bar investigator—misconduct involving moral turpitude.


Wilford Thomas Lee
State Bar # 166168, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina (February 19, 2016)

Lee, 52, was disbarred after being found culpable of a single count of misconduct: failing to file a declaration of compliance with the State Bar as mandated in an earlier disciplinary proceeding (Cal. R. of Court, Rule 9.20).

In aggravation, Lee had been disciplined twice before, and also demonstrated indifference toward atoning for his misconduct by failing to comply even after receiving repeated warnings of the potential consequences from the State Bar. In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation to some facts and admission of documents, though that admission was allotted only limited weight, as the facts were not difficult to prove.


Edward Medina
State Bar # 204880, San Diego (March 19, 2016)

Medina, 41, was disbarred after being found culpable of eight counts of professional misconduct. They included: failing to comply with a court order, two counts of unauthorized practice of law, and five counts of misrepresentation—acts involving moral turpitude.

In a previous disciplinary proceeding, Medina was suspended from practicing law and ordered to comply with provisions in California Rule of Court 9.20 requiring him to give notice of his suspension to clients and opposing counsel in pending matters, as well as filing a compliance declaration with the State Bar. He failed to give the required notice, but falsely declared in his declaration that he had done so. In addition, while suspended, he filed documents and pleadings and appeared in bankruptcy court on behalf of clients—then falsely denied the representation in three separate letters to the State Bar.

In aggravation, Medina had a prior record of discipline. In mitigation, he presented declarations from six witnesses attesting to his good character and community service.


Reynoldo L. Ochoa
State Bar # 103771, Orange (March 18, 2016)

Ochoa, 71, was disbarred by default after failing to participate, either in person or through counsel, at the disciplinary proceeding charging him with three counts of professional misconduct. He was found culpable of all charges: Failing to return unearned fees, failing to perform legal services with competence, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the wrongdoing alleged. He had two prior records of discipline.


Richard Carroll Sinclair
State Bar # 68238, Oakdale (March 18, 2016)

Sinclair, 67, was disbarred after being found culpable of four or of the seven counts of professional misconduct with which he was charged. The wrongdoing included failing to obey two court orders and failing to report court-ordered sanctions to the State Bar in one client matter, and in a separate matter, engaging in a scheme to defraud in a real estate development—misconduct involving moral turpitude.

In the present proceeding, the State Bar Court judge considered findings of fact by a trial and appellate court in the underlying civil proceeding on the real estate matter in addition to hearing testimony from Sinclair and two material witnesses.

The evidence demonstrated that Sinclair and his wife purchased a plot of land, then obtained a construction loan financing an apartment complex. Just after the complex was completed, he defaulted on the loan, but transferred the property to a business that he and his wife also owned. One week before a foreclosure sale, the business transferred the complex back to them, and the couple filed bankruptcy one hour after the transfer deed was recorded.

The complex scheme, parts of which Sinclair conducted through an alter ego, included: creating the false appearance of a homeowner association and saleable lots; securing loans based on false pretenses and misrepresentations; skimming off loan proceeds, dues, rental income, and tenant deposits; filing bankruptcies and lawsuits to delay foreclosures; and providing false testimony to the courts to conceal and perpetuate the scheme.

In aggravation, Sinclair had a prior record of discipline, engaged in a lengthy pattern of deceptive and improper conduct, remained indifferent to rectifying his misconduct, and caused significant harm to the administration of justice and to individuals involved—including one buyer who paid more than $1.3 million in attorney’s fees in an attempt to discover and correct the misconduct. In mitigation, Sinclair presented evidence of community service.


Philip Monroe Smith
State Bar # 169821, Los Angeles (March 18, 2016)

Smith, 68, was disbarred after an appeal of the hearing judge’s recommendation of involuntary enrollment upon a finding of culpability of three counts of professional misconduct. The wrongdoing included: failing to promptly pay a client settlement proceeds, failing to properly maintain funds in his client trust account, and misappropriating the client funds—an act involving moral turpitude.

Smith, who primarily practiced business and tax law, agreed to represent an elderly client who suffered personal injuries in a slip and fall. While he initially sought $900,000, the case was ultimately settled for $50,000. He deposited that amount in his client trust account, initially withdrawing less than his entitlement for litigation costs and the contingency fee. He then experienced financial difficulties, which he attributed to having to “finance” the client’s lawsuit for nearly two years, after he came to believe that some of the client’s injuries had been preexisting. He subsequently made six withdrawals from the trust account totaling more than $10,000 over a four-month period—all of it used to pay his law office expenses. He then sent the client an inaccurate accounting, and continued to make withdrawals from the trust account—even after his employment was terminated.

On appeal, Smith argued he had insufficient notice of the factual basis for the charged misconduct because the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar did not supply a full accounting of the amounts at issue. This claim was rejected, as the Notice of Disciplinary Charges did include a sufficient description of the nature of the charges, even though there was a slight variation in dollar amounts owed.

He also contended disbarment was unwarranted because he had practiced law for 18 years without discipline, educated himself on the rules governing client trust accounts, and vowed not to represent another personal injury client. The panel also rejected this argument, underscoring the aggravating factors.

In aggravation, Smith committed multiple acts of misconduct, concealed his misappropriations, showed a lack of remorse for his misconduct, and still has not made full restitution to the elderly client. In addition, the panel considered the “uncharged misconduct” of failing to withdraw his entire contingent fee from the settlement proceeds to be an aggravating factor. The panel members assigned reduced weight to Smith’s 18 years of discipline-free practice, reasoning that “it does not persuade us he will avoid future misconduct.” He was also given limited mitigation weight for stipulating to some facts, though not to culpability, as well as slight mitigation weight for performing community service, as there was minimal testimony introduced to support it.


Danny Robert Taylor
State Bar # 91924, Palm Desert (March 19, 2016)

Taylor, 65, was disbarred after being found culpable of failing to comply with several conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary probation order. The wrongdoing included: failing to timely file three written quarterly reports with the State Bar, failing to make timely monthly restitution payments to three clients, failing to pay full restitution with interest to three clients, and failing to pay court-imposed sanctions.

Taylor appealed, citing an intervening disciplinary decision rendered against him. However, the State bar Court judge emphasized that decision did not revoke his prior probation or terminate the obligations the order created.

In aggravation, Taylor had a record of four prior disciplinary actions, committed multiple acts of misconduct in the instant matter, and demonstrated a lack of insight into his wrongdoing. In mitigation, he submitted declarations from five individuals attesting to his good character; however, only modest credit was allowed because they lacked knowledge of the pending charges or misconduct alleged.


Dominique Nghi Thieu
State Bar # 236914, Fountain Valley (March 18, 2016)

Thieu, 41, was disbarred after initially stipulating to misappropriating $25,000 of her client’s trust funds. After receiving that amount as half of a settlement on behalf of her client, Thieu deposited it into her client trust account, then wrote six separate checks from it for personal and office expenses. She then rescheduled appointments with the client or refused to respond to him for nearly 18 months, when she then sent a cashier’s check covering the trust fund deposit plus interest—along with an additional $1,125 as a “token of extreme remorse.”

The hearing judge below found Thieu culpable of three ethical violations: willfully misappropriating the client trust funds—misconduct involving moral turpitude, failing to maintain the trust funds, and failing to participate in a State Bar investigation.

In aggravation, she committed multiple acts of misconduct, concealed her misconduct from the client, and caused substantial harm to the financially-pressed client. In mitigation, she was given slight credit for practicing law for seven years without discipline, as well as slight credit for the seven witnesses attesting to her good character—as five of them were attorneys who had known her only a few years. However, she received significant mitigation credit for her range of pro bono and community service.

On review, Thieu had urged that additional mitigating circumstances—remorse for her wrongdoing and financial difficulties—warranted suspension rather than disbarment. However, the State Bar Court judge noted that her remorse occurred only after the State Barr began its investigation—and was “not prompt, but marked by evasion, concealment, and deception.” The claim of financial difficulties was also rejected as a mitigating factor, since Thieu caused them herself by creating a financial obligation to prevent or resolve a malpractice action with another client that she could not realistically support.


Tina Tran
State Bar # 283842, Walnut Creek (March 18, 2016)

Tran, 31, was disbarred by default after failing to participate in the disciplinary proceeding filed against her. The State Bar determined that procedural notice requirements had been satisfied, and that she had not properly moved to have the default judgment set aside or vacated.

She was found culpable of five counts of misconduct in a single client matter: Failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries about the case status, failing to return client papers and property after being requested to do so, failing to return unearned advanced fees, and failing to cooperate with the State Bar in investigating the misconduct alleged.


William Robert Troiani
State Bar # 236916, Irvine (March 19, 2016)

Troiani, 53, was disbarred after he stipulated to committing 97 acts of professional misconduct in 16 counts against him—including 76 acts of commingling his personal funds and his client trust account. Most of the other charges revolved around accepting client fees and practicing law while actually suspended for disciplinary reasons, misconduct involving moral turpitude—and in aiding another person who is not licensed to practice law to negotiate home mortgage loan modifications. In one case, he accepted an advance fee in a child custody case, then failed to perform any legal services before withdrawing without informing the client.

In aggravation, Troiani committed multiple acts of misconduct, engaged in a pattern of the unauthorized practice of law, and failed to make restitution to his clients for the illegal and unearned advanced fees he collected from them.


Ronald Veridiano Uy
State Bar # 177157, Pacifica (March 18, 2016)

Uy, 54, was disbarred along with a former law partner after a hearing judge found them culpable of engaging in a widespread scheme to defraud their clients. They were also found culpable of extensive misconduct in nine client matters—including failing to perform with competence, communicate with clients, return unearned fees, and render accountings. In addition, they were found to have aided and abetted the unauthorized practice of law by a former attorney who had resigned with disciplinary charges pending.

Uy and another attorney set up a law firm together, hiring a former attorney to work as their litigation manager. Though the manager had resigned from the bar with disciplinary charges pending, he did unsupervised intakes of the clients, and had a business card and diplomas identifying him as a lawyer. The clients, most of whom spoke English as a second language, were required to sign a fee agreement requiring an initial nonrefundable “retainer of between $3,995 to $4,500 in addition to a monthly fee ranging from $500 to $850—regardless of whether services were provided. Most of the clients were also financially strapped—seeking help to avoid foreclosures and evictions.

After receiving numerous complaints about the law partners, the State Bar filed two Notices of Disciplinary Charges against them: one alleged 38 counts of professional misconduct, the other alleged six counts.

On appeal, Uy argued he could not be held vicariously liable for his partner’s misconduct, since he was unaware of it—a claim the State Bar panel rejected as unsupported by the record.

The panel also rejected the hearing judge’s finding that the two attorneys engaged in a scheme to defraud their clients “by exploiting them for personal gain and accepting employment without an intent to perform.” Instead, it found the pair did provide legal services, with varying degrees of competence or success, but did so “with a habitual disregard of clients’ interests.”

In aggravation, Uy had a prior record of discipline, caused significant harm to many clients—most of whom lost their homes and had their cases dismissed—and overreached to take advantage of vulnerable individuals. In mitigation, he was given minimal weight for stipulating to some easily provable facts, and presented three declarations and eight witnesses attesting to his good character. In addition, he presented evidence of extensive pro bono and community work, as well as illnesses and struggles with immediate family members he claimed “clouded his judgment and affected his ability to manage his law firm at the times of the misconduct.”


David M. Van Sickle
State Bar # 167401, Mirada (February 19, 2016)

Van Sickle, 61, was disbarred after a contested disciplinary proceeding in which he was found culpable of willfully failing to comply with a condition imposed in an earlier probation order. In that order, Van Sickle was required to pay attorney fees earlier assessed against him by a federal district court in Minnesota. He had argued he had failed to make the required restitution by virtue of an intervening bankruptcy court discharge injunction—a claim held to be without merit and to contradict with the bankruptcy court’s ruling.

In aggravation, Van Sickle had a record of two prior disciplinary actions. The State Bar Court judge also recognized that some mitigation weight was allowed in prior disciplinary actions for his emotional difficulties, cooperation with the State Bar, and community service. In recommending disbarment, however, the judge noted that “two prior impositions of discipline have not operated to conform his conduct to ethical norms.”


Charles Gregory Williams
State Bar # 172907, Fremont (February 19, 2016)

Williams, 52, was disbarred by default after he failed to appear, either through counsel or in person, at the disciplinary proceeding charging him with 16 counts of professional misconduct in several client matters. Five of those counts were dismissed, as unsupported by clear and convincing evidence; however, he was found culpable of the other counts. That misconduct included: failing to report judicial sanctions imposed against him, improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to maintain or account for funds in a client trust account, failing to pay unearned advanced fees, knowingly issuing a check against insufficient funds and misappropriating client funds—both acts involving moral turpitude, and four counts of failing to participate in State Bar investigations of his alleged misconduct.


Lauren Alicia Womack
State Bar # 259520, Long Beach (February 19, 2016)

Womack, 34, was disbarred by default after she failed to appear at her disciplinary proceeding. The State Bar determined she had received adequate notice and opportunity to do so. She was found culpable of failing to comply with the conditions of an earlier disciplinary order requiring her to file a declaration of compliance with the State Bar Court (Cal. R. of Court, Rule 9.20).



Suspension

James Allen Bascue
State Bar # 47433, Los Angeles (March 21, 2016)

Bascue, 75, was placed on interim suspension following his felony conviction for assault with a firearm (Cal. Penal Code §245(a)(2)).


John Patrick Fennacy
State Bar # 196665, Morro Bay (March 7, 2016)

Fennacy, 51, was placed on interim suspension following his conviction of grand theft by embezzlement—a felony involving moral turpitude (Cal. Penal Code §487(a)).


Jerry Lane Hefner
State Bar # 216385, Julian (March 21, 2016)

Hefner, 46, was placed on interim suspension following his felony conviction of possession of methamphetamine—more than five but less than 15 grams (Ill. Comp. Stat. ch. 720, §646/60(a)).


Ann Elizabeth Herring
State Bar # 144688, Redlands (March 21, 2016)

Herring, 54s, was placed on interim suspension following her conviction of fraud of an elder adult—a felony involving moral turpitude (Cal. Penal Code §368(e)(1)).


David Curtis Hollingsworth
State Bar # 203887, Fresno (February 22, 2016)

Hollingsworth, 61, was suspended from practicing law pending passage of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated by the California Supreme Court in an earlier disciplinary order.


Victor Jacobovitz
State Bar # 66297, Los Angeles (February 22, 2016)

Jabobovitz, 69, was suspended from the practice of law pending passage of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated in an earlier disciplinary order.


Christopher Alexander Leuterio
State Bar # 241993, Mill Valley (February 22, 2016)

Leuterio, 49, was suspended from practicing law pending passage of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as required under the terms of an earlier disciplinary order.


Steven Michael McCarthy
State Bar # 85433, DeLand, Florida (February 16, 2016)

McCarthy, 66, was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days and placed on probation for two years after he was found culpable of violating several conditions attached to an earlier disciplinary probation order. Specifically, he failed to schedule a meeting with his assigned probation deputy within 30 days of the order and failed to submit two written reports to the Probation Office.

In aggravation, McCarthy committed multiple acts of misconduct, had a prior record of discipline, and demonstrated indifference toward rectifying his misconduct by acting to correct it only after the State Bar began proceedings against him.


Lawrence Joseph McSwiggan
State Bar # 214415, Newton, Massachusetts (February 22, 2016)

McSwiggan, 49, was suspended from practicing law pending passage of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam—a condition imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.


Elizabeth Ann Mello
State Bar # 244401, Coyote (March 14, 2016)

Mello, 36, was suspended from the practice of law pending passage of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated in an earlier discipline order.


Orion Douglas Memmott
State Bar # 37600, Santa Cruz (February 22, 2016)

Memmott, 76, was suspended from the practice of law pending passage of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, one of the terms imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.


Raynard Shelby Pace
State Bar # 188901, West Hollywood (February 19, 2016)

Pace, 44, was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to falsely reporting to the State Bar he had completed the requisite 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education—an act involving moral turpitude. He had completed only two hours during the compliance period. In mitigation, Pace had practiced law discipline-free for almost 17 years.


Anthony Emmanuel Pagkas
State Bar # 186112, San Jose (February 19, 2016)

Pagkas, 49, was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing four acts of professional misconduct while representing a single corporate client. The misconduct included: failing to promptly release papers and property to the client, failing to render an appropriate accounting for legal fees paid, failing to respond to multiple client requests for case status updates, and failing to inform the client of a significant case development.

For approximately eight years, Pagkas worked for the principals of a nightclub on various legal matters—operating without a written retainer agreement and collecting about $201,375 in fees. Toward the end of that time, while he was actually suspended from practicing law, the attorney/client relationship began to deteriorate. He failed to respond to multiple requests for information about ongoing legal matters or to provide billing information and delayed returning the files to the clients as requested for several years, until they were of little use to them.

In aggravation, Pagkas has a prior record of discipline and committed multiple acts of misconduct in the present matter.


Linda Kaye Swartz
State Bar # 154596, Stockton (February 22, 2016)

Swartz, 52, was suspended for 30 days and placed on probation for two years after she stipulated to failing to perform legal services with competence in two separate client matters.

In one case, she failed to file a declaration with the Worker’s Compensation Appeals Board and to follow up with an insurance company to secure reimbursements for her client who had attended a pain management clinic as part of a settlement. In the other, she failed to negotiate with and to obtain a Final Determination Letter with Medicare on behalf of a personal injury client.

In aggravation, Swartz committed multiple acts of misconduct that substantially harmed both clients, and demonstrated indifference by failing to take any promised action for one of them. In mitigation, she had practiced law for approximately 23 years without discipline.


Navinder Virk
State Bar # 224585, San Francisco (February 19, 2016)

Virk, 41, was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to falsely reporting to the State Bar she had completed the required 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education—misconduct involving moral turpitude. In fact, she had not completed any hours of education during the compliance period. In mitigation, Virk had practiced law for 11 years without a prior record of discipline.


Dean Randolph Zimmerman
State Bar # 249023, Long Beach (March 28, 2016)

Zimmerman, 39, was placed on interim suspension following his convictions of several offenses. They included: battery on an officer causing injury (Cal. Penal Code §243(c)(1); resisting and deterring an executive officer (Cal. Penal Code §69); the felony offense of removing a firearm from a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code §148(d); driving under the influence of alcohol with one prior offense (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(a); driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more with one prior (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(b); involvement in a hit and run with property damage (Cal. Veh. Code §20002(a); and resisting and obstructing an officer (Cal. Penal Code §148(a)(1).



Probation

Allen Clarence Hassan
State Bar # 104024, Sacramento (February 19, 2016)

Hassan, 79, was placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to disobeying a court order, failing to report sanctions imposed against him to the State Bar, and failing to cooperate with the State Bar’s disciplinary investigation—all in a single client matter.

Hassan, licensed as both a medical doctor and attorney, was consulted by an individual who is not a native English speaker regarding a workers’ compensation case. She paid him $600—and received a receipt with the notation “Legal/Dr. Hassan.” While the woman believed she was hiring Hassan as her legal counsel, he instead performed a medical examination on her. He did not appear at a two subsequent hearings on the workers’ comp case, and appeared an hour late for a third hearing. He was sanctioned $1,000, which he paid 16 months later, after the State Bar began investigating—and did not respond to its inquiries about the potential misconduct.

In aggravation, Hassan committed multiple acts of misconduct, and demonstrated indifference toward rectification by denying wrongdoing and instead impugning his client. In mitigation, he provided eight letters from a range of references attesting to his good character, had practiced law parttime for nearly 32 years without discipline—and also received some limited mitigation credit for charity work performed years earlier.


Franklin Wright Nelson
State Bar # 146433, Pasadena (February 19, 2016)

Nelson, 57, was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to falsely reporting to the State Bar he had completed 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education during the compliance period, when he had not completed any hours—misconduct involving moral turpitude. In mitigation, he had practiced law approximately 23 years without a discipline record.



Public Reproval

Stephen M. Ahlers
State Bar # 251151, Livermore (February 23, 2016)

Ahlers, 37, was publicly reproved after he stipulated to pleading nolo contendere to the misdemeanor of using a telephone or electronic device with intent to annoy (Cal. Penal Code §653m(b)).

He had been cohabiting with a girlfriend and a live-in nanny—a woman in her early 20s who was not a U.S. citizen—and had been making unwelcome sexual advances to the nanny, both in person and via text messages, for approximately two years. The nanny was afraid of losing her job, but eventually reported the abuse to her female employer, who demanded that Ahlers move out. Over the course of three days, he telephoned and texted the girlfriend more than 100 times; one of the messages threatened: “I will destroy everything important to you in front of family and a work audience.” She obtained an emergency temporary restraining order against him.

In aggravation, Ahlers’ unwelcome conduct and harassing text messages constituted multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed both women. In mitigation, he had no prior record of discipline, submitted letters from a range of 11 people who were aware of his misconduct but attested to his good character, and participated in community service events and pro bono work.


Alison Sunshine Chavez
State Bar # 241981, Mission Viejo (February 29, 2016)

Chavez, 39, was publicly reproved after she stipulated to pleading nolo contendere to the misdemeanor of driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more with a prior misdemeanor conviction (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(b)). She had been involved in a collision, rear-ending the car in front of her and damaging it; no injuries were reported.

In mitigation, Chavez had practiced law for more than eight years without being disciplined.


Christopher Brian Ellison
State Bar # 248545, Playa Del Rey (February 23, 2016)

Ellison, 40, was publicly reproved after he stipulated to one count of failing to maintain a sufficient balance in his client trust account. The account dropped to an impermissible balance after a check mistakenly written from it cleared before two checks he had written to medial lienholders.

In mitigation, he had no prior record of discipline in 7 ½ years of practice, promptly paid restitution when the State Bar notified him of the situation, and presented evidence from a range of 10 individuals attesting to his good character.


Anthony Willoughby
State Bar # 137503, Culver City (March 28, 2016)

Willoughby, 58, was publicly reproved after being found culpable of a single count of failing to obtain a written waiver of his potential conflict in representing three family members injured in a car accident; a fourth family member, who was also injured, retained other counsel. Initially, all involved agreed to share the insurance proceeds pro rata—but neither that agreement nor an agreement to waive any potential conflict of joint representation was in writing.

The hearing judge below found Willoughby culpable as charged—assigning no aggravating weight to his prior record of discipline, reasoning the misconduct occurred more than 20 years earlier and found him unlikely to commit additional misconduct. The judge admonished Willoughby rather than recommending discipline.

The Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar appealed, requesting a one-year stayed sentence, arguing aggravating weight was warranted for the prior discipline record, as well as for multiple acts of misconduct and a showing of indifference to about the consequences of his misconduct.

On appeal, the State Bar panel recommended a public reproval as the appropriate discipline. It agreed the earlier discipline order should be allotted limited weight in aggravation, since it involved similar wrongdoing. In that case, Willoughby had stipulated to failing to provide his clients with written notice they were entitled to seek advice of independent counsel before settling a claim against him.


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