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Discipline Report

Recent disbarments, suspensions and probations in California

July 2016

Disbarment

Suspension

Probation

Public Reproval

Disbarment

Robert L. Anderson
State Bar # 40025, Santa Rosa (May 28, 2016)

Anderson, 76, was disbarred after appealing a hearing judge’s ruling finding him culpable of misconduct in two client matters: failing to maintain client funds in trust, failing to promptly repay the funds as requested, and willfully misappropriating them—misconduct involving moral turpitude. The State Bar Court panel affirmed the findings and recommendation of disbarment.

In one case, Anderson’s firm represented a widow attempting to sort out her deceased husband’s financial affairs. The firm was entrusted with $318,900 to resolve and pay the husband’s outstanding debts, then return the balance to the client. The amount was deposited in a client trust fund on which Anderson was a signatory. During a two-month period, he signed 30 checks and ordered a wire transfer from the fund for law firm expenses, staff salaries, and partner draws. In all, he misappropriated more than $252,500 of the client’s money.

In the other matter, a small business owner tendered $55,500 to the firm to help resolve an obligation she owed in a civil action. That money was initially deposited in the firm’s operating account from which two cashier’s checks were purchased, made payable to the firm. Those checks were deposited in a client trust account that Anderson controlled; he misappropriated nearly $42,000 of the amount.

In mitigation, Anderson had practiced law nearly 48 years without discipline, though that factor was given reduced weight due to the seriousness of the misappropriation. He also submitted evidence from 11 people attesting to his good character—though that, too, was afforded diminished mitigation weight because only one individual testified in person and the other 10 submitted only brief written declarations—five of them identical in form.

In aggravation, he committed multiple acts of misconduct in depleting client funds in more than 50 instances. In addition, his misconduct seriously harmed both clients—causing them financial peril and emotional anguish. He also made only a small amount of restitution and demonstrated indifference as to the consequences of his wrongdoing.

On appeal, Anderson had defended that he was not managing partner of the firm when the funds were misused, and was simply following the managing partner’s orders. The panel rejected this, noting it was “at odds with his actual role in the law firm, with the many personal acts he took to misappropriate the clients’ trust funds, and that he knew of the loss of the clients’ funds at the time of his acts, and concealed those losses from the clients.” It concluded: “His defense also defies the most basic principles of attorney professional responsibility.”


Leon Arakelian
State Bar # 243180, Reseda

Arakelian, 40, was disbarred after being found culpable of willfully violating probation conditions: failing to timely contact the Office of Probation, meet with his probation deputy, submit quarterly written reports, and comply with the California Supreme Court order to file a declaration of compliance with the State Bar (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20).

In aggravation, Arakelian had two prior records of discipline and committed multiple acts of misconduct in the present case. The State Bar Court judge also allotted aggravating weight to two additional uncharged violations: failing to pay restitution and failing to provide proof of completing Ethics School.


Steven Jay Brock
State Bar # 241870, Chino Hills (May 29, 2016)

Brock, 55, was disbarred by default after he failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, in the disciplinary proceeding charging him with six counts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter. The State Bar determined he had received adequate legal notice.

He was found culpable of failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to communicate significant case developments to his client, improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to release files to the client after being requested to do so, failing to render an accounting of the client’s funds, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the charges against him.

While Brock had no prior record of discipline, there were three other disciplinary matters pending against him.


Warren Leon Brown
State Bar # 100404, Montrose (May 28, 2016)

Brown, 66, was disbarred by default after failing to participate in the State Bar’s disciplinary proceeding despite having adequate notice of it. He was found culpable of willfully violating a California Rule of Court (Rule 9.20) by failing to file a declaration of compliance with that rule as required in an earlier discipline order. Brown had two prior records of discipline.


Brian Lee Corber
State Bar # 89173, Valley Village (May 29, 2016)

Corber, 63, was disbarred by default after failing to participate, either in person or through counsel, in his disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He was found culpable of three acts of professional misconduct in a single client matter: failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, failing to return unearned advanced fees, and failing to promptly return the client’s file as requested.

The State Bar Court judge dismissed a fourth charge alleging Corber “performed no legal service of value on behalf of the client,” noting the allegation is “vague and arbitrary” and does not establish the requisite showing of intentional, reckless, or repeated failure to perform legal services with competence (Cal. Rules of Prof. Cond., Rule 3-110(A)).


Melvin Lee Emerich
State Bar # 118180, Los Altos (April 15, 2016)

Emerich, 63, was disbarred after pleading nolo contendere to a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude: accessory to a grand felony theft (Cal. Penal Code §32). The superior court also ordered him to pay restitution of $85,000 to one of the victims.

Emerich had been one of five named defendants charged with numerous felonies in connection with a scheme involving falsified grant deeds from several condos and other deed property and fraudulently obtained loans totaling more than $14 million; much of the loan money was laundered through a scam corporation. One of the co-defendants was found guilty of murdering one of the property owners who had been bilked. A trial of the matter ended in a mistrial as to Emerich—a hung jury of 11-1 for conviction—after which he entered his plea.

In determining the proper discipline to recommend, the State Bar Court judge looked beyond the single plea to the more complicated facts derived from exhibits and testimony admitted in the trial. That evidence showed Emerich was deeply involved in the money laundering scheme—including setting up the sham corporation and funneling the loans funds in small amounts to various individuals to cover the illegality. He personally received about $85,000 of the money. He also assisted in setting up an overseas bank account to hide the remainder of the loan funds.

In aggravation, Emerich engaged in multiple acts of misconduct—including writing 45 checks in a single month in furtherance of the money laundering scheme. His misconduct caused significant emotional, professional, and economic harm to the victim of the swindle who was a mortgage broker who was unable to work after the scam was uncovered and feared for her own life after learning the other victim had been murdered. In addition, Emerich showed indifference to rectifying the misconduct and has not made any restitution payments as ordered.

The judge noted the fact that Emerich had practiced law for nearly 24 years without discipline, but emphasized: “While significant weight is usually assigned when an attorney has practiced law for many years without a prior record of discipline, due to the serious nature of respondent’s misconduct and the lack of any evidence to suggest that respondent will not again engage in similar misconduct, he is given only nominal credit for his lack of a prior record.”

Arguing before the State Bar, Emerich distanced himself from the crimes committed, contending that “the loan of money against the stolen condos involved a loan broker, private lender and title insurance company” and that he had “no reason to suspect a theft had occurred”—an argument the judge found to be “self-serving and disingenuous.”


Judson Thomas Farley
State Bar # 83378, Santa Cruz (May 29, 2016)

Farley, 65, was disbarred by default after failing to appear at the trial of the case charging him with 25 counts of professional misconduct in six client matters. He had been given adequate notice, but did not participate in the proceeding or move to have the default set aside or vacated.

He was found culpable of all counts. Specifically, his wrongdoing included: failing to comply with a sanctions order; failing to maintain only just legal actions; improperly withdrawing from employment; failing to render accounts of client funds; and misrepresenting to a client that he would refund fees—an act involving moral turpitude.

Additional misconduct included two counts of failing to respond to reasonable client status inquiries; three counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to maintain client funds in a trust account, failing to return unearned advanced fees, and misappropriating client funds—misconduct involving moral turpitude; and five counts of failing to cooperate with State Bar investigations into the misconduct alleged. He also violated several conditions attached to a previously imposed disciplinary probation order.

Farley had one prior record of discipline.


Dana Allan Godfrey
State Bar # 152913, Diamond Bar (May 28, 2016)

Godfrey, 65, was disbarred by default after failing to participate in his disciplinary proceeding, despite having adequate notice of it. He was found culpable of three counts of professional misconduct: engaging in the unauthorized practice of law and practicing when he was not authorized to do so—an act involving moral turpitude, and of failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the misconduct alleged. He had four prior records of discipline.


June Pamela Gordy
State Bar # 142553, San Francisco (May 28, 2016)

Gordy, 59, was disbarred by default after she twice failed to appear at trials of disciplinary charges despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. She was found culpable of falsely reporting that she had fully complied with her Minimum Continuing Legal Education requirements for the compliance period—misconduct involving moral turpitude.


Bruce Martin Greenfield
State Bar # 80122, Bel Air (May 27, 2016)

Greenfield, 63, was disbarred after both he and the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar sought review of the hearing judge’s recommendation of a two-year suspension conditioned on proof of rehabilitation and payment of restitution. He was found culpable of maintaining unjust actions, failing to obey court orders, and failing to report judicial sanctions imposed against him.

Both the hearing judge and panel on review found that Greenfield engaged in a persistent pattern of abusing the bankruptcy process over a period of five years. His tactics included filing multiple bankruptcies and removals for improper purposes, continuing to file notices of removal to delay state court proceedings even after a court warning that the actions constituted bad faith, and filing numerous baseless and improper counterclaims in a bankruptcy court—seeking relief from a state court judgment.

One bankruptcy court judge ultimately sanctioned Greenfield $20,000 for his improper removal tactics. Another bankruptcy court judge, citing Greenfield’s “egregious abuse of the bankruptcy process” sanctioned him and his clients $67,900. He neither paid the sanctions nor reported them to the State Bar.

The State Bar panel found clear and convincing evidence establishing that Greenfield filed bankruptcies and repeatedly removed the fraudulent transfer in bad faith and for purposes of delay and harassment. It disagreed with the focus on case law involving failures to obey court orders as opposed to disbarment for abusive litigation tactics. Instead, it cited the standard that took effect July 1, 2015 providing that disbarment is appropriate where an attorney “demonstrates a pattern of counseling or maintaining frivolous claims of actions for improper purposes, causing significant harm to the administration of justice” (Standard 2.9(a)).

Greenfield challenged the restitution recommendation as compensatory and improperly imposed by the bankruptcy court and also argued that acts involving moral turpitude are a prerequisite for restitution orders. The panel rejected both contentions, noting: “Given Greenfield’s lack of insight and refusal to conform to his ethical responsibilities, restitution is appropriate in this case.”


Marc Anthony Guillory
State Bar # 214098, Oakland (May 28, 2016)

Guillory, 44, was disbarred after he stipulated to two counts of professional misconduct in a single client matter: failing to render an appropriate accounting of client funds on request and failing to refund unearned advanced fees.

Guillory agreed to represent a client in a family law matter, accepting $3,000 as advanced payment toward legal fees. The client never executed a written fee agreement; Guillory never tendered a completed Legal Separation Agreement as promised, nor did he provide a final billing statement or refund as requested.

In aggravation, Guillory had a prior record of discipline, committed multiple acts of misconduct, and significantly harmed his client by depriving her of funds for more than a year. In mitigation, he cooperated with the State Bar—both by filing the pretrial stipulation and admitting to his failure to act early on in the proceedings.


John Douglass Jennings, Jr.
State Bar # 52504, San Diego (May 29, 2016)

Jennings, 71, was disbarred after being found culpable of one count of failing to perform legal services with competence and nine counts of improper business transactions—all stemming from interactions with a single client.

An elderly man who was in poor health retained Jennings to provide legal advice on estate planning and tax protection; the client then inherited about $3 million, which Jennings deposited into his client trust account.

Over the next several years, Jennings entered many business transactions with the client that proved improper in a number of respects. In one, the client was convinced to buy properties, but not informed that Jennings and his wife would acquire those properties. In others, the client made a series of unsecured loans to an “income fund” Jennings owned—with an amortization table indicating repayment would be made in a lump sum, when the client would be age 98. The agreements tendered to the client did not accurately reflect the terms of the transaction.

Subsequent loans were made to a real estate investment company owned by Jennings’ wife; the terms of the transaction were not fully disclosed or transmitted in writing.

The client was never advised in writing that he could seek the advice of an independent lawyer in any of the business dealings.

The entities defaulted on the loans, and Jennings declared personal bankruptcy; his malpractice insurer eventually repaid the client approximately $1.7 million.

In aggravation, Jennings showed a continuing lack of remorse or insight into the misconduct that significantly harmed his client. In addition, the State Bar Court judge also allotted aggravation weight to the uncharged misconduct of preparing and executing an agreement Jennings knew contained misrepresentations—an act involving moral turpitude.

In mitigation, he had no prior record of discipline in 30 years of practicing law and entered a partial stipulation as to facts and admission of documents in the case. The evidence of one witness and two declarants who attested to his good character was given nominal weight, as neither declarant demonstrated any understanding of the present misconduct.


Erika Jordening
State Bar # 184986, Bakersfield (May 29, 2016)

Jordening, 46, was disbarred by default after failing to participate in the disciplinary proceeding against her, either in person or through counsel, despite receiving actual notice of the proceeding. She was found culpable of a single count of misconduct—failing to obey a court order—after she did not file a declaration of compliance as mandated in an earlier discipline order (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20)). Jordening had one prior record of discipline.


Jeffrey Paul Kranzdorf
State Bar # 90207, Los Angeles (May 29, 2016)

Kranzdorf, 61, was disbarred after being found culpable of three acts of professional misconduct: failing to deposit client funds in a trust account, misappropriating the client’s funds—an act involving moral turpitude, and failing to cooperate in a State Bar investigation of the misconduct alleged.

Kranzdorf was retained by a client seeking to purchase original master sound recordings of the Jackson 5. After a deal was struck through a negotiating agent, Kranzdorf received $50,000 earmarked to purchase the recordings. Instead of depositing the funds in a client trust account, he immediately used them for his own personal and business expenses. After complications arose with using the recordings, the parties agreed to a lower sales price of $25,000.

Kranzdorf subsequently made several excuses to both parties for not disbursing the funds he had misappropriated—including the false excuse that he had been forced to use the funds to cover the cost of chemotherapy treatments for cancer. He eventually paid $25,000 to the original owner of the recordings—after disciplinary proceedings were initiated and more than four years after initially misappropriating the client funds.

In aggravation, Kranzdorf committed multiple acts of misconduct, as each of the acts of misappropriation represented a separate act of moral turpitude. In addition, his misconduct included dishonesty and concealment—as evidenced by the false claims he was suffering from cancer.

In mitigation, he had practiced law for 36 years without being disciplined. He was also given some mitigation credit for entering a stipulation as to facts and culpability—but the weight was substantially reduced by the facts that he long denied any wrongdoing, avoided efforts to participate in his disciplinary proceeding, and acknowledged culpability just prior to commencement of the trial in the matter. He also was given some mitigation credit for good character evidence offered by 12 individuals—again, with substantially reduced weight because some, or possibly most of them, believed his lie that he had been fighting cancer during the time of his misconduct.


Nicholas Hrant Lambajian
State Bar # 175420, Monrovia (May 28, 2016)

Lambajian, 47, was disbarred by default after he failed to appear at the trial on his disciplinary charges after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He was found culpable of failing to comply with conditions enumerated in a probation order imposed earlier. Specifically, Lambajian failed to timely submit a quarterly report and a final written report to the Office of Probation or to attend the State Bar’s Ethics School by the date specified. He had been disciplined twice before.


Daniel Peri Lucid
State Bar # 101068, Beverly Hills (May 29, 2016)

Lucid, 69, was disbarred by default after he failed to appear, either personally or through counsel, at the proceeding on the disciplinary charges against him despite having adequate notice and opportunity to do so.

Lucid was found culpable of 21 counts of professional misconduct in connection with seven client matters that appear to have similar fact patterns. His wrongdoing included seven counts each of: charging and collecting fees before completing mortgage loan modification services, aiding in the unauthorized practice of law by allowing his unlicensed office staff to provide legal services to clients, and failing to render accountings of client funds.

Lucid has no prior record of discipline, though the State Bar noted there are 54 other disciplinary matters pending against him.


James Joseph Lynch, Jr.
State Bar # 85805, Global City, Taguig, Philippines (May 28, 2016)

Lynch was disbarred after failing to appear at his disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice; he did not seek to have the default order in the matter set aside or vacated. He was found culpable of failing to comply with a court-ordered sanction order or to report the sanction imposed to the State Bar.


Joseph Patrick Masterson
State Bar # 165564, Kansas City, Missouri (May 29, 2016)

Masterson, 54, was disbarred by default in California after he failed to participate in the disciplinary proceeding against him after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so.

He had previously been disbarred by the Supreme Court of Missouri upon facts establishing his culpability for acts of professional misconduct in that jurisdiction. The misconduct included: failing to maintain client funds in a trust account, then misappropriating those funds for his personal use and misrepresenting a material fact in connection with the Missouri disciplinary investigation into the matter—acts involving moral turpitude.

The California State Bar Court judge found, as a matter of law, that Masterson’s culpability in the Missouri proceeding warranted discipline under California laws and rules. Masterson had one prior record of discipline.


Richard Clay Mendez
State Bar # 199927, Torrance (May 28, 2016)

Mendez, 44, was disbarred after he stipulated to committing several acts of professional misconduct in nine client matters—five in California and four in Ohio—over a three-year period.

The California cases centered on four bankruptcy matters emanating from a satellite office Mendez established in Long Beach that was run by a non-attorney employee. Additional non-attorney staff there solicited clients, offered legal opinions, and set and accepted fees—all without attorney oversight.

Mendez initiated bankruptcy proceedings in one case, failing to appear at subsequent court hearings. He did no legal work for the other clients. His misconduct in those matters included: failing to provide an accounting of client fees, failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to refund advanced legal fees, and aiding in the unauthorized practice of law.

Mendez was not generally licensed to practice law in Iowa, but acquired an immigration practice there to represent clients in federal proceedings. In one matter, he engaged an Iowa attorney to represent a client in a criminal matter—paying him more than the value of his services. The Iowa Supreme Court found him culpable of unauthorized practice of law and improper division of legal fees. In three additional immigration cases, Mendez was found culpable of neglect, failure to communicate, failure to refund fees, improper division of fees, and failure to turn over client files. The California State Bar determined the misconduct in Iowa also warranted discipline in California.

In aggravation, Mendez committed multiple acts of misconduct that substantially harmed several clients and failed to make restitution in four cases. He also had earlier stipulated to misconduct in handling two bankruptcy matters; the California Supreme Court is presently considering potential discipline. In mitigation, he filed the present stipulation prior to trial.


Vicenta E. Montoya-Torres
State Bar # 97192, Las Vegas, Nevada (May 29, 2016)

Montoya-Torres, 65, was disbarred by default after failing to participate in the disciplinary proceeding against her, either in person or through counsel. She did not act to set aside or vacate the default entered against her. Montoya-Torres was found culpable of failing to submit one quarterly written report by its due date and failing to submit four quarterly reports to the State Bar—conditions attached to an earlier disciplinary order. She had been disciplined on three prior occasions.


John Thomas Raffle
State Bar # 17093, Morris Plains, New Jersey (March 19, 2016)

Raffle, 47, was summarily disbarred after his convictions for one count of conspiracy to commit wire, mail, and securities fraud and two counts of aiding and abetting false statements (18 U.S.C. §§2, 371, and 1001). The offenses are felonies involving moral turpitude.


Manjit Kaur Rai
State Bar # 215698, Surrey, Canada (March 18, 2016)

Rai, 40, was summarily disbarred after convictions for several offenses became final after an appeal. He was found guilty of conspiring to commit immigration fraud, aiding and abetting immigration fraud, aiding and abetting false statements, and making false statements (18 U.S.C. §§2, 371, 1546, and 1001). All the offenses are felonies involving moral turpitude.


Douglas Carrol Rhoads
State Bar # 165389, Phoenix, Arizona (May 28, 2016)

Rhoads, 50, was disbarred by default after failing to participate in the California State Bar proceeding against him, despite having actual and adequate notice. He had been disciplined by the Supreme Court of Arizona after stipulating to three acts of professional misconduct in that jurisdiction. The wrongdoing included: failing to maintain respect due the courts by being “disruptive, disrespectful, and confrontational” during a hearing there; failing to maintain only legal actions by filing for bankruptcy prohibited by a court order; and failing to employ means consistent with the truth by making a false claim in a pleading.

The Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the California State Bar initiated a proceeding to determine whether the Arizona misconduct warranted discipline in California, the degree of discipline to be imposed, and whether the out-of-state proceeding lacked fundamental constitutional protection. Rhoads offered no evidence or appearance in the matter, so the Arizona proceeding was accepted as conclusive evidence of his culpability of misconduct in California.


Robert Roman
State Bar # 93369, Chino Hills (May 29, 2016)

Roman, 64, was disbarred by default after failing to participate, either in person or through counsel, in his State Bar disciplinary proceeding. The procedural requirements for adequate notice were satisfied.

He was found culpable of 11 of the 13 acts of misconduct with which he was charged. His wrongdoing included: holding himself out as entitled to practice and actually practicing law when he was not entitled to do so—an act involving moral turpitude; accepting fees from a non-client without the client’s express consent; improperly withdrawing from employment; failing to return unearned advanced fees; failing to deposit client funds in trust; misappropriating entrusted client funds—misconduct involving moral turpitude; and two counts of failing to cooperate in State Bar investigations of the misconduct alleged.

In addition, he failed to comply with conditions specified in an earlier disciplinary probation, and misrepresented his compliance to the State Bar—another act involving moral turpitude. Roman had one prior record of discipline.


Swazi Elkanzi Taylor
State Bar # 237093, Beverly Hills (May 29, 2016)

Taylor, 37, was disbarred by default after failing to appear at the trial of the case charging him with 28 counts of professional misconduct stemming from 11 client matters. He had been properly served notice of the proceedings, but failed to participate or to act to have the default set aside or vacated.

He was found culpable of all the misconduct charged. His wrongdoing included: failing to notify a client of receipt of funds on the client’s behalf; two counts each of failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to return unearned advanced fees, failing to provide a proper accounting of client funds, failing to deposit client funds in a trust account, and misappropriating client fees for his own use—acts involving moral turpitude; several counts of failing to competently perform legal services; and 12 counts of collecting advanced fees before completing all services in loan modification orders.


Reginald von Terrell
State Bar # 127874, Oakland (May 28, 2016)

Terrell, 59, was disbarred by default after failing to appear at the trial of his disciplinary case despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity. He was found culpable of eight counts of misconduct related to a single client matter.

Specifically, he was culpable of: three counts each of failing to maintain client funds in trust and misappropriating client funds for his own purposes—acts involving moral turpitude, knowingly making false representation to the client—which also involved moral turpitude, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar investigation of the misconduct alleged. He had been disciplined twice previously.


Vito Torchia, Jr.
State Bar # 244687, Los Angeles (May 29, 2016)

Torchia, 42, was disbarred by default. He had received legally adequate notice of the disciplinary proceeding against him, but failed to appear, either in person or through counsel. He was charged with 19 violations of professional misconduct, and found culpable of 16 of them.

His wrongdoing included: failing to return client files after being requested to do so; charging and collecting advanced fees before completing all loan modification services; two counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to provide proper accountings of client fees when requested, and failing to communicate significant case developments to clients; three counts of failing to return unearned advanced fees; and five counts of failing to cooperate with State Bar investigations of the misconduct alleged.

Torchia did not have a prior record of discipline, but has appealed a prior disciplinary probation order, which is currently being reviewed.


Jessica Marie Vienna
State Bar # 225174, San Diego (May 29, 2016)

Vienna, 43, was disbarred by default after she failed to participate in the disciplinary proceeding against her after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. She did not act to have the default order in the case seat aside or vacated.

She was found culpable of four counts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to return client papers and property after being requested to do so, failing to return unearned advanced fees, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar investigation of the wrongdoing alleged.

While Vienna has no prior record of discipline, she is the subject of two pending disciplinary investigations.


James Joseph Warner
State Bar # 63137, San Diego (March 19, 2016)

Warner, 67, was summarily disbarred after the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar received evidence that his felony convictions had become final. He had earlier pled guilty to conspiring to launder monetary instruments and to attempting to harass witnesses (18 U.S.C. §§1956(a)(1)(B)(i) and (h) and 1512(d)(1)). Both offenses involve moral turpitude.


Malcolm B. Wittenberg
State Bar # 73842, San Rafael (May 28, 2016)

Wittenberg, 69, was disbarred after being found culpable of the unauthorized practice of law when handling hundreds of trademark matters before the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office (USPTO) during a 6 ½-year period. While not challenging the finding of culpability, he appealed the State Bar hearing judge’s ruling recommending disbarment.

Wittenberg had practiced both patent and trademark law before the USPTO for many years before being convicted of insider trading. For that offense, he was suspended from practicing law for three years in California and disbarred in Virginia, where he was also licensed to practice, in addition to being excluded from practicing before the USPO.

After he again became eligible to practice in California, Wittenberg began openly practicing again before the USPTO in 300 to 400 matters. He had not specifically sought readmission to practice before that body.

On appeal, Wittenberg claimed he had a good faith belief he was authorized to practice trademark law once his California suspension was lifted because he then met the USPTO trademark practice requirement of being a member in good standing in the Bar of any U.S. jurisdiction. The State Bar Court panel rejected this argument, noting Wittenberg’s belief “was not objectively reasonable because he consented to and was ordered excluded from practicing before the entire office.” It also emphasized that the federal regulations then in effect clearly included a reinstatement procedure and prohibited unauthorized practice by excluded attorneys (37 C.F.R. §§10.160, 11.60, 10.158(a) and 11.58(a)).

The panel also affirmed the hearing judge’s finding of aggravation for committing multiple acts of misconduct and for Wittenberg’s prior record of discipline. Finally, it decreased the mitigation weight afforded his character witnesses—from “great consideration” to “minimal”—since there were only three witnesses, so “insufficient to warrant more mitigation.”



Suspension

Justin Thomas Allen
State Bar # 238195, Modesto (March 18, 2016)

Allen, 41, was suspended from practicing law for six months and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to failing to comply with conditions attached to an earlier disciplinary probation order. Specifically, he failed to schedule a meeting with his probation deputy, failed to timely submit two quarterly written reports and proof of restitution payments to the State Bar, and failed to make installment restitution payments in three client matters as directed. In aggravation, Allen had a prior record of discipline. In mitigation, he entered into a full stipulation prior to trial.

On April 18, 2016, the State Bar issued an additional order suspending Allen from the practice of law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as required under the terms of an earlier disciplinary order.


William Charles Cooper
State Bar # 98578, Sonora (April 25, 2016)

Cooper, 69, 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.


Beryl Dean Droegemueller
State Bar # 76278, Vista (March 28, 2016)

Droegemueller, 76, was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination as required by the terms of an earlier disciplinary order.


Joseph Steven Forth
State Bar # 170173, Indio (March 19, 2016)

Forth, 64, was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to failing to keep a client informed of significant case developments and twice making intentional misrepresentations in court, which involves moral turpitude.

Forth represented a client in a criminal matter, appearing at two resentencing hearings and informing the court at both that the client had waived his right to appear personally. In fact, he had not informed the client that the hearings had been scheduled.

In aggravation, Forth committed multiple acts of misconduct. In mitigation, he entered into a full stipulation prior to the disciplinary hearing and had practiced law for 19 years without discipline.


Wendy B. Gabriella
State Bar # 149179, Laguna Niguel (March 18, 2016)

Gabriella, 56, was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on suspension for one year after she stipulated to falsely reporting to the State Bar that she had completed 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education—an act involving moral turpitude. In fact, she had not completed any hours during the compliance period, though she came into compliance shortly after being informed of the State Bar audit.

In mitigation, Gabriella had practiced law for more than 23 years without a discipline record and stipulated to facts, conclusions of law, and disposition to resolve the matter before formal disciplinary charges were filed against her.


John Keith Hoover
State Bar # 71259, Irvine (April 25, 2016)

Hoover, 64, was suspended from practicing law in the interim, pending final disposition of his convictions of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud (18 U.S.C. §§152, 371, and 1343). Both offenses are felonies involving moral turpitude.


Deron Adam Kartoon
State Bar # 155925, Ross (March 19, 2016)

Kartoon, 49, was suspended from the practice of law for two years after he was found culpable of failing to comply with several conditions of an earlier disciplinary order. The probation imposed in it was revoked and the entire order of suspension that was previously stayed was imposed instead.

His misconduct included: failing to provide the Office of Probation with a medical waiver, failing to file a quarterly written report, failing to file proof of attending a drug abuse recovery program, and failing to provide results of monthly medical laboratory test results.

In aggravation, Kartoon committed multiple acts of misconduct and had a prior record of discipline.


James Patrick Klier
State Bar # 88554, San Francisco (March 19, 2016)

Klier, 60, was suspended from practicing law for 90 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to failing to file tax returns for 11 years. The State Bar Court judge determined that because Klier was a tax attorney and partner in a tax practice, his intentional misconduct amounted to moral turpitude.

In aggravation, Klier committed multiple acts of intentional misconduct. In mitigation, he had practiced law for 20 years discipline-free before the misconduct began, helped save State Bar time and resources by entering a stipulation, and also cooperated with authorities in the criminal investigation of the matter. In addition, he presented evidence of extensive pro bono service and writings and lectures on tax matters—though credit for this was tempered by the fact they occurred contemporaneously with his own failure to pay taxes.


Adam J. Luetto
State Bar # 264188, Fullerton (May 2, 2016)

Luetto, 37, was suspended from the practice of law pending the hearing department’s determination of the proper discipline to be imposed after his conviction of petty theft—a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude (Cal. Penal Code §§484(a) and 490.2).


Craig Henry Mar
State Bar # 176939, Oakland (May 2, 2016)

Mar, 59, was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated in an earlier disciplinary order.


Joseph Henry Marman
State Bar # 129517, Citrus Heights (March 25, 2016)

Marman, 60, was suspended from the practice of law for two years and placed on probation for three years after being terminated from the State Bar Court’s Alternative Discipline Program because of his failure to comply with program requirements. He had withdrawn from the Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) after having a positive test result for alcohol, missing a lab test, and having an unexcused absence from his LAP group.

In the underlying disciplinary proceeding, Marman had stipulated to convictions for driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(b)), fighting in public (Cal. Penal Code §415(1), and engaging in a speed contest (Cal. Veh. Code §23109(c)). Aggravating factors included three prior disciplinary orders, committing multiple acts of misconduct, causing harm to others, and showing indifference as to the consequences of his misconduct.


Patricia R. Noguera
State Bar # 189040, Long Beach (March 18, 2016)

Noguera, 46, was suspended from practice for 30 days and placed on suspension for one year after she stipulated to falsely reporting to the State Bar that she had completed 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education—an act involving moral turpitude. In fact, she had not completed any hours during the compliance period. However, she came into compliance shortly after being informed of the State Bar audit.

In mitigation, Noguera had practiced law for more than 16 years with no prior discipline and filed a stipulation acknowledging her wrongdoing before formal disciplinary charges were filed.


Sean Enrique O’Keefe
State Bar # 116418, San Diego (May 2, 2016)

O’Keefe, 63, was suspended in the interim, pending final disposition of his conviction of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and health care fraud—a felony involving moral turpitude (18 U.S.C. §1349).


James Junkel Pak
State Bar # 178278, Garden Grove (May 31, 2016)

Pak, 53, was suspended from practicing law pending final disposition of his conviction of grand theft by an employee—a felony involving moral turpitude (Cal. Penal Code §487(b)(3), with an admitted enhancement of an aggravated white collar crime involving more than $500,000 (Cal. Penal Code §186.11(a)(1)/(2)).


Gary Wanki Park
State Bar # 173390, Los Angeles (May 23, 2016)

Park, 49, was suspended from practicing law after pleading no contest to grand theft by embezzlement (Cal. Penal Code §487(a)) and filing a false tax return (Cal. Rev. and Tax. Code §19705(a)). Both offenses are felonies involving moral turpitude.


Bobak Roshan
State Bar # 259987, Santa Monica (March 18, 2016)

Roshan, 33, was suspended from the practice of law for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to falsely informing the State Bar he had completed 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education—an act involving moral turpitude. In fact, he had not completed any of the required hours during the compliance period. He came into compliance after being informed he had been selected for a State Bar audit. In mitigation, Roshan entered a stipulation as to facts and conclusions of law, saving the State Bar resources by obviating the need for a trial in the matter.


Christopher Michael Salaysay
State Bar # 264317, Union City (February 19, 2016)

Salaysay, 41, was suspended for two years and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to pleading no contest to a charge of stalking with a prior conviction for stalking—a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude (Cal. Penal Code §646.9(c)(1)).

After a romantic relationship with a woman ended, Salaysay called her more than 50 times a day for several weeks, in addition to sending her threatening email and text messages. He also made threats to the woman in text messages he sent to her friend, including: “I am going to make her bleed” and “I am coming after her family before I get her.” In addition, he posted threats to kill her on Facebook, posed as her on several websites soliciting sex and gave out her telephone number. After a year of the threats and harassment, the woman secured a temporary restraining order against Salaysay. He had previously threatened and stalked another woman he had dated; she had also secured a restraining order against him.

In aggravation, Salaysay committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed the women, both of whom assert they still “live in fear” of him. In mitigation he entered into a full stipulation of facts and conclusions of law prior to trial.


Bruce Howard Sobel
State Bar # 182547, San Diego (March 19, 2016)

Sobel, 58, was suspended from practicing law for 30 days after being found culpable of a single count of misconduct: failing to comply with a court order.

As one of the conditions of an earlier-imposed discipline order, Sobel was required to file a written declaration of compliance with the State Bar (Cal. Rule of Ct., Rule 9.20(a)). Because he had reassigned all his pending matters to other counsel in preparation for a three-year suspension imposed in an earlier disciplinary order, he was not required to comply with the court rule’s requirement that he give notice of his discipline to clients and co-counsel. He eventually filed the required compliance affidavit, albeit 39 days late. In keeping with an earlier decision (In the Matter of Friedman, 2 Cal. State Bar Court Rptr. 527) requiring specificity in the start date of a suspension, the State Bar Court judge recommended that the new 90-day suspension be formally added to the prior discipline order.

In aggravation, Sobel had a prior record of discipline. In mitigation, his misconduct caused no actual harm to a client or other person, he presented evidence from four witnesses attesting to his good character, and he belatedly complied with the disciplinary obligation.

In imposing the suspension, the judge noted: “While the State Bar asks that Respondent be disbarred for his tardy compliance affidavit, such a draconian outcome is not justified by the standards, the facts, the cases, or any need to protect the public, the profession, or the courts.”


Julia Ann Tischler
State Bar # 159864, Newport Beach (April 25, 2016)

Tischler, 55, was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination as mandated in a previous disciplinary order.


William Joseph Ward
State Bar # 113849, Yuma, Arizona (April 18, 2016)

Ward, 55, was suspended in the interim pending final disposition of his conviction of a vehicular hit and run involving an injury (Cal. Veh. Code §20001(a)).


George Steven Wass
State Bar # 161732, Calabasas (March 18, 2016)

Wass, 67, was suspended from practicing law for three months and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to committing 10 acts of misconduct related to two client matters involving residential property.

The wrongdoing included: failing to keep a client informed of significant case developments and failing to respond to numerous reasonable client inquiries; and two counts each of charging and receiving legal fees before performing all mortgage loan forbearance services promised, failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to promptly refund advanced unearned fees, and failing to cooperate in State Bar investigations of the misconduct alleged.

In aggravation, Wass committed multiple acts of misconduct and was disciplined twice before—though that factor was given reduced weight because the misconduct in the present case occurred contemporaneously with the misconduct addressed in those two disciplinary matters. In mitigation, he entered a stipulation before the notice of disciplinary charges was filed in the current matter.


Marilyn Dina Weinstein
State Bar # 183748, Pleasanton (March 19, 2016)

Weinstein, 46, was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to falsely reporting to the State Bar that she had completed 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education—an act involving moral turpitude; in fact, she had not completed any hours during the compliance period.

In mitigation, Weinstein had practiced law for 19 years discipline-free, cooperated by readily admitting to her misconduct, and entered into a stipulation as to facts and culpability in the matter. In aggravation, the State Bar Court judge noted there is “significant harm to the administration of justice when an attorney lies under oath.”


Mark Henry Williams
State Bar # 220341, Los Angeles (March 19, 2016)

Williams, 44, was suspended for 18 months and placed on probation for four years after he stipulated to failing to perform legal services with competence in a single client matter and with failing to cooperate in the State Bar investigation of the misconduct alleged.

Williams filed an amended complaint on behalf of a client, then took no steps to advance the case either within the court or with the opposing party, for well over two years. The case was dismissed, and ultimately settled years later after the client hired new counsel.

In aggravation, Williams had a prior record of discipline and committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed his client. In mitigation, he entered into a dispositive pretrial stipulation, offered evidence of performing pro bono services, and offered evidence of his good character through seven witnesses—though credit for that was limited because all the references were from current or former clients as opposed to a “broad range from the legal and general communities.”


William Jake Wong
State Bar # 75571, San Francisco (April 18, 2016)

Wong, 68, was suspended pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination as mandated in a previous disciplinary order.



Probation

Gilbert Alvandi
State Bar # 236752, Irvine (March 19, 2016)

Alvandi, 39, was placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to pleading guilty to two misdemeanors: battery (Cal. Penal Code §242) and resisting arrest (Cal. Penal Code §148(a)(1)).

Alvandi had been living with a woman on and off for about a year when the two engaged in a heated argument that culminated when he dragged her by the hair for several feet. He moved out of the residence shortly after that. A few days later, the woman called him, seeking emotional support, and asked if she could come to his apartment. Another argument ensued, during which the woman locked herself in the bathroom and texted her cousin to call the police. When three investigators arrived, Alvandi refused to open the door and blocked their efforts to enter with a key. When the officers were able to enter, he assumed a fighting stance and refused to comply with their orders to get on the ground.

In aggravation, Alvandi committed multiple acts of wrongdoing. The State Bar Court judge noted that although the two convictions were entered on the same day, they were related to incidents that occurred on separate dates. In mitigation, he had no prior record of discipline in nine years of practicing law and entered into the stipulation to fully resolve the matter prior to trial.


Thomas Richard D’Arco
State Bar # 79929, Pasadena (March 18, 2016)

D’Arco, 75, was placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing five acts of professional misconduct in two client matters—both involving loan modification services. Specifically, he was culpable of two counts of charging and collecting advanced fees, two counts of failing to provide the clients with the statutorily required written statement prior to entering a fee agreement (Cal. Civ. Code §2944.6), and failing to provide legal services with competence in one matter.

In aggravation, D’Arco committed multiple acts of misconduct. In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation before a notice of disciplinary charges was filed, and had practiced law for 37 years without any discipline—deemed “highly significant mitigation” which the State Bar Court judge noted “suggests the misconduct was aberrant.”


Charles Jeffrey Fletcher
State Bar # 142464, Sacramento (March 18, 2016)

Fletcher, 56, was placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to seven acts of wrongdoing in three client matters. His misconduct included: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to provide an accounting upon termination of services, two counts of failing to fully refund unearned advanced fees, and three counts of accepting compensation from individuals other than clients without their informed written consent.

In aggravation, Fletcher committed multiple acts of misconduct. In mitigation, he had practiced law for more than 17 years without misconduct, presented letters from individuals in both the general and legal communities attesting to his good character, and entered into a stipulation prior to trial.


Nicholas Andrew Konoske
State Bar # 104629, San Diego (March 18, 2016)

Konoske, 37, was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to pleading guilty to the misdemeanor of battery of a current or former significant other (Cal. Penal Code §243(e)(1)).

Konoske had been dating a woman for about 10 months when he found email messages suggesting she had been seeing other men. Angered, he confronted her—choking her, damaging her cellphone, and breaking her laptop computer. She secured a temporary restraining order, and then a protective order against him.

In aggravation, Konoske harmed the woman, both physically and emotionally. In mitigation, he entered a comprehensive stipulation, offered reference letters from six individuals attesting to his good character, and sought treatment from a therapist who stated he does not likely pose a risk of committing future misconduct. In addition, he had no record of prior discipline, though that was given only nominal mitigation weight since he had practiced law for only five years.


John Owen Murrin III
State Bar # 75329, Long Beach (March 18, 2016)

Murrin, 65, was placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing misconduct in a legal proceeding in Minnesota. The Minnesota Lawyer’s Professional Responsibility Board had found him culpable of two counts of wrongdoing: delaying prosecution and causing prejudice to the administration of justice.

Murrin, licensed to practice law in both California and Minnesota and acting in pro per, filed a number of lawsuits in several Minnesota courts—including Hennepin County, federal district court, and bankruptcy court. He alleged that a multitude of defendants had perpetrated a Ponzi scheme, causing his wife and him to lose a $600,000 investment. Over several years, he filed voluminous complaints and amended complaints—naming as many as 50 defendants, most of whom had earlier been dismissed.

Noting that more than 400 entries had been made in the federal district court docket in Murrin’s case, which had not progressed past the pleading stage, that court noted that his litigation strategy “resembles nothing so much as peine fort et dure—a method of torture by which heavier and heavier weights are placed on the chest of a defendant until the defendant either confesses or suffocates.”

In aggravation, Murrin committed multiple acts of misconduct and had two prior records of discipline n Minnesota—though the prior discipline orders were given minimal weight because they were for relatively minor transgressions, remote in time. In mitigation, he entered the pretrial stipulation, saving the State Bar time and resources.



Public Reproval

Douglas Dale Holthaus
State Bar # 74560, San Diego (April 27, 2016)

Holthaus, 64, was publicly reproved after he stipulated to pleading guilty to two misdemeanors: driving under the influence of combined alcohol and drugs with a prior DUI conviction within 10 years, and driving with a .01% blood alcohol concentration while on probation for a prior DUI (Cal. Veh. Code §§23152(f) and 23154(a)). In aggravation, his misconduct caused property damage to two other automobiles. In mitigation, he had practiced law discipline-free for 37 years and entered a stipulation prior to trial, saving the State Bar time and resources.


Dennette Janel McIntyre
State Bar # 246654, Indio (May 24, 2016)

McIntyre, 36, was publicly reproved after she stipulated to pleading guilty to the misdemeanor of unlawful possession of a wireless communication device (Cal. Penal Code §4575(a)). While visiting a client in a detention center, McIntyre held a cellphone up to the visitor window several times for the client to view, in violation of the facility’s rules. She had not obtained prior written approval or a court order allowing possession of the cellphone during visits.

In mitigation, McIntyre entered a stipulation of facts and conclusions of law prior to trial. She was also allotted nominal mitigation weight for practicing law for seven years without a discipline record and diminished weight for the seven individuals—six attorneys and one paralegal—who attested to her good character, since they did not represent a broad range of individuals within the legal and general communities.


Sam H. Nordean
State Bar # 284398, Costa Mesa (May 13, 2016)

Nordean, 38, was publicly reproved after he stipulated to pleading guilty to two misdemeanors: driving under the influence of alcohol with one prior offense and driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more with one prior (Cal. Veh. Code §§23152(a) and (b)). A court subsequently stayed sentence on the second count based on the statutory prohibition of punishing a single act under more than one provision (Cal. Penal Code §654).

In mitigation, he submitted references from seven individuals with varying backgrounds attesting to his good character and entered the stipulation prior to trial.


Linnea Nicole Willis
State Bar # 221352, Hayward (May 9, 2016)

Willis, 38, was publicly reproved after she stipulated to three acts of misconduct in a single client matter: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to promptly release all client papers after being requested to do so, and failing to refund unearned advanced fees upon termination of employment.

In aggravation, Willis committed multiple acts of misconduct. In mitigation, she had practiced law for approximately 10 years without a record of discipline, stipulated to facts and conclusions of law prior to trial, and submitted evidence of civic and volunteer service.


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