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Discipline Report

Recent disbarments, suspensions and probations in California

January 2017

Disbarment

Suspension

Probation

Public Reproval

Disbarment

Stephen Howard Beecher
State Bar # 137509, Sherman Oaks (November 18, 2016)

Beecher, 65, was disbarred after he stipulated to pleading nolo contendere to one count of bringing drugs to a jail (Cal. Penal Code 4573(a))—a felony involving moral turpitude.

While representing a client who was awaiting trial in custody at a correctional facility, Beecher arranged to bring him narcotics: 36.09 of heroin worth more than $30,000 flattened into a greeting card that he had accepted from the client’s wife. He was arrested in the facility’s visiting area with the card containing the heroin in his possession.

In aggravation, Beecher had a prior record of discipline and significantly harmed the administration of justice by undermining his privilege of access to an inmate as an officer of the court. In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation as to facts, conclusions of law, and disposition of the matter.


Peter Robin Estes
State Bar # 168867, Los Angeles (November 18, 2016)

Estes, 62, was disbarred by default after he failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, in his disciplinary hearing. The State Bar determined he had received adequate legal notice of it.

He was charged with 20 counts of professional misconduct in five client matters—and was found culpable of 10 of those counts. His wrongdoing included five counts each of practicing law in another jurisdiction in violation of its professional regulations, and of failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of his misconduct. The charges that he improperly solicited the clients and charged and collected illegal fees from them were dismissed for lack of sufficient factual allegations.


James Edward Griswold
State Bar # 207294, Long Beach (November 18, 2016)

Griswold, 49, was disbarred by default after he failed to participate in his disciplinary hearing, despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He did not seek to have his default set aside or vacated.

He was found culpable of four counts of professional misconduct in a single client matter. The wrongdoing included: improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to obey a court order to personally appear and pay sanctions, failing to cooperate with the investigation of the wrongdoing alleged, and failing to notify the State Bar of a change in his official membership address within 30 days of moving.


David Anthony Harper
State Bar # 112993, Colorado Springs, Colorado (November 20, 2016)

Harper, 62, was disbarred by default after he failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, in his disciplinary proceeding after he had received adequate legal notice. He was found culpable of failing to comply with conditions attached to an earlier disciplinary probation order. He had one prior record of discipline.


Tina LaVonne James
State Bar # 174628, Quartz Hill (November 25, 2016)

James, 53, was summarily disbarred following the State Bar’s submission of finality of her conviction of welfare fraud in an amount over $400 (Cal. Wel. & Inst. Code §10980(c)(2)). The offense is a felony involving moral turpitude.


Quyen Tang Kiet
State Bar # 182399, Huntington Beach (November 25, 2016)

Kiet, 46, was summarily disbarred from the practice of law. He earlier pled guilty to one count of aiding and abetting monetary transactions in criminally derived property (18 U.S.C. §§2 and 1957), and the conviction recently became final. The offense is a felony involving moral turpitude.


Todd Edward Macaluso
State Bar # 133009, Solana Beach (November 18, 2016)

Macaluso, 54, was summarily disbarred following his conviction of wire fraud (18 U.S.C. §1343)—a felony involving moral turpitude. The Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar submitted evidence that the conviction had become final; neither party filed a notice of appeal.


David Samuel Schneider
State Bar # 131578, Beverly Hills (November 18, 2016)

Schneider, 58, was disbarred after he stipulated to numerous acts of professional misconduct in four client matters—including failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to properly maintain client funds in trust, failing to promptly pay clients funds to which they were entitled, failing to provide proper accountings, and failing to cooperate in State Bar investigations of the wrongdoing alleged. In addition, he was culpable of misappropriating nearly $80,000 in client funds and of issuing several checks knowing there were insufficient funds to cover them, and of falsely informing clients their cases had settled when they had not—acts involving moral turpitude.

In aggravation, Schneider committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed his clients. In mitigation, he entered into a full stipulation before disciplinary charges were filed and had practiced law for 28 years without a record of discipline. However, the State Bar Court judge noted that in light of the significant amount misappropriated as well as the significant harm caused, “these mitigating factors cannot be considered either compelling or predominating,” making disbarment the “only resolution appropriate to protect the public.”


Roger William Shpal
State Bar # 47142, Beverly Hills (November 25, 2016)

Shpal, 73, was disbarred from the practice of law. He had been charged with five counts of professional misconduct in a single client matter; the State Bar Court judge dismissed one count as duplicative and part of another and consolidated two of the remaining counts. Shpal was ultimately found culpable of failing to reconcile his client trust account, improperly commingling funds by depositing his own funds into and paying personal expenses from his client trust account, and misappropriating at least $8,815 of client settlement proceeds for his own use—misconduct involving moral turpitude.

Shpall was attorney of record in a personal injury action in which the client agreed to pay him 40% of any amount collected. The matter was settled for $80,000. Shpall received and deposited the settlement check, and sent the client a statement showing deductions for his contingency fees, costs, payments to several lienholders—and a balance of $36,815 owed the client, which he paid in a series of five checks. He failed to hold the requisite $8,851 due to additional medical lienholders.

In addition, during a five-year period, Shpall made a total of 77 deposits of personal funds into his client trust account and aid personal expenses from it on about 1,422 occasions—many of the transactions conducted after he learned of their impropriety in the State Bar’s Ethics School.

In aggravation, Shpall had a prior record of discipline, committed multiple acts of misconduct n the present case, and caused significant harm to the client’s lienholders by failing to make restitution to them. The State Bar Court judge also noted the “proved but uncharged misconduct” of paying a filing fee for a complaint with money held for other clients—wrongdoing considered to be an aggravating factor for discipline purposes. Shpall was allotted limited mitigation for apologizing to the client during the disciplinary trial.


Fredrick Jacob Todd
State Bar # 86607, Murrieta (November 18, 2016)

Todd, 63, was summarily disbarred following evidence of finality of his convictions of conspiracy to commit mail fraud (18 U.S.C. §1349) and transacting in criminal proceeds (18 U.S.C. §1957). Both are felonies involving moral turpitude.


Richard Oliver Weed
State Bar # 164288, Newport Beach (November 28, 2016)

Weed, 54, was suspended from the practice of law in the interim, following his convictions of conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud (18 U.S.C. §371), securities fraud (15 C.F.R. §§78(j)(b) and 78(ff)), and nine counts of wire fraud (18 U.S.C. §1343). All offenses are felonies involving moral turpitude.


Corecia Joy Woo
State Bar # 214544, Elk Grove (November 18, 2016)

Woo, 46, was disbarred following her conviction of driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more (Cal. Vehicle Code §23152(b)), a misdemeanor. She had a previous conviction for driving under the influence. The State Bar Court judge found the present conviction did not involve moral turpitude, but did warrant discipline.

In addition, the judge found Woo had violated terms of the probation imposed earlier by failing to report the conviction to the State Bar in a quarterly report and had submitted quarterly reports she knew or was grossly negligent in not knowing were false—an act involving moral turpitude. Woo had testified that she had performed research and determined that her criminal conviction did not warrant disclosure in the reports—a claim the court found incredible and inconsistent with her other words and actions.

In aggravation, Woo committed multiple acts of misconduct and had two prior records of discipline. In mitigation, she entered into a partial stipulation. In addition, she was given limited mitigated weight for experiencing extreme emotional difficulties during a pending divorce, as she failed to present expert evidence substantiating it. She was also given limited weight for good character evidence submitted by five witnesses, since two were relatives and two were attorneys, as opposed to representing a wide cross-section from the legal and general communities. And finally, Woo was allotted diminished mitigation weight for volunteering at her children’s school and sports activities, as the State Bar Court judge noted: “parents are generally expected or even required to volunteer in their children’s endeavors.”


Alfred Nash Villalobos
State Bar # 194000, Northridge (November 4, 2016)

Villalobos, 50, was summarily disbarred based on evidence of finality of his convictions of endeavoring to obstruct justice (18 U.S.C. §1503(a)) and interfering with commerce by extortion (18 U.S.C. §1951(a)). Both offenses are felonies involving moral turpitude. Villalobos did not respond to the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar’s motion for summary judgment based on the convictions.


David Wyser
State Bar # 154190, Reno, Nevada (November 4, 2016)

Wyser, 56, was summarily disbarred after failing to respond to the State Bar’s motion for summary judgment. He earlier pled guilty to accepting a bribe (18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(B))—a felony involving moral turpitude.



Suspension

Al Fadel Amer
State Bar # 197745, Long Beach (November 21, 2016)

Amer, 48, was suspended from practicing law after he failed to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination within the time prescribed in the Supreme Court’s earlier disciplinary order. The suspension is in effect pending proof of passage.


Jeffrey Thomas Bolson
State Bar # 99139, Covina (November 18, 2016)

Bolson, 59, was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to failing to keep all agreements made earlier in lieu of disciplinary prosecution. Specifically, he failed to schedule a meeting with his probation deputy and failed to timely meet with the deputy in addition to failing to submit three quarterly written reports by their due dates. In the underlying matter, he had stipulated to falsely reporting that he had complied with Minimum Continuing Legal Education requirements—an offense involving moral turpitude.

In aggravation, Bolson committed multiple acts of misconduct. In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for more than 31 years without a record of discipline. He was also given limited mitigation credit for the seven character references produced; five of them were attorneys, so did not represent a wide range in the legal and general communities.


Ingrid Marie Causey
State Bar # 166305, South Pasadena (November 28, 2016)

Causey, 48, was suspended from the practice of law pending passage of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated by the California Supreme Court in an earlier disciplinary order.


Stephen John Coghlan
State Bar # 203376, San Francisco (November 28, 2016)

Coghlan, 62, was suspended from practicing law since he failed to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination within the time prescribed in the Supreme Court’s earlier disciplinary order. The suspension is in effect pending proof of passage.


William Robert Cohen
State Bar # 203175, Delray Beach, Florida (November 18, 2016)

Cohen, 45, was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for two years following a finding that he willfully failed to comply with the conditions imposed earlier in disciplinary order of public reproval.

Cohen, who was admitted to practice law in both California and Michigan, entered into a stipulation with the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission by which he pled no contest to failing to communicate with his client, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, and failing to withdraw from employment. The Michigan board accepted the stipulation and ordered that he be publicly reproved as discipline.

He later stipulated to the California State Bar that he was culpable of the Michigan misconduct, which also issued a public reproval order with conditions, which he subsequently failed to fulfill. Specifically, he failed to timely file a quarterly written report with the Office of probation and failed to provide proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) in accord with California standards.

In aggravation, Cohen committed multiple acts of misconduct, had a prior record of discipline, and demonstrated an ongoing disregard of complying with the disciplinary requirements. In mitigation, he entered a stipulation of facts; the State Bar Court judge noted, however, that the weight of that mitigation was “greatly reduced by his repeated and ongoing denials of culpability, the brevity of the stipulation, and the lateness of his cooperation.” The judge also underscored that Cohen’s suspension would remain in effect until he satisfied the MPRE requirement.

Finally, the judge took issue with the Office of Probation’s rejection of the Minimum Continuing Legal Education hours Cohen completed after the reproval order was signed but before it took effect, reasoning: “That Respondent was energetic in seeking to fulfill this condition sooner, rather than later, should be a source of comfort to the State Bar, not a basis for seeking to impose further discipline.”


David Robert Cohn
State Bar # 180071, Trabuco Canyon (November 4, 2016)

Cohn, 52, was suspended from practicing law for two years and placed on probation for three years following his stipulation to committing an act involving moral turpitude: altering reports filed by an expert witness.

Cohn was hired to defend a client in a criminal case involving lewd acts with several minor girls. In preparation for trial, Cohn requested and received a court order to have the client evaluated by a sexual psychologist, who wrote a detailed report. Without the expert’s consent, Cohn altered the report before filing it with the court, changing the date to make it “more current,” and omitting and modifying several sections to cast the client in a more positive light. The discrepancies were fully discovered after the client appealed his conviction and 30-year sentence.

In mitigation, Cohn entered into a stipulation of facts and legal conclusions, had practiced law for 18 years without a record of discipline, and was given some mitigation credit for the eight character reference letters submitted, as only five of the individuals were aware of the full extent of his misconduct.

In aggravation, his misconduct harmed his client, the administration of justice, and the reputation and livelihood of the psychologist—who is no longer appointed to give expert testimony.


Mansfield Collins
State Bar # 104049, Walnut (November 18, 2016)

Collins, 65, was suspended from practicing law for one year following his appeal of that recommendation. He had earlier stipulated to charging and collecting unconscionable fees and voluntarily agreed to a one-year stayed suspension—with three years of probation and three months of actual suspension, and had agreed to pay his former clients restitution according to a specific schedule. After he failed to make the payments, the State Bar’s Office of Probation moved to revoke his probation.

Collins sought review and requested an independent review of his ability to pay restitution.

In the underlying matter, Collins represented four brothers who owned and operated a number of restaurants. He agreed to be paid $10,000 for all his legal work in connection with one of the brothers. There was no other written fee agreement. However, Collins represented all the brothers in various legal proceedings, collecting approximately $258,000 in fees and charging an additional $226,214. The brothers subsequently sold their restaurants’ trademarks to a company that eventually filed for bankruptcy protection. After protracted proceedings, an Arizona bankruptcy court ruled Collins was entitled to only the $10,000 in fees he had been paid, ordered that he pay the clients the additional fees he had collected, and dismissed the claims for additional fee payments.

On review, the State Bar Court panel affirmed the hearing judge’s findings that Collins willfully violated his disciplinary probation order by failing to file quarterly reports and failing to timely pay restitution.

Though he argued for and was granted extensions to make the first and second restitution payments, the judge and panel found his additional request to extend payment times and to reduce the restitution amount were properly denied. In addition, though Collins and the clients eventually settled the matter, the panel emphasized he was still culpable, as the settlement was reached after his initial three-year probation period, thus outside the probation terms.

In mitigation, the panel allotted limited weight to Collins’s financial difficulties, as they likely arose in part from a cancer diagnosis, though it noted he “failed to present a complete picture of his financial condition as it was when he stipulated to discipline and afterwards.” In aggravation, Collins had a prior record of discipline.


Jeffrey Alan Dickstein
State Bar # 70638, Tulsa, Oklahoma (November 18, 2016)

Dickstein, 69, was suspended from the practice of law for one year after the Office of Probation of the State Bar filed a motion seeking to revoke the two-year probation and 30 days of actual suspension imposed in an earlier disciplinary proceeding. He failed to file a response.

The State Bar Court judge found by a preponderance of evidence that Dickstein had willfully failed to comply with probation conditions, as charged in the motion. Specifically, he failed to schedule a meeting with his probation deputy and also failed to submit a written probation report as required.

In aggravation, Dickstein had a prior record of discipline and showed indifference toward rectifying his misconduct. In addition, the court independently found that his conduct was not merely willful, but also intentional. It cited email correspondence he had directed to his probation officer, who had urged him to submit a compliant notice of resignation. In response, Dickstein wrote that there would be “no meetings, no compliance, no nothing” and closed with: “I am 100% done with the State Bar of California, and what passes for law in the country today.”


Shelly Ann Donachie
State Bar # 200018, Vacaville (November 7, 2016)

Donachie, 47, was suspended from the practice of law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam—one of the terms imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.


Sean Donrad
State Bar # 242665, Walnut Creek (November 21, 2016)

Donrad, 48, was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated in an earlier State Bar disciplinary order.


Dale Irving Gustin
State Bar # 76642, Paso Robles (November 21, 2016)

Gustin, 78, was suspended from the practice of law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination—one of the conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.


Barry Steven Jorgensen
State Bar # 79620, Diamond Bar (November 11, 2016)

Jorgensen, 70, was suspended from practicing law for six months and placed on probation for two years after the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar appealed the hearing judge’s order dismissing several disciplinary charges against him and recommending a 30-day actual suspension.

The misconduct was alleged to have occurred in five client matters. All of the cases involved a business owned and operated by a paralegal solicited clients with properties in foreclosure. Clients signed retainer agreements stating services were “for the sole and limited purpose of litigation” related to their mortgages.

Jorgensen entered an agreement that he could operate his law practice out of the business office free of charge and assume legal representation for the approximately 300 foreclosure cases the paralegal had taken on. He pursued claims including wrongful foreclosure and fraud and unfair business lawsuits against lenders. He did not sign separate agreements with the clients, who directly paid him initial and ongoing monthly payments; in all, he collected more than $60,000 under the arrangements.

The hearing judge found that Jorgensen was not culpable of accepting illegal advanced fees before fully performing loan modification services because his fees were earmarked for foreclosure litigation. The State bar Court panel found, however, that “although the retainer agreements states that the services were limited to litigation, we find that all services Jorgensen agreed to provide, and in fact did provide, in the five client matters were for the sole purpose of obtaining loan modifications or other loan forbearances.” This arrangement violates state law (Cal. Civ. Code §§2944.6 and 2944.7).

In addition, the panel found Jorgensen culpable of aiding and abetting the paralegal’s business in the unauthorized practice of law, and also agreed with the hearing judge that he was culpable of illegally sharing fees with a non-lawyer in all five of the cases.

In aggravation, Jorgensen committed multiple acts of misconduct and caused significant harm to his clients by exploiting their financially challenged conditions.

In mitigation, he practiced law for more than 33 years without discipline, cooperated with the State Bar by stipulating to some facts and some culpability, and was given limited mitigating credit for his brief description of community volunteer service.


Steven Kassam
State Bar # 224739, Corona (November 28, 2016)

Kassam, 61, was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated in an earlier State Bar disciplinary order.


Donald William McVay
State Bar # 103882, Rancho Santa Fe (November 25, 2016)

McVay, 64, was suspended from practicing law for one year and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to pleading guilty to one count of unauthorized practice of law—a felony involving moral turpitude that was reduced to a misdemeanor prior to sentencing after he paid restitution.

He also stipulated to committing professional misconduct in two other cases—including performing legal services while actually suspended from practicing law; accepting illegal fees; illegally communicating with a represented party; holding himself out as entitled to practice law when he was not—an offense involving moral turpitude; and misrepresenting to a State Bar investigator that he had not practiced law while suspended, which also involved moral turpitude.

In aggravation, McVay committed multiple acts of misconduct and showed indifference to his wrongdoing by engaging in the unauthorized practice of law again shortly after being charged with it as a criminal offense. In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and had practiced law for approximately 29 years without a prior record of discipline.


Ronny Mor
State Bar # 248274, San Diego (November 18, 2016)

Mor, 38, was suspended for one year and placed on probation for two years following a proceeding on the Office of Probation’s motion seeking to revoke a two-year disciplinary probation that had been imposed earlier.

In granting the motion to revoke probation and recommending a new probation period, the State Bar Court judge found Mor had willfully failed to comply with three of the conditions imposed in the earlier disciplinary order. Specifically, he failed to timely contact his probation deputy to schedule a meeting, failed to submit a written quarterly probation report, and failed to provide the Probation Office with proof of paying restitution to a former client.

In aggravation, Mor had a prior record of discipline and demonstrated indifference toward rectifying his misconduct.


Edward William Pacheco
State Bar # 91903, Los Angeles (November 20, 2016)

Pacheco, 78, was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing seven acts of professional misconduct in two client matters.

In one case involving a bankruptcy matter that was ultimately dismissed, the wrongdoing included: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to respond to a client’s reasonable case status inquiries, failing to render a proper accounting to the client, failing to return unearned advanced fees, and failing to disclose a material fact to a court—an act involving moral turpitude.

He was also found culpable of holding himself out as entitled to practice and actually practicing law when in fact he had been suspended for nonpayment of bar membership dues, then failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of that misconduct.

In aggravation, Pacheco committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, had two prior records of discipline, and failed to make restitution by refunding any of the unearned fees to the former client. In mitigation, he entered into a full pretrial stipulation, and was allotted some mitigating weight in the unauthorized practice matter because of physical difficulties caused by surgery and chronic medical conditions.


Mary Frances Prevost
State Bar # 157782, San Diego (November 28, 2016)

Prevost, 65, was suspended from the practice of law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination—one of the conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.


Verne Craig Scholl
State Bar # 48634, Carlsbad (November 20, 2016)

Scholl, 74, was suspended from practicing law for three years and placed on probation for four years after he stipulated to failing to comply with several conditions imposed by the California Supreme Court in an earlier disciplinary probation order. Specifically, he failed to attend and pass the final tests of both the State Bar’s Ethics and Client Trust Accounting Schools—and to submit evidence of attending and passing to the Office of Probation.

In aggravation, Scholl had been disciplined three times previously. In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation before charges were filed against him and had been experiencing severe financial difficulties, which made it difficult to travel to attend the schools as ordered.


Herchel McCoy Sims
State Bar # 154185, Oceanside (November 20, 2016)

Sims, 67, was suspended from practicing law for six months and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to failing to maintain a legal or just action.

He had filed a discrimination complaint on behalf of a client against a gas and food mart; however, there was no probably cause for that action, since the business did not own the subject property. An attorney for the defendant business that was named in error attempted to contact Sims several times—by telephone, fax, and mail—but he was unresponsive and failed to remove the business from the lawsuit or move to dismiss the case. He did not appear at an ex parte hearing on the matter, and the lawsuit was ultimately dismissed with prejudice.

In aggravation, Sims had a prior record of discipline and demonstrated a lack of candor by making false and misleading claims to the State Bar in its investigation of the wrongdoing. In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, though that fact was given “significantly diminished” weight due to his lack of candor in the State Bar proceeding.


Tiffany Carrie Stevens
State Bar # 225940, Brooklyn, New York (November 20, 2016)

Stevens, 40, was suspended from the practice of law in California for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to reporting, under penalty of perjury, that she had complied with the required 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education; in fact, she had completed only one hour during the compliance period. That misconduct involves moral turpitude. She also failed to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the matter.

In mitigation, she entered into a pre-filing stipulation, submitted evidence of performing charitable and pro bono work, and was afforded modest mitigation weight for the six character witnesses offered, since there was only a limited number of them.


Geoffrey L. Taylor
State Bar # 108697, Marina del Rey (November 4, 2016)

Taylor, 59, was suspended from practicing law for two years and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to committing two counts of professional misconduct: failing to maintain funds in a client trust account and misappropriating the client’s funds—an act involving moral turpitude.

Taylor represented a client who had been injured in a car accident, entering a fee agreement entitling him to 33 1/3% of the recovery. The case settled for $50,000, which Taylor deposited in his client trust account; his fees amount to $16,665. The client asked him to hold the settlement funds in trust while she negotiated her medical bills with the hospital. During that time, Taylor issued several checks from the trust account, which caused the balance to dip to just over $32. The parties subsequently agreed the client was entitled to $29,956, which Taylor than wired to her, using his own funds.

In aggravation, Taylor intentionally withdrew funds from the client trust account, though the State Bar found his actions did not involve bad faith or dishonesty.

In mitigation, he entered into a full stipulation before charges were filed against him, had practiced law for 31 years without a prior record of discipline, demonstrated candor about his misconduct by paying the client all of her settlement funds and paying all her outstanding medical bills, as well as voluntarily attending both Ethics School and Client Trust Accounting School. In addition, he showed remorse for his actions—writing the client a letter of apology and fully acknowledging his wrongdoing to the State Bar. And finally he suffered stress and took time off work to care for his brother, who had suffered a severe heart attack.


Kimberly Perry Teal
State Bar # 109382, Fallbrook (November 28, 2016)

Teal, 59, was suspended from the practice of law pending her passage of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated by the California Supreme Court in an earlier disciplinary order.


William Stephen Tomasi
State Bar # 139518, Newbury Park (November 25, 2016)

Tomasi, 58, was suspended from the practice of law for three years and placed on probation for five years after he stipulated to committing 13 acts of professional misconduct in four client matters. His wrongdoing included: breaching fiduciary duties to a trust, failing to refund unearned advanced fees, sharing legal fees with a person who is not an attorney, aiding a disbarred attorney to engage in practicing law, failing to return a client’s papers and property when requested to do so, failing to advise a client to seek independent legal advice, improperly withdrawing from employment, and making a fraudulent transfer—misconduct involving moral turpitude. In addition, he was culpable of two counts of failing to render appropriate accountings of client fees, and three counts of failing to support the Constitution and laws.

In the matter that the State Bar Court judge singled out as “quite serious” and “involved multiple acts of moral turpitude and dishonesty,” Tomasi agreed to serve as trustee of a trust created for the benefit of a friend’s minor child. The trust property initially consisted of two unencumbered pieces of real property. Shortly after becoming trustee, Tomasi transferred title of one of the properties to himself—using it as collateral for a personal loan to pay off personal debt. Some time later, he was replaced by a successor trustee, who repeatedly demanded an accounting of the trust funds, removal of the encumbrance, and return of the property to the trust. Eventually, Tomasi was sued for breach of fiduciary duty; the court entered judgment in favor of the trust and against him in the amount of $478,000 plus costs. To avoid payment, he fraudulently transferred two parcels of property he owned to his brother and father-in-law; then he and his wife filed for bankruptcy.

In aggravation, Tomasi committed multiple acts of misconduct. In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation in the present case, had practiced law for about 15 years discipline-free, and suffered a stroke—which left him with residual physical difficulties.


John Christen Torjesen
State Bar # 141664, Tacoma, Washington (November 21, 2016)

Torjesen, 63, was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination as required in the terms of a previous disciplinary order.


Dayle A. Vinzant
State Bar # 195174, San Diego (November 7, 2016)

Vinzant, 46, was suspended from the practice of law in the interim after being convicted of maintaining a place for the purpose of unlawfully selling a controlled substance—a felony involving moral turpitude (Cal. Health & Safety Code §11366).


George Steven Wass
State Bar # 161732, Palm Springs (November 14, 2016)

Wass, 68, was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination as required in the terms of a previous disciplinary order.


Mark Alan Wiesenthal
State Bar # 185340, Beverly Hills (November 20, 2016)

Wiesenthal, 62, was suspended from practicing law for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to falsely reporting to the State Bar that he was in compliance with Minimum Continuing Legal Education requirements for a specific compliance period—misconduct involving moral turpitude. In fact, he had not completed any courses before reporting compliance.

In mitigation, Wiesenthal entered into a stipulation fully resolving the matter before disciplinary charges were filed against him and had practiced law for 16 years without being disciplined. In aggravation, he showed indifference toward his misconduct by not taking the required courses after the State Bar audit revealed the wrong.


Allison Christine Worden
State Bar # 211104, San Diego (November 20, 2016)

Worden, 41, was suspended from the practice of law for 60 days and placed on probation for two years after she stipulated that a jury had found her guilty of one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and the due administration of law (Cal. Penal Code §182(a)(5)) and two counts of altering or destroying a traffic citation (Cal. Veh. Code §40500(d)). Both offenses are misdemeanors. The Hearing Department determined that the obstruction of justice involves moral turpitude as a matter of law; the State Bar Court judge in the instant proceeding determined that the other offense of destroying a traffic citation also involves moral turpitude.

While Worden and a co-worker were employed as deputy district attorneys, they were stopped by a traffic officer who issued her a citation for not wearing a seatbelt while a passenger, and issued the co-worker a citation for driving with a passenger who was not wearing a seatbelt. When stopped, Worden told the officer they were deputy district attorneys, and asked: “Can you give us a break?” However, he proceeded to issue the citations.

Worden then telephoned a family friend who worked as a sergeant in the police department’s Traffic Division and asked if there was “anything he could do” about the situation. At the end of his shift, the sergeant removed both seatbelt citations from a bin before they were processed—without supervisor approval and in violation of department policy. The next day, the sergeant told Worden he had dismissed the citation. The co-worker said she was going to pay the fine, but Worden told her not to do so since there was no record of it.

After the jury returned with its guilty verdicts, Worden resigned from the district attorney’s office.
In aggravation, Worden’s conduct harmed the integrity of the criminal justice system; she also harmed the legal profession by misusing her professional position and relationship with the sergeant to avoid paying the traffic citation.

In mitigation, she voluntarily entered into a pretrial stipulation, had no prior record of discipline in more than 10 years of practice, and provided evidence of 25 individuals willing to attest to her good character as well as evidence of extensive community service.


Qin Zhang
State Bar # 225324, Los Angeles (November 25, 2016)

Zhang, 51, was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for two years after a State Bar Court panel affirmed the hearing judge’s findings of culpability. She had appealed, seeking dismissal of the charges.

Zhang was found culpable of one count of maintaining an unjust civil action—filing a lawsuit on behalf of herself and a corporation she had founded with her brother. The same court had earlier dismissed an action naming the same parties, alleging the same facts and legal theories arising from the same transaction. She was also found culpable of two counts of failing to report court-ordered sanctions against her.

Both the judge and panel found one factor in mitigation: Zhang had practiced law for more than eight years without a record of discipline. Both also gave aggravating weight to her multiple acts of misconduct.



Probation

Dennis Earl Braun
State Bar # 152816, Los Angeles (November 18, 2016)

Braun, 55, was placed on probation for two years following a finding of culpability of improperly withdrawing from employment and failing to inform a client of significant case developments in a single matter. Additional counts originally charged were dismissed.

Braun represented a client who took numerous actions against a woman with whom he had lived and had two children. After approximately three years, the attorney/client relationship broke down. Text messages between the two that were admitted at trial revealed the client’s volatile nature, as well as admitted difficulties in paying his legal bills.

Braun provided the client with executed Substitution of Attorney forms for two legal matters still pending, urging him to file them promptly. He later assumed the substitutions had been filed, misreading a court docket entry indicating an “In pro per” substitution; in fact, it had been filed by the opposing party. Braun continued to receive various discovery requests related to the case, but did not notify the client of them.

Eventually, both Braun and the client appeared at a hearing in one of the cases. At that time, Braun notified the court he had filed a motion to withdraw as counsel of record and brought with him two boxes of file materials which the client had requested earlier; the client refused to accept them. Braun subsequently filed a fully executed Substitution of Attorney form.

In aggravation, Braun was culpable of multiple acts of misconduct and had been disciplined by the State Bar once before. In mitigation, he presented evidence from a range of 15 witnesses attesting to his good character. He also entered into a lengthy pretrial stipulation of facts and documents, though the weight of that credit was limited by the fact that he continued to deny culpability until the trial had nearly concluded.


Mark David Greenberg
State Bar # 99726, Oakland (November 18, 2016)

Greenberg, 64, was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to several acts of professional misconduct related to his representation of three incarcerated clients. His wrongdoing included: withdrawing from employment without obtaining court permission; improperly withdrawing from employment; failing to respond to a client’s reasonable case status inquiries; failing to report the reversal of a proceeding based on his misconduct; and two counts each of failing to keep the clients reasonably informed of significant case developments and failing to release clients’ papers and property after being requested to do so.

In mitigation, Greenberg had practiced law discipline-free for approximately 35 years without being disciplined and fully cooperated with the State Bar and admitted his mistakes once notified of the allegations against him.

The State Bar Court judge noted that though the current charges were due to poor office management practices rather than dishonesty, “the fact that respondent committed misconduct while representing incarcerated clients reinforces the conclusion that significant discipline should be imposed.”


Carlos MartinezCouoh
State Bar # 188126, Inglewood (November 4, 2016)

MartinezCouoh, 50, was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing three acts of professional misconduct in a single client matter. His wrongdoing included: failing to perform legal services with competence, improperly withdrawing from employment, and failing to cooperate with the State Bar in the disciplinary matter pending against him.

A client paid MartinezCouoh an advanced fee of $400 to file and handle her marital dissolution. He filed the petition, then filed an incomplete service of summons on the husband as well as an incomplete request for judgment and deficient judgment package with the court. He failed to take additional legal action on the client’s behalf, and she eventually filed a substitution of attorney with the court, naming herself in pro per.

In mitigation, MartinezCouoh entered into the stipulation prior to trial and had practiced law for more than 16 years discipline-free. In aggravation, he committed multiple acts of misconduct.


Andrea Jean Pflug
State Bar # 94643, Los Angeles (November 20, 2016)

Pflug, 61, was placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to falsely reporting that she had fully complied with the required Minimum Continuing Legal Education hours for a specific compliance period—misconduct involving moral turpitude. In fact, she had completed only 1 ½ of the 25 hours required.

In mitigation, Pflug entered into a stipulation before disciplinary charges were filed against her, had practiced law discipline-free for approximately 33 years, demonstrated remorse by submitting a declaration underscoring her commitment to keeping better future records for compliance, and submitted an extensive history of community service and pro bono work in the community.


Michael Arthur Pina
State Bar # 157116, Santa Barbara (November 18, 2016)

Pina, 58, was place on probation for one year after he stipulated to falsely reporting to the State Bar that he had fully complied with the 25 required Minimum Continuing Legal Education hours—misconduct involving moral turpitude. In fact, he had completed only 10 hours of study during the compliance period at issue.

In mitigation, Pina entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for approximately 23 years without a record of discipline, and provided evidence from seven individuals attesting to his good character, as well as evidence of performing substantial pro bono services in the community.


Eric Raymond Rasmussen
State Bar # 289003, Sherman Oaks (November 20, 2016)

Rasmussen, 30, was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to pleading no contest to one count of inflicting corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition against a cohabitant (Cal. Penal Code §273.5(a)).

After Rasmussen and his girlfriend had become intoxicated at a holiday party, the two began to argue. He assaulted her while the two sat inside his vehicle, and again inside their apartment—injuring her nose, eye, cheek, and neck. Police arrived in response to a radio call, arrested Rasmussen, and booked him at the local jail.

In aggravation, Rasmussen caused the victim physical harm. In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, and also submitted six references attesting to his good character—including the woman he had assaulted.


Heather Michelle Salvador
State Bar # 249150, Chico (November 18, 2016)

Salvador, 41, was placed on probation for two years after successfully completing the State Bar Court’s Alternative Discipline Program (ADP).

Her previous misconduct consisted of three separate criminal convictions for driving under the influence of drugs (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(a)). In aggravation, Salvador engaged in multiple acts of misconduct and caused significant harm to the public and property damage to two cars she hit while driving under the influence. In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation and successfully completed the ADP.


Jill Bobbette Shigut
State Bar # 176807, Woodland Hills (November 25, 2016)

Shigut, 48, was placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to falsely reporting that she had fully complied with the required Minimum Continuing Legal Education hours for a specific compliance period—misconduct involving moral turpitude. In fact, she had completed only six of the 25 hours required.

In mitigation, Shigut entered into a stipulation before disciplinary charges were filed, had practiced law discipline-free for 19 years, and provided character reference letters from seven individuals, as well as evidence of offering pro bono services in three legal matters.


Eric Martin Sippel
State Bar # 152876, Berkeley (November 18, 2016)

Sippel, 55, was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to reporting to the State Bar that he had completed the requisite 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education when in fact he had not completed any hours—misconduct involving moral turpitude.

In mitigation, Sippel entered into a stipulation before charges were filed against him, had practiced law for more than 22 years without a record of discipline, admitted his culpability in a letter to the State Bar early on in the proceedings, and submitted evidence of an extensive history of community service.


Gerald Howard Sternberg
State Bar # 96110, Hazel Park, Michigan (November 18, 2016)

Sternberg, 67, was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to reporting to the State Bar that he had completed the requisite 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education when in fact he had not completed any hours—misconduct involving moral turpitude.

In mitigation, Sternberg entered into a pretrial stipulation, maintained an active law license for approximately 26 years without a record of discipline, and had suffered a serious burn requiring in-home healthcare and a number of prescription painkillers during the time of the misconduct.


Tonya Ronee Summerville
State Bar # 240479, Severn, Maryland (November 25, 2016)

Summerville, 36, was placed on probation for one year. She stipulated to falsely reporting to the State Bar that she had completed the requisite 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education—misconduct involving moral turpitude. In fact, she had completed only six hours of eligible study during the compliance period specified.

In mitigation, Summerville had entered into a prefiling stipulation, had practiced law for eight years discipline-free, and provided character evidence from nine witnesses—although two of the writers were family members, so given less weight. She also submitted a sworn declaration that she erroneously assumed some uncertified classes were approved for credit, and learned appropriate steps for investigating that in the future.


Phillips Ranta Sweet
State Bar # 171811, Laguna Beach (November 20, 2016)

Sweet, 51, was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to falsely reporting to the State Bar that he had completed the requisite 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education—misconduct involving moral turpitude. After being selected for an audit, Sweet informed the State Bar he would have to make up the hours of study, as the laptop on which he kept track of them had been stolen. He was only able to verify one hour of credit through a provider.

In mitigation, Sweet voluntarily entered into a stipulation before disciplinary charges were filed, had practiced law for approximately 21 years without a record of discipline, and submitted evidence of pro bono work for friends, business associates, and family members. He was also allotted minimal credit for the character witnesses he produced, since there were only six individuals submitted.



Public Reproval

Anju Multani
State Bar # 156346, Downey (November 9, 2016)

Multani, 58, was publicly reproved after she stipulated to committing a single act of disobeying a court order.

She represented a conservator, accepting $33,815 in attorney fees without a prior court order. A court subsequently issued a decision finding that while Multani did not willfully and knowingly take the conservatee’s assets, she was not entitled to the total amount of fees paid. It disallowed $15,485 in fees, finding they were unnecessary or did not benefit the conservatorship, and also awarded costs of the suit of $4,734 in addition to post judgment interest at the rate of 10% per annum. Multani failed to pay any part of the payments ordered.

In mitigation, she entered into a full stipulation prior to trial, had practiced law for 23 years without a prior record of discipline, and submitted letters from eight individuals representing a wide range of members of the legal and general communities—all of whom attested to her good character and competence.


Jose Arturo Rodriguez
State Bar # 116541, Coachella (November 23, 2016)

Rodriguez, 60, was publicly reproved after a contested disciplinary hearing in which he was charged with two counts of professional misconduct: failing to obey a court order and failing to timely report judicial sanctions. He was found culpable of both counts.

Rodriguez was order to pay $3,000 in sanctions after a court determined he had filed a third amended complaint for the improper purpose of harassing the opposing parties. While he conceded nonpayment on appeal, he argued the failure to pay was not willful, but based on financial hardship and bankruptcy. The hearing judge, however, noted: “If Respondent disagreed with the order, he should have sought relief from it.”

In aggravation, Rodriguez was indifferent to his obligation to pay sanctions, as demonstrated by his failure to challenge the order. In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation of facts and admission of documents and had no prior record of discipline in 30 years of practicing law.


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