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Discipline Report

Recent disbarments, suspensions and probations in California

February 2017

Disbarment

Suspension

Probation

Public Reproval

Disbarment

Gregory Mackean Bentley
State Bar # 275923, San Francisco (December 4, 2016)

Bentley, 55, was disbarred by default after he failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, in the disciplinary hearing charging him with three counts of professional misconduct. The State Bar determined that reasonable diligence was used to notify him of the proceeding, without success.

Bentley was the found culpable of all counts with which he was charged: commingling personal funds with those in a client trust account, paying personal expenses from a client trust account, and failing to cooperate in the investigation of the disciplinary charges brought against him.


Richard Charles Brizendine
State Bar # 101597, Long Beach (December 4, 2016)

Brizendine, 61, was summarily disbarred after the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar received evidence of the finality of his convictions of money laundering (18 U.S.C. §1957(a)) and conspiracy to structure financial transactions to evade reporting requirements (18 U.S.C. 371 and 31 U.S.C. §5324(a)(3)). The offenses are both felonies involving moral turpitude.


Walter Lee Davis
State Bar # 98513, Brentwood (December 4, 2016)

Davis, 62, was disbarred by default. He was charged with 13 counts of professional misconduct in two client matters, but neither appeared at the trial of his case despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so, nor sought to have his default set aside or vacated.

He was found culpable of all charges, which were similar in both cases. The wrongdoing included two counts each of failing to notify clients of funds received on their behalf, endorsing settlement checks without the clients’ knowledge, failing to maintain funds in a client trust account, misrepresenting to the clients that he had not received settlement funds, misappropriating a total of $11,200 earmarked for the clients and medical providers, and failing to render accountings of client funds. Davis also committed moral turpitude and dishonesty by signing a release claim without first getting consent from one of the clients.


Jeremy Dennis Eveland
State Bar # 231552, West Jordan, Utah (December 3, 2016)

Eveland, 41, was summarily disbarred following receipt of finality of his out-of-state conviction of communications fraud (Utah Code Ann. §76-10-1801). The offense is a felony involving moral turpitude.


Jerry Gruenbaum
State Bar # 181916, Manchester, Connecticut (December 4, 2016)

Gruenbaum, 61, was summarily disbarred after pleading guilty to two counts of making and subscribing false tax returns (26 U.S.C. 7206(1)). The State Bar received evidence that the conviction had become final. The offense is a felony involving moral turpitude.


Daniel Eugene Hibbard
State Bar # 138147, Riverside (December 4, 2016)

Hibbard, 62, was disbarred after he stipulated to committing eight counts of professional misconduct—including misappropriating more than $25,000 from two personal injury clients and then making misrepresentations to hide his wrongdoing.

Specifically, he was found culpable of two counts each of failing to maintain the requisite balance in his client trust account, failing to pay funds owed to the clients’ medical providers, as well as acts involving moral turpitude: misappropriating the clients’ settlement funds, issuing numerous checks from the client trust account with insufficient funds, and misrepresenting to the clients he was negotiating with their medical providers in order to retain their funds.

In aggravation, Hibbard committed multiple acts of misconduct, significantly harmed his clients by misappropriating their funds, and failed to make restitution by not paying them the remaining funds due.

In mitigation, he had practiced law for 25 years without a record of discipline and entered into a stipulation as to facts, culpability, and admission of documents. In addition, he was afforded slight mitigation credit for his remorse and wrongdoing; though he became “extremely emotional during trial while expressing his remorse and shame for his misconduct,” the State Bar Court judge noted that was tempered by his failure to make restitution to them.


John Keith Hoover
State Bar # 71259, Irvine (December 29, 2016)

Hoover, 65, was summarily disbarred after the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar submitted evidence of finality of his convictions of wire fraud (18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and 1343) and conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud (18 U.S.C. §§ 152(1), (2), (3), (4), and (7)). Both offenses are felonies involving moral turpitude.


Delbert Joe Modlin
State Bar # 131265, Folsom (December 29, 2016)

Modlin, 65, was summarily disbarred after pleading guilty to committing conspiracy to commit forgery—a felony involving moral turpitude (Cal. Pen. Code §§ 182(a)(1) and 470). After receiving evidence that the conviction had become final, his early interim suspension status was changed to disbarment.


James Junkul Pak
State Bar # 178278, Fullerton (December 29, 2016)

Pak, 54, was summarily disbarred after pleading guilty to committing grand theft as an employee (Cal. Pen. Code §487(b)(3)), with an enhancement for an aggravated white collar crime over $500,000 (Cal. Pen. Code §§ 186.11(a)(1) and (2)). The Office of the Chief Counsel of the State Bar submitted evidence that the conviction for the felony involving moral turpitude had become final.


Charles Max Pollock
State Bar # 193818, Las Vegas, Nevada (December 29, 2016)

Pollock, 45, was summarily disbarred after the State Bar received evidence that his conviction of travel with intent to engage and attempt to engage in illicit sexual conduct (18 U.S.C. §§ 2423(b) and (e)). The offense is a felony involving moral turpitude.


Kristin Marie Schuh
State Bar # 241554, Los Angeles (December 29, 2016)

Schuh, 42, was disbarred by default after she failed to appear, either in person or through counsel, at her disciplinary proceeding. The State Bar determined that procedural notice requirements had been satisfied. She had been charged with five counts of professional misconduct and was found culpable of failing to promptly notify a client she had received funds on his behalf and failing to cooperate in a State Bar disciplinary investigation.

The other three counts charged were dismissed with prejudice for want of proof.


Amy Lynn Spencer
State Bar # 248069, Anaheim (December 29, 2016)

Spencer, 41, was disbarred by default after she failed to participate in the State Bar’s disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. She was found culpable of five if the seven counts of professional misconduct with which she was charged. The wrongdoing, which occurred in two client matters, included: failing to refund unearned advanced fees; and two counts each of failing to respond to reasonable case status inquiries by ignoring nine emails and more than 30 telephone calls as well as failing to participate in disciplinary investigations by not responding to seven letters from the State Bar.

The State Bar Court judge dismissed two of the counts filed against Spencer for insufficient factual allegations. In dismissing a count of failing to perform any legal services on a client’s behalf, the judge noted the “single charge of less than 50 words” and that the evidence failed to show she acted “in reckless disregard of a client’s cause” rather than merely negligently.

When the present disciplinary order was imposed, there were two additional disciplinary investigations pending against Spencer.


Betsy Anne Stansell
State Bar # 201543, Long Beach (December 4, 2016)

Stansell, 53, was disbarred by default after she failed to appear at the trial in which she was charged with failing to cooperate in a disciplinary proceeding by not responding to two investigative letters the State Bar had sent to her. It determined she had received adequate legal notice of the proceeding. She did not seek to have the default order set aside or vacated.


David Marsh Tamman
State Bar # 175916, West Hollywood (December 29, 2016)

Tamman, 49, was summarily disbarred after being convicted of several counts, including: conspiracy to obstruct justice (18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and 1512(k)), aiding and abetting the destruction or falsification of records (18 U.S.C. §§ 2 and 1519), being an accessory after the fact to mail fraud (18 U.S.C. §1341), using interstate commerce for unregistered securities (15 U.S.C. §77e), securities fraud (15 U.S.C. § 77x), and obstructing justice by aiding and abetting witness tampering (18 U.S.C. §§ 2(a) and 1512(c)(2)). All offenses are felonies, and two of them—conspiracy to obstruct justice and aiding and abetting the obstruction of justice—involve moral turpitude.

After Tamman appealed, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judgments, rendering them final and justifying the disbarment order.



Suspension

Michael Amnon Baruch
State Bar # 150313, West Hollywood (December 19, 2016)

Baruch, 51, was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination as required in the terms of a previous disciplinary order.


Charles Leroy Dupree, IV
State Bar # 156840, Sonoma (December 5, 2016)

Dupree, 51, was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination—one of the conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.


Richard Eugene Harrold
State Bar # 255163, Bakersfield (December 4, 2016)

Harrold, 41, was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to making appearances at 21 hearings on behalf of the People of California while on “Not Entitled Status”—and to making those appearances knowing, or being grossly negligent in not knowing that he was not an active member of the State Bar, which is misconduct involving moral turpitude. He had been placed on Not Entitled Status after failing to respond to the random State Bar audit regarding his compliance with Minimum Continuing Legal Education requirements.

In aggravation, Harrold committed multiple acts of misconduct by making the 21 separate appearances. In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation before disciplinary charges were filed against him, displayed candor and cooperation with the investigation of the charges, demonstrated remorse and recognition of wrongdoing, and also submitted evidence of pro bono and community service work.


Lynn Hubbard, III
State Bar # 69773, Chico (December 29, 2016)

Hubbard, 76, was suspended from the practice of law for one year and placed on probation for three years following an appeal of the hearing judge’s recommendation of that discipline. He had been found culpable of several acts of professional misconduct in three client matters. The cases were consolidated for trial.

The wrongdoing included failing to timely report $1,100 in court-ordered sanctions to the State Bar and making misrepresentations to a court—misconduct involving moral turpitude.

Hubbard’s legal practice included representing plaintiffs with Americans With Disabilities claims against various businesses. In one matter, he represented his mother, who was gravely ill, in an action against a shopping center and a number of its tenants. He secured settlements from all but two of the defendants before his mother died. He subsequently faxed settlement agreements to the two remaining defendants that purportedly bore her signature without disclosing that she had died. One of the defendants was eventually dismissed from the case; the other requested an Order to Show Cause hearing about the possible falsification of the signature on the settlement. The hearing magistrate found that Hubbard’s conduct in “not informing” defense counsel that the signatures were not the client’s in addition to concealing the fact of her death constituted reckless and bad faith behavior—and imposed sanctions.

A district court judge in a bench trial then found Hubbard’s actions to be professional misconduct, and suspended him from practice in the Southern District for one year. Based on this finding, the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar requested an expedited disciplinary proceeding. The State Bar Court panel agreed that the failure to inform counsel was “deceptive and punishable conduct” and rejected Hubbard’s arguments on appeal as “an impermissible attempt to relitigate the conclusive findings of the district court.”

In the second matter, Hubbard represented a plaintiff with a disability, suing a fast food restaurant for disability barriers there. As evidence in the case, Hubbard submitted a sales receipt and photos taken of the restaurant on a specific date—and the client testified at a deposition that he had obtained the receipt and had taken the photos. After opposing counsel maintained that the restaurant’s security video showed Hubbard and a female companion at the restaurant rather than the client, Hubbard withdrew his motion for summary judgment in the case and submitted an errata sheet, without further explanation, changing 121 of the client’s deposition answers. The hearing judge and panel on appeal rejected Hubbard’s argument that he had committed an “honest mistake” and found his numerous misrepresentations on the summary judgment motion constituted moral turpitude.

In aggravation, Hubbard committed multiple acts of misconduct, caused significant harm to opposing parties and to his own client and showed indifference toward rectifying his misconduct. In mitigation, he was given limited credit for stipulating to some matters and moderate weight for the individuals who testified to their positive opinions of him—as their endorsements were neither fully informed nor unqualified. The panel also cited the fact that Hubbard had acted dishonestly in two unrelated matters, and allotted only minimal mitigation weight to his 32 year of practicing law discipline-free.


David Dale Lamb
State Bar # 199296, San Diego (December 12, 2016)

Lamb, 44, was suspended in the interim, following his conviction of attempted receipt of images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct (18 U.S.C. 2252(a)(2)). The offense is a felony, but the State Bar’s Review Department invited the parties to file briefs addressing whether the statutory violation involves moral turpitude per se.


Juliet Monique Oberding
State Bar # 144776, Sausalito (December 27, 2016)

Oberding, 54, was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated in an earlier State Bar disciplinary order.


Cynthia Dawn Ralls
State Bar # 186894, Garden Grove (December 19, 2016)

Ralls, 45, 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.


Robert Daniel Rodriguez
State Bar # 242396, Modesto (December 12, 2016)

Rodriguez, 56, was suspended from practicing law pending his passage of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated by the California Supreme Court in an earlier disciplinary order.


Victor Saldana
State Bar # 256119, Diamond Bar (December 29, 2016)

Saldana, 47, was suspended from practicing law for one year after a probation revocation hearing instituted by the Office of Probation of the State Bar. He was found culpable of violating several conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order, including: failing to file two quarterly written reports, failing to timely schedule an initial meeting with his probation officer, failing to comply with specified fee arbitration conditions, and failing to pay $5,000 to a client in restitution as ordered.

As a result, the State Bar Court judge revoked his probation and imposed the full amount of one year of actual suspension specified in the previously stayed order.

In aggravation, Saldana had a prior record of discipline, committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, demonstrated indifference toward rectifying his misconduct by his continuing failure to comply with the probation conditions imposed, and showed a lack of cooperation by failing to participate in the present State Bar proceeding.


Dolores Victor
State Bar # 221720, Vallejo (December 4, 2016)

Victor, 58, was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days and placed on probation for two years after she stipulated to committing multiple acts of professional misconduct. The wrongdoing included: collecting an illegal advance fee from a client when she was not entitled to practice law; commingling her personal funds with the money in her client trust account; misappropriating nearly $5,000 of advanced costs paid by a client—misconduct involving moral turpitude; and two counts each of practicing law when she was not an active member of the State Bar and practicing law when she knew she was not entitled to do so—which also involved moral turpitude.

In addition, Victor falsely reported to the State Bar that she had completed the requisite 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education during a particular compliance period—additional misconduct involving moral turpitude.

In aggravation, Victor committed multiple acts of misconduct. In mitigation, she entered into a full pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for approximately 11 years without a record of discipline, demonstrated a recognition of her wrongdoing by admitting to all the misconduct alleged as well as paying the client restitution owed, and submitted 12 character reference letters from individuals within the legal and general communities who were familiar with her misconduct. In addition, Victor suffered serious health conditions—a heart attack and breast cancer—that required multiple surgeries and treatments during the time of the incidents for which she was disciplined.



Probation

Richard Alan Dongell
State Bar # 128083, Lakewood (December 4, 2016)

Dongell, 55, was placed on probation for two years following the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar’s request for a review of the hearing judge’s disciplinary recommendation. Dongell requested that the decision be affirmed.

In the underlying matter, Dongell had sideswiped another vehicle while he was driving with a blood alcohol content of nearly three times the legal limit; his two minor children were passengers in the car.
He subsequently pled nolo contendere to two misdemeanors: driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or more (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(b)) and child endangerment (Cal. Pen. Code §273a(b)). As a probation condition, Dongell enrolled in a nine-month alcohol, drug, and psychological treatment program; he also voluntarily enrolled in and completed a 17-day residential rehabilitation treatment program.

On review, the State Bar’s trial counsel argued that the criminal misconduct involved moral turpitude and warranted a disciplinary sanction of 30 days of actual suspension.

In affirming the recommendation of probation, the State Bar Court panel noted that while Dongell had a prior incident involving misconduct while intoxicated, it had occurred nearly 20 years earlier. It also underscored his compliance with probation conditions and participation in treatment programs. The panel also found the present misconduct did not involve moral turpitude, as evidence that he concealed the amount of his alcohol consumption was inconclusive. It also cited case law reasoning that “an isolated act of parental neglect” does not involve moral turpitude and is “entirely unrelated to the practice of law” (In the Matter of Jensen, 5 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 283 (2013)).

Finally, the panel disagreed with the hearing judge’s finding of aggravation for causing harm to his children and the public. It agreed with the factors found in mitigation: no record of discipline in nearly 29 years of practicing law; an extensive stipulation of facts and admission of documents; eight letters from individuals attesting to his good character, and extreme emotional difficulties during the period of misconduct due to his marital separation and his mother’s deteriorating health.


Thomas Martin
State Bar # 102208, Kamuela, Hawaii (December 4, 2016)

Martin, 63, was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to failing to promptly remove funds earned as fees from his client trust account, and instead using the account to pay his personal and business expenses.

In mitigation, Martin had practiced law discipline-free for approximately 33 years and entered into a pretrial stipulation, acknowledging his misconduct.


Jennifer Y. Sun
State Bar # 220643, Diamond Bar (December 4, 2016)

Sun, 47, was placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to reporting to the State Bar she had completed the requisite 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education when in fact she had not completed any hours—misconduct involving moral turpitude.

In mitigation, Sun had entered into the stipulation before disciplinary charges were filed against her. She also provided evidence from seven character witnesses selected from a wide range of the legal and general communities, demonstrated remorse for her wrongdoing, and provided evidence of extensive pro bono and community service.


John E. Sweeney, Jr.
State Bar # 37042, Simi Valley (December 4, 2016)

Sweeney, 80, was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing two acts of professional misconduct in a single client matter: failing to promptly release a client’s papers and property following a request to do so and failing to render an appropriate accounting to the client.

Sweeney was hired to represent a client in a legal malpractice action. Neither he nor the client signed the retainer agreement, though she paid him a total of $15,000 in advanced fees. Despite the client’s request, Sweeney did not provide an accounting until the State Bar began its investigation—and delayed returning her files. There is an ongoing fee dispute between the lawyer and client.

In aggravation, Sweeney committed multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation prior to trial, had no prior record of discipline in approximately 42 years of practice, and provided evidence of his good character in the form of 12 letters from individuals representing a wide range in the general and legal communities.



Public Reproval

Aaina Agarwal
State Bar # 280694, Santa Monica (December 1, 2016)

Agarwal, 30, was publicly reproved after she stipulated to pleading nolo contendere to one count of reckless driving involving alcohol or drugs (Cal. Veh. Code §23103). Approximately five months earlier, she had caused a collision involving several vehicles, after which she also pled nolo contendere to the charge of reckless driving while under the influence. On both occasions, she was driving without a valid license.

In aggravation, Agarwal committed multiple acts of misconduct. In mitigation, she entered into a full pretrial stipulation and submitted 11 letters written by members from the general and legal communities; all of them had knowledge of her misconduct, and attested to her good character.


Lennie Ann Alzate
State Bar # 275341, San Diego (December 28, 2016)

Alzate, 34, was publicly reproved after she stipulated to appearing on a client’s behalf without permission to do so.

Alzate ran a firm that was taken over by another lawyer who was licensed to practice in California. The month after the business changed hands, the new owner, who did not yet have electronic court filing (ECF) privileges in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, asked to use Alzate’s ECF credentials and to list her as attorney of record for a new bankruptcy client, promising to substitute into the case “as soon as possible.” Alzate agreed to the arrangement. The bankruptcy court ultimately dismissed the case due to several deficiencies in the petition that were never corrected. Alzate was not substituted out as counsel before the case was dismissed.

In aggravation, Alzate had a prior record of discipline.

In mitigation, she entered into a prefiling stipulation, saving the State Bar significant resources and time and also submitted references from seven individuals, all of whom had knowledge of the misconduct at issue, who attested to her good character.


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