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Discipline Report

Recent disbarments, suspensions and probations in California

March 2017

Disbarment

Suspension

Probation

Public Reproval

Disbarment

Edward Joseph Callow
State Bar # 228834, Seattle, Washington (January 6, 2017)

Callow, 40, was summarily disbarred after pleading guilty to committing several felonies in Washington: conspiracy to commit theft in the first degree (Wash. Rev. Code, §§9A.28.040 and 9A.56.030 subd. (1)(a)); two counts of theft in the first degree (Wash. Rev. Code, §9A.56.030 subd. (1)(a)); money laundering (Wash. Rev. Code, §9A.83.020 subd. (1)(b)); and obtaining a signature by deception or duress (Wash. Rev. Code, §9A.60.030).

The Office of the Chief Trial Counsel received evidence that conviction of the offenses, all felonies involving moral turpitude, had become final.


Jamaul Dmitri Cannon
State Bar # 229047, Pasadena (January 19, 2017)

Cannon, 40, was disbarred from the practice of law after a consolidated disciplinary proceeding. Charged with 17 counts of professional misconduct in four separate matters, he stipulated to four of the counts, but disputed the rest.

In the matter that the State Bar Court judge weighted most heavily in the disbarment recommendation, Cannon devised a scheme to obtain money by obtaining “settlement advances” from several companies offering cash advances to attorneys scheduled to receive contingency fees resulting from personal injury settlements. However, he provided the companies with false and fraudulent settlement agreements, including a forged signature of a defense attorney in the underlying personal injury case; one company advanced him $15,000 based on a bogus application; he deposited the funds in a client trust account and used them for personal expenses.

When State Bar investigators eventually questioned the forgery and falsified documents, Cannon offered a convoluted and false story that he had been the victim of an identity theft—providing bank records he had altered to support his claims of innocence. He also contended that a former law partner was the one responsible for submitting the falsified records—a total fabrication.

He was found culpable of making false representations and submitting falsified documents to a lender and to the State Bar and providing falsified bank records and a bank statement to the State Bar—all acts involving moral turpitude, in addition to commingling by using client trust account funds to pay non-client expenses.

While most of the counts of misconduct in three remaining client matters were dismissed with prejudice, Cannon was also found culpable of one count each of failing to refund unearned fees, failing to render accounts of client funds, and misrepresenting to the State Bar that he had refunded money to a client when in fact he had not—an act involving moral turpitude.

In aggravation, Cannon committed multiple acts of misconduct, demonstrated a lack of candor in both his responses to the State Bar investigators and in court testimony, significantly harmed the public, engaged in clearly intentional misconduct, committed intentional acts of moral turpitude, failed to make restitution, and demonstrated a lack of insight regarding his misconduct.

In mitigation, he had practiced law for nearly 10 years without being disciplined, though that factor was given only slight weight, given the repeated and serious misconduct involved. He was also afforded slight mitigation credit for stipulations he entered related to four of the cases at issue.


Mary Derparseghian
State Bar # 224541, Pasadena (January 19, 2017)

Derparseghian, 41, was disbarred after both she and the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar appealed a hearing judge’s ruling recommending discipline, including two years of actual suspension. Derparseghian had stipulated to five counts of misconduct in two client matters, which included: failing to perform legal services with competence; failing to deposit, maintain, and properly account for client funds in a trust account; and commingling funds by failing to promptly remove funds from the trust as she earned them.

The issues on appeal were the proper level of discipline to be imposed, as well as whether the misappropriation involved was intentional. The State Bar’s trial counsel argued it was intentional—warranting disbarment; the hearing judge fund it was due to gross negligence—supporting a two-year suspension; and Derparseghian claimed it was due to simple negligent accounting—requiring actual suspension of no more than three months.

The following facts are relevant to the misappropriation claim: Derparseghian represented two residents in a dispute with their homeowners association over a leaky roof. They advanced $5,000 in costs and agreed to pay a contingency fee of 40% of the gross recovery. Derparseghian acknowledged she did not deposit the initial client check but did deposit three settlement checks totaling $111,500 over a two-year period. During that time, she withdrew a total of $87,600 by writing checks to herself—causing the client trust account to dip below the requisite balance. After one of the clients complained to the State Bar about Derparseghian’s failures to communicate and provide a status report on the settlement, she evidentially stipulated to failing to properly manage the client trust account.

On appeal, the State Bar Court panel disagreed with the hearing judge that the misappropriation and personal use of the client funds was grossly negligent. It found instead that Derparseghian’s “deliberate failure to establish and oversee her CTA is so wholly improper, it is suspect.” It also underscored the large withdrawals that jeopardized the client trust to which she stipulated, noting she offered no explanation of their purpose. And it found her claim that she did not check the trust balance for more than a year “implausible,” given that State Bar investigators contacted her several times about the issue. It held the only reasonable inference was that she intentionally took the client funds for her own purposes, without regard to the client trust account balance.

In aggravation, Derparseghian committed multiple acts of misconduct and caused harm to her clients; the panel allotted significant weight to the client harm, underscoring that one client was forced to file for bankruptcy after she failed to prepare for trial.

In mitigation, she entered into a partial stipulation as to facts and culpability, offered evidence of significant pro bono work and community service, and was allotted slight weight for practicing law discipline-free for seven years.

The panel on appeal awarded less mitigation credit than the hearing judge. It disagreed with crediting her for acknowledging and regretting the misconduct, citing her own testimony that she neither educated herself about proper client trust management nor implemented an appropriate accounting system after being investigated by the State Bar for transgressions. It also rejected the credit given for the three unsworn character letters, finding they neither represented a broad spectrum of the community nor demonstrated any knowledge of the misconduct charges against her.


Bruce Charles Fehr
State Bar # 122297, Flintstone, Georgia (January 6, 2017)

Fehr, 56, was summarily disbarred after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography (18 U.S.C. §2252A(a)(5)(B))—a felony involving moral turpitude. The Office of the Chief Trial Counsel submitted evidence that the conviction had become final.


Jay A. Ghoreichi
State Bar # 177274, Los Angeles (January 6, 2017)

Ghoreichi, 50, was disbarred by default after he failed to participate in his disciplinary proceeding, despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He did not seek to have the default judgment set aside or vacated.

He was found culpable of four of the five counts of professional misconduct with which he was charged in a single client matter. The wrongdoing included: failing to maintain client funds in a trust account; misappropriating nearly $16,200 earmarked to cover his client’s medical liens—an act involving moral turpitude; failing to inform his client of significant case developments; and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the misconduct he was alleged to have committed.

Ghoreichi had one prior record of discipline.


Richter Wong Kong
State Bar # 96937, Oakland (January 19, 2017)

Kong, 64, was disbarred by default after he failed to appear, either in person or through counsel, at his disciplinary hearing, despite receiving adequate legal notice. He did not seek to have the default entered in the case set aside or vacated.

He was found culpable of 11 counts of professional misconduct in three client matters. The wrongdoing included: failing to provide an accounting of client funds after being requested to do so; two counts each of failing to return unearned advanced fees and failing to perform legal services with competence; and three counts of both failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries and failing to cooperate in State Bar disciplinary investigations.

Kong had been disciplined by the State Bar once before.


Jerry A. LaCues
State Bar # 77088, Chino Hills (January 19, 2017)

LaCues, 66, was disbarred by default after a disciplinary hearing in which he was charged with 10 counts of professional misconduct in two client matters. He did not participate in the proceeding, despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so—and did not move to have the default order set aside or vacated.

As the factual allegation in the disciplinary charge were then deemed admitted, he was found culpable as charged. The counts of misconduct included: appearing for a party without being authorized to do so, seeking to mislead a judge, and failing to report judicial sanctions imposed against him; as well as two counts each of failing to obey court orders and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigations of his alleged wrongdoing. He was also found culpable of several count involving moral turpitude: falsely representing he was authorized to appear on behalf of a client, simulating a client’s signature on a settlement agreement without the authority to do so, and misrepresenting that a client had agreed to the terms of a settlement.

LaCues had four prior records of discipline.


Mary Alice Nolan
State Bar # 108907, Antioch (January 6, 2017)

Nolan, 64, was disbarred by default after failing to appear at the trial of her disciplinary case. She had earlier been convicted of one felony count of intercepting a communication (18 U.S.C. §2511(1)(a)) and four felony counts of tax evasion (26 U.S.C. §7201).

Upon finality of her conviction, the review department referred the matter to the hearing department to determine whether the violations involved moral turpitude. The State Bar Court judge found moral turpitude was involved under the circumstances.

Nolan had filed false and fraudulent tax returns for four years; the IRS had ordered her to pay $468,918 in restitution. In addition, in a separate offense, she procured another person to intercept a communication, which she and her staff accessed through a listening device on multiple occasions, intending to eavesdrop.


Ruth Ann Reid
State Bar # 116119, Laguna Niguel (January 6, 2017)

Reid, 57, was disbarred by default after she failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, in her disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate legal notice of it. She was found culpable of falsely reporting to the State Bar that she had completed the requisite 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education during a specific compliance period—misconduct involving moral turpitude.


Michael Vance Wright
State Bar # 162159, Huntington Beach (January 6, 2017)

Wright, 57, was disbarred after he stipulated to committing two acts of professional misconduct in a single client matter: failing to render an accounting of escrow funds after being requested to do so and disbursing the funds in violation of the escrow agreement, thereby breaching his fiduciary duty and effectively misappropriating the funds—an act involving moral turpitude.

Wright represented a client who had entered into an escrow agreement, and he agreed to act as escrow agent for funds involving a lease and monetization of a $5 million bank stand by line of credit. He received a sum of $100,000 from his client’s brother on her behalf and placed the money into his client trust account. The escrow agreement provided Wright should transfer the funds, minus his fees, only after six specific events occurred. However, he transferred $96,500 of the funds before any of the events occurred, in contravention of the escrow agreement and without his client’s knowledge or approval. He retained $3,500 as his fee. The line of credit was never obtained, and Wright never rendered the requested accounting of the funds he held as fiduciary.

In aggravation, Wright committed multiple acts of misconduct, significantly harmed both his client and the integrity of the legal profession, exploited the trust of his client—who was not a sophisticated businessperson, and failed to make restitution.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for nearly 20 years without a record of discipline, and provided evidence of extensive pro bono work, as well as letters from five individuals who attested to his good character.



Suspension

Sousan Alemansour
State Bar # 180216, Irvine (January 19, 2017)

Alemansour, 56, was suspended from the practice of law for one year and placed on probation for two years after a consolidated disciplinary proceeding. In the first case, a client matter, she was found culpable of professional misconduct including: failing to render an account of client funds, failing to release a client file, and failing to return unearned advanced fees.

In that case, Alemansour was retained to represent a client in an ongoing dissolution matter. The client paid an advance fee of $5,000. The client terminated her employment after two months, substituting himself in pro per. The two subsequently became involved in a dispute over the amount of the advanced fee remaining, during which Alemansour neither provided an accounting of the work she was alleged to have performed, nor returned any portion of the advanced fees.

The second matter arose from Alemansour’s criminal convictions of child abduction (Cal. Pen. Code §278.5(a)), assault (Cal. Pen. Code §240), battery (Cal. Pen. Code §242), and violating a protective order (Cal. Pen. Code §166(c)(1)).

Alemansour was involved in a contentious custody dispute with her former husband over their 12-year-old son. The father was granted both legal and physical custody of the boy. She was allowed custodial visits with the proviso that they must be supervised by a monitor authorized by the court and was prohibited from taking him out of California without prior authorization.

At the start of a scheduled visit, Alemansour engaged in a physical altercation with the court-ordered monitor, then drove off with her son in the car to the airport, where they boarded a plane for Chicago. She was apprehended after landing there and sentenced to serve a jail term; she entered a nolo contendere plea to all four criminal counts charged.

Alemansour argued that the court had no jurisdiction to determine whether she should be disciplined for the criminal offenses. Citing a number of cases, however, the State Bar Court judge found the contention without merit.

In aggravation, Alemansour committed multiple acts of misconduct and caused significant harm to both the monitor and to her son’s father, who was forced to pay to return the son from Chicago to California. In addition, she demonstrated a lack of candor to the court during the proceeding, as well as lack of insight and remorse regarding her misconduct.

In mitigation, she had practiced law for approximately 19 years without a record of discipline.


Oren Mark Atias
State Bar # 263534, Newport Beach (January 19, 2017)

Atias, 36, was suspended from the practice of law for 18 months and placed on probation for three years after successfully completing the State Bar Court’s Alternative Discipline Program (ADP).

His underlying misconduct consisted of multiple felony and misdemeanor convictions involving drugs, alcohol, and vehicle violations. Over the course of two years, Atias pled guilty to four counts of driving under the influence (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(a)); possession of a controlled substance for sale (Cal. Health & Safety Code §11375); possession of controlled substances (Cal. Health & Safety Code §§11350, 11377, and 11366.8(a)); a hit and run with property damage (Cal. Veh. Code §20002(a); making a false report of a crime—misconduct involving moral turpitude (Cal. Pen. Code §148.5); possessing drug paraphernalia (Cal. Health & Safety Code §11364(a)); and driving with a suspended license (Cal. Veh. Code §14601.2(a)).

In aggravation, Atias committed multiple acts of misconduct. In mitigation, he successfully completed the ADP.


James Andre Boles
State Bar # 141639, Oak View (January 3, 2017)

Boles, 71, was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination as required in the terms of a previous disciplinary order.


Elisa Ann Castro
State Bar # 171814, Riverside (January 30, 2017)

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


Martin Ian Cutler
State Bar # 139536, Beverly Hills (January 30, 2017)

Cutler, 57, was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination—one of the conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.


Erikson McDonnell Davis
State Bar # 197841, Los Angeles (January 6, 2017)

Davis, 63, was suspended from the practice of law for two years and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to committing numerous acts of professional discipline related to 11 client matters. The wrongdoing included: failing to perform legal services with competence; collecting fees, including those earmarked for litigation, before fully performing promised loan modification services; and breaching his fiduciary duty in a number of ways, including failing to supervise non-attorney staff—misconduct that involved moral turpitude.

Davis took over ownership of a real estate firm from another attorney, operating by obtaining clients through mass marketing appeals, using non-attorney staff to meet with prospective clients, attempting to assist in loan modifications by challenging the practices of lenders and providers, and using individual and mass joinder lawsuits in pursuing the loan modification matters.

All clients sought help with home loan modifications, most signing fee agreements requiring them to pay advanced fees as well as monthly “maintenance” fees. Davis collected a total of $134,900 in pre-performance fees, though he did not secure a loan modification for any of the 11 clients who became complainants; he provided a partial repayment of $2,000 to only one of the clients.

In aggravation, Davis committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and caused significant harm to the financially strapped clients. In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation before disciplinary charges were filed against him and had practiced law for approximately 15 years without a prior record of discipline.


Sarah Hembrow
State Bar # 175303, Santa Rosa (January 19, 2017)

Hembrow, 64, was suspended from practicing law for one year and placed on probation for two years after she stipulated to committing 18 acts of professional misconduct in six separate client matters.

Her misconduct included failing to perform legal services with competence in all six cases. In addition, Hembrow was found culpable of two counts of failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries; four counts of failing to promptly refund advanced unearned fees; five counts of failing to returning clients’ papers and property after being requested to do so; and a single count of making false statements to a client about the status and progression of a case—an act involving moral turpitude.

All matters at issue echoed a roughly similar fact pattern. The clients involved had hired Hembrow to handle various family law matters ranging from divorce to adoption, as well as to defend a civil restraining order. All paid advanced fees and many tendered original documents relevant to their cases. In every case, Hembrow promised to pursue legal action for the clients but failed to do so, then often dodged their calls and neglected to return their papers or the fees they had advanced.

In aggravation, Hembrow engaged in multiple acts of misconduct and failed to make restitution to five of the clients. In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation and had no prior record of discipline in approximately 22 years of practicing law.


Esther M. Kim
State Bar # 271155, Hesperia (January 6, 2017)

Kim, 35, was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for two years after she stipulated to committing eight acts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter involving two people injured in a car accident.

The wrongdoing included: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to provide reasonable case status updates to clients, failing to keep the clients informed of a significant case development, willfully disobeying a court order, improperly terminating employment, failing to promptly release the clients’ file after being requested to do so, failing to participated in the State Bar’s disciplinary investigation, and failing to update her State Bar membership records within 30 days of closing her law office.

In aggravation, Kim committed multiple acts of misconduct. In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation, saving the State Bar times and resources.


Christie Soo-Kyung Lee
State Bar # 224944, Modesto (January 30, 2017)

Lee, 59, 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.


Louise A. Lewis
State Bar # 102792, Alhambra (January 19, 2017)

Lewis, 74, was suspended from practicing law for 18 months and placed on probation for three years after she stipulated to committing three acts of professional misconduct. Specifically, she engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by holding herself out as entitled to practice while her law license was suspended and actually practicing law during that time—an act involving moral turpitude. She also failed to comply with conditions of probation imposed in an earlier disciplinary order by failing to schedule a meeting with the Office of Probation within 30 days of the discipline order and by failing to submit three quarterly written reports to the State Bar.

In aggravation, Lewis had been disciplined twice before. In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation, provided evidence of 13 individuals attesting to her good character and 10 individuals willing to verify that she performed substantial pro bono work.


Shon Michael Northam
State Bar # 202912, Redding (January 30, 2017)

Northam, 47, was suspended from practicing law pending passage of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated in a disciplinary order previously imposed by the California Supreme Court. He had earlier filed application for an extension of time, which was opposed by the Office of Probation of the State Bar. His motion was denied without prejudice to filing an amended motion demonstrating good cause.


Kenneth Edward Ostrove
State Bar # 111222, Valley Village (January 19, 2017)

Ostrove, 59, was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for two years after being found culpable of a single act of misconduct: improperly withdrawing from employment without taking reasonable steps to avoid reasonably foreseeable prejudice to a client.

An elderly widower contacted Ostrove for help in obtaining his deceased wife’s pension benefits. While
Ostrove assured him he would “look into the matter,” the two never executed a fee agreement. They spoke briefly three times over the next six months and while Ostrove continued to assure the man he was “looking into” the matter, he offered no substantive legal advice. Over the next year and a half, the man called monthly asking for a case update, but Ostrove did not reply—nor did he respond to a subsequent letter another attorney helped to draft seeking a return of his file and original documents that had been tendered, then instigating a State Bar investigation.

At trial, Ostrove argued he was not culpable of any misconduct because the man was not his client; however, the State Bar Court judge found that, despite the absence of a fee agreement and the promise to “merely investigate” the potential benefits claim, an attorney/client relationship existed. The judge underscored that Ostrove’s failure to work on the matter after retaining original documents, failing to communicate for 18 months, and failing to return the file for nearly a year provided clear and convincing evidence of abandoning a client (State Bar Rules of Prof. Cond., Rule 3-700(A)(2)).

In aggravation, Ostrove committed multiple acts of misconduct and had two prior records of discipline. He was allotted moderate mitigation credit, both for dealing with a divorce and related property rights issues during the misconduct and for evidence of participating in some community service endeavors.


Ray Shannon Pool
State Bar # 226188, Fresno (January 30, 2017)

Pool, 47, was suspended in the interim following his conviction of possessing material involving the sexual exploitation of minors (18 U.S.C. §2252(a)(4)(B)). The offense is a felony involving moral turpitude.


David Ellis Reese
State Bar # 132733, Santa Barbara (January 3, 2017)

Reese, 57, 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.


Douglas Robert Shoemaker
State Bar # 230379, Woodland Hills (January 6, 2017)

Shoemaker, 42, was suspended from the practice of law for 60 days and 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 when in fact he had not completed any hours—misconduct involving moral turpitude. In addition, he failed to cooperate with the disciplinary proceeding pending against him.

In aggravation, Shoemaker committed multiple acts of misconduct. In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and had practiced law for 10 years without a record of discipline.


Jennifer Susan Smith
State Bar # 75056, Halelwa, Hawaii (January 6, 2017)

Smith, 67, was suspended for 30 days and placed on probation for one year. She had stipulated to falsely reporting 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 none of the 25 hours of mandated study.

In mitigation, Smith entered into the stipulation of facts, conclusions of law, and disposition before trial was commenced and had practiced law 29 years discipline-free.


Kevin Renard Taylor
State Bar # 218711, Beverly Hills (January 6, 2017)

Taylor, 43, was suspended from practicing law for one year and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to failing to comply with conditions attached to a disciplinary probation imposed earlier. Specifically, he failed to comply with three arbitration conditions, failed to timely attend the State bar Ethics School, and failed to submit a final written report to the Office of Probation.

In aggravation, Taylor committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and had been disciplined by the State Bar twice before. In mitigation, he filed a stipulation pretrial, acknowledging his misconduct.



Probation

Byron Talbot Ball
State Bar # 150195, Los Angeles (January 6, 2017)

Ball, 52, was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to several acts of professional misconduct in a single client matter. The wrongdoing included: filing a lawsuit without the client’s consent, violating three separate court orders, failing to pay court-ordered sanctions, and also failing to report the sanctions imposed to the State Bar.

After reading a newspaper article reporting a privacy breach by a large medical provider, Ball contacted one of the patients quoted in it to discuss whether she wanted to pursue a claim. He subsequently filed a class action lawsuit against the medical provider, naming the woman as the lead plaintiff; he had not obtained her consent to file the lawsuit.

The court had ordered that Ball to serve an Initial Status Conference Order on all counsel and parties within five days; he neither served the order nor appeared at the conference. In addition, he failed to submit a proper declaration and proposed order of dismissal of the case as ordered by the court. He also failed to appear at an Order to Show Cause hearing; however, the alleged client appeared there and explained the circumstances of the frivolous filing. The court ordered Ball to pay her sanctions of $367 to reimburse her for the out-of-pocket expenses she incurred, as well as $1,500 in sanctions to the court. He failed to report the sanctions to the State Bar as required, and paid the woman only after prompted to do so by the State Bar.

In aggravation, Ball committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and caused significant harm to the administration of justice. In mitigation, he filed a full stipulation before disciplinary charges were filed against him. He also submitted letters from 16 individuals from a wide range of the legal and general communities attesting to his good character, had practiced law for more than 25 years without a record of discipline, and submitted evidence of providing extensive community and civic service.


Tara Jean Collins
State Bar # 232561, Beaumont (January 6, 2017)

Collins, 41, was placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to reporting to the State Bar that she had completed the requisite 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education when in fact she had completed only four hours of eligible study—misconduct involving moral turpitude.

In mitigation, Collins entered into a pretrial stipulation, provided letters from nine individuals who knew of her misconduct but attested to her good character, and had practiced law for approximately 10 years without a record of discipline.


Michael William Newcomb
State Bar # 188321, Temecula (January 6, 2017)

Newcomb, 46, was placed on one year of probation after he stipulated to four acts of professional misconduct in two client matters: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to render an appropriate accounting of advanced fees to a client, failing to keep a client informed of significant case developments, and failing to promptly release a client’s papers and property after terminating employment.

In the first matter, Newcomb was retained by a client to perform various legal services—including forming three Limited Liability Companies (LLCs), transferring property, and finalizing a living trust and advance healthcare directives. The client paid a total of $7,000; $1,800 was earmarked for forming one of the LLCs. After seven months without any action in any of these matters, the client complained to the State Bar.

After the State Bar intervened, Newcomb completed the trust documents and Articles of Incorporation for one of the LLCs, promising to file the articles with a few weeks. The State Bar closed the complaint, but issued a warning letter focused on Newcomb’s failure to respond to the client’s inquiries. In fact, he did not file the articles—and his disciplinary case was reopened.

In the second matter, Newcomb was hired to defend a couple in a civil matter, receiving a total of $30,000 in advanced fees. As that case proceeded, he failed to inform the clients that the court had denied a writ of mandate and informed them of the default judgment three months after it had been entered. He did not release the clients’ papers and property to their new lawyer for three months.

In aggravation, Newcomb committed multiple acts of misconduct and caused significant harm to the clients, who were forced to hire a new attorney. In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and had practiced law for 15 years without a discipline record.


Michael Stephen Steiner
State Bar # 262189, San Diego (January 6, 2017)

Steiner, 36, was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to pleading guilty to inflicting corporal injury on a cohabitant resulting in a traumatic condition (Cal. Penal Code §273.5(a)), domestic battery (Cal. Penal Code §243(e)(1)), and three counts of child endangerment (Cal. Penal Code §273(a)(b)).

Steiner got into a verbal altercation with his girlfriend at his home, where they resided along with their three minor children. While the woman was breastfeeding their infant, he pushed her against the wall, then left the house with the two older children. When he returned a few minutes later, the couple got into another argument; he again pushed the woman, and grabbed her by the arm and throat. He was arrested by police officers who were responding to a report of a domestic battery.

In aggravation, Steiner caused physical harm to another person. In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and was given nominal credit for practicing law for five years without being disciplined. He also provided eight references from individuals attesting to his good character, presented evidence of volunteer activities, and showed remorse and recognition of his misconduct by voluntarily enrolling in and completing both anger management and parent education classes.



Public Reproval

Raylynna Jean Peterson
State Bar # 187770, Portland, Oregon (January 4, 2017)

Peterson, 49, was publicly reproved after she stipulated to committing professional misconduct in another jurisdiction that qualified as failing to perform legal services with competence and failing to respond to client inquiries had it occurred in California.

Admitted to practice law in both Oregon and California, Peterson represented a client in Oregon who sought to legally adopt her two grandsons. The client paid an advanced fee of $3,000, but Peterson took no action on the case for approximately five months, virtually ignoring the client’s calls about the status of the case. The Oregon Department of Human Services ultimately approved the adoption; the sole remaining task was for Peterson to file the judgment of adoption with the court—which she failed to do for more than two months. The entire matter, which the client was informed would take no more than four months, took nearly a year to complete.

The Oregon State Disciplinary Board approved a disciplinary stipulation including an order of a 60-day stayed suspension and two years of probation.

The California State Bar Court judge determined that the Oregon disciplinary proceeding provided fundamental constitutional protection and recommended that Peterson be publicly reproved in this state.

In aggravation, Peterson harmed her client by causing her frustration and anxiety, as well as a loss of several months of increased benefits to which she would have been entitled had the adoption been finalized. In mitigation, she entered into a full pretrial stipulation and had no prior record of discipline in California.


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