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Discipline Report

Recent disbarments, suspensions and probations in California

May 2017

Disbarment

Suspension

Probation

Public Reproval

Disbarment

Frank Francis Barilla
State Bar # 103282, Santa Ana (March 1, 2017)

Barilla, 71, was disbarred by default after he failed to appear at the disciplinary hearing charging him with four ethical violations. The State Bar Court judge determined that procedural notice requirements were satisfied.

Barilla was found culpable of representing clients who had potential conflicts of interest—a driver and passenger in an auto accident, and of representing parties with adverse interests without their consent. He also failed to comply with several probation conditions, including failing to submit two quarterly written reports to the Office of Probation, failing to timely complete State Bar Ethics School, and failing to comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct, as well as filing a quarterly probation report that falsely stated he had complied with all applicable Rules of Conduct—misconduct involving moral turpitude.

Barilla had three prior records of discipline.


Patricia Joan Barry
State Bar # 59116, Los Angeles (March 18, 2017)

Barry was disbarred following her appeal of a hearing judge’s recommendation of six months of actual suspension after finding her culpable of four counts of misconduct in two matters. The wrongdoing included failing to comply with several terms of her disciplinary probation in one case and failing to obey court orders and report court-imposed sanctions to the State Bar in the other.

In contesting the discipline imposed for violating her probation conditions, Barry raised a “defense of necessity”—contending she “was late on reports and other requirements of probation like the invalid and unreliable MPRE because she put the safety of [her clients] ahead of meeting the Bar probation deadlines.” The State Bar Court panel rejected the argument as meritless, finding that Barry: cited no authority for the novel necessity defense, failed to prove the purported necessity precluded her compliance, and did not pursue the proper relief by filing a request for an extension of time to comply with the probation conditions imposed. It also noted that the hearing judge did not in fact find her culpable of failing to timely pass the MPRE,

The second matter involved Barry’s failure to pay and report sanctions imposed against her following another attorney’s motions to compel compliance with discovery. She argued on appeal that the State Bar Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the case because its jurisdiction is limited to misconduct related to client complaints. The panel also rejected this claim, underscoring it is expressly empowered to “conduct the preliminary investigation, hearing, and determination of complaints” in disciplinary matters subject to review.

Barry also argued the sanctions orders imposed were void because they were not reduced to a judgment—a contention also rejected by the panel, which found she had a duty to comply with the sanctions orders, seek to stay their enforcement, or seek appellate relief, which she failed to do.

In aggravation, Barry had two prior records of discipline and committed multiple acts of misconduct. The panel also emphasized that her lack of insight must be afforded significant aggravating weight, noting: “Barry takes little to no personal responsibility for her present misconduct, appears to view her probation violations as mere technicalities, and does not understand or appreciate the extent to which they evidence disrespect for the legal system as well as reflect negatively on her ability to practice law.”

She was afforded nominal mitigation weight for the testimony by two character witnesses, a client and her daughter—one of whom demonstrated a limited understanding of the discipline charges at issue in the present case.


Ronald Lee Bartholomew
State Bar # 47428, Newport Beach (March 12, 2017)

Bartholomew, 85, was disbarred after he stipulated to committing numerous acts of professional misconduct. In a single client case, he was culpable of: failing to hold client funds in a trust account, misappropriating client funds and twice making false statements about the status of the funds received—acts involving moral turpitude. In addition, he failed to comply with several conditions attached to an earlier public reproval, including: failing to submit evidence of attending the State Bar’s Ethics School and passing its test to the Office of Probation, as well as proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination.

In the client matter, Bartholomew agreed to hold escrow funds in trust for two individuals while they completed a business transaction with another party. After they transferred a total of $100,000 into Bartholomew’s client trust account, he made numerous withdrawals and disbursements from it; the total dipped to about $100. When the clients’ agent requested return of the escrow funds, he falsely replied that his client controlled them. When the State Bar subsequently requested information about the escrow funds, Bartholomew falsely stated that no such funds were deposited or wired into his client trust account.

In aggravation, Bartholomew had a prior record of discipline, committed multiple acts of misconduct in the present case, and failed to pay any restitution for the misappropriated funds.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation.


Daryl Lynn Binkley
State Bar # 254326, Palm Desert (March 31, 2017)

Binkley was disbarred by default after failing to appear, either in person or through counsel, at the proceeding charging him with 14 counts of professional misconduct. The State Bar determined he had received adequate legal notice.

He was found culpable of all counts charged, including: improperly terminating his employment, failing to promptly release a client file as requested, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, failing to inform a client of significant case developments, failing to return unearned advanced fees, failing to render an accounting to a client, and failing to reported judicial sanctions to the State Bar as required. He was also culpable of two counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence and failing to obey a court order to pay sanctions, and three counts of failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigations of the misconduct he was alleged to have committed.


Joseph Lynn DeClue
State Bar # 163954, Santa Ana (March 31, 2017)

DeClue was disbarred from practicing law in California. He was originally charged with 22 counts of professional misconduct: 18 stemming from five separate client matters involving home mortgage loans modifications, three counts of aiding in the unauthorized practice of law, and a single count of habitually disregarding his clients’ interests.

At trial, he was found culpable of eight of the counts charged—all stemming after he expanded his practice from criminal defense and immigration law to include residential foreclosure defense. DeClue opened a foreclosure defense office about 25 miles from his established office–hiring a business to operate it that was owned and operated by two non-attorneys. When he hired the two individuals, he knew that another attorney had previously been charged with professional misconduct after being in business with them. Reviewing DeClue’s business practices, the State Bar concluded he abdicated his responsibility as the supervising attorney, allowing and authorizing the non-attorney staffers to accept and contract with new clients, handle their matters, and collect fees from them on his behalf.

As a consequence, he was found culpable of five counts of charging and accepting illegal advanced fees for home loan modifications. He was also culpable of habitually disregarding his clients’ interests by abdicating his fiduciary duties to them and two counts of misrepresenting to courts that he had personally signed bankruptcy declarations when he had not—both acts of misconduct involving moral turpitude, as well as six counts of accepting illegal advanced fees.

In aggravation, DeClue had two prior records of discipline and committed multiple acts of misconduct in the present case.


B. Kwaku Duren
State Bar # 147789, Compton (March 12, 2017)

Duren, 73, was disbarred by default after failing to appear, either in person or through counsel, at 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 the three counts of misconduct with which he was charged—all related to a single client matter: failing to perform legal services with competence, sharing fees with a non-lawyer, and failing to obey a court order compelling discovery and ordering payment of sanctions.

Duren had one prior record of discipline.


Katayoun T. Fazli
State Bar # 289425, Irvine (March 31, 2017)

Fazli was disbarred by default after failing to appear at the disciplinary proceeding in which she was charged with committing six counts of professional misconduct in a single client matter. The State Bar used reasonable diligence to notify her of the proceeding.

She was found culpable of five of the counts charged: failing to return unearned legal fees upon terminating employment, failing to provide the client with an accounting of the fee received, failing to respond to a client’s reasonable status inquiries, failing to notify the State Bar of a changed address within 30 days of moving, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the misconduct alleged.


Robert Marshall French
State Bar # 98654, Sherman Oaks (March 31, 2017)

French was disbarred after failing to appear at his disciplinary proceeding despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He did not seek to have the default set aside or vacated.

He was found culpable of failing to comply with the California Supreme Court’s earlier disciplinary order requiring him to file a declaration of compliance (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20).

French had been disciplined on three prior occasions.


Stephen Edward Galindo
State Bar # 76481, South Pasadena (March 31, 2017)

Galindo was disbarred after being found culpable of six counts of professional misconduct—all of them related to his actions and inactions while on a disciplinary suspension imposed earlier. The previous order of 30 days of actual suspension included a condition requiring him to submit proof of paying two judicial sanctions orders, which he failed to pay.

In the present matter, he was found culpable of twice practicing law while not entitled to do so—once representing a suspect in a criminal investigation and once appearing at a court conference for an inmate held in a court’s lockup facility. He also misrepresented to law enforcement personnel that he was no longer suspended and that the State Bar website indicating so was erroneous—misconduct involving moral turpitude.

In addition, Galindo failed to comply with the court order requiring him to file a compliance statement with the State Bar (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20) and also failed to comply with several conditions attached to his disciplinary probation, misrepresenting to Bar investigators that he had done so in both instances—misconduct that also involved moral turpitude.

In aggravation, Galindo had been disciplined once before, committed multiple acts of misconduct in the present case, and demonstrated a lack of candor about his wrongdoing, as well as a lack of insight and indifference toward rectifying it. The State Bar Court judge also underscored additional uncharged violations of his probation conditions as additional aggravating factors.

He was allotted modest mitigation weight for performing pro bono services, as he offered only his own testimony to establish those efforts, and was given some mitigating credit for completing some of the terms of his probation—albeit doing so belatedly.


Mark Eugene Huber
State Bar # 179183, South Jordan, Utah (March 1, 2017)

Huber, 52, was disbarred after a hearing judge found him culpable of failing to obey multiple court orders and of failing to report judicial sanctions imposed against him to the State Bar as required. Huber contested the judge’s recommendation of disbarment, arguing it was “manifestly disproportionate to the cumulative misconduct” and that his misconduct was aberrational as caused by an addiction to prescription drugs from which he is now rehabilitated.

On review, the State Bar Court panel also recommended disbarment, finding that “Huber’s misconduct constitutes a pattern, and one that involved a common thread—abandonment of his professional duties to his clients and the courts.”

Huber was hired to represent a client in a personal injury/products liability lawsuit, but failed to appear at five separate status conferences in the case; the court imposed sanctions ranging from $250 to $1,000 for his failures to appear, but he paid none of them. Huber was then arrested and pled guilty to 24 counts of obtaining prescription drugs illegally and possessing inappropriate amounts of narcotics. The plea was subsequently withdrawn and the charges dismissed after Huber presented evidence of completing court-ordered drug counseling. In the disciplinary proceedings, the State Bar relied on the guilty plea as evidence his possession of the drugs was unauthorized.

In aggravation, Huber had been disciplined twice before and committed multiple acts of misconduct. The panel found additional aggravation in the pattern of serious similar misconduct that had occurred in 12 client matters over a seven-year period.

The panel agreed with the hearing judge that Huber’s extensive stipulations, which reduced the trial time to one day, warranted mitigation credit. However, it denied any mitigation credit based on emotional and physical difficulties caused by his admitted abuse of prescription drugs, underscoring that his drug possession was illegal, that he failed to establish a nexus between the addiction and misconduct, and that he sought treatment only after he was arrested and threatened with criminal prosecution.


Steven Gregory Kaplan
State Bar # 137381, Calabasas (March 1, 2017)

Kaplan, 55, was disbarred after being found culpable of professional misconduct in a single client case: failing to maintain client funds in trust and misappropriating the funds, which was an act involving moral turpitude. He admitted to failing to maintain the client funds in trust, but appealed the recommendation of disbarment below—arguing he did not intentionally misappropriate the money.

Kaplan was retained to represent three men who were selling a move script to a producer, entering into an agreement in which he was to be paid “for professional services in negotiating and drafting the terms of the purchase.” The parties subsequently agreed to a sales price of $90,000; the producer paid the proceeds to Kaplan in two installments, both of which he deposited in a bank account used for his movie production company. Kaplan’s share in the proceeds was determined to be just over $7,700.

He properly withheld his fee from both installments, but failed to pay one of the clients part of his share, amounting to just over $9,800. When that client inquired about payment, he was told the funds would not be available for a month—though Kaplan did not pay him until more than a year later, after multiple requests and after the State Bar had filed charges in the case. During that period, however, Kaplan made more than 100 withdrawals from the account for business and personal expenses.

On appeal, Kaplan argued that the misappropriation was “not intentional or dishonest” because he believed he was not acting in the capacity of an attorney—a claim both the State Bar Court hearing judge and panel found lacked credibility. He also claimed the misappropriation was unintentional because he intended to pay the client, but did not have the money due to an unexpected bank “setoff”—which the judge and panel found was unsupported by the evidence, also noting that Kaplan offered no explanation for failing to pay the client immediately upon receiving the purchase proceeds for the script.

In aggravation, Kaplan committed multiple acts of misconduct, significantly harmed the client who was denied restitution for more than a year, and failed to cooperate by not honoring his promise to reimburse a fee paid to initiate arbitration.

In mitigation, he stipulated to facts and to culpability at trial, and was given limited mitigation credit for practicing law discipline-free for 24 years, since he failed to establish the misconduct is unlikely to recur. He was also afforded limited mitigation credit for three attorney character witnesses, as they did not represent a range from the legal and general communities, nor did they seem aware of the full extent of the misconduct at issue. Finally, he was allotted credit for emotional problems related to his divorce and financial problems connected to some business litigation—but that credit was given minimal weight because he failed to prove those problems caused his misconduct and would no longer pose a risk of future misconduct.


Reginald Perez Mason
State Bar # 243934, Long Beach (March 17, 2017)

Mason was disbarred following an appeal of a hearing judge’s recommendation of disbarment after finding him culpable of misconduct including misappropriating funds in two matters beginning two years after he was admitted to practice law.

In the first matter, Mason represented a client who was the administrator of her mother’s estate. He accepted a cashier’s check for $48,500—the amount they agreed was needed to pay estate expenditures including fees, bills, and a mortgage payoff; the client had funded the check by refinancing her own home. Mason deposited the check in his client trust account, and within a month, issued checks and made transfers from it unrelated to the estate. He also prematurely withdrew his fee—nearly depleting the entire account. In addition, over the course of the probate of the estate, which spanned more than four years, the client, an escrow agent, and an attorney all queried Mason about funds needed to close escrow in the estate home; he made several false statements, hiding the fact that he had misappropriated the funds years earlier.

The hearing judge accepted Mason’s stipulation at trial that he misappropriated the funds through gross negligence; the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar argued on appeal that the misappropriation was intentional—and the panel agreed with that characterization “given the timing, frequency, and purpose of the withdrawals.”

In the second matter, Mason represented two brothers: one in a partition lawsuit, the other in a medical malpractice case. The brothers agreed that all their legal fees would be paid from proceeds of the partition action. After the action settled, Mason received a check for approximately $69,285 payable to him and one of the brothers. He deposited the check into his client trust account—and promptly made unauthorized withdrawals, depleting it. He was charged with misappropriating more than $54,000, but the hearing judge found him culpable of misappropriating only $25,740 of the client’s funds. The panel recalculated the amount misappropriated as $20,101—and clarified the misconduct occurred due to gross negligence.

In aggravation, Mason committed multiple acts of misconduct and caused significant harm to both clients. The panel also found he displayed indifference and a failure to acknowledge his wrongdoing.

In mitigation, he offered evidence of performing community service and was afforded moderate weight for cooperating during trial by stipulating to facts and to some culpability and minimum weigh for the testimony of four individuals attesting to his good character—an insufficient number to “represent a broad spectrum of the community or establish extraordinary good character,” as required (Std. 1.6(f)).


Tam Nguyen
State Bar # 159601, San Jose (March 1, 2017)

Nguyen, 60, was disbarred after he stipulated to committing four acts of professional misconduct in a single client matter. The wrongdoing included: failing to promptly notify clients he had received funds on their behalf, two counts of intentionally misappropriating those funds—misconduct involving moral turpitude, and failing to participate in the State Bar’s investigation of the misconduct alleged.

Nguyen was hired to represent a man and his minor son who had been injured in a motorcycle accident. The client agreed to pay a 33% contingency fee, though no written retainer agreement was executed. Nguyen directed that both of the injured parties receive treatment from a specified chiropractor, then submitted their bills to their insurance company, which paid a total of just over $5,000. Nguyen deposited the payment into his client trust account, did not inform the clients he had received the money, and subsequently wrote himself a check from the account for more than the total received.

The case was ultimately settled for $6,700. Nguyen prepared a distribution sheet showing allotments to himself, the clients, and the chiropractor, but making no mention of the med-pay payment received earlier. Nguyen then received the settlement check from the insurer, but did not pay the chiropractor until more than a year later and did not pay the insurer that sought reimbursement for the med-pay payment until two years after being requested to do so. He failed to respond to the State Bar’s request for information after the client filed a complaint against him.

In aggravation, Nguyen committed multiple acts of misconduct, significantly harmed his clients by misappropriating their funds, and took steps to conceal the misappropriation. In addition, he had a prior record of discipline, also predicated on mishandling client funds.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation.


Mary Catherine Reid
State Bar # 156385, Irvine (March 12, 2017)

Reid, 56, was disbarred by default after she failed to participate in her disciplinary proceeding; she did not seek to have the default judgment set aside or vacated. The State Bar had used reasonable diligence in attempting to notify her of the proceeding through the mail and by telephone.

Reid was found culpable of to falsely reporting to the State Bar that she had completed the requisite 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education—misconduct involving moral turpitude, as well as failing to cooperate in its disciplinary investigation, and of failing to update her membership address.


Wade Anthony Robertson
State Bar # 217899, Stanford (March 31, 2017)

Robertson was disbarred after appealing the hearing judge’s decision recommending disbarment. Both the judge and panel on appeal found him culpable of engaging in a scheme to defraud his elderly business partner and client, making many misrepresentations to him in the process, misappropriating a substantial amount of money from him and abusing the litigation process by repeatedly asserting frivolous positions—all acts involving moral turpitude.

Robertson collected a total of $3.5 million from the partner under the false pretense the money would be used to fund litigation costs in a class action alleging securities violations—promising a fixed percentage of the litigation recovery in return for his investment. Upon receiving each of the installments of $1.5 million and $2 million, Robertson withdrew and funds and deposited them into his personal securities trading account, making no mention of the transfer. During a four-year period, he also made repeated assurances to the investing partner that the subject litigation was proceeding successfully, when in fact he knew the case had been dismissed with prejudice and in time, that dismissal was affirmed on appeal.

Eventually, the partner became suspicious that he had been duped. Robertson sued him for declaratory relief, alleging that his demands for repayment of the partnership funds violated a hold harmless agreement the two had in place. The partner cross-claimed, alleging legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty. A jury found the agreement unenforceable as obtained through undue influence and the court entered a judgment against Robertson, awarding the partner $3.5 million in compensatory damages and an additional $3.5 million in punitives based on Robertson’s acting “with evil motive.”

In addition, the partnership eventually became a debtor in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. That court sanctioned Robertson for repeatedly advancing frivolous arguments and engaging in the unethical practice of ghostwriting papers for a purported creditor and adversary for the sole purpose of misleading it. It noted: “Rarely has this court seen such an unrelenting pursuit of a patently frivolous argument undertaken with such complete indifference to the merits.”

On appeal, the panel noted that Robertson raised “a host of unmeritorious legal and factual challenges”—all of which it considered and rejected.

In aggravation, Robertson committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, significantly harmed the partner and the administration of justice, and demonstrated a lack of remorse for and recognition of the seriousness of his misconduct.


Anthony R. Sales
State Bar # 218193, Stockton (March 12, 2017)

Sales, 45, was disbarred by default after failing to appear at the disciplinary proceeding charged him with six counts of professional misconduct. The State Bar determined that legal notice requirements were satisfied. He was found culpable on all counts.

The wrongdoing included: soliciting a prospective client with whom he had no family or prior business relationship, failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to return unearned danced fees, entering into a fee agreement to modify a mortgage loan that lacked the requisite separate statement, collecting fees in a mortgage loan modification case before fully performing all services, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the misconduct alleged.

Sales has not been previously disciplined, but there were 11 other investigations pending against him when the disbarment order was issued.


James Patrick Stoneman, II
State Bar # 94523, Clarement (March 31, 2017)

Stoneman was disbarred by default after failing to appear at the disciplinary proceeding in which he was charged with 25 counts of professional misconduct in six separate matters. He failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, or to seek to have the default set aside or vacated.

He was found culpable of all counts charged. Specifically, his wrongdoing included: two counts each of failing to respond to clients’ reasonable inquiries about the status of their cases and failing to provide clients with an accounting of their fees; four counts of failing to return unearned advanced fees; five counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence and failing to promptly return his clients’ files after being requested to do so; and six counts of failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigations of the wrongdoing alleged.

He was also found culpable of falsely reporting to the State Bar that he had complied with Minimum Continuing Legal Education requirements—misconduct involving moral turpitude.

Stoneman had been disciplined by the State Bar twice before.


Thomas Melvin Swihart
State Bar # 98564, Hidden Valley Lake (March 31, 2017)

Swihart was disbarred by default after failing to appear at his disciplinary hearing. The State Bar determined that procedural notice requirements had been satisfied.

He was found culpable of failing to file proof of compliance—one of the terms imposed in a previous discipline order (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20).

Swihart had two prior records of discipline.


Bruce Anthony Thomason
State Bar # 140596, Laguna Hills (March 12, 2017)

Thomason, 55, was disbarred by default. He failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, in the disciplinary proceeding charging him with 10 counts of misconduct in three separate matters, though he had received adequate legal notice of the proceeding.

Upon entry of the default, which he did not seek to have set aside or vacated, the factual allegations in the Notice of Disciplinary Charges were deemed admitted, and supported the conclusion he was culpable as charged.

His wrongdoing included: failing to promptly return a client’s file after being requested to do so, practicing law in a jurisdiction in which he was not licensed and charging legal fees for doing so, and appearing for a party without legal authority to do so, as well as two counts of charging and collecting fees to provide loan modification services before fully performing them. He was also found culpable of failing to update his official membership address and three counts of failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigations of his misconduct.

Thomason had one prior record of discipline.


James Harvey Tipler
State Bar # 80748, Century, Florida (March 31, 2017)

Tipler was summarily disbarred following evidence of finality of two counts of solicitation to commit first degree premeditated murder (Fl. Stat. §§777.04(2), 782.04(1), and 777.011). Because the offenses are felonies involving moral turpitude per se, he was not entitled to a State Bar Court hearing to determine whether lesser discipline might be warranted.



Suspension

William Andrai Acosta
State Bar # 207377, Glendora (March 12, 2017)

Acosta, 44, was suspended from practice for 120 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to being found guilty by a jury of two misdemeanors: driving while his license was suspended due to a driving under the influence conviction (Cal. Veh. Code §14601.2(a)) and driving with a vehicle that was not equipped with an ignition interlock device while his driving privileges were restricted (Cal. Veh. Code §23247(e)).

He also stipulated to pleading nolo contendere to one count of battery (Cal. Penal Code §242), a misdemeanor, in a separate incident. In that case, Acosta and his wife got into an argument after both had been drinking. His wife summoned the police, but she declined to obtain a protection order or to get medical attention for the lacerations on her lips. Acosta was then handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car, when he complained of having difficulty breathing. When a firefighter from a medical unit attempted to attend to him, he spat in the man’s face.

The State Bar Court judge determined that none of the violations involved moral turpitude, but did warrant professional discipline.

In aggravation, Acosta had a prior record of discipline.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and was given some mitigating weight based on evidence from 20 witnesses who attested to their beliefs in his good moral character—however, it was tempered by the fact that they not aware of his criminal convictions.


Cyrus Leon Batchan
State Bar # 287341, Sherman Oaks (March 1, 2017)

Batchan, 39, was suspended from practicing law for two years and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and hydrocodone bitartrate (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846), an offense involving moral turpitude.

For approximately three years, Batchan conspired with others to distribute controlled substances—at least once, shipping a packaged containing 5,000 to 10,000 units of the drug. He did not personally profit from the drug distribution, with the exception of nominal payments from the main drug distributor.

In mitigation, Batchan entered into a pretrial stipulation, submitted seven character letters from a sample of the community attesting to his good character—who also acknowledged their awareness of the full extent of the misconduct at issue, expressed remorse and recognition of his wrongdoing as evidenced by the federal court’s acceptance of a downward sentencing deviation, and presented proof of extensive community service.


Richard Lee Bobus
State Bar # 250664, Santa Rosa (March 1, 2017)

Bobus, 68, was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing five acts of professional misconduct: disobeying court orders by failing to attend court appearances and by failing to pay and report sanctions imposed for the failure to appear.

Bobus represented a client in a personal injury case arising from a car accident who instructed him to dismiss the case. He attempted to do so in person at the court, but was informed that all documents had to be filed electronically in keeping with a newly-instituted court practice. Bobus eventually set up an e-filing account, one year later.

In the meantime, the court issued an order to show cause why the case should not be dismissed or why sanctions should not be imposed for failure to take additional action in the case. He failed to appear at all four hearings scheduled and was sanctioned a total of $1,600, which he failed to report to the State Bar as required. Though he eventually paid the sanctions, but did not do so within the time limit set by the court.

In aggravation, Bobus had a prior record of discipline, committed multiple acts of misconduct, and significantly harmed the administration of justice by wasting judicial resources.

In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation before charges were filed against him, saving the State Bar considerable time and resources.


Alexander Chase
State Bar # 256763, San Francisco (March 31, 2017)

Chase was suspended from practicing law for 90 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing four acts of professional misconduct in a single client matter. He was culpable of: failing to perform legal services with competence, misrepresenting the status of the client’s claim—misconduct involving moral turpitude, failing to respond to the client’s reasonable case status inquiries, and improperly withdrawing from employment.

Chase was hired on a contingency basis to represent an individual injured when he fell from his bike while riding over a utility access cover. He initially filed a claim against the city, which was denied, then told the client he had filed an additional claim with the utility—which was not true. He also failed to respond to the client’s numerous requests for an update on the status of the case before constructively terminating his employment.

In aggravation, Chase committed multiple acts of misconduct, concealed his misconduct for more than 18 months, and caused the client significant harm.

In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation before charges were filed against him and was experiencing marital problems that began around the time of the misconduct and culminated in divorce.


Emile Adlai Davis
State Bar # 208394, San Francisco (March 27, 2017)

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


Jeffrey Alan Dickstein
State Bar # 70638, Tulsa, Oklahoma (March 6, 2017)

Dickstein, 69, was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated in an earlier State Bar disciplinary order.


Julius Michael Engel
State Bar # 137759, Sacramento (March 17, 2017)

Engel was suspended from the practice of law for one year and placed on probation for three years after being found culpable of six counts of professional misconduct in two client matters. The wrongdoing included: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to return unearned advanced fees, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, failing to render an accounting of client funds, making a misleading statement to a State Bar investigator—misconduct involving moral turpitude, and failing to report a civil action filed against him in his professional capacity to the State Bar as required.

In one matter, Engel represented an extremely financially strapped couple pursuing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy who paid him three installments totaling $2,000 in legal fees. Before choosing to file for Chapter 13, they met with Engel’s paralegal, who explained their options, and also with Engel’s wife and secretary, to whom they submitted all the paperwork she requested for the case.

For the next four months, they were unable to reach Engel by phone—and when they went to his office, found it vacant. The couple then hired an attorney they found in an office across the hall to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy on their behalf—and complained to the State Bar about Engel’s earlier behavior. He at first denied having the couple as his clients, then told State Bar investigators that he had handled their bankruptcy along with “his associate”—the second attorney they hired. That lawyer testified at trial that he and Engel did not share a practice or firm.

In a subsequent civil action, a superior court found Engel had committed gross professional negligence in handling the bankruptcy matter and had also caused the clients to suffer severe physical and emotional distress. Engel did not report the judgment entered against him until after a State Bar investigator contacted him to investigate.

In aggravation, Engel committed multiple acts of misconduct in the instant case, had a prior record of discipline, refused to provide an accounting for funds entrusted to him, significantly harmed the clients and the administration of justice, demonstrated indifference toward rectifying or atoning for his wrongdoing, and failed to make restitution to the highly vulnerable clients.


Steven Michael Gribben
State Bar # 236796, Irvine (March 1, 2017)

Gribben, 40, was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing three acts of professional misconduct. His wrongdoing included: failing to maintain an appropriate balance in his client trust account and failing to promptly pay two lienholders with the client’s funds in his possession.

Gribben represented five family members injured in a car accident, securing their written consent to do so, before negotiating settlements for each of them. However, he negligently mishandled the funds for three of them—depositing their settlement checks into his client trust account, then negligently withdrew excess funds from the account until it dipped below the permissible balance. In addition, he failed to pay two of the medical lienholders for approximately 2 ½ years after receiving the settlement proceeds—and did so only after the State Bar initiated an investigation into the outstanding unpaid liens.

In aggravation, Gribben committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation, had practiced law for eight years without a record of discipline, caused no harm to the clients involved, submitted six letters by individuals from a cross section of the legal and general communities attesting to his good character, and demonstrated remorse and recognition of his wrongdoing by voluntarily enrolling in the State Bar’s Client Trust Account School.


Gerald Jong Koh
State Bar # 234548, Torrance (March 1, 2017)

Koh, 39, was suspended from the practice of law for two years and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and hydrocodone bitartrate (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846), an offense involving moral turpitude.

For approximately three years, Batchan conspired with others to distribute controlled substances—at least once, shipping a packaged containing 5,000 to 10,000 units of the drug. He did not personally profit from the drug distribution, with the exception of nominal payments from the main drug distributor.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation acknowledging his misconduct, submitted nine letters by individuals from a widespread sample of the community attesting to his good character, and showed recognition of his wrongful conduct—acknowledged by the federal court as meriting a downward sentencing deviation.


James Hsiaosheng Li
State Bar # 176662, Buena Park (March 20, 2017)

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


Theodore Edward Malpass
State Bar # 112914, Laguna Beach (March 13, 2017)

Malpass, 63, 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.


Craig Henry Mar
State Bar # 176939, Oakland (March 17, 2017)

Mar was suspended from practicing law for two years after he failed to respond to the State Bar’s motion to revoke his probation, which was discipline imposed for earlier professional misconduct, along with a stayed order of suspension. Mar was culpable of violating several conditions of his probation—including failing to timely file three quarterly written reports and provide the Office of Probation with evidence of completing the State Bar’s Ethics School as well as evidence of passing the test given at the session’s end.

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


Dane Paul Miller
State Bar # 226332, Los Angeles (March 13, 2017)

Miller, 54, was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination as required in the terms of a previous disciplinary order.


Lesley Adele Montion-Garcia
State Bar # 200009, Long Beach (March 12, 2017)

Montion-Garcia, 46, was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for two years after she stipulated to commingling personal and client funds in her client trust account, and to paying personal expenses from that account.

In mitigation, Montion-Garcia entered into a stipulation before charges were filed against her; had practiced law for 16 years discipline-free; provided evidence of 13 individuals willing to attest to her good character—references drawn from a wide range from the legal and general communities—all of whom were aware of her misconduct; and recognized that her actions were improper, taking steps to correct it.


Robert Alan Murray
State Bar # 228691, Bakersfield (March 31, 2017)

Murray was suspended from practicing law for one year and placed on probation for two years after being found culpable on appeal of grossly negligent conduct amounting to moral turpitude.

Murray, a county prosecutor, met with the public defender who was defending a client charged with five counts of lascivious conduct with a child: his live-in girlfriend’s 10-year-old daughter. The public defender insisted that while the defendant made several admissions in his statement to police, he did not admit to sexual penetration. Murray disagreed, but when he reviewed the files, found the PD was correct. He then added a couple lines to the defendant’s interrogation transcript that implied he had sexual intercourse with the child and emailed them to the PD, who confronted his client with them and urged him to settle the case; the client testified he “did not trust his lawyer anymore.” The lines were also included in a transcript provided to police interrogators.

Murray contended he had written the incriminating lines as a “joke” to help him deal with an especially heavy caseload of emotionally charged cases he was carrying at the time.

The PD ultimately filed a motion to dismiss the criminal charges, alleging “outrageous prosecutorial misconduct.”

The hearing judge and panel on appeal focused on whether Murray had expressed and intended the alteration of the transcript as a joke, but the panel concluded he “intentionally breached his ethical duties as a prosecutor by creating and transmitting falsified material in a criminal case.”

In aggravation, Murray caused significant harm to the minor girl, the attorney/client relationship between the defendant and PD, and to the administration of justice.

In mitigation, he had practiced law for nearly 10 years without a record of discipline, was candid and cooperative throughout the disciplinary and criminal proceedings in the case, and submitted evidence from a wide range of references attesting to his good character as well as evidence of community service work, He was also afforded limited mitigation credit for expressing remorse for his wrongdoing.


Raynard Shelby Pace
State Bar # 188901, West Hollywood (March 27, 2017)

Pace 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.


Mary Frances Prevost
State Bar # 157782, San Diego (March 12, 2017)

Prevost, 55, was suspended from the practice of law for six months and placed on probation for three years after an appeal affirming that discipline.

She was found culpable of engaging in the unauthorized practice of law—misconduct involving moral turpitude, and failing to cooperate in the related investigation by the State Bar in one matter, as well as failing to perform legal services with competence and failing to inform a client of significant case developments in another case.

After Prevost failed to report her Minimum Continuing Legal Education compliance as required, she was enrolled as inactive and ineligible to practice law; the State Bar sent six reminders of the need to comply over an eight-month period. Before she was returned to active status, she filed a memorandum of points and authorities in support of two motions in one case. She also allowed four months to pass before updating her membership address: State Bar rules require records to be updated within 30 days of an office move. The hearing judge and panel on review found the unauthorized practice was caused by her gross negligence amounting to moral turpitude.

In the second matter, Prevost represented and a co-counsel represented a family alleging civil rights violations, false arrest, and negligence. Neither of them filed oppositions to defense’s five motions in limine, which were eventually granted as unopposed. The clients were not informed of the court’s order.

On appeal, Prevost argued the hearing judge made errors of law and fact, and she should be entitled to a rehearing, dismissal, or “only minimal discipline.” The panel rejected these contentions, noting that her previous discipline order “did not impress upon her that continued failures to communicate with clients and to respond to State Bar investigations are grounds for serious discipline.”

In aggravation, Prevost committed multiple acts of misconduct and had a prior record of discipline. The panel also underscored that she acted with indifference—blaming “her staff, her clients, and the State Bar for her conduct, declining to accept any measure of responsibility.”

She was allotted mitigating weight for testimony of eight witnesses and declarations from 13 individuals attesting to her good character—though that credit was limited because few of them were aware of the full extent of her misconduct.


Stephen Christopher Ronca
State Bar # 183255, San Luis Obispo (March 12, 2017)

Ronca, 55, was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to writing checks and making withdrawals from his client trust account while grossly negligent in not knowing there were insufficient funds in the account to pay them—misconduct involving moral turpitude.

In aggravation, Ronca committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, he filed a pretrial stipulation and had practiced law for 18 years without a prior record of discipline.


Keith Franklin Rouse
State Bar # 170559, Pasadena (March 31, 2017)

Rouse was suspended from practicing law for 60 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing two acts of professional misconduct related to his handling of his client trust account: he deposited or commingled personal funds in the account, and disbursed or commingled payment of personal expenses from that account.

Rouse maintained a client trust account. Over the course of two years, he deposited personal funds and earned fees into it six times, totaling $455,515. Also during that time, he disbursed a total of $337,781 for business and personal expenses, making 155 such withdrawals.

In aggravation, Rouse committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for approximately 20 years discipline-free before engaging in the misconduct, freely admitted to his culpability and cooperated with the State Bar’s investigation of it, presented several credible letters from clients and attorneys attesting to his good character, experienced emotional problems due to a divorce and health problems necessitating a leg amputation during the period of misconduct, and harmed no client since no client funds were in the account at issue.


Victor Saldana
State Bar # 256119, Diamond Bar (March 27, 2017)

Saldana was suspended from the practice of law pending finality of his conviction of second degree commercial burglary (Cal. Penal Code §459), a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude.

On the same day in a separate order, he was also suspended pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam—one of the terms imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.


David Andrew Seeley
State Bar # 78089, Encino (March 1, 2017)

Seeley, 68, was suspended from practice for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing two counts of professional misconduct: filing court documents on a client’s behalf while he was administratively suspended from practicing law, and failing to comply with a number of conditions attached to a private reproval imposed in an earlier disciplinary proceeding. Specifically, he failed to timely file three quarterly written reports, failed to file a final report with Office of Probation, failed to attend a session of the State Bar Ethics School, and failed to take and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam.

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

In mitigation, he filed a full stipulation prior to trial, produced competent expert evidence that a medical condition—now under control—contributed to the wrongdoing at issue, and submitted evidence of experiencing severe financial stress during the misconduct period. In addition, he was allotted limited mitigation for the eight letters written by individuals attesting to his good character, since six of them were attorneys as opposed to representing a broad cross-section of the public.


Navinder Virk
State Bar # 224585, San Francisco (March 27, 2017)

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


Daniel Sanford Weiss
State Bar # 91930, Sacramento (March 12, 2017)

Weiss, 71, was suspended for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing several acts of professional misconduct in three separate matters. The wrongdoing included: issuing a check against insufficient funds from his client trust account—an act involving moral turpitude, failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to promptly release client papers and property as requested, and failing to render an accounting to clients, as well as three counts of failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigations of the wrongdoing he was alleged to have committed.

In aggravation, Weiss committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for 32 years without a record of discipline, and provided proof of health conditions diagnosed during the misconduct period, which are currently being monitored and treated.


Frank Russell Wilson
State Bar # 185591, Roseville (March 31, 2017)

Wilson was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to being convicted of two misdemeanors: using force or threats to interfere with another person’s exercise of civil rights (Cal. Penal Code §422.6(a)) and simple battery (Cal. Penal Code §242).

After spending the day binge drinking, Wilson had several more drinks at a restaurant located in a shopping mall. While walking to his car, he heard two men and a woman in the parking lot conversing in their native language, Farsi. He proceeded to hector and berate them, telling them he was an immigration attorney and had the right “to arrest them and take them away” if they continued speaking a “different language.” He also pushed and hit one of the men. Unable to diffuse the situation, the people being attacked summoned police. When officers arrived, Wilson refused to speak with them, continuing to yell profanities at one of the men from the parking lot. He was then arrested.

At the time of the incident, Wilson was on probation for an earlier conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol. A jury subsequently found him guilty of the two misdemeanors charged.

The State Bar Court judge determined that while Wilson’s conduct and convictions did not involve moral turpitude, they did warrant professional discipline.

In aggravation, Wilson had a prior record of discipline, committed multiple acts of misconduct, harmed the administration of justice by disobeying his criminal probation and used his position as an immigration attorney to intimidate others, and directly violated his probation by driving with alcohol in his blood. The judge found Wilson’s legal experience played into an additional aggravating factor, noting: “For respondent to target these individuals based on their ethnicity, then verbally and physically harass them for not speaking English, is egregious given the type of law he practices.”

In mitigation, Wilson entered into a pretrial stipulation, saving the State Bar considerable resources and time.



Probation

Peter Josserand, XIII
State Bar # 146182, Paso Robles (March 31, 2017)

Josserand was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to pleading nolo contendere to one count of sexual battery (Cal. Penal Code §243.4(e)(1)), a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude.

A woman referred to as Victim #1, who was the operations manger for a janitorial service, arrived at Josserand’s office to perform a service inspection. He led her upstairs to a small confined bathroom area and squeezed her breast, then invited her into a room in which there was a couch. She ran from the building and drove to report the incident at a nearby police station.

The officer investigating the case discovered another woman, Victim #2, who also reported that Josserand had grabbed her breast two years earlier. She chose not to pursue charges and ultimately declined to provide the taped interview she had offered to investigators.

When confronted with Victim #2’s information, Josserand admitted to assaulting both women stating that he hoped that by doing so, “they would be aroused and want to proceed sexually.”

In aggravation, Josserand significantly harmed the victims, both of whom reported experienced continuing distress.

In mitigation, he was allotted minimal credit for evidence that during the misconduct, he was in a dysfunctional marriage and is now in a stable relationship. Additional mitigating factors: he entered into a pretrial stipulation acknowledging his wrongdoing, the abusive conduct was remote in time (12 and 14 years), he had practiced law discipline-free for 12 years before the first incident occurred, and changed his law practice from family law to real estate and estate planning “to limit his contact with females.”


Rebecca Lynn Ocain
State Bar # 215907, El Cajon (March 1, 2017)

Ocain, 40, was placed on probation for two years after she stipulated to pleading guilty to one count each of: driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(a)); driving with a blood alcohol count of .08% or more (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(b)), and hit and run driving (Cal. Veh. Code §20002(a)). All offenses are misdemeanors. The State Bar Court judge determined the violations did not involve moral turpitude, but did warrant professional discipline.

While driving, Ocain, a county deputy district attorney, ignored a stop sign and collided with a retaining wall. She was on probation imposed as a result of a prior DUI conviction at the time after crashing into a light pole in a parking lot; she had entered a guilty plea to driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or more—with the special allegation of a content at .15 percent or more.

Officers dispatched to the accident scene found her walking several blocks away. They detained her, administered preliminary screening tests that showed her blood alcohol content at .330 and .320, and determined she was under the influence. She was arrested and transported to a nearby hospital after complaining of pain in her wrist, where a blood sample test indicated an alcohol concentration level of .30 percent.

In aggravation, Ocain committed multiple acts of misconduct involving two separate DUI convictions.

In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation had practiced law for nearly 12 years without a record of discipline, demonstrated some candor by notifying the State Bar of her second misdemeanor conviction—though not the first, and showed remorse and recognition of her wrongdoing by voluntarily admitting herself into an inpatient detoxification facility. She was also allotted limited mitigation credit for submitting letters from 13 individuals attesting to her good character—most of whom were attorneys, and did not represent a range from both the legal and general communities.


Marilyn Sue Scheer
State Bar # 132544, Chatsworth (March 31, 2017)

Scheer was placed on probation for three years and until she makes restitution following a consolidated review of two earlier disciplinary proceedings.

Her previous disciplinary proceedings and orders are relevant to the instant matter. In the first proceeding, she was found culpable of engaging in the unauthorized practice of law and collecting illegal fees for doing so in 26 client matters spanning 11 different states over a 15-month period. Her discipline was two years of actual suspension—to continue until she paid approximately $120,000 in restitution to former clients. She remained suspended for failure to pay the restitution at the time of her second and third disciplinary hearings, in which she was found culpable of misconduct substantially similar to the first case.

The hearing judges in the second and third matters both declined to recommend a new fixed suspension period because the misconduct occurred during the same period as the first case. Both judges recommended instead that Scheer be actually suspended from practicing law until she makes full restitution.

In the present action, Scheer objected that the hearing judges improperly received into evidence the formal record of her first disciplinary proceeding. The panel rejected this argument, simply noting that “the State Bar Court may take judicial notice, on its own motion, of prior State Bar Court proceeding records.”

Scheer was found culpable, in the second and third actions, of a total of eight counts of misconduct: four for practicing residential loan modification services in states in which she was not entitled to practice and four counts of collecting illegal fees in connection with the unauthorized practice.

She demurred that she was a layperson providing non-legal services out of state, so the matter is beyond the State Bar’s jurisdiction. The panel rejected this narrow reading of the Bar Court’s powers, underscoring that it “may discipline an attorney for merely holding oneself out as entitled to practice where not entitled.” It also noted the language in her fee agreements offering to provide legal services and referring to herself as an attorney.

The panel also looked at the specific laws in place in each of the out-of-state jurisdictions involved—New Jersey, Washington, and Maryland—and found her conduct violated the regulations in place in all three.

In mitigation, Scheer entered into an extensive stipulation of facts and was given nominal weight for the eight character witnesses presented, as that testimony was accorded weight in the previous proceedings, and is now more than three years old.

In aggravation, she committed multiple acts of misconduct that harmed her clients, as she failed to return the illegal fees she collected. The panel also accorded significant weight to Scheer’s ongoing insistence she had not committed misconduct—a belief that persisted despite the California Supreme Court’s imprimatur of finality and its imposition of discipline for her actions.



Public Reproval

Katerina F. Perreault
State Bar # 237458, Tarzana (March 8, 2017)

Perreault, 70, was publicly reproved after she stipulated to pleading no contest to committing domestic battery on a spouse (Cal. Penal Code §§ 242-243(e)(1)), a misdemeanor, and to filing a frivolous lawsuit.

Perreault’s spouse summoned police to their home after the two had attended a party at which she became intoxicated and combative. Before they arrived, she scratched his hands and arms and continued to yell at him and nearby neighbors, as well as breaking numerous items inside the house.

The State Bar Court judge determined the facts and circumstances did not involve moral turpitude, but the misconduct did warrant professional discipline.

Perreault later sued her spouse and others for numerous causes of action, including theft of community property, conversion, and fraud. She also filed a motion to disqualify the attorney for the defendants; the court deemed it frivolous and imposed sanctions of $1,350 against her. When she appealed the denial of the motion, the decision was affirmed, and the appellate court imposed additional sanctions of $5,000.

Perreault filed an additional lawsuit against her spouse and others—alleging conspiracy and libel; that case was dismissed with prejudice, and she was ordered to pay a judgment of $6,800.

She satisfied and judgment and paid both sanctions, reporting them to the State Bar as required.

In mitigation, Perreault had filed both prefiling and pretrial stipulations as to facts, conclusions of law, and disposition. In addition, she had practiced law for 11 years without a record of discipline, submitted letters from 10 individuals from a range of the legal and general communities who attested to her good character, and demonstrated remorse and recognition of her wrongdoing by voluntarily enrolling in a residential alcohol and drug treatment program, which she completed successfully.


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