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Discipline Report

Recent disbarments, suspensions and probations in California

July 2017

Disbarment

Suspension

Probation

Public Reproval

Disbarment

Jerry Lane Hefner
State Bar # 216385, Julian (May 19, 2017)

Hefner was disbarred by default after failing to participate in the proceeding determining whether his prior conviction involved moral turpitude or other conduct warranting professional discipline. He had received adequate legal notice of the proceeding, and did not seek to have the default set aside or vacated.

Hefner was a passenger in a car in Illinois, asleep in the front seat, when troopers made a traffic stop after noticing the car was being driven erratically. Awakened, Hefner became agitated, cursing and yelling at the troopers, who placed him in the back of a patrol car. A search of Hefner’s person uncovered a glass pipe in his pocket; a trained police canine also alerted to methamphetamine, marijuana, marijuana pipes and residue, as well as other drug paraphernalia within the car.

Hefner was convicted of possession of methamphetamine, a felony (Ill. Comp. Stat. ch. 720, §§646/60(a) and (b)(2)).

The State Bar Court judge determined the underlying criminal offense did not involve moral turpitude, but warranted professional discipline.

Hefner had been disciplined by the California State Bar once before.


Christian Rhadames Juarez
State Bar # 175611, Los Angeles (May 19, 2017)

Juarez was disbarred after being charged with 34 counts of professional misconduct in six client matters; the charges included misappropriating client funds, deceiving client,s and numerous trust fund violations. He had earlier stipulated to committing the misconduct alleged in 33 of the counts charged, and the State Bar Court judge found him culpable of 30 of them, then recommended disbarment.

Specifically, Juarez was found culpable of one count of failing to perform legal services with competence; and two counts each of failing to avoid interests adverse to clients, failing to refund unearned advanced fees, failing to maintain client funds in a trust account, failing to promptly pay clients funds they were owed, and commingling client funds with his personal funds. He also committed four counts each of failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries and failing to render appropriate accountings of client funds, as well as six counts of failing to cooperate and participate in the disciplinary proceedings against him. Finally, he was found culpable of misconduct involving moral turpitude: two counts of misappropriating client funds and three counts of misrepresenting to clients he had completed legal services for which he was retained.

In aggravation, Juarez committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, had two prior records of discipline, charged a fee to a vulnerable client so excessive it constituted overreaching, significantly harmed his clients, and failed to make restitution to them.

In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation acknowledging his misconduct and was also allotted mitigating credit for suffering from emotional difficulties and family problems, though that factor was given only moderate weight because he “failed to show he has overcome or learned to cope with them.”


Brian Gail Kindsvater
State Bar # 156315, Miami, Florida (May 19, 2017)

Kindsvater was disbarred by default after failing to appear at his disciplinary hearing despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He was found culpable of five counts of misconduct in a single client matter.

His wrongdoing included: failing to promptly notify a client he had received funds on the client’s behalf, failing to maintain the client’s funds in a trust account, failing to promptly pay the client funds, misrepresenting to the client that the settlement monies had not been received, and ultimately misappropriating nearly $20,000 of the client’s funds.


Timothy David Myers
State Bar # 199356, Huntington Beach (May 17, 2017)

Myers was disbarred by default after he failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, in the disciplinary proceeding in which he was charged with six counts of professional misconduct in a single client matter. The State Bar Court judge determined he had received adequate legal notice of the proceeding, including actual notice.

He was found culpable of all counts charged, including both failing to deposit and to maintain client funds in trust and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s disciplinary investigation. In addition, he was culpable of three counts involving moral turpitude: misappropriating more than $60,000 of the client’s funds, issuing a check to the client knowing there were insufficient funds to cover it, and misrepresenting to the client that he had invested her funds and was holding them on her behalf when he knew that to be false.

Myers had been disciplined twice previously.


C. Dana Pereau
State Bar # 243705, Laguna Hills (May 19, 2017)

Pereau was disbarred after he failed to participate in his disciplinary proceeding after receiving actual notice to do so. He had earlier been convicted of a misdemeanor, fighting in public (Cal. Pen. Code §415(1))—and the State Bar’s Review Department referred the matter for a hearing to determine whether the conviction involved moral turpitude or other conduct warranting professional discipline.

In the underlying incident, a loss prevention officer observed Pereau remove some merchandise from an electronics store without paying for it. Police officers summoned to investigate stopped Pereau in traffic after he had driven away, handcuffed him and transported him back to the store, where surveillance video footage showed him removing merchandise from the shelf and concealing it in his pocket. He was initially charged with petty theft, but that count was dismissed.

The State Bar Court judge, however, found the facts and circumstances surrounding the conviction involved moral turpitude, and recommended disbarment.


Wade Anthony Robertson
State Bar # 217899, Stanford (May 10, 2017)

Robertson was disbarred after his appeal of the hearing judge’s decision that he had defrauded his elderly business partner and client out of $3.5 million, in addition to asserting frivolous positions in civil and bankruptcy proceedings. Specifically, he was found culpable of four counts of professional misconduct: scheming to defraud, making misrepresentations as part of the scheme, misappropriation, and abuse of process—all of which involve moral turpitude.

Less than three years after being admitted to practice law in California, Robertson solicited a 77-year-old man who lived in Maryland to finance out-of-pocket litigation expenses on behalf of plaintiffs in a class action alleging securities violations. He represented that the litigation involved multi-billion dollar claims with a high likelihood of success, and offering the man a fixed percentage of the recovery in exchange for bankrolling the initial costs and expenses.

In furtherance of the arrangement, the two entered a partnership specifying its sole purpose was to provide legal services, with Robertson receiving a .1% capital interest for a $1,000 contribution, and the other partner, who contributed $1 million in initial capital, receiving 99.9%.

The defendants in the underlying action subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the litigation. Robertson did not inform the partner about the motion for several months, then characterized it as “purely procedural;” he also persuaded the partner to contribute an additional $1 million.

Shortly after that, Robertson issued a promissory note of $1.97 million from the partnership account as a zero interest loan and deposited the bulk of that amount into his personal securities trading account.

The court then dismissed the class action case with prejudice. However, Robertson assured the partner that while the case had hit a “procedural snag,” he continued to be “excited and optimistic” about a huge monetary success in the case. He persuaded the partner to contribute an additional $1.5 million as a capital contribution, then executed a $1.435 promissory note in favor of the partnership, again loaning himself the funds without interest.

After the partner learned the litigation had been dismissed, he hired an additional attorney and sought a refund of his $3.5 million contribution. In response, Robertson sued him for declaratory relief, alleging the repayment demand violated the partnership’s hold harmless agreement. The partner cross-complained—and a jury found Robertson liable for legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty, also finding the hold harmless agreement unenforceable as obtained through undue influence. It awarded the partner $7 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

As an additional complication, the partnership became a debtor in Chapter 7 bankruptcy—a proceeding Robertson delayed by ghostwriting papers on behalf of a purported creditor and adversary.

Robertson asserted 30 factual arguments as well as additional legal and procedural claims—all of which were rejected by the panel on appeal.

In aggravation, Robertson committed multiple acts of misconduct, causing significant harm to the partner and to the administration of justice, as well as demonstrating a lack of remorse for his wrongdoing.

In recommending disbarment, the panel noted that Robertson had still not paid the partner the jury award or repaid the funds he invested. It noted: “Given his grave misconduct, including a massive misappropriation unprecedented in this court, and his utter lack of remorse, we conclude disbarment is necessary to protect the public, the courts, and the legal profession.”



Suspension

Aliyah Sabreen Abdullah
State Bar # 282927, Lodi (May 8, 2017)

Abdullah was suspended in the interim pending final disposition of her conviction of one count of grand theft (Cal. Pen. Code §4879a)). The offense is a felony involving moral turpitude.


Richard Bernard Beauchesne
State Bar # 53134, San Jose (May 19, 2017)

Beauchesne was suspended from the practice of law for 18 months and placed on probation for three years following a consolidated disciplinary proceeding and conviction referral held after he had successfully completed the State Bar Court’s Alternative Discipline Program (ADP).

There were findings of culpability in four underlying cases. Beauchesne pled nolo contendere to three separate misdemeanor charges—two of them for driving with a blood alcohol level of .08% or more (Cal Veh. Code §23152(b)) and one for battery against his former spouse (Cal. Pen. Code §§242-243(e)).

In addition, he was found culpable of failing to comply with conditions imposed in an earlier discipline order—including failing to: timely file two written quarterly reports, timely contact the Office of Probation to schedule an initial meeting, and report compliance with the probation conditions imposed in the criminal matter.

In aggravation, Beauchesne committed multiple acts of misconduct and had been disciplined by the State Bar twice before.

In mitigation, he successfully completed the ADP.


Laurence Calvin Blunt, III
State Bar # 38977, Sacramento (May 19, 2017)

Blunt was suspended from practicing law for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing five acts of professional misconduct in a single client matter. His wrongdoing included: violating his duty to uphold the law, pursuing unjust litigation, appearing in litigation without authorization, failing to report court-imposed sanctions to the State Bar, and misrepresenting to a court that he had permission to file a legal action—misconduct involving moral turpitude.

Blunt purported to represent both the buyer’s and seller’s real estate agents in an attempted purchase of land held by a bankruptcy trustee. The buyer’s agent, however, had died two years before the bankruptcy petition in the case was filed.

Blunt subsequently filed an action to partition and void a lien on the property; that action was dismissed because the court determined it was filed in violation of an automatic stay and he had not obtained court permission to file it.

He then filed a second action attempting to attack the lien, misrepresenting that the debtor’s trustee consented to the proceeding. That case was dismissed for the same reasons as the first, and also because the bankruptcy trustee had not authorized it. In addition, the State Bar Court judge found Blunt filed four related motions without cause and “for the purpose of impeding the proper functions of the bankruptcy trustee.”

The bankruptcy court subsequently issued a minute order finding Blunt culpable of misconduct and ordering him to pay sanctions and damages; he did not report the sanctions to the State Bar as required.

In aggravation, Blunt committed multiple acts of misconduct and significantly harmed the administration of justice by burdening the court and parties with unnecessary litigation.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and had been a member of the State Bar for more than 50 years without a prior record of discipline.


Gerard Nicholas Casale, Jr.
State Bar # 161735, Santa Monica (May 30, 2017)

Casale was suspended in the interim, pending final disposition of his conviction of causing an act of contempt (18 U.S.C. §§401(3) and 2(b)). The offense is a felony that may or may not involve moral turpitude.


Carl Edward Chapman
State Bar # 81665, Los Angeles (May 22, 2017)

Chapman was suspended from practicing law in the interim, pending final disposition of his conviction of murder (Cal. Pen. Code §187(a)). The offense is a felony involving moral turpitude.


Fred Douglas Dorton, Jr.
State Bar # 237121, Century City (May 15, 2017)

Dorton was suspended from the practice of law in the interim, pending final disposition of his convictions of one count of attempted voluntary manslaughter (Cal. Pen. Code §664/192(a)) and two counts of assault with a semi-automatic firearm (Cal Pen. Code §245(b)).


Charles Jeffrey Fletcher
State Bar # 142464, Sacramento (May 8, 2017)

Fletcher 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.


Joseph Steven Forth
State Bar # 170173, Indio (May 8, 2017)

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


Julie A. Mehrban
State Bar # 271290, Sherman Oaks (May 17, 2017)

Mehrban was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to committing two acts of professional misconduct in a single client case: commingling client and personal funds by misusing her client trust account and failing to maintain complete records of client funds.

Mehrban deposited a settlement check for $49,000 in her client trust account, failing to remove her earned fees. On 31 occasions during a 10-month period, she wrote checks and authorized electronic debits against the trust account to pay personal and business expenses.

In aggravation, Mehrban committed multiple acts of wrongdoing.

In mitigation, she entered into a stipulation before disciplinary charges were filed against her, harmed no clients through her misconduct, cooperated with the State Bar in its investigation and voluntarily attended both the State Bar’s Ethics School and Client Trust Account School. She also submitted letters from 10 individuals from a variety of personal and professional backgrounds—all of whom attested to her good character and indicated an awareness of her misconduct in the instant case.


Ronny Mor
State Bar # 248274, Newport Beach (May 19, 2017)

Mor was suspended from practicing law for 18 months and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to committing 11 acts of professional misconduct in three client matters.

Specifically, he was culpable of: failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, collecting illegal fees, practicing law in a jurisdiction in which he was not authorized to practice, failing to refund unearned advanced fees, charging and collecting illegal advanced fees, and writing a check from an account with insufficient funds—misconduct involving oral turpitude. He was also culpable of two counts of failing to perform legal services with competence; and three counts of failing to participate in State Bar investigations of the wrongdoing he was alleged to have committed.

Two of the cases involved improper handling of loan modification matters; the other involved kiting a check on a client trust account that had been dormant for approximately 2 ½ years.

In aggravation, Mor committed multiple acts of misconduct, failed to make restitution to the clients, and had two prior records of discipline.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation as to facts and culpability.


Glenn Kazuo Nakawaki
State Bar # 118064, Ontario (May 17, 2017)

Nakawaki was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing three acts of professional misconduct in a single client matter.

His wrongdoing included: failing to maintain a proper accounting of client funds, failing to maintain the funds in a client trust account until the checks were negotiated, and allowing funds in the account to be disbursed for other purposes through gross negligence—misconduct involving moral turpitude.

In aggravation, Nakawaki committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and was unable to account for client funds entrusted to him.

In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation before charges were filed against him, had practiced law discipline-free for nearly 30 years, did not harm his client or the public through his wrongdoing, produced evidence of 10 individuals willing to testify to his good character, and provided evidence of his significant pro bono service. In addition, he took objective steps to prevent similar misconduct from happening in the future by attending a Minimum Continuing Legal Education workshop on managing client trust accounts and reviewing the State Bar’s Handbook on Client Trust Accounting for California Attorneys.


Patricia R. Noguera
State Bar # 189040, Long Beach (May 8, 2017)

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

Three days after the suspension order took effect it was terminated, when the State Bar Court received notice that Noguera had passed the exam.


Sean Enrique O’Keefe
State Bar # 116418, San Diego (May 17, 2017)

O’Keefe was suspended for 30 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing one act of professional misconduct: disobeying a court order related to the obligations imposed in an earlier State Bar disciplinary order.

O’Keefe was convicted of conspiring to commit mail fraud and health care fraud (18 U.S.C. §13), a felony involving moral turpitude. As a result, the Review Department of the State Bar Court issued an interim suspension order, specifying that he must comply with California Rule of Court 9.20. That rule requires that attorneys who are disciplined must notify clients, opposing counsel and parties within 30 days and provide an affidavit of to the State Bar within 40 days.

O’Keefe mailed letters to his clients informing them of his suspension within the time period specified. However, instead of completing the pre-printed compliance declaration prepared by the Office of Probation and provided in correspondence describing compliance obligations, he initially attempted to file a letter with the Review Department, including copies of letters sent to clients, along with certified mail receipts and contact information for the attorney representing him.

The Clerk’s Office rejected the submission, attaching a second blank copy of the preprinted form to complete. That form was subsequently rejected because it was completed incorrectly. A third attempt at compliance, a corrected declaration, was sent to the Office of Probation, not filed with the court as required. A fourth and final declaration was correctly completed and filed—albeit two and one-months after the date it was due.

In mitigation, O’Keefe entered into a stipulation before charges were filed against him, had practiced law for approximately 32 years without a record of discipline, caused no harm to clients or the administration of justice, and had attempted to comply with the filing requirements before disciplinary charges were instigated.

The State Bar Court judge allotted additional mitigation credit to the fact that O’Keefe timely notified his clients as required and made four attempts to comply with the affidavit requirements demonstrating “a diligent if ultimately unsuccessful attempt to comply with the rule.”


Earle Arthur Partington
State Bar # 45731, Honolulu, Hawaii (May 12, 2017)

Partington was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for two years following his appeal in a reciprocal disciplinary matter. The U.S. Navy’s Office of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) found him culpable of filing an appellate brief containing false and misleading information—a decision he appealed in multiple civil challenges and appeals, culminating with filing a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. None of the appeals were successful.

Based on the underlying JAG discipline order, Partington was suspended from appearing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces in addition to being suspended from practicing in Hawaii, Oregon, and the District of Columbia for various periods.

While JAG discipline orders are accepted as conclusive evidence of professional misconduct in California, the State Bar hearing was held to determine whether Partington could show by clear and convincing evidence that his actions did not warrant imposing discipline in this state or that the JAG proceeding lacked fundamental constitutional protection.

In the underlying matter, Partington appeared as civilian defense counsel in the general court-martial of a U.S. navy sailor stationed in Hawaii who pled guilty to several criminal charges. The military judge rejected the pleas and entered not guilty pleas instead. However, in an appellate brief he filed in the case, Partington made several misrepresentations of the trial record—including that the military judge “dismissed” the claim and “acquitted” the defendant of the charges.

The State Bar Court hearing judge and panel on appeal both found Partington was culpable of making misrepresentations to a court—an offense including moral turpitude and warranting discipline in California as a matter of law. They also rejected his claim that he was denied due process in the JAG proceeding, finding he received more than a dozen communications about the status of those proceedings—including a list of the charges, as well as an enumeration of his rights to a hearing, to produce and review evidence, to call witnesses, and to be represented by counsel. Partington refused to participate in the proceedings and waived his right to a hearing.

Finally, finding that Partington demonstrated an “ongoing failure to acknowledge his wrongdoing” despite numerous courts’ rejections of his arguments, the panel assigned an increased substantial aggravating weight to his lack of insight.

It also assigned only moderate as opposed to significant weight to Partington’s 37 years of practicing law without discipline—finding he “did not establish that his misconduct is unlikely to recur, as required by the standard” (Std. for Att’y Sanctions for Prof. Misconduct, Std. 1.6(a)).


Michael Arthur Pina
State Bar # 157116, Santa Barbara (May 17, 2017)

Pina was suspended from practicing law for one year and placed on probation for three years. He stipulated to committing six acts of professional misconduct before a trial was held in the matter. Specifically, he was culpable of failing to keep a client reasonably informed of significant case developments, failing to render an appropriate accounting of the client’s funds, and attempting to mislead a judicial officer through a falsified document. Submitting the falsified document—a forged declaration—to opposing counsel and to the State Bar involved an additional three counts of moral turpitude.

Pina represented a client attempting to modify a child support order, accepting $8,900 to handle the matter. The client sent him an unsigned draft declaration by email, which he incorporated into a pleading. With Pina’s knowledge, a legal assistant signed the client’s name—without her consent. The forged document was filed with the court and tendered to opposing counsel. When the client received a copy, she notified the court that her name had been forged on it; the court relieved Pina as counsel.

In a subsequent written response related to the State Bar’s investigation of the matter, Pina denied the signature was forged; he had also altered the date on the declaration’s proof of service tendered to investigators. He did not respond to the client’s requests for fee arbitration or a complete refund.

In aggravation, Pina committed multiple acts of misconduct, had one prior record of discipline, significantly harmed the administration of justice, demonstrated indifference by continuing to deny he had committed any wrongdoing, and showed a lack of candor in his meetings and correspondence with State Bar investigators.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and provided evidence of seven individuals willing to attest to his good character as well as evidence of providing pro bono services to three indigent clients.


Gary Stephen Redinger
State Bar # 74041, San Bernardino (May 17, 2017)

Redinger was suspended from the practice of law for six months and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to pleading no contest to the unauthorized use of personal identification information (Cal. Pen. Code §530.5(c)(1)). The offense is a felony involving moral turpitude.

Redinger met a deputy district attorney at the courthouse, and the two completed a plea agreement form for an individual charged with driving under the influence. The DA held the paperwork, waiting for the charged individual to arrive, while Redinger left to attend to business in another courtroom, promising to return. Some time later, after neither Redinger nor his client appeared, the DA filed a bench warrant for the client, and then left the courthouse. Redinger then returned to the courtroom and filed a continuance in the case—signing the DA’s name to the form without his authorization or consent.

In mitigation, Redinger entered into a pretrial stipulation, had no record of discipline in approximately 37 years of practicing law, and provided character reference letters from nine individuals gleaned from a wide range of the community—including attorneys, business professionals, friends, and clients.


David Richard Schwarcz
State Bar # 152896, Los Angeles (May 22, 2017)

Schwarcz was suspended in the interim pending final disposition of his conviction of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money-transmitting business (18 U.S.C. §1960). The offense is a felony.

The State Bar Court judge rejected the Chief Trial Counsel’s argument that the violation involved moral turpitude as a matter of law, warranting summary disbarment. The judge noted that it “may or may not involve moral turpitude because in order to obtain a conviction the government need only prove that the defendant knew the money-transmitting business was unlicensed, not that the money-transmitting business was illegal.”

The moral turpitude determination will be determined in a hearing and analysis of the facts and circumstances in the case.


Kim Dennise Scovis
State Bar # 182059, Thousand Oaks (May 30, 2017)

Scovis was suspended in the interim, pending final disposition of her conviction of theft of government property in excess of $1,000 (18 U.S.C. §641). The offense is a felony involving moral turpitude.


Rae Diane Shirer
State Bar # 167137, Newport Beach (May 17, 2017)

Shirer was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for two years after she stipulated to falsely reporting to the State Bar that she had completed the requisite 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE)—misconduct involving moral turpitude.

The hard drive on Shirer’s computer froze and the information on it—including her records of MCLE compliance—was unrecoverable. However, four months later, she reported to the State Bar under penalty of perjury that she was in compliance. Under State Bar rules, noncompliance includes “failure to keep a record of MCLE compliance” (Rule 2.90).

In aggravation, Shirer had been disciplined twice before.

In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation in the instant matter.


Linda Kaye Swartz
State Bar # 154596, Ripon (May 17, 2017)

Swartz was suspended from the practice of law for six months and placed on probation for three years after she stipulated to violating several conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.

Specifically, she failed to submit four written quarterly reports to the Office of Probation, and also failed to attend and complete Ethics School and to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam by the deadlines specified.

In aggravation, Swartz committed multiple acts of misconduct, had a prior record of discipline, and showed indifference toward rectifying her misconduct by continuing to fail to comply with her probation conditions after being notified of the potential repercussions.

In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation in the instant matter.


Shahzad Talieh
State Bar # 189667, Irvine (May 15, 2017)

Talieh was suspended in the interim following final disposition of a conviction of two counts of a felony: child abduction (Cal. Pen. Code §278.5(a)).

The Review Department reserved determination of whether the offense involved moral turpitude, inviting briefs from all parties on the issue.


Kevin Renard Taylor
State Bar # 218711, Rancho Palos Verdes (May 30, 2017)

Taylor 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.


Karen Kerry Yianilos
State Bar # 102050, San Diego (May 17, 2017)

Yianilos was suspended from the practice of law for 60 days and placed on probation for two years after she stipulated to committing two acts of professional misconduct in a single client matter: breaching her fiduciary duties to trust beneficiaries when acting as a trustee and commingling client and personal funds in her client trust account.

Yianilos was appointed successor co-trustee of a trust holding approximately $90,000 in cash and a home worth several million dollars. The two co-trustees had an extremely acrimonious relationship and were unable to cooperate in making most decisions about the trust property and management. The house that was part of the trust had fallen into extreme disrepair and was cluttered with personal property. Yianilos took several actions in preparing the house for sale: paying her daughter and housekeeper to clean the property, allowing her daughter to live in it rent-free for insurance purposes, hiring workers to repair the property and paying them in cash. None of the trust-related expenses were adequately documented to the trial court.

Within approximately a year and a-half, the trust’s cash assets were depleted. Yianilos had used some of the trust funds for personal expenses, including buying her daughter a new car. She also secured a loan to help subsidize estate taxes and other trust expenses, and had deposited those monies in her client trust account.

After one of the trust beneficiaries filed to have both co-trustees removed, a court determined that Yianilos had breached her fiduciary duties and surcharged her $388,177. That decision was affirmed on appeal.

In aggravation, Yianilos committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, she entered into a stipulation before disciplinary charges were filed against her, practiced law for 28 years without a record of discipline, and provided evidence of 14 individuals from a range of the legal and general communities willing to attest to her good character. The State Bar Court judge also allotted mitigation credit based on the fact there have been no complaints alleging misconduct since the wrongdoing at issue concluded—more than four years earlier.



Probation

Timothy Alan Nicholson
State Bar # 140628, Laguna Hills (May 17, 2017)

Nicholson was placed on probation for three years after successfully completing the State Bar Court’s Alternative Discipline Program (ADP).

The proceeding consolidated three separate cases involving offenses related to driving under the influence. In each, he pled guilty to the misdemeanor charges against him. In total, those charges included: one count of driving under the influence of alcohol (Cal. Veh. Code. §23152(a)); two counts of causing property damage in hit and run accidents (Cal. Veh. Code. §20002(a)); and three counts of driving with a blood alcohol level of .08% or more (Cal. Veh. Code. §23152(b)).

In aggravation, Nicholson committed multiple acts of misconduct, and had harmed the public by causing property property.

In mitigation, he had practiced law discipline-free for 18 years and successfully completed the ADP.



Public Reproval

Anthony Obehi Egbase
State Bar # 181721, Los Angeles (May 23, 2017)

Egbase was publicly reproved after he stipulated to committing three counts of professional misconduct in a single client case: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to render an appropriate accounting of the clients’ funds, and failing to avoid interests adverse to the clients.

Egbase was hired to handle a Chapter 13 bankruptcy for a married couple—native Spanish-speakers who lacked fluency in English—charging $4,000 in legal fees. After their mortgage lender objected to the initial petition, asserting they owed more than $66,600 more in arrearages than claimed, the bankruptcy court dismissed the case and informed them to deal with the arrearages issue in state court.

Egbase agreed to handle that case as well. When it was dismissed, he filed a second Chapter 13 petition to preserve the clients’ rights to relief. Shortly after that, he orally agreed to loan the couple $3,100—to be applied to mortgage payments due to the lender; there was no written agreement or consent to this arrangement.

Over an 18-month period, the couple paid Egbase a total of $15,400 to cover their mortgage and his legal services. His staff issued three receipts, erroneously reflecting the payments were deposited in a client trust account rather than being applied to their outstanding legal fees and reimbursement of costs.

In aggravation, Egbase committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation acknowledging his wrongdoing, had practiced law for approximately 16 years discipline-free, submitted letters from 10 individuals attesting to his good character and participation in community service, and took steps to rectify his wrongdoing by offering to pay for fee arbitration and by completing the State Bar’s Ethics School and Client Trust Accounting course.


Sharron S.K. Williams Gelobter
State Bar # 226936, Richmond (May 8, 2017)

Gelobter was publicly reproved after she stipulated to committing three acts of professional misconduct in a single client matter: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to return the client’s papers and property after being requested to do so, and failing to promptly refund the unearned advanced fee the client had paid.

Gelobter was hired by a client who was seeking to obtain permanent residency. After the client paid $3,500 for services to be rendered, however, Gelobter failed to take any affirmative action in the case.

After the State Bar investigation of the matter commenced, Gelobter returned the client file, more than one year after her employment had been terminated, and refunded the advanced fee approximately six months after that.

In aggravation, Gelobter committed multiple acts of wrongdoing.

In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for 10 years without a record of discipline, and spent time traveling to and caring for her mother during her final illness during the time the misconduct occurred.


Pamela Catherine Girardi
State Bar # 188373, San Diego (May 31, 2017)

Girardi was publicly reproved after she stipulated to pleading guilty to one count of the misdemeanor of driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(b)); she was also convicted of an enhancement: driving under the influence of alcohol within 10 years of a separate DUI conviction. The State Bar Court judge found the facts and circumstances in the case did not warrant a finding of moral turpitude, but did involve misconduct warranting professional discipline.

In mitigation, Girardi entered into a pretrial stipulation and had practiced law for nearly 20 years without a record of discipline.


Curtis Lee Surls
State Bar # 136664, Manhattan Beach (May 17, 2017)

Surls was publicly reproved after he stipulated to pleading no contest to driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(b)); he had previously been convicted of that same criminal misdemeanor. The State Bar Court judge found the facts and circumstances did not warrant a finding of moral turpitude, but did involve misconduct warranting professional discipline.

In mitigation, Surls entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law nearly 20 years without discipline before he was convicted of the first DUI, and submitted evidence of community involvement activities.


Reader Comments

  1. Cynthia Gitt says:

    The Bar’s disciplining of DUI’s is all over the map. The Bar has sought up to 90 days suspension in cases I know of. Why is there such inconsistency? I think the discipline of Mr. Surls is the appropriate sanction, but do not understand why the great variation.

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