Recent disbarments, suspensions and probations in California
- Erikson McDonnell Davis , Los Angeles
- Michael Anthony Gulla, Indio
- Joseph Alan Hendrix, Orange
- Ann Elizabeth Herring, Redlands
- Dawn Marie Hunter, Georgetown, South Carolina
- Martin Edgar Keller, San Bernardino
- David Doe-Ook Kim, Seoul, Korea
- Leo Joseph Moriarty, Jr. , Long Beach
- Rebecca Amelia Tapia, Houston, Texas
- Donald Thomas Bergerson, Shoreline, Washington
- Matthew Eli Faler, Los Angeles
- Susan Deborah Feeney , Lakeport
- Homer Lynn Harris, Long Beach
- Albert Miklos Kun, San Francisco
- David Michael Livingston, Los Angeles
- Kelly Leigh McDonald, Colton
- Arturo Reyes, Jr. , Sacramento
- Joseph John Siguenza , Burlingame
- David Michael Smith , Santa Rosa
- Samuel Robert Spira , Los Angeles
- Marc Lawrence Terbeek, Albany
- Nancy J. Wallace, San Bernardino
Erikson McDonnell Davis
State Bar # 197841, Los Angeles (September 21, 2017)
Davis was disbarred after he stipulated to committing five acts of professional misconduct related to 19 clients seeking loan modifications. He was found culpable of: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to provide several clients with separate written documentation required in loan modification matters and of collecting illegal fees in them, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, and breaching his fiduciary duty to the clients—an act involving moral turpitude.
Davis owned a law firm dedicated to soliciting clients—by mail, television, and the Internet—seeking loan modification services. The firm used non-attorneys to meet with and screen clients, and made use of both individual and mass joinder lawsuits to pursue its goals.
All 19 clients in the instant matter signed fee agreements requiring them to pay advanced fees; three of the clients also paid a monthly “maintenance fee” for the services. In total, Davis’ firm collected $173,761 in advanced fees.
None of the clients were presented with separate written agreements containing the requisite warning that loan modifications could be negotiated directly with lenders or secured through nonprofit agencies (Cal. Civ. Code 2944.6(a)).
Several of the clients terminated the firm’s representation before lawsuits were filed in their cases; in several other cases, Davis accepted fees before fully performing the legal services promised—again, in violation of legal strictures on loan modification matters. One of the clients who had paid an advance fee was a resident of Wisconsin—a jurisdiction in which Davis was not licensed to practice law.
None of the clients received loan modifications, nor have they received refunds of their fees.
In aggravation, Davis committed multiple acts of misconduct over a three-year period, had a prior record of discipline involving similar misconduct, included false language in his fee agreements tantamount to overreaching, and significantly harmed his clients by breaching his fiduciary duty to them as well as failing to pay them restitution.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation acknowledging his misconduct.
Michael Anthony Gulla
State Bar # 80133, Indio (September 21, 2017)
Gulla was disbarred by default after he failed to appear at his disciplinary proceeding despite receiving adequate legal notice.
He was found culpable of five counts of professional misconduct related to two client matters: improperly withdrawing from employment and two counts each of failing to maintain the required balance in his client trust account and misappropriating clients’ funds for his personal use—wrongdoing involving moral turpitude. He was also found of failing to update his State Bar membership records with a changed address.
Gulla had been disciplined by the State Bar twice before.
Joseph Alan Hendrix
State Bar # 131556, Orange (September 21, 2017)
Hendrix was disbarred after a contested disciplinary matter in which he was charged with five counts of professional misconduct in two client matters. The wrongdoing included failing to promptly disburse funds to a client, two counts of failing to deposit client funds in a trust account, and two counts involving moral turpitude: misappropriating client funds and misrepresenting to a client that he had not received a settlement check.
In one matter, Hendrix was hired to handle a personal injury matter, ultimately settling the case for $20,000. He deposited the settlement check in his general business account, issuing checks from it until the account had a negative balance. After the client complained to the State Bar, Hendrix paid him in full.
The other case, another personal injury matter, was settled for $15,000. Hendrix deposited the settlement check into a general business account, subsequently transferring amounts among two business accounts and his client trust account until all were depleted. When the client inquired about the status of the settlement payment, Hendrix falsely responded that it had been delayed. He paid the client the amount of the settlement due him approximately one year after he had received the check—and only after that client also complained to the State Bar.
In aggravation, Hendrix committed multiple acts of misconduct, lied to conceal his misappropriation of funds, and was also given aggravating weight for the uncharged misconduct of an additional count of misappropriation.
In mitigation, he had practiced law for nearly 27 years discipline-free, entered an extensive stipulation regarding facts and culpability, and presented evidence from nine individuals attesting to his good character—six wrote letters and three testified at trial. In addition, he was allotted limited mitigation weight for repaying and apologizing to his clients, as he did so only after the State Bar intervened—and for financial and emotional difficulties stemming from a divorce that occurred two years before he committed the misconduct.
Ann Elizabeth Herring
State Bar # 144688, Redlands (September 29, 2017)
Herring was summarily disbarred. She earlier pled guilty to one count of defrauding an elderly dependent adult (Cal. Penal Code §368(e)(1)).
The Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar submitted evidence that the conviction had become final. Summary disbarment is warranted upon evidence of a conviction involving moral turpitude.
Herring filed a request to stay her suspension, arguing that the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor, and offering as evidence the trial transcript showing that the superior court judge agreed to hold off entering the conviction until her sentencing date.
The State Bar Court judge rejected this argument, noting that her accepted felony plea “resulted in a felony conviction for discipline purposes even though it is considered by the criminal court to be a misdemeanor due to postconviction proceedings. In addition, the judge noted that the superior court accepted and registered the status as of the date of the plea as a felony conviction.
Dawn Marie Hunter
State Bar # 177153, Georgetown, South Carolina (September 21, 2017)
Hunter was disbarred by default after she failed to appear at her disciplinary trial despite having adequate notice and opportunity to do so; she had appeared at three earlier status conferences in the matter.
She was found culpable of willfully violating a court rule by failing to file a declaration of compliance as mandated in an earlier discipline order (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20).
Hunter had been disciplined by the State Bar for professional misconduct once previously.
Martin Edgar Keller
State Bar # 104159, San Bernardino (September 1, 2017)
Keller was disbarred by default after he failed to appear, either in person or through counsel, at his disciplinary proceeding. The State Bar Court judge determined he had received adequate legal notice and that he did not move to have the default order entered in the case set aside or vacated.
Keller was found culpable of three of the four counts of professional misconduct with which he had been charged: failing to perform any legal services for the client who had retained him, failing to obtain court permission to withdraw from employment, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the misconduct alleged.
He had been disciplined by the State Bar twice previously.
David Doe-Ook Kim
State Bar # 128030, Seoul, Korea (September 21, 2017)
Kim was disbarred after an appeal of the hearing judge’s recommendation of disbarment He had been charged with four counts of professional misconduct including failing to promptly notify his clients he had received settlement funds and failing to maintain client funds in a trust account, as well as two acts involving moral turpitude: misappropriating client funds and misrepresenting material facts to those clients. On the second day of the underlying trial, Kim stipulated to culpability on all four counts.
Kim was retained to represent two clients who were in a wage and hour dispute with the restaurant where they had worked. The case was ultimately settled for $425,000 to be paid in installments into Kim’s client trust account, with a proviso that the settlement existence and terms must be kept confidential.
There were disagreements over the settlement, with the employer accusing the clients of breaching the confidentiality requirement by talking to the media, and the clients objecting to the employer’s resistance to paying taxes on the settlement amount. Kim ultimately induced the clients to sign the settlement agreement by tendering a letter assuring them they “would each receive no less than $118,000 irrespective of the final amount of the costs”—an amount mathematically impossible under the terms of the distribution plan at issue.
Over several months, Kim received six checks totaling $180,000, which he deposited into his client trust account without disclosing to the clients that he had received the money. Instead, he told them their case had been dismissed because of their alleged breach of confidentiality and that they would need to file a new lawsuit.
The clients ultimately retained new counsel, when it was discovered that Kim had received and cashed the settlement checks.
In aggravation, Kim committed multiple acts of misconduct, had a prior record of discipline and caused his clients significant harm as found by the hearing judge and affirmed by the State Bar Court panel on appeal.
However, the panel disagreed with the judge and declined to allot aggravating weight for dishonesty and overreaching based on Kim’s appeasing letter to the clients, underscoring his testimony that he intended to reduce his own costs to honor the promised payment to them. It also declined the additional aggravation allotted for uncharged violations of sending an untruthful letter to the State Bar and on failing to endorse a client settlement check, noting that the Office of Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar had ample opportunity to amend and include the charges, but failed to do so. The panel did find, however, that Kim’s misstatements to a State Bar investigator demonstrated a lack of candor—and assigned limited aggravation for that misconduct.
In mitigation, the hearing judge assigned significant weight to Kim’s stipulation to culpability, which the panel reduced to moderate weight, since it occurred on the second day of trial, so did not substantially shorten the proceeding. It affirmed limited mitigation for emotional difficulties, since he failed to establish either that they caused him to commit misconduct or no longer posed a risk of future misconduct. The panel also assigned limited mitigation weight to Kim’s community service—proof of which was offered only through his own testimony.
Leo Joseph Moriarty, Jr.
State Bar # 140093, Long Beach (September 21, 2017)
Moriarty was disbarred. He had appealed the discipline order recommending 18 months of actual suspension after finding him culpable of two counts involving moral turpitude for failing to correct a misrepresentation made to an administrative tribunal and intentionally making a false representation to that tribunal. The hearing judge below dismissed an additional eight counts that had been charged—including two counts of seeking to mislead a judge, two counts of failing to report judicial sanctions, and four counts of failing to obey court orders.
In the underlying client matter, Moriarty represented two former city council members who were in a dispute with the city over reductions in their retirement benefits. He failed to appear at the first client’s proceeding before the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH); his fiancée had called Moriarty’s assistant the night before, explaining that he may be having heart trouble and instructing him to seek a continuance n the case. The continuance was granted with a notation that “Moriarty’s wife had taken him to the hospital,” and instructing him to file documentation substantiating the medical emergency. In reality, however, he did not seek medical treatment, nor did he file the requested documentation, and was subsequently sanctioned. He failed to pay the full sanctioned owed, or to report the fact that it had been imposed to the State Bar as required.
The OAH hearing for the second client was set to occur about two weeks later. Again, Moriarty did not attend; his assistant filed a motion for a continuance, stating that Moriarty was hospitalized at the time, receiving various emergency heart procedures; in fact, he did not seek or obtain medical attention. The OAH also requested documentation confirming his hospitalization, which he did not provide.
In both instances, Moriarty had notice of the misrepresentations made in seeking the continuances, but took no steps to correct the record.
In addition to affirming culpability for the two acts of moral turpitude found by the hearing judge, the panel also found him culpable of violating four OAH orders and of failing to report two judicial sanctions to the State Bar.
In aggravation, Moriarty committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, had been disciplined by the State Bar twice before, significantly harmed the administration of justice through his acts, and showed indifference through his lack of insight into his misconduct, making him “an ongoing danger to the public and to the legal profession.”
In mitigation, he was entitled to limited weight for cooperating with the State Bar by entering into pretrial and supplemental factual stipulations.
Rebecca Amelia Tapia
State Bar # 83053, Houston, Texas (September 21, 2017)
Tapia was disbarred after she stipulated to committing two counts of professional misconduct: failing to comply with conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary probation and failing to comply with a court order, also related to that order.
Specifically, Tapia failed to submit a mental health professional’s written report and to timely submit two mental health reports to the Office of Probation as mandated in the order. In addition, she failed to submit a timely and compliant affidavit acknowledging she had informed other parties of her discipline as required (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20); the affidavit she filed failed to include her address for future correspondence.
In aggravation, Tapia committed multiple acts of misconduct and had three prior records of discipline.
In mitigation, she filed a pretrial stipulation acknowledging her misconduct, saving the State Bar time and other resources.
Donald Thomas Bergerson
State Bar # 91263, Shoreline, Washington
Bergerson was suspended from the practice of law for two years and placed on probation for three years. He stipulated to committing 20 acts of professional misconduct in five client matters.
His wrongdoing included: failing to promptly release a client’s papers and property after being requested to do so, failing to render an accounting of a client’s funds, improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to take reasonable steps to avoid prejudice to a client upon terminating employment; two counts of failing to obey court orders; four counts each of accepting compensation from someone other than a client without the client’s prior written consent and failing to refund unearned advanced fees; and five counts of failing to perform legal services with competence.
His repeated misconduct in the client matters amounted to another count of moral turpitude.
In aggravation, Bergerson committed multiple acts of misconduct, had a prior record of discipline, and caused significant harm to his clients—all of whom were incarcerated and thus highly vulnerable.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and was allotted some mitigation credit for physical difficulties caused by aggravated existing injuries—though he failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that he no longer suffers from the disability claimed.
Matthew Eli Faler
State Bar # 243067, Los Angeles (April 18, 2017)
Faler was suspended from the practice of law for six months and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to committing approximately 50 separate acts of professional misconduct within 15 charged violations. The wrongdoing, which occurred in three client matters, included failing to deposit client funds in a trust account, failing to promptly pay client funds as requested, failing to provide the client with an accounting, failing to return unearned advanced fees to the client, failing to provide clients with a written fee agreement, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, failing to provide a client with an accounting, failing to return unearned advanced fees to the client, failing to provide clients with a written fee agreement, failing to report court-imposed sanctions to the State Bar as required, and failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries.
He was also culpable of two counts of improperly withdrawing from employment and four counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence and failing to comply with court orders, as well as two counts involving moral turpitude: misappropriating client funds and falsely informing a client he had continued a hearing when he knew the application had been denied.
In each of the cases, Faler was hired to represent clients in various bankruptcy matters. Though he accepted and deposited their advanced fee payments, he failed to pursue their claims or appear at scheduled court hearings in their cases.
In aggravation, Faler committed multiple acts of misconduct, caused significant harm to several clients, and failed to make restitution for the misappropriated funds and unearned fees.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and provided evidence of suffering from a bipolar disorder that adversely affected his ability to practice law effectively—a condition now under medical control due to a changed medication and therapy regimen. He was also allotted light mitigation credit for having practiced law for seven years without a record of discipline.
Susan Deborah Feeney
State Bar # 184874, Lakeport (September 21, 2017)
Feeney was suspended from practicing law for 90 days and placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to committing 13 acts of professional misconduct in three client matters. The wrongdoing included: failing to return a client’s papers and property after being requested to do so and failing to obey a court order; two counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to promptly refund unearned advanced legal fees, failing to render appropriate accountings of client funds, and failing to pay court-ordered sanctions; and three counts of failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the wrongdoing alleged.
In all three matters, Feeney was retained to represent clients, but then did not perform the legal services required—failing to file and serve a mandatory settlement conference statement and to appear at the conference, failing to file a lawsuit as promised, failing to prepare agreements and dismissals as ordered by a court.
In aggravation, Feeney committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed her clients.
In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for more than 26 years without a record of discipline, and was suffering from severe physical difficulties caused by a life-threatening illness during the time she failed to respond to the State Bar’s inquiries.
Homer Lynn Harris
State Bar # 227468, Long Beach (September 21, 2017)
Harris was suspended from practicing law for six months and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing seven acts of professional misconduct in two client matters: failing to obtain written consent before entering into a loan agreement with a client, failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to obey a court order, failing to keep a client reasonably informed of case developments, failing to take steps to avoid prejudice to a client before withdrawing from employment, and two counts of commingling personal and client funds held in trust.
In one case, he received a settlement check on behalf of a client in a marital dissolution case, depositing it into his client trust account. He then entered into a business transaction in which the client agreed to loan him a portion of the settlement funds, without first informing the client in writing about the option of seeking advice from an independent lawyer before entering into the arrangement. Harris eventually repaid the client, with interest.
In the other matter, Harris represented a client seeking a marital dissolution, but failed to prepare and file a judgment terminating the marital status as directed at a settlement conference and did not inform the client, who learned of the failure more than two years later, when seeking a copy of the divorce decree as required in an unrelated legal action. The client initially had difficulty contacting Harris, who had moved to a new office without informing him—and ultimately retained a new attorney to secure the dissolution judgment, nearly five years after hiring Harris.
In aggravation, Harris committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed his clients.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation fully resolving the matter and had practiced law discipline-free for 10 years before committing the wrongdoing.
Albert Miklos Kun
State Bar # 55820, San Francisco (September 8, 2017)
Miklos was suspended from practicing law for two years and placed on probation for three years after an appeal contesting the discipline originally recommended by the hearing judge, which included one year of actual suspension. He was found culpable of four counts of professional misconduct in a single client matter: one count of failing to maintain client funds in a trust account, two counts of commingling client and personal funds, and one count of misappropriating the client funds—wrongdoing involving moral turpitude.
In the client case, Kun was retained to represent a client seeking a restraining order against her brother to stop his alleged false allegations and harassment. He did not tender a written fee agreement, nor did he discuss whether fees were charged flat or hourly, but accepted $2,000 in legal fees and an additional $460 for filing fees.
Unhappy with Kun’s failure to communicate with her and dissatisfied with the petition he had drafted, which related to her mother’s trust rather than a restraining order, she terminated his services. He subsequently sent her an invoice for fees billed, which did not account for the $460 filing fee, nor did it address any unexpended attorney fees. He later explained his reasoning—that the petition related to the trust required a filing fee, while a restraining order did not—so he effectively converted the filing fee tendered to attorney fees.
After depositing the client’s check into his trust account, Kun wrote at least 34 checks to cover personal and business expenses, deposited other client fees, and made 78 cash withdrawals from the account—causing the balance to dip below the required amount.
Both Kun and the Office of Chief Trial Counsel (OCTC) of the State Bar appealed the hearing judge’s discipline recommendation. Kun sought a dismissal of all charges and a finding of increased mitigation; the OCTC sought additional aggravation weight and equivocated about the appropriate level of discipline—urging two years of actual suspension or disbarment.
Prior to his disciplinary trial, Kun filed a motion to suppress evidence, claiming that the subpoena to the bank seeking production of his client trust account records was defective. On review, the State Bar Court panel rejected this argument, citing precedent establishing that some common procedural safeguards do not apply in disciplinary proceedings and that Kun “has irrevocably authorized disclosure of his trust fund records to the State Bar by operation of law” (Cal. Bus & Prof. Code §6069(a)).
The panel also reaffirmed the culpability findings of failing to maintain the client funds in trust, misappropriation, and commingling based on Kun’s depositing of personal funds into his client trust account. However, it reversed the dismissal of commingling charge based on paying personal expenses from the trust account, which the hearing judge had dismissed as duplicative—finding him culpable of both counts of impermissible commingling.
In aggravation, the hearing judge cited Kun’s two prior discipline orders, his indifference toward rectification or atonement, and uncharged misconduct for failure to refund unearned fees. On review, the panel affirmed the significant aggravating weight assigned to the prior misconduct, but reduced the weight for indifference, and declined to assign weight for uncharged misconduct. In also assigned additional aggravation for committing multiple acts of misconduct and failure to make restitution, as urged by the OCTC.
In mitigation, the panel affirmed the trial judge’s assignment of minimal credit for cooperating by entering into two pretrial factual stipulations, since the stipulated facts related to matters that could be easily proved. However, it reversed the trial judge’s finding of minimal credit for the character witness testimony presented by a single attorney who knew nothing about the present pending misconduct charges and was aware of only one of Kun’s previous two misconduct cases.
Finally, the panel rejected Kun’s argument for mitigation based on his own hearing disability and his wife’s mental disability, finding he had failed to establish a nexus between the disabilities and the misconduct or to show they posed no danger of future misconduct. It also rejected Kun’s argument that he was entitled to mitigation because of his good faith belief that $460 was an “insignificantly small” amount to misappropriate, underscoring that “any misappropriation established culpability.”
David Michael Livingston
State Bar # 204347, Los Angeles (September 5, 2017)
Livingston was suspended from practicing law in the interim pending final disposition of his conviction of unlawfully accepting business with reckless disregard for whether the client intended to commit insurance fraud (Cal. Penal Code §§549 and 550, Cal. Ins. Code §1871.4). The offense is a misdemeanor, with probable cause to believe it involved moral turpitude.
Kelly Leigh McDonald
State Bar # 223579, Colton (September 5, 2017)
McDonald was suspended in the interim pending final disposition of her convictions of the felony of endangering the health of a child (Cal. Penal Code §273a(a)) and the misdemeanor of driving under the influence of alcohol with an admitted prior DUI offense (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(a)). Both offenses may or may not involve moral turpitude.
Arturo Reyes, Jr.
State Bar # 214473, Sacramento (September 24, 2017)
Reyes was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing five acts of professional misconduct in a single client matter: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to inform his client of significant case developments, failing to return an unearned advanced fee, accepting compensation for services from a third party without the client’s prior written consent, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the misconduct alleged.
Reyes agreed to represent a client in a criminal matter, accepting $5,000 to take the case through trial, and then an additional $2,500 to appeal the conviction and prison sentence received. Reyes accepted all the fees from the client’s mother, without obtaining a prior written consent from the client.
Reyes submitted a notice of appeal, which was rejected by the court for being filed untimely. The appellate court granted the client’s subsequent request to appeal under the constructive filing doctrine, and later served Reyes with a letter informing him he would be retained as the attorney of record unless he filed a substitution of attorney or motion to withdraw. He took neither action, and failed to file an opening brief.
Consequently, the appeal was dismissed. Reyes did not notify the client of the dismissal, and refunded the unearned advanced fees only after the State Bar filed a Notice of Disciplinary Charges in the matter.
In aggravation, Reyes committed multiple acts of misconduct and caused significant harm to a highly vulnerable client.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law discipline-free for approximately 12 years, and provided letters from six individuals—all of whom attested to his good character.
Joseph John Siguenza
State Bar # 92327, Burlingame (September 11, 2017)
Siguenza was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination as required in a previous disciplinary order.
David Michael Smith
State Bar # 242063, Santa Rosa (September 21, 2017)
Smith was suspended from the practice of law for two years and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to pleading guilty to two misdemeanors in separate incidents: false imprisonment (Cal. Penal Code §236) and intentionally violating an emergency protective order (Cal. Penal Code §273.6(a)) and to violating the terms and conditions of his criminal probation.
The State Bar Court judge determined that the facts and circumstances surrounding all three violations did not involve moral turpitude but did involve other misconduct warranting professional discipline.
In one incident, Smith’s mother was visiting him from out of state. She became upset by his alcohol consumption and packed her belongings to leave his apartment. He believed that his mother, who had a history of mental illness, was having a panic attack, and physically prevented her from leaving. The two got into an altercation, and when the mother cried out for help, a neighbor called the police. Smith, who was under the influence of alcohol at the time, was arrested and charged with felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor battery—though the charges were later reduced.
In the other incident, Smith took his son out of elementary school without the boy’s mother’s consent and checked into a hotel. The lobby clerk summoned police after Smith acted erratically—insisting that “gangbangers” were following him—and he was arrested and charged with being under the influence of a controlled substance and with child endangerment. The responding offer also requested an emergency protective order preventing Smith from contacting his son or his son’s mother; he violated the order the next day.
Smith was subsequently arrested two more times for violating the terms and conditions of the criminal probation imposed by a superior court, which prohibited him from consuming alcohol and entering places where alcoholic beverages are the primary item for sale.
In aggravation, Smith committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed the administration of justice and had been disciplined by the State Bar twice before.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, received treatment and therapy to manage symptoms of a bipolar disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and was experiencing family difficulties while serving as a caregiver for his ill mother during the time of his misconduct.
Samuel Robert Spira
State Bar # 175983, Los Angeles (September 8, 2017)
Spira was suspended from the practice of law for one year and placed on probation for one year after he failed to participate in the proceeding to revoke his disciplinary probation despite having adequate notice and opportunity to do so.
After earlier misrepresenting to the State Bar that he had completed the required number of hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education, Spira was placed on probation with a stayed suspension period, subject to several conditions. One of those conditions required him to schedule a meeting with his probation deputy within 30 days of the discipline order. Another required him to submit quarterly written reports to the Office of Probation. He failed to fulfill both requirements.
In aggravation, Spira had a prior record of discipline and failed to participate in the revocation hearing, which the State Bar Court judge noted established that he “fails both to appreciate the seriousness of the charges against him and to comprehend the importance of fulfilling his duty as an attorney to participate in disciplinary proceedings.”
Marc Lawrence Terbeek
State Bar # 166098, Albany (September 5, 2017)
Terbeek was suspended in the interim pending final disposition of his convictions of making payments to a union organization employee (29 U.S.C. §186(a))—a felony that may or may not involve moral turpitude, and of willfully violating anti-structuring regulations (12 U.S.C. §1956)—a misdemeanor, which also may or may not involve moral turpitude.
Nancy J. Wallace
State Bar # 141068, San Bernardino (September 12, 2017)
Wallace 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 respond to the client’s reasonable requests for a case status update, and making an untrue statement in advertising her legal services.
In the underlying matter, Wallace was hired to represent a client in a workers’ compensation matter. The client subsequently informed her that he disagreed with his physician’s written evaluation of his condition; Wallace promised to seek a review and report by a vocational expert, but did not do so. She then failed to appeal a subsequent independent medical review denying authorization for a specific treatment.
Nearly 6 ½ years after hiring her, the client wrote a letter to Wallace urging her to settle the case, but she did not respond, nor did she respond to the letter he sent a year after that requesting a case status update.
In addition, she included advertising on her website indicating she was a specialist in workers’ compensation law; in fact, her certification had lapsed five years earlier.
In aggravation, Wallace committed multiple acts of misconduct.
In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation and had practiced law for 26 years without a record of discipline.