MAGAZINE
California Lawyer

DISBARMENT

Harvey R. Hasson, State Bar #37346, Palm Desert (August 28, 2013). Hasson, 74, was disbarred for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In aggravation, Hasson had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, he cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect September 27, 2013

Richard A. Lenard, State Bar #153916, Anaheim (August 14, 2013). Lenard, 57, was disbarred for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.

In 2008 Lenard contracted with three California consumer debt relief companies who paid him a flat fee to provide limited legal services for their clients. He customarily charged from $75 to $100 per client and spent 15 to 20 minutes on each file. He estimated that among the three companies, he had more than 1,000 clients in credit repair.

In 2008 and 2009 clients who signed up with the companies received an “Attorney-Client Legal Services Agreement” from Lenard. However, the agreements did not specify that he was licensed to practice law only in California. Lenard reviewed the files of twelve clients in nine different states and sent cease-and-desist letters to their creditors.

The cease-and-desist letters were written on Lenard’s letterhead and informed the creditors that the clients had hired him to stop the creditors from calling them. Despite the letters, creditors continued to contact some of the clients, who then contacted Lenard for additional assistance. Lenard did not respond, and he never met personally with any of the twelve clients.

In aggravation, Lenard had a record of prior discipline. He committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that showed bad faith and dishonesty. In mitigation, he cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect September 13, 2013

Richard J. Lewis, State Bar #117612, Fair Oaks (August 22, 2013). Lewis, 59, was disbarred after being convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude.

In October 2010 Lewis pleaded no contest to a felony violation of Penal Code § 498(b), theft of utility services. The conviction is now final, and the State Bar has concluded that it met the criteria for summary disbarment. The order took effect September 21, 2013

Phyllis Loya, State Bar #111767, Woodland Hills (August 22, 2013). Loya, 65, was disbarred for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to keep a client reasonably informed of significant developments, failing to communicate, violating a court order, failing to promptly release files upon termination of employment, failing to refund unearned fees, and failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In October 2007 Loya was retained by a client as substitute counsel in a pending divorce matter. The parties involved in the divorce eventually entered into a settlement. The client then terminated Loya’s services. Between May 2010 and January 2011, the client repeatedly requested the return of her file and a refund of $600 in advance fees. Loya failed to comply with the requests.

In aggravation, Loya had a record of prior discipline, and she engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that caused harm to her client. The order took effect September 20, 2013

John Y. Song, State Bar #176292, Los Angeles (August 28, 2013). Song, 47, was disbarred for failing to maintain client funds in trust and engaging in an act involving moral turpitude.

In June 2001 Song filed a complaint in superior court on behalf of a family friend. The client sought $130,000 from two defendants as satisfaction of a promissory note. Song’s fee agreement stated that he would be paid $150 per hour, plus a $4,000 retainer fee.

In November 2002 Song and the client entered into a new fee agreement stating that Song would receive 15 percent of any judgment. Later that month, a jury awarded Song’s client $130,000, plus post-judgment interest.

The defendants moved for bankruptcy, and so Song continued to work on the case. In 2005 Song received a check for $145,528.77 in satisfaction of the judgment. Song was required to maintain $133,699 as his client’s share of the proceeds. He held the funds in trust for two years while he tried to contact the client, and then he began to withdraw money from the account. By the time Song made his last unauthorized withdrawal, the account balance had fallen to $21,406. When the client learned that the judgment had been paid and sought to obtain the money, she filed a civil complaint against Song. He later settled that lawsuit for $80,000.

In aggravation, Song committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and showed a lack of insight and remorse by denying that he misappropriated client funds. In mitigation, Song had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1995. He cooperated in the investigation, and presented two witnesses and numerous declarations in support of his good character. The order took effect September 27, 2013

Duane L. Tucker, State Bar #88199, Oakland (August 21, 2013). Tucker, 67, was disbarred for failing to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

In October 2011 at a disciplinary proceeding, Tucker stipulated to misconduct that had occurred since April 2008 in five client matters. The State Bar Court recommended that he be suspended for six months and placed on three years of probation for collecting an illegal fee, failing to competently provide legal services, failing to keep a client reasonably informed, failing to obey court orders, failing to promptly pay client funds, and failing to refund unearned fees.

In June 2012 the state Supreme Court returned the stipulation to the State Bar Court “for further consideration of the recommended discipline in light of the applicable attorney discipline standards.”

The following month Tucker filed to resign with charges pending. However, the State Bar Court rejected Tucker’s resignation because he had failed to meet rule 9.20 requirements for a previous order of discipline.

In aggravation, Tucker had a record of prior discipline. The order took effect Sept. 20, 2013. The order took effect September 20, 2013

SUSPENSION

Joel R. Bander, State Bar #119460, Los Angeles (August 28, 2013). Bander, 57, was suspended for two years and placed on four years of probation for failing to keep a client reasonably informed of significant developments and failing to competently perform legal services. He stipulated to misconduct in ten client matters in which he was hired to perform home loan modification services. In most of the cases, Bander failed to file the lawsuits against his clients’ lenders that they expected. In one matter, Bander did not tell a client that he had filed a request with the court to dismiss the client’s lawsuit. He failed to perform any services of value for the clients and refunded none of the advance fees.

In aggravation, Bander had a record of prior discipline, and he engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his clients. In mitigation, Bander cooperated with the State Bar by in entering into a stipulation. The order took effect September 27, 2013

Jerry F. Childs, State Bar #218457, Fresno (August 22, 2013). Childs, 40, was suspended for 60 days and placed on two years of probation for committing an act involving moral turpitude.

In October 2011 Childs was hired to assist another attorney in defending a medical malpractice case. Childs spoke with a physician who told him that she did not see a breach of the standard of care in the case. More importantly, the physician told Childs that she was not an expert, and never held herself out as an expert.

Nevertheless, Childs later filed an expert witness designation listing the physician as his retained expert. He did this despite knowing that the physician had not been retained as an expert witness, had not agreed to testify, and was not familiar enough with the case to give a meaningful deposition regarding her opinions.

In mitigation, Childs had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 2002. The order took effect September 21, 2013

Vicki S. Dalva, State Bar #210683, Beverly Hills (August 28, 2013). Dalva, 44, was suspended for six months and placed on two years of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to maintain client funds in trust, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, commingling funds, and engaging in acts involving moral turpitude.

In December 2006 Dalva was hired to represent a client in a personal injury matter based on a slip-and-fall accident. In October 2009 the matter settled for $25,000. Dalva deposited the settlement funds into a client trust account. Based on a contingency fee agreement, Dalva was entitled to 40 percent of the settlement, or $10,000. However, she failed to negotiate or pay the Medicare and Medi-Cal liens on the settlement amount, failed pay her client her share of the proceeds, and failed to maintain the required balance in the account. On numerous occasions, Dalva used the account to pay her personal and business expenses. After a State Bar investigator inquired into the matter, Dalva issued settlement funds to her client in February 2012.

In aggravation, Dalva committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that harmed her client. In mitigation, Dalva had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 2000. Also, she cooperated by entering into a stipulation, and presented numerous character witnesses. The order took effect September 27, 2013

Jack H. Karpeles, State Bar #134478, Walnut (August 28, 2014). Karpeles, 56, was suspended for 30 days and placed on one year of probation for the unauthorized practice of law in another jurisdiction, failing to promptly respond to reasonable status inquiries, and failing to refund unearned fees.

In May 2011 Karpeles joined the Maryland-based Miller Law Group. That summer, Equable Ascent Financial LLC sued one of the firm’s clients in Maryland, seeking the repayment of a debt. Karpeles allowed nonattorneys within the firm to relay debt settlement proposals to the client, even though Karpeles was not licensed to practice in Maryland and neither Equable’s complaint nor the client’s representation related to any proceeding in California. Moreover, Karpeles did not retain local Maryland co-counsel to represent the client. Thus, Karpeles violated Maryland’s regulation of the profession, and the California State Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct.

In October 2011 the client attempted to contact Karpeles, but he did not respond. The client terminated his service agreement with the Miller firm and requested a refund. The client then called the firm several times to speak with Karpeles, but he never responded. The client ultimately resolved Equable’s complaint on terms more favorable than either offer negotiated by Miller. Karpeles did not refund the client’s unearned fees until December 2011.

In aggravation, Karpeles committed multiple acts of wronging that harmed his client. In mitigation, Karpeles had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1988, and he cooperated with the investigation. The order took effect September 27, 2014

John J. Leonard, State Bar #232040, Sag Harbor, NY (August 22, 2013). Leonard, 43, was suspended for one year and placed on two years of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to deposit client funds in trust, failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline, and committing acts involving moral turpitude.

In May 2012 Leonard was hired to draft and file an unlawful detainer complaint on behalf of a property management company to evict several tenants. The client agreed to pay Leonard a $500 flat fee, and an additional $400 to cover court filing fees. Leonard failed to deposit the $400 into a client trust account. When he eventually filed the complaint, it was rejected for failing to meet certain procedural requirements. Leonard did not realize it had been rejected until some time later. When he informed the client of the court’s action, he was terminated. Leonard then charged the client $2,135, despite the prior fee agreement.

He kept the $400 in filing fees to pay his legal fees, without the client’s knowledge or consent.

In aggravation, Leonard had a record of prior discipline. Also, he engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Leonard cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect September 21, 2013

Ollie P. Manago, State Bar #140135, Los Angeles (August 28, 2013). Manago, 71, was suspended for six months and placed on two years of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to maintain client funds in trust, and failing to participate in a disciplinary investigation.

In May 2010 Manago was contacted by the caregiver of a 90-year-old woman with dementia whose trust had been prepared in 2004 by another attorney. The previous year the caregiver had asked the other attorney to change the beneficiary of the trust to herself, and the attorney had declined to do so.

Manago instructed the caregiver to obtain a note from the elder woman’s physician regarding her mental state. In August 2010 the caregiver brought a note from the client’s physician, who was not a psychiatrist, stating that the client was “of sound mind” and no longer wanted her aunt and daughter to be the executors of her trust. The note was silent as to whether the client wanted to disinherit her next-of-kin beneficiary.

After reviewing the note and speaking with the elderly client, Manago prepared a revised trust, durable powers of attorney for assets and health care, a pour-over will, and a trust transfer deed to disinherit her next of kin in favor of the caregiver. Manago reasonably should have known that the client was not competent to change her estate plan, and that the change of beneficiary to the caregiver would unduly subject the estate to claims that the caregiver had exercised undue influence.

Later, the parties entered into a stipulation revoking the 2010 trust and related documents. The court subsequently voided the 2010 trust and the trust transfer deed, and ordered the 2004 trust reinstated.

In aggravation, Manago had a record of prior discipline. Also, she engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that harmed her client. In mitigation, although Manago did not initially cooperate in the disciplinary proceedings, she later recognized her wrongdoing and entered into a stipulation. At the time of her misconduct, she was dealing with serious and chronic illnesses. The order took effect September 27, 2013

Rayehe Mazarei, State Bar #155873, Fountain Valley (August 22, 2013). Mazarei, 47, was suspended for 30 days and placed on two years of probation for committing an act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In March 2007 a client hired Mazarei to help him repair deficiencies in a previously filed application for naturalization. Mazarei agreed to seek withdrawal of the application from the Department of Homeland Security to allow time for the client to secure the proper evidentiary showing. In addition, Mazarei agreed to timely file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to determine the contents of the client’s file. Mazarei knew when she agreed to represent the client that she could not withdraw the application once the DHS renders a decision. In April, DHS rejected the client’s application for several reasons.

Between August 2007 and April 2009, Mazarei repeatedly told the client that she had withdrawn his application and filed the FOIA request, even though she never withdrew the application and did not submit a FOIA request until March 2009. The client later terminated Mazarei’s services, and she admitted her falsehoods. In March 2013 Mazarei refunded the client’s $1,200, plus interest.

In aggravation, Mazarei had a record of prior discipline. Her continuous misrepresentations and failure to refund advance fees caused her client significant harm. In mitigation, Mazarei cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect September 20, 2013

Brandon B. Powell, State Bar #167740, Pomona (August 22, 2013). Burnham, 53, was suspended for two years and placed on three years of probation following his convictions in three separate incidents involving substance abuse.

In October 2005 Powell pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor violations of the Vehicle Code: § 23152(b), driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more; and § 14601.1 (a), driving while a license is suspended or revoked.

In May 2007 Powell was charged with two violations of the Health and Safety Code: § 11350(a), felony possession of a controlled substance (hydrocodone); and § 11357(b), misdemeanor possession of 28.5 grams or less of marijuana. Powell failed to appear at a pretrial conference, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. Two years later Powell was arrested and booked into jail. In October 2009 he pleaded guilty to both pending charges, was placed on three years of criminal probation, and ordered to complete a drug treatment program. At no time did Powell report to the State Bar his felony conviction on Health and Safety Code § 11350(a).

In April 2011 Powell was convicted of violating Health and Safety Code § 11364(a), possession of controlled substance paraphernalia, and Vehicle Code § 14601.2(a), driving when a license is suspended or revoked for DUI. Powell pleaded guilty to both misdemeanor charges.

In aggravation, Powell engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that demonstrated a pattern of misconduct. He showed indifference by failing for two years to respond to the charges of possessing controlled substances. In mitigation, Powell had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1993. He cooperated by admitting his culpability and entering into a stipulation. The order took effect September 21, 2013

Michael B. Stone, State Bar #160177, Las Vegas, NV (August 22, 2013). Stone, 56, was suspended for 90 days and placed on two years of probation for failing to comply with conditions to two previous orders of discipline.

In aggravation, Stone had a record of prior discipline. By failing to pay restitution, he engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that harmed his clients. In mitigation, Stone entered into a stipulation with the State Bar. Also, at the time of his misconduct Stone experienced extreme financial difficulties. The order took effect September 20, 2013

Daniel I. Wagner, State Bar #235705, La Jolla (August 28, 2013). Wagner, 42, was suspended for one year and placed on three years of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, and for collecting an advance fee in a loan modification matter in violation of Civil Code § 2944.7(a).

In September 2010 a client hired Wagner to negotiate and obtain a home loan modification. The client agreed to pay Wagner $2,500 in advance fees and $500 upon completion of services. When Wagner collected the $2,500, he had not completed all the legal services he had agreed to perform. By January 2011 Wagner informed the client he had been approved for a trial loan modification. But a month later Wagner terminated the retainer agreements because the client had failed to pay him the remaining $500 fee. The client requested a refund of the advance fees, but Wagner did not comply until the State Bar began an investigation. There were four other matters involving similar conduct warranting discipline.

In aggravation, Wagner had a record of prior discipline. He committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his clients. In mitigation, Wagner entered into a stipulation with the State Bar. The order took effect September 27, 2013

Charles R. Wear, State Bar #102381, Moreno Valley (August 28, 2013). Wear, 64, was suspended for one year and placed on three years of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to keep a client informed of significant developments, failing to take reasonable steps to avoid foreseeable prejudice to his client following termination of employment, and failing to cooperate and participate in a disciplinary investigation.

In August 2009 a client hired Wear to file a personal bankruptcy petition on her behalf. The following January, Wear filed the bankruptcy petition, but three months later another party filed an adversary complaint related to the petition. Wear agreed to represent his client in the adversary action.

Between July and December 2010, opposing counsel served Wear’s client with two sets of interrogatories. Although Wear responded to the first set, he failed to provide responses to the second set. Wear also walked out of a deposition, effectively terminating it without legal justification. He failed to inform his client of his inaction on the second interrogatories, and he repeatedly delayed her deposition in the matter.

Eventually, the trial court ordered the client to personally pay $12,013 in sanctions, and warned her that failing to do so would result in the striking of her answer to the adversary complaint. The court also scheduled an order to show cause hearing as to why her default should not be entered. In June 2011, in an email, Wear advised his client that he would no longer represent her in the adversary action. Wear filed neither a substitution of attorney form, nor a motion to withdraw as the client’s counsel of record. As a result, the client was forced to represent herself in pro per at the OSC hearing. Although Wear later explained to the trial court that his client did not pay the sanctions due to his failures, the judge struck the client’s answer and entered her default.

In March 2012 the trial court entered an amended default judgment of $153,277 in the adversary action. The next month the State Bar opened an investigation based on the client’s complaint.

In aggravation, Wear had a record of prior discipline. He engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that caused his client significant harm. Also, he failed to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation and proceedings. In mitigation, during the period of his misconduct Wear experienced emotional problems. Also, he eventually agreed to enter into a stipulation. The order took effect September 27, 2013

PROBATION

Jessany E. Garrett, State Bar #241893, Sherman Oaks (August 14, 2013). Garrett, 33, was placed on two years of probation following her misdemeanor conviction for making criminal threats.

In October 2010 a man working for a car-repossession company attempted to take Garrett’s vehicle from her driveway. When the car’s alarm went off, Garrett ran outside and retrieved certain items from it, including a handgun. She held the gun while threatening the man, causing him to fear for his safety. He called 911 and the police arrived, but not before Garrett had returned her gun to the car. The Los Angeles district attorney charged Garrett with assault with a firearm and making criminal threats, both felonies.

In August 2012 Garrett pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor violation of Penal Code § 422, making criminal threats. The court placed Garrett on two years of probation.

In aggravation, Garrett harmed an individual by placing him in fear for his safety. In mitigation, Garrett cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect September 13, 2013

Victor S. Haltom, State Bar #155157, Sacramento (August 21, 2013). Haltom, 48, was placed on one year of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, failing to inform a client of significant developments, failing to obey a court order, failing to maintain respect due the courts and judicial officers, improperly withdrawing from representation, failing to refund unearned fees, and committing acts involving moral turpitude.

In April 2005 Haltom was hired by the mother of a felon convicted of first-degree murder based on his participation as the getaway driver in an attempted robbery that led to a killing. The convict’s mother claimed someone else was the getaway driver. Haltom discussed the possibility of filing a habeas petition in the case, knowing he could not do so unless he found evidence that her son was innocent, and the deadlines for filing were approaching. The mother paid Haltom $12,500 for legal services.

Haltom reviewed the trial records and hired investigators. He later requested an additional $10,000 to pay further investigative fees. But it wasn’t until after the habeas petition deadlines had passed that Haltom received the two investigation reports: Both indicated that key testimony against the convicted felon was false.

Haltom continued to work on the case for several years, although he spent most of his time working on other matters. The mother contacted Haltom on many occasions, questioning why he had yet to file a habeas petition.

Eventually, she filed a State Bar complaint. Shortly thereafter, Haltom filed a state habeas petition, but it failed to meet any exceptions for the filing deadlines and was denied as untimely. Later, after disciplinary charges had been filed against Haltom, he refunded some of the fees he had been paid for the case. There was one other matter involving conduct warranting discipline.

In aggravation, Haltom committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that caused significant harm to his clients. He also obtained compensation from a person other than his client without obtaining his client’s informed consent. In mitigation, Haltom had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1991. Also, he showed candor, cooperated with the investigation, and demonstrated sincere remorse for his wrongdoing. The order took effect September 20, 2013

Henry D. Nunez, State Bar #63412, Fresno (August 22, 2013). Nunez, 66, was placed on one year of probation for failing to competently perform legal services and failing to keep a client reasonably informed of significant developments.

In September 2006 Nunez was hired to represent a trustee in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing. The client hired Nunez as special counsel to pursue various claims on behalf of the bankruptcy estate, and the bankruptcy court approved the appointment.

In December 2009 Nunez became counsel of record on his client’s behalf in a matter before the Superior Court of Fresno County. Nunez thereafter failed to adequately respond to discovery requests in the matter. As a result, the court imposed discovery sanctions of $6,025 on his client. Nunez paid the sanctions, but he never informed his client about them.

In aggravation, Nunez engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that caused significant harm to his client. In mitigation, Nunez had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1974. Also, he cooperated by entering into a full stipulation. The order took effect September 20, 2013

There are no recent disciplinary actions of this type.