MAGAZINE
California Lawyer

DISBARMENT

Christopher E. Arras, State Bar #169854, Petaluma (February 21, 2013). Arras, 45, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He was charged with failing to competently perform legal services, failing to communicate with clients, failing to deposit client funds in trust, failing to obey a court order, and misappropriating funds. The order took effect March 23, 2013
David F. Brown, State Bar #172130, Modesto (February 14, 2013). Brown, 65, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. The order took effect March 16, 2013
Robert E. Dowd, State Bar #93284, Bakersfield (February 21, 2013). Dowd, 68, was disbarred following his criminal conviction for violating Penal Code § 148(a)(1), resisting arrest, a misdemeanor; and for failing to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

In aggravation, Dowd had a record of prior discipline. He committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, and he demonstrated indifference toward recti-fication of or atonement for the consequences of his misconduct. In mitigation, Dowd cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a comprehensive stipulation. The order took effect March 21, 2013

Stephen C. Downey, State Bar #70689, Woodland Hills (February 21, 2013). Downey, 66, was disbarred for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In aggravation, Downey had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, he cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 23, 2013

Ronald G. Finch, State Bar #70822, Scottsdale, AZ (February 14, 2013). Finch, 63, was disbarred for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In aggravation, Finch had a record of prior discipline. He committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, and he demonstrated indifference toward rectification of or atonement for his misconduct. The order took effect March 16, 2013

Ramon M. Gonzalez, State Bar #220891, Hollywood (February 14, 2013). Gonzalez, 44, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He was charged with 48 counts of misconduct in twelve client matters. The order took effect March 16, 2013
Craig M. Laverty, State Bar #176586, Laguna Niguel (March 7, 2013). Laverty, 59, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He was charged with misconduct in 14 separate client matters and found culpable of engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in a jurisdiction where he was not licensed, collecting advance attorneys fees from clients in that jurisdiction, and failing to refund unearned fees. The order took effect April 6, 2013
Alexandre N. Lebecki, State Bar #152475, Los Angeles (February 21, 2013). Lebecki, 49, was disbarred for failing to maintain client funds in trust, misappropriating funds, and committing an act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In aggravation, Lebecki’s misconduct involved trust fund violations that harmed his clients. Also, he engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Lebecki had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1991, and he entered into a comprehensive stipulation prior to trial. The order took effect March 23, 2013

Howard R. Levine, State Bar #105973, San Fernando (February 27, 2013). Levine, 56, was disbarred for failing to notify a client of receipt of funds, failing to maintain client funds in trust, failing to promptly disburse client funds, accepting fees from a nonclient, charging an unconscionable fee, and committing an act involving moral turpitude.

In aggravation, Levine had a record of prior discipline. He committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, and he demonstrated indifference toward rectification of or atonement for the consequences of his misconduct. In mitigation, Levine cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 29, 2013

Ric A. Militello, State Bar #193675, San Diego (February 7, 2013). Militello, 42, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He had failed to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In aggravation, Militello had a record of prior discipline. The order took effect March 9, 2013

Fadlo Mousalam, State Bar #38640, Castro Valley (February 21, 2013). Mousalam, 73, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He had failed to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline. The order took effect March 23, 2013
Eden B. Noe, State Bar #236172, Playa Vista (February 21, 2013). Noe, 34, was disbarred following his conviction for violating Penal Code § 470(b), forgery, a felony involving moral turpitude. The conviction is now final, and the State Bar concluded that it met the criteria for summary disbarment. The order took effect March 23, 2013
Lawrence M. Perlmutter, State Bar #126165, Boston, MA (). Perlmutter, 53, was disbarred following his conviction for violating 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(h) and 1956(a)(3), conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering; and 31 U.S.C. § 5324(b)(1), failure to file a currency report, felonies involving moral turpitude. The conviction is now final, and the State Bar concluded that it met the criteria for summary disbarment.
Paul W. Petersen, State Bar #170922, Huntington Beach (February 7, 2013). Petersen, 52, was disbarred for collecting advance fees in connection with loan modification work in violation of Civil Code § 2944.7(a), and for failing to refund unearned fees. He was charged with 25 counts of misconduct involving eleven different clients.

Although Petersen initially filed responses to the notices of disciplinary charges against him, he failed to appear for trial. He was ordered to pay restitution of $30,711. The order took effect March 9, 2013

Michael S. Pratter, State Bar #40277, Las Vegas, NV (February 7, 2013). Pratter, 72, was disbarred for failing to disburse client funds in his possession, failing to maintain client funds in trust, misappropriating funds, and engaging in an act of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In aggravation, Pratter had a record of prior discipline, and he engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that harmed his client. In mitigation, Pratter cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 9, 2013

James V. Reiss, State Bar #128020, Rancho Cucamonga (February 14, 2013). Reiss, 51, was disbarred for taking clients’ money by false pretenses, lying to the court and his clients about the status of cases, forging a client’s signature on a settlement agreement, retaining unearned fees, failing to render proper accounting, writing checks against insufficient funds, making client loans without proper written consent, and failing to cooperate with a State Bar investigation.

In aggravation, Reiss’s misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing involving six clients, including a ten-year pattern of deception to cover up the mismanagement of their cases. He also significantly harmed several clients. In addition, Reiss displayed a lack of insight and remorse, making him an ongoing danger to the public. In mitigation, Reiss had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1987. The order took effect March 16, 2013

Hamid Taghizadeh, State Bar #194627, Encino (February 14, 2013). Taghizadeh, 50, was disbarred following his conviction for violating Penal Code § 288(a), committing a lewd act upon a child under the age of 14, a felony involving moral turpitude. The conviction is now final, and the State Bar concluded that it met the criteria for summary disbarment. The order took effect March 16, 2013
Phich K. Taing, State Bar #244372, Alhambra (February 14, 2013). Taing, 33, was disbarred for failing to participate in disciplinary proceedings after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He had been charged with failing to maintain client funds in trust, misappropriating funds, failing to release a client file, failing to cooperate with a State Bar investigation, and engaging in an act of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption. He was ordered to pay restitution in three client matters. The order took effect March 16, 2013
William P. Terhune, State Bar #129210, Pismo Beach (February 14, 2013). Terhune, 57, was disbarred following his conviction for violating Penal Code § 487(a), grand theft, a felony involving moral turpitude. The conviction is now final, and the State Bar concluded that it met the criteria for summary disbarment. The order took effect March 16, 2013

SUSPENSION

Dante S. Ardite, State Bar #207039, Lawndale (February 21, 2013). Dante Sean Ardite, State Bar # 207039, Lawndale (Feb. 21). Ardite, 46, was suspended for six months and placed on three years of probation following multiple misdemeanor convictions for driving with a suspended license in violation of Vehicle Code § 14601.l (a), a misdemeanor that does not involve moral turpitude. In aggravation, Ardite had a record of prior discipline. In addition, he engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing, and he demonstrated indifference toward rectification of or atonement for the consequences of his misconduct. In mitigation, he cooperated with the State Bar’s investigation and proceedings. The order took effect May 1, 2013
Louis G. Bruno, State Bar #137898, Escondido (February 21, 2013). Bruno, 61, was suspended for six months and placed on two years of probation for collecting an illegal fee, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, misrepresenting his State Bar status, and engaging in an act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In aggravation, Bruno had a record of prior discipline. Also, his misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his clients. In mitigation, Bruno cooperated with State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 23, 2013

Sheryl L. Hammer, State Bar #143588, Encino (February 21, 2013). Hammer, 50, was suspended for 30 days and placed on two years of probation for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline. In aggravation, Hammer had a record of prior discipline. The order took effect March 23, 2013
Caleb P. Leys, State Bar #171683, Beverly Hills (February 14, 2013). Leys, 69, was suspended for 120 days and placed on one year of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to respond to reasonable status inquiries, and failing to promptly refund an unearned fee.

In mitigation, Leys acknowledged his wrongdoing and cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 16, 2013

Curtis G. Muck, State Bar #190328, Rolling Hills Estates (February 14, 2013). Muck, 41, was suspended for six months and placed on three years of probation for aiding in the unauthorized practice of law, sharing fees with nonlawyers, and failing to cooperate with a State Bar investigation.

In mitigation, Muck had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1997. Also, he cooperated by stipulating to facts, conclusions of law, and discipline. The order took effect March 16, 2013

Thomas A. Palmer, State Bar #39312, Oakland (February 21, 2013). Palmer, 71, was suspended for 30 days and placed on one year of probation for falsely reporting to the State Bar that he was in compliance with certain MCLE requirements, an act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In mitigation, Palmer had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1966. The order took effect March 23, 2013

Bryan D. Sampson, State Bar #143143, San Diego (February 21, 2013). Sampson, 54, was suspended for one year and placed on two years of probation for mailing a copy of a summons and complaint to several defendants with altered file stamps on the documents, an act of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In mitigation, Sampson had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1989, and he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 23, 2013

H.R. Harrison Smith, State Bar #52023, Shasta (February 21, 2013). Smith, 67, was suspended for 30 days and placed on one year of probation for falsely reporting to the State Bar that he had complied with certain MCLE requirements, an act involving moral turpitude.

In mitigation, Smith had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1972, and he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 23, 2013

Charlotte Spadaro, State Bar #47163, Riverside (February 20, 2013). Spadaro, 71, was suspended for six months and placed on three years of probation for entering into improper business transactions with a client, failing to account for client funds, and failing to refund unearned fees. In addition, she was ordered to pay restitution to her client.

In mitigation, Spadaro had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1970. The order took effect March 22, 2013

Swazi E. Taylor, State Bar #237093, Beverly Hills (February 27, 2013). Taylor, 34, was suspended for six months and placed on two years of probation for collecting illegal and unconscionable fees in loan modification matters.

In 2009, Taylor became the principal of his current firm, Taylor Mortgage Lawyers (TML), specializing in loan modifications, short sales, and other real estate matters, including bankruptcy cases. About the same time, newly enacted Civil Code § 2944.7(a) prohibited attorneys from collecting advance fees in loan modification matters. Taylor illegally charged fees to eight clients prior to completing all their loan modification services, and he was ordered to pay restitution.

In aggravation, Taylor committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his clients. Also, he displayed indifference toward rectification of or atonement for his misconduct. The order took effect March 29, 2013

Gregory M. Williams, State Bar #219036, Camarillo (February 7, 2013). Williams, 47, was suspended for two years and placed on three years of probation for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline and for falsely reporting that he had complied with conditions to a criminal probation, an act involving moral turpitude.

In aggravation, Williams had a record of prior discipline. Also, he engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, during the period of misconduct he suffered severe financial stress, and he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 9, 2013

PROBATION

Mitchell Berenson, State Bar #183166, Los Angeles (February 14, 2013). Mitchell Berenson, State Bar # 183166, Los Angeles (Feb. 14). Berenson, 48, was placed on one year of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to respond to reasonable status inquiries, failing to promptly refund unearned fees, and failing to cooperate in a State Bar investigation.

In aggravation, Berenson engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that harmed his client. In mitigation, Berenson had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1996, and he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 16, 2013

There are no recent disciplinary actions of this type.