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November 2014 October 2014 September 2014 August 2014 July 2014

DISBARMENT

Robert M.L. Baker, III, State Bar #159359, Los Angeles (February 6, 2014). Robert M. L. BAKER III, State Bar # 159359, Los Angeles (February 6). Baker, 48, was disbarred following his conviction of felonies involving moral turpitude.

In December 2012 Baker pleaded guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. § 371 (conspiracy to commit mail fraud), § 1341 (mail fraud), and § 1343 (wire fraud); and 26 U.S.C. § 7201 (tax evasion), § 7206 (subscribing a false personal tax return), and § 7206 (subscribing a false corporate tax return).

The conviction is now final, and the State Bar concluded it met the criteria for summary disbarment. The order took effect March 8, 2014

Timothy M. Darden, State Bar #147576, Concord (January 29, 2014). Darden, 54, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He was charged with two counts of committing an act of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

From February to May 2009 Darden wrongfully acquired $438,301 from a blind client who had hired him to handle probate matters and to draft a special-needs trust. Darden had the client’s friend deposit the funds into a business checking account belonging to the Law Offices of America Inc., a suspended corporation of which Darden is president. Despite repeated requests from another attorney the client hired, Darden refused to provide an accounting or to return any of the funds.

In a second matter, Darden coerced another client into turning over $32,500 to him. Both cases involved misappropriation of client funds. In February 2012 the State Bar filed and properly served a notice of disciplinary charges on Darden, informing him that his failure to participate in the proceeding would result in a disbarment recommendation. Darden appeared in person at a status conference, where the trial date was set. Darden later filed a motion to continue the trial, which was denied. Darden then failed to appear for trial in June 2012, and the court entered a default judgment against him. Darden moved to vacate the default, but the court denied his motion. Darden then sought reconsideration, but the court denied that motion as well.

In January 2013 the State Bar filed a petition for disbarment. Darden again tried to vacate the entry of default against him, and later moved to strike the disbarment petition. However, the court ruled against both motions and granted the petition for disbarment. The order took effect February 28, 2014

John M. Ebner, State Bar #100618, Long Beach (February 6, 2014). Ebner, 64, was disbarred for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In April 2013 Ebner was placed on two years of probation and required to comply with certain conditions. The requirements included contacting the Office of Probation by a deadline, submitting quarterly reports, and paying $1,500 in restitution plus interest to three of his clients. Ebner failed to comply with the conditions.

In aggravation, Ebner had a record of prior discipline, and he engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that harmed his clients. In mitigation, Ebner cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 8, 2014

Ernest G. Georggin, State Bar #60293, San Diego (February 6, 2014). Georggin, 68, was disbarred for aiding in the unauthorized practice of law, lending his name for use by a nonlawyer, sharing legal fees with a nonlawyer, failing to competently perform legal services, failing to refund unearned fees, collecting an illegal fee, committing acts involving moral turpitude, and failing to cooperate in a disciplinary investigation.

In August 2010 Georggin and a nonlawyer formed Georggin Law, a firm created to provide credit repair services. However, Georggin’s business partner was the true owner and operator of the law firm, and paid Georggin a salary. Georggin had no authority, control, or oversight of the firm’s daily operations. Yet he obtained a stamp bearing his signature so that his business partner could conduct transactions using Georggin’s name.

The business partner collected all legal fees advanced by the firm’s clients, and paid the firm’s expenses. Georggin knowingly lent his name to his partner so that he could engage in the unauthorized practice of law. Georggin performed no legal services of value for 25 clients, and he earned no portion of their fees.

Georggin later closed the firm and took control of its client files. But he did not refund any of the unearned fees. One of firm’s clients was a resident of Florida, where Georggin was not authorized to practice law. When State Bar investigators attempted to contact Georggin, he failed to respond.

In aggravation, Georggin’s misconduct significantly harmed his clients. He engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing, involving numerous clients, that spanned more than two years. In mitigation, Georggin had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1974. Also, he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 8, 2014

Gary D. Grant, State Bar #173665, Aliso Viejo (January 23, 2014). Grant, 56, was disbarred following his felony conviction for possession or control of child pornography, a crime involving moral turpitude.

In 2008 Grant was charged with three counts of violating Penal Code § 311.11(a), knowingly possessing or controlling child pornography. In 2009 he pleaded guilty to one felony count, and he admitted in court that he willfully and unlawfully possessed child pornography for sexual gratification. He was placed on probation for three years with certain conditions, including lifetime registration as a sex offender. He later admitted to violating his probation by possessing adult pornography on his computer, and he was sentenced to serve time in jail.

The State Bar initiated disciplinary proceedings and recommended Grant’s disbarment, on the ground that his conviction constituted moral turpitude. However, the Review Department concluded the showing of moral turpitude was not supported by admissible evidence. As a result, it recommended placing Grant on three years of probation with conditions, including two years of actual suspension. The State Bar’s chief trial counsel requested review before the California Supreme Court. The Court ultimately determined that Grant’s crime involved moral turpitude warranting disbarment, and ordered Grant disbarred. The order took effect February 22, 2014

Catherine M. McCauley, State Bar #150090, Castleton, VT (January 30, 2014). McCauley, 59, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so, and failing to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Conduct.

In aggravation, McCauley had a record of prior discipline. The order took effect March 8, 2014

Amy Y. Ramina, State Bar #260035, Turlock (February 6, 2014). Yousefi, 37, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. Yousefi had been charged with failing to provide an accounting to a client, and misappropriating funds. The order took effect March 8, 2014

SUSPENSION

Terri L. Brewer, State Bar #212743, Concord (February 6, 2014). Brewer, 54, was suspended for one year and placed on two years of probation for failing to maintain client funds in trust, misappropriating client funds, failing to promptly disburse funds a client was entitled to receive, and committing an act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In aggravation, Brewer committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that harmed her client. In mitigation, Brewer had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 2001. Also, she cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 8, 2014

Jon J. Eardley, State Bar #132577, Aliso Viejo (January 30, 2014). Eardley, 53, was suspended for six months and placed on two years of probation for appearing for a party without authority, making false representations, issuing checks against insufficient funds, and committing acts involving moral turpitude.

In 2007 Eardley, through his attorney, filed an application to stay a nonjudicial foreclosure action, with supporting declarations. The court granted a stay of the foreclosure proceeding. Later, Eardley filed an ex parte application for a stay of foreclosure in another matter. He stated that he had not previously applied to any judicial officer for relief, and had given notice to the opposing party. Neither statement was true.

In a second matter, in February 2008 Eardley informed the court that he was representing Britney Spears, whom the court had ruled incapacitated. Eardley filed to remove the Spears conservatorship action to federal court. However, Eardley was not then the attorney for Spears and never had been. By falsely representing that he was Spears’s attorney, Eardley committed an act of dishonesty. Spears incurred fees to defend against Eardley’s action.

In a third matter, from August to October 2009 Eardley repeatedly issued checks against insufficient funds in his client trust account.

In aggravation, Eardley committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, and he failed to participate in a disciplinary proceeding against him. In mitigation, Eardley had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1987. The order took effect March 1, 2014

Richard K. Griffith, State Bar #41807, Honolulu, HI (February 6, 2014). Griffith, 76, was suspended for 90 days and placed on two years of probation for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In 2012 Griffith entered into a pretrial stipulation with the State Bar regarding conditions to his suspension and period of probation. He was required to timely submit written quarterly reports, complete six hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) in legal ethics, pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), complete the Ethics School’s client trust accounting program, and make timely restitution payments. Griffith failed to comply with the conditions.

In aggravation, Griffith had a record of prior discipline, and he engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that demonstrated indifference to his misconduct. In mitigation, Griffith cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 8, 2014

Allen J. Gross, State Bar #141082, Pacific Palisades (February 6, 2014). Gross, 65, was suspended for 90 days and placed on two years of probation following his misdemeanor convictions for failing to file his individual state tax returns.

In 2012 Gross pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor counts of violating § 19701 of the California Revenue & Taxation Code, having failed to file income tax returns for the years 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007. He was sentenced to three years of summary probation, ten days in county jail, and 500 hours of community service and ordered to pay restitution of $171,103 in taxes and $33,932 in investigation costs.

In aggravation, Gross engaged in a pattern of misconduct. In mitigation, he 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 8, 2014

Shawn M. Haggerty, State Bar #219231, Hacienda Heights (January 30, 2014). Haggerty, 53, was suspended for 60 days and placed on two years of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to respond to reasonable status inquiries, failing to refund unearned fees, failing to return client property, and committing an act involving moral turpitude.

In July 2011 a client paid Haggerty $1,500 in advance fees to file petitions to expunge several criminal convictions. However, Haggerty failed to perform any legal services of value, and did not seek to have the records expunged. The client sent Haggerty several messages requesting status updates, but Haggerty failed to respond. When Haggerty finally did respond, he lied and told the client that he had filed an expungement motion, when he had not. The client continued to send status inquiries, but Haggerty did not respond.

In May 2012 the client learned that no petitions had been filed on her behalf, and she notified Haggerty that she would be requesting a refund. Again, Haggerty did not respond. When the client went to Haggerty’s office, she learned he no longer worked there. The client was unable to locate Haggerty or contact him. Eventually, the client filed a complaint with the State Bar, and Haggerty returned the client’s file. However, he did not refund $1,500 in unearned fees.

In aggravation, Haggerty engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that caused significant harm to his client. In addition, he demonstrated indifference toward rectification of or atonement for his misconduct. In mitigation, Haggerty had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 2002, and he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 1, 2014

Michael S. Kendall, State Bar #248957, Loma Linda (February 6, 2014). Kendall, 39, was suspended for 60 days and placed on one year of probation for falsely reporting to the State Bar that he had complied with his MCLE requirements, an act involving moral turpitude.

In mitigation, Kendall had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 2007, and he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 8, 2014

William H. Kerry, State Bar #76995, Seal Beach (January 30, 2014). Kerry, 66, was suspended for 30 days and placed on one year of probation for falsely reporting to the State Bar that he had complied with his MCLE requirements, an act involving moral turpitude.

In mitigation, Kerry had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1977, and he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 1, 2014

Steele Lanphier, State Bar #146163, Sacramento (February 6, 2014). Lanphier, 67, was suspended for 90 days and placed on two years of probation for commingling funds.

Lanphier operated a client trust account (CTA) for his law firm, with client funds segregated from nonclient funds. In early 2011 the State Bar learned that Lanphier had written checks against insufficient funds in the CTA. An investigator wrote to him regarding the matter, advising him of the consequences of continuing to do so.

Despite the warning, Lanphier continued to write checks against insufficient funds in the CTA. The State Bar then filed a notice of disciplinary charges against him. Lanphier later admitted to depositing nonclient funds into the CTA, and that he had paid personal and business expenses from it.

In aggravation, Lanphier engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing, and he demonstrated indifference toward rectification of or atonement for his misconduct. In mitigation, Lanphier had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1990, and he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 8, 2014

Kimuel W. Lee, State Bar #141518, Baton Rouge, LA (February 6, 2014). Lee, 53, was suspended for 90 days and placed on two years of probation for committing legal misconduct in another jurisdiction.

In October 1999 Lee was hired by the co-executors of an estate to handle the deceased’s succession. Lee claimed he performed 171.4 hours of work for $51,420. He claimed fees of $13,820 but collected only $6,910—which was still considerably higher than the rate normally charged in the locality for similar services. Lee later negotiated reduction of a fee due to a hospital by $1,169, but rather than returning the difference to the estate, he kept the funds for himself. When the executors later learned of his actions, Lee returned $769 to the estate. The executors then filed a complaint with the Louisiana State Bar. Eventually, the Louisiana Supreme Court found that Lee had failed to provide competent representation to a client, charged an unreasonable fee, and failed to timely remit client funds.

In aggravation, Lee committed multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, he had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1989. Also, he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 8, 2014

James H. Lehr, State Bar #90371, Pacific Palisades (February 6, 2014). Lehr, 60, was suspended for 30 days and placed on two years of probation for making court appearances while on inactive status, acts involving moral turpitude.

In May 2012 the California Supreme Court entered an order suspending Lehr from the practice of law for failure to comply with MCLE requirements. While enrolled as inactive in July 2012, Lehr made a special appearance in a marital dissolution case. Later that year, Lehr again made a special appearance. At no time did Lehr inform the court of the status of his law license.

In aggravation, Lehr committed multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Lehr had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1979, and he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 8, 2014

Sergio J. Lopez, State Bar #259288, Santa Ana (February 6, 2014). Lopez, 38, was suspended for 30 days and placed on two years of probation following his misdemeanor conviction for possessing a firearm while under a criminal protective order, an act warranting attorney discipline.

In September 2011 the Los Angeles Superior Court filed a criminal protective order against Lopez, ordering him to have no contact with the woman complainant and prohibiting him from owning, possessing, or purchasing a firearm. Lopez also was required to relinquish any firearms during the period of the criminal protective order.

The following January, while the order remained in effect, Lopez met with a client he was representing in a marital dissolution. The client brought a gun to the meeting and gave it to Lopez, asking that he return the gun to her husband. Lopez’s assistant later placed the gun in Lopez’s briefcase, without his knowledge. The next day, when Lopez entered a courthouse for an appearance in another matter, a security guard discovered the gun as the briefcase passed through an x-ray machine.

Lopez was remanded and charged with violation of Penal Code § 171b(a) (unlawfully possessing a handgun within a courtroom and building designated as a courthouse and court building and at a meeting required to be open to the public) and § 29825(a) (unlawfully purchasing or receiving a firearm while knowingly prohibited from doing so by a temporary restraining order, an injunction, or a protective order).

In September 2012 Lopez pleaded nolo contendere to one misdemeanor count of Penal Code § 29825(a). The court sentenced Lopez to 120 days in jail with credit for time served, and ordered him to pay a fine and fees.

In aggravation, Lopez had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, he cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 8, 2014

Marjan Mortazavi, State Bar #189701, San Diego (January 15, 2014). Mortazavi, 42, was suspended for 90 days and placed on two years of probation for practicing law while on inactive status, an act involving moral turpitude.

In July 2012 Mortazavi was suspended from practice until the 30th of that month for failing to comply with the State Bar’s MCLE requirements. During the time Mortazavi was ineligible to practice, she filed 13 bankruptcy petitions in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of California. She also represented clients in a bankruptcy petition, and filed a motion on her clients’ behalf. At no time did Mortazavi inform her clients, opposing counsel, the bankruptcy trustees, or the court that she was not entitled to practice.

On July 31, 2012 opposing counsel inquired about Mortazavi’s status, and she admitted she had not been entitled to practice law. As a result, the bankruptcy court ordered Mortazavi to file a declaration explaining the circumstances of her inactive status. Mortazavi contacted all of the involved parties to inform them that she had not been entitled to practice. She later entered an agreement with the bankruptcy trustees to return a portion of her attorneys fees. Finally, the bankruptcy court determined that her inactive status had not affected her clients’ case, and permitted Mortazavi to continue representing them.

In aggravation, Mortazavi committed multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, she had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1997, and she cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect February 14, 2014

Verne C. Scholl, State Bar #48634, Carlsbad (January 30, 2014). Scholl, 71, was suspended for one year and placed on two years of probation for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in other states, accepting advance fees in loan modification matters in violation of Civil Code § 2944.7(a), failing to maintain client funds in trust, misappropriating funds, and failing to promptly return client funds.

In aggravation, Scholl engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that harmed his clients. In mitigation, he had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1971. Also, he cooperated by admitting his misconduct and showed remorse by repaying his client. The order took effect March 1, 2014

Jose A. Velasco, State Bar #94407, Fullerton (January 30, 2014). Velasco, 59, was suspended for two years and placed on three years of probation for failing to maintain client funds in trust, misappropriating client funds, and issuing checks against insufficient funds.

In aggravation, Velasco engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Velasco had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1980, and he displayed candor and cooperated during the proceedings. The order took effect March 1, 2014

Jack M. Winick, State Bar #68512, San Diego (February 6, 2014). Winick, 76, was suspended for 30 days and placed on two years of probation for commingling client funds.

In aggravation, Winick engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Winick had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1976, and he cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 8, 2014

PROBATION

Mitchell L. Abdallah, State Bar #231804, Sacramento (January 15, 2014). Abdallah, 54, was placed on two years of probation for failing to report a judicial sanction, violating a court order, and failing to promptly release his client’s papers upon termination of employment.

In 2010 Abdallah was sanctioned $5,758 by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and prohibited from filing documents with an electronic signature for one year. After Abdallah filed another bankruptcy application with the electronic signature, the bankruptcy court issued a $2,000 sanction against him and prohibited Abdallah from using the electronic signature designation for two years. Although Abdallah paid the sanctions, he never reported them to the State Bar.

In a second matter, in March 2011 Abdallah was retained to pursue a claim against Chase Bank. The following September, Abdallah filed a civil complaint on behalf of his client. Shortly thereafter, the client asked Abdallah to dismiss the case, and she made several requests for him to return her file. Abdallah kept the file for more than six months before releasing it to her.

In aggravation, Abdallah committed multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, he had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 2004. Also, Abdallah exhibited remorse for his wrongdoing and cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect February 14, 2014

Terrence J. Hardin, State Bar #105767, Pasadena (February 6, 2014). Hardin, 66, was placed on three years of probation for misconduct warranting discipline.

In December 2012 a Los Angeles police officer observed Hardin driving a car in the opposite direction of traffic. Hardin’s car had hit another vehicle, and he left the scene of the accident. The officer followed Hardin, who did not notice the flashing lights or the siren of the police car and did not stop his car until about 600 feet from the site of the accident. When the officer approached Hardin’s car, he noticed a strong odor of alcohol. Hardin refused to take a breath test, and the officer placed him under arrest. When Hardin’s car was inspected, an open bottle of vodka was discovered. Hardin was uncooperative at his arrest and claimed he did not remember getting into an accident. Later, he was ordered to appear in court, but he failed to do so. He eventually surrendered directly to the Los Angeles County Jail Inmate Reception Center.

In February 2013 Hardin pleaded nolo contendere to violating Vehicle Code § 23152(a) (driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs) and § 14601.5(a) (driving while the privilege is suspended or revoked pursuant to Vehicle Code §§ 13353, 13353.1, and 13353.2).

In aggravation, Hardin committed multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, he had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1982, and he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 8, 2014

Frederick W. Smith, Jr., State Bar #104913, Oakdale (February 6, 2014). Smith, 60, was placed on two years of probation for entering into an unfair transaction with a client, and for seeking an agreement that his professional misconduct would not be reported to the State Bar.

From 2002 to 2010 Smith was employed by an elderly client for estate planning and asset management. In 2004 Smith asked the client to loan him $250,000 to invest in a company owned by Smith and his son. Smith was loaned the money on terms that were not fair and reasonable. Also, Smith never informed the client in writing that she was entitled to seek the advice of an independent lawyer before entering into the loan, he did not give her an opportunity to seek that advice, and he did not obtain her written consent to the terms of the loan. When the client died in December 2010, Smith had not repaid the principal, although he had made interest payments.

In 2011 the client’s beneficiaries filed a civil action against Smith to recover funds associated with the loan. Smith sent the plaintiffs’ legal counsel a proposed settlement agreement and release containing a requirement that plaintiffs not file a complaint with the State Bar.

In aggravation, Smith caused the beneficiaries of his client’s estate financial harm by forcing them to file suit against him. In mitigation, Smith had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1982, and he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 8, 2014

There are no recent disciplinary actions of this type.