MAGAZINE
California Lawyer

DISBARMENT

Scott A. Brandon, State Bar #189654, Redondo Beach (October 25, 2011). Brandon, 47, was disbarred for failing to timely comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline and violating a court order requiring him to timely file reports and meet attendance verifications. He was placed on probation following his convictions for driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license, and possession of marijuana; he was subsequently convicted of giving false information to a police officer and, again, driving with a suspended license. Later, he pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine and felony escape.

The California Supreme Court then placed Brandon on five years of probation. He failed to comply with terms of his probation, failed to submit written quarterly reports, failed to submit satisfactory proof of attendance to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and failed to submit to alcohol and drug testing. In aggravation, Brandon had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, he successfully completed the Alternative Discipline Program.

The order took effect November 24, 2011

Steven L. Ellman, State Bar #135658, Long Beach (October 25, 2011). Ellman, 50, was disbarred for commingling personal funds in the client trust account, misappropriating funds, failing to pay funds the client was entitled to receive, failing to maintain accounting, failing to promptly respond to client inquiries, failing to competently perform legal services, and engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.In aggravation, Ellman had a record of prior discipline. He exhibited a pattern of misconduct—misappropriation, failed responsiveness, and overreaching—that caused significant harm to his clients. In mitigation, he cooperated with the State Bar during its investigations.

The order took effect November 24, 2011

Timothy W. Hessler, State Bar #231689, Sacramento (October 25, 2011). Hessler, 38, was disbarred for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, failing to return client files, failing to obey a court order, failing to maintain client funds in trust, and misappropriating settlement funds.

In 2008 Hessler filed for resignation with charges pending, but the matter was abated. In 2011 the California Supreme Court declined to accept his voluntary resignation, and a disciplinary matter proceeded. In aggravation, Hessler committed multiple acts of wrongdoing involving several clients, and multiple sanctions were lodged against him. Further, his misappropriation of $105,000 in settlement funds was egregious.

The order took effect November 24, 2011

Scott M. Kendall, State Bar #166156, Elk Grove (October 25, 2011). Kendall, 50, was disbarred for failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, failing to competently perform legal services, withdrawing from representation without a tribunal’s permission, improperly withdrawing from representation, advising a violation of the law, and engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In aggravation, Kendall committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed his clients. Also, he failed to participate in the State Bar investigation. In mitigation, Kendall had no record of prior discipline. The order took effect November 24, 2011.

The order took effect November 24, 2011

Daniel S. Klein, State Bar #153436, Los Angeles (October 25, 2011). Klein, 48, was disbarred for failing to maintain client funds in a trust account and engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption. In November 1998 Klein filed a civil action on behalf of a client, claiming half of the defendant’s lottery winnings. In 2000 the court filed a judgment in favor of Klein’s client. The client died two months later, leaving his interest in the judgment to his daughter.

In 2006 Klein reached a settlement agreement with the defendant and received a first payment of $51,650. He deposited the check into the client trust account, issued a check to the client’s daughter for $36,155, and withheld $15,495 for his fees. In May 2006 he received a second payment, but he placed a stop order on the second check he sent to the client’s daughter. By September 2007 the balance in the client trust account had fallen to $47.46.

In aggravation, Klein committed multiple acts of misconduct that resulted in financial harm to a client. He demonstrated indifference toward rectification of or atonement for the consequences of his misconduct. In mitigation, Klein had no record of prior discipline.

The order took effect November 24, 2011

Steven P. Nieto, State Bar #80474, (October 25, 2011). Nieto, 59, was disbarred after being found culpable of attorney misconduct in eight matters by failing to cooperate with eight State Bar investigations, failing to maintain client funds in trust, misappropriating client funds, failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline, failing to competently perform legal services, failing to respond to client inquiries, failing to provide an accounting of client funds, failing to return unearned fees, failing to release a client file, and engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In aggravation, Nieto had a record of prior discipline. In the current matter, the misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing that caused harm to Nieto’s clients, the public, and the administration of justice.

The order took effect November 24, 2011

Sara S. Ray, State Bar #140564, West Hills (October 19, 2011). Ray, 56, was disbarred for attorney misconduct in four client matters by failing to competently perform legal services, misrepresenting material facts to a client, failing to cooperate with four State Bar investigations, and engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In December 2006 Ray filed a complaint in U.S. district court against a client’s employer, seeking retirement benefits. In August 2007, after Ray failed to appear for a status conference, the court issued an order to show cause as to why the case should not be dismissed. She failed to respond to the OSC, and the case was dismissed. In aggravation, Ray had a record of prior discipline, and the current matter involved multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Ray cooperated with the State Bar during its investigation and proceedings. During the period of misconduct, she experienced extreme emotional stress that affected her practice. She voluntarily withdrew from practicing law in August 2010.

The order took effect November 18, 2011

Kenneth B. Rodman, State Bar #72412, Woodland Hills (October 25, 2011). Rodman, 63, was disbarred after being found culpable of attorney misconduct in 17 client matters by failing to comply with a court order to pay sanctions, failing to comply with a court order to disgorge fees, failing to competently perform legal services, failing to keep a client informed about significant developments in the client’s case, failing to respond to client inquiries, failing to provide an accounting, failing to return unearned fees, failing to maintain client funds in trust, failing to obtain the informed written consent of three clients to represent them in the same matter where the clients’ interests were in potential conflict, failing to deposit advance fees into a client trust account, failing to return unused advance costs, misrepresenting material facts to a client and to a State Bar investigator, submitting a false claim for legal services, and engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption. He was ordered to pay restitution of $7,275 to five clients.

In aggravation, the misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, during the period of misconduct Rodman experienced extreme personal and family problems.

The order took effect November 24, 2011

Sandra J. Smith, State Bar #211060, Jacksonville, AK (October 19, 2011). Smith, 52, was disbarred for engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In 2006 Smith was retained to assist a client in a probate matter. Smith filed a petition for letters of administration, and her client was appointed personal representative. An estate account was opened, into which her client deposited the estate funds. In 2007 Smith represented to her client that the probate court wanted the estate funds, totaling approximately $410,000, to be held in her client trust account. The funds were transferred to the client trust account; later, Smith returned $31,000 to the estate account. She willfully misappropriated $379,000.

In aggravation, Smith’s misconduct significantly harmed her client. In mitigation, she cooperated with the State Bar’s investigations.

The order took effect November 18, 2011

Christopher L. Turpin, State Bar #210177, Los Angeles (October 19, 2011). Turpin, 39, was disbarred for attorney misconduct in eight client matters by communicating with another party represented by counsel, threatening criminal prosecution to gain an advantage in a civil matter, failing to competently perform legal services, failing to respond to client inquiries, failing to keep clients informed about significant developments their cases, improperly withdrawing from representation, failing to comply with a court order, making multiple misrepresentations to a client, failing to release client files upon termination of employment, seeking to have a client withdraw a State Bar complaint against him, failing to cooperate with eight State Bar investigations, and engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In aggravation, Turpin had a record of prior discipline. In the current matter, the misconduct involved 28 acts of wrongdoing in eight matters, which caused significant harm to his clients.

The order took effect November 18, 2011

RESIGNATION

Cathlin A. Atchison, State Bar #84889, Capitola (). Atchison, 59, resigned effective October 21, 2011.
Joshua B. Baker, State Bar #142004, Birmingham, MI (). Baker, 47, resigned effective October 21, 2011.
Jerome Borison, State Bar #98344, Denver, CO (). Borison, 65, resigned effective October 21, 2011.
Herbert J. Callman, State Bar #27133, San Francisco (). Callman, 88, resigned effective November 12, 2011.
McKee Colsman, State Bar #218603, Los Angeles (). Colsman, 37, resigned effective November 12, 2011.
Peter M. Douglas, State Bar #46246, Larkspur (). Douglas, 69, resigned effective October 21, 2011.
Susan L. Ferguson, State Bar #134909, Seattle, WA (). Ferguson resigned effective November 12, 2011.
Georgia Garrett-Norris, State Bar #92634, Scottsdale, AZ (). Garrett-Norris, 71, resigned effective October 21, 2011.
Dorothy N. Holmes, State Bar #84672, Reno, NV (). Holmes, 61, resigned effective November 12, 2011.
Susan G. Rhea Moore, State Bar #55945, Danville (). Moore, 65, resigned effective November 12, 2011.
Brian R. Orazetti, State Bar #194830, Morro Bay (). Orazetti, 44, resigned effective October 21, 2011.
Karolyn M. Renard, State Bar #180511, Santa Barbara (). Renard, 63, resigned effective October 21, 2011.
Robert S. Schurmer, State Bar #33642, Oxnard (). Schurmer, 75, resigned with disciplinary charges pending. His resignation was accepted without prejudice to further disciplinary proceedings should he seek reinstatement. The order took effect November 11, 2011
Lloyd H. Schwengel, State Bar #98806, Brea (). Schwengel, 67, resigned effective October 21, 2011.
Wendy E. Sloan, State Bar #62814, New York, NY (). Sloan, 63, resigned effective October 21, 2011.
Edma C. Stage, State Bar #69434, Van Nuys (). Stage, 80, resigned effective November 12, 2011.
Steven W. Waldo, State Bar #63113, Brisbane (). Waldo, 63, resigned effective October 21, 2011.
Kindra L. Willey, State Bar #160166, El Cajon (). Willey, 67, resigned effective November 12, 2011.

SUSPENSION

Robert Berchan, State Bar #118869, Valencia (October 19, 2011). Berchan, 56, was suspended for 60 days and placed on three years of probation for failing to timely comply with rule 9.20 of the Rules of Court. In November 2010 Berchan was found culpable of attorney misconduct in two client matters. He was suspended for six months and placed on three years of probation for failing to maintain client funds in trust and mishandling the funds of two clients. Conditions to the discipline required Berchan to notify clients of his suspension within 30 days and file an affidavit of compliance within 40 days. He failed to timely file the affidavit of compliance. In aggravation, Berchan had a record of prior discipline, the underlying matter. In mitigation, no clients were harmed by his misconduct. He cooperated with the State Bar and demonstrated remorse for his misconduct. The order took effect November 18, 2011
James W. Biedebach, State Bar #152980, Del Mar (). Biedebach, 46, was suspended for 15 months and placed on three years of probation for attorney misconduct in two client matters by failing to maintain client funds in trust, misappropriating $79,239 from two clients, failing to provide an accounting of client funds, and engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In aggravation, the misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Biedebach had no record of prior discipline since he was admitted to the bar in 1991. He cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a comprehensive stipulation. During the period of misconduct, he experienced extreme financial and emotional difficulties.

Anthony A. Brock, State Bar #149768, Los Angeles (August 10, 2011). Brock, 64, was suspended for two years and until he makes restitution of $2,230 to three clients, until the State Bar Court terminates the suspension, and until he provides proof of his rehabilitation, fitness to practice, and learning and ability in the law. He was suspended for attorney misconduct in three client matters by engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, making false statements to a client, failing to provide an accounting of client funds, failing to return unearned fees, misappropriating advance costs, failing to competently perform legal services, failing to maintain a current address with the State Bar, and engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In aggravation, the misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing that caused harm to clients. In mitigation, Brock had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the bar in 1990.

The order took effect September 9, 2011

Ilse M. Butterfield, State Bar #128888, Hayward (October 19, 2011). Butterfield, 49, was suspended for 30 days and placed on one year of probation for misleading a judge by false statements or artifice and engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In August 2008 Butterfield was hired to represent a client in a maritime matter. She filed a complaint in U.S. district court, and four months later the defendant filed a motion to dismiss. Butterfield prepared an opposition and declaration for the client, but she failed to have the client sign the declaration.

In January 2009 Butterfield filed the opposition to the motion along with the client’s declaration, which Butterfield signed. The next month at a hearing the court asked Butterfield who signed the declaration, and she told the court the client had signed it. In a June 2009 deposition, the client denied signing the declaration. Later that month, Butterfield was deposed and again she stated that the client had signed the declaration. At a hearing in June 2009 Butterfield was asked about the declaration and falsely told the court the client signed the declaration. The next day a new attorney substituted into the case.

In aggravation, the misconduct was surrounded by bad faith, dishonesty, concealment, and overreaching. In mitigation, Butterfield had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the bar in 1987.

The order took effect November 18, 2011

Robert E. Dowd, State Bar #93284, Bakersfield (October 19, 2011). Dowd, 67, was suspended for 90 days and placed on two years of probation for seeking to mislead a judge or court by artifice or false statement of fact.

In May 2005 Dowd represented his office employee in a matter to prevent the sale of two properties that belonged to the employee’s deceased son. In July 2005 Dowd filed a complaint on behalf of the employee and improperly allowed his employee to sign Dowd’s name to all pleadings, motions, proofs of service, and declarations. The employee served the summons and complaint even though the employee was a party to the action. Opposing counsel learned or suspected that Dowd did not himself sign the documents. The court admonished Dowd, expunged all notices regarding a lis pendens, and invalidated other pleadings. Later, Dowd settled the employee’s matter.

In aggravation, Dowd had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, he cooperated with the State Bar.

The order took effect November 18, 2011

Patricia J. Escobar, State Bar #165758, Woodland Hills (October 19, 2011). Escobar, 53, was suspended for 90 days and until the State Bar Court terminates the suspension. Escobar was disciplined for failing to account for paid attorneys fees, failing to release a client file upon termination of employment, and failing to cooperate with a State Bar investigation.

In aggravation, the misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing, and Escobar failed to participate in the State Bar proceedings prior to entry of her default. In mitigation, Escobar had no record of prior discipline since she was admitted to the bar in 1993.

The order took effect November 18, 2011

Donald E. Fergus, Jr., State Bar #87334, San Diego (October 19, 2011). Fergus, 60, was suspended for two years and placed on four years of probation following his discipline in Arizona for advising the violation of law and engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption. He remains suspended until he submits proof of his rehabilitation, fitness to practice, and learning and ability in the law.

In March 2008 Fergus represented a man with terminal cancer in planning his estate and attended a meeting with the client’s adult children. Fergus planned to have his secretary drive to the client’s home the next day to obtain the client’s signature on a power of attorney and to notarize the client’s signature, but in the early hours of that morning the client died. When Fergus arrived at his office that day, he knew the client had died. He went to the client’s home with the power of attorney and had the client’s son sign the document. He returned to the office and instructed his secretary to notarize the signature, telling her the client had signed it.

That October attorneys for the client’s widow filed objections to court documents, arguing that at the time the client purportedly signed the documents, he was not competent to do so. Prior to the next court hearing, Fergus consulted with attorneys in his law firm and admitted there were some irregularities with the documents, but he did not mention the fraudulent signature on the power of attorney.

In mitigation, Fergus cooperated with the State Bar during its investigation and proceedings.

The order took effect November 18, 2011

Stephen C. Hollingsworth, State Bar #200609, Los Angeles (September 28, 2011). Hollingsworth, 45, was suspended for three years and placed on five years of probation for attorney misconduct in six matters by violating Penal Code § 242(e), battery on a cohabitant; failing to competently perform legal services in three client matters; and failing to return unearned fees in two client matters.

In aggravation, Hollingsworth had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, during the period of his misconduct Hollingsworth experienced extreme emotional difficulties, financial stress, and family problems. In August 2008 he agreed to be placed on inactive status due to ongoing medical issues.

The order took effect October 28, 2011

William E. Johnson, State Bar #132436, Woodland Hills (October 19, 2011). Johnson, 51, was suspended for six months and placed on three years of probation for failing to keep a client reasonably informed of significant developments in the client’s case, improperly withdrawing from representation, violating a court order, failing to participate in a disciplinary investigation, failing to maintain a client’s trust account, and misappropriating client funds. The misconduct involved several clients.

In mitigation, Johnson had no record of prior discipline, and at the time of the misconduct he suffered from severe depression and was unable to practice. He sought and obtained professional help.

The order took effect October 23, 2011

Kenneth L. Kiddy, State Bar #85060, Stockton (October 23, 2011). Kiddy, 62, was suspended for one year for violating the conditions of an earlier disciplinary probation.

In the summer of 2010 the probation office sent letters to Kiddy outlining the terms and conditions of a previous order of discipline. The letters were returned as undeliverable. Kiddy did not respond to telephone calls, and he failed to schedule a meeting with his assigned probation deputy. He failed to timely submit his first three quarterly probation reports, and he did not respond promptly and truthfully to inquiries. In aggravation, Kiddy had a record of prior discipline.

The order took effect October 23, 2011

Steve Larkin, State Bar #112934, Los Angeles (September 9, 2011). Larkin, 62, was suspended for one year and placed on two years of probation for misappropriating client funds, failing to comply with a court order, failing to timely notify the State Bar about his change of address, and engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In aggravation, the misconduct involved the client trust account. In mitigation, Larkin had no record of prior discipline since he was admitted to the bar in 1984. He cooperated with the State Bar and demonstrated remorse. During the period of his misconduct, Larkin experienced severe health issues.

The order took effect October 9, 2011

Marc R. Levine, State Bar #113671, Palm Desert (October 20, 2011). Levine, 52, was suspended for two years and placed on three years of probation for failing to keep a client reasonably informed of significant developments in the client’s case, failing to competently perform legal services, failing to promptly respond to a client’s reasonable status inquiries, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, failing to promptly return client papers and property, failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline, failing to promptly refund unearned advance fees, entering into a business transaction with a client without advising the client in writing that the client may seek advice from an independent lawyer, and engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty or corruption.

In aggravation, Levine had a record of prior discipline, and he committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed clients. In mitigation, Levine cooperated with the State Bar in its proceeding. At the time of his misconduct, he experienced personal and financial stress. In addition, he partially repaid funds owed to one of his clients.

The order took effect October 20, 2011

Donald E. Levinson, State Bar #68360, Los Angeles (September 28, 2011). Levinson, 63, was suspended for 30 days and placed on two years of probation for commingling funds and failing to maintain client funds in trust.

In aggravation, Levinson had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, during the period of his misconduct he suffered from depression and underwent major surgery.

The order took effect October 28, 2011

Robert A. Logan, State Bar #211496, El Segundo (October 25, 2011). Logan, 45, was suspended for two years and until the State Bar terminates the suspension for failing to file a declaration of his compliance with terms of a previous order of discipline.

In 2010 Logan was charged with eleven counts of attorney misconduct involving two separate client matters. He was found culpable of nine of the counts. He was ordered to make restitution and to comply with the conditions of probation, which he failed to do.

In aggravation, Logan had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, Logan exhibited remorse. Also, his marital difficulties and prolonged travel abroad contributed to his failure to timely submit the declaration.

The order took effect November 24, 2011

David H. Loomis, State Bar #110940, Victorville (October 19, 2011). Loomis, 62, was suspended for one year and placed on three years of probation for failing to maintain client funds in trust.

In aggravation, Loomis’s misconduct involved a violation of the client trust account. In mitigation, he had no record of prior discipline since he was admitted to the bar in 1983. Also, at the time of the misconduct he experienced severe financial problems.

The order took effect November 18, 2011

Kimberly L. McAlpin, State Bar #124814, Manhattan Beach (August 31, 2011). McAlpin, 51, was suspended for 90 days and placed on three years of probation for drunk driving.

In July 2005 McAlpin was arrested after her car collided with another vehicle. In April 2006 she pleaded no contest to one count of violating Vehicle Code § 23152(b), driving with a blood-alcohol level above .08, and she was placed on 36 months of criminal probation. The conviction was reported to the State Bar, but no disciplinary action was taken.

In November 2006 McAlpin was arrested again for drunk driving after her vehicle collided with three parked cars. A urine test revealed her blood-alcohol level to be .32 percent. She was convicted of violating Vehicle Code § 23152(b) and placed on summary probation for 36 months. She again was ordered to complete a three-month program in alcohol abuse, to attend 50 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings within a year, not to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in her system, and to take an alcohol test when ordered to do so by a police officer.

In April 2007 McAlpin was arrested a third time for drunk driving after her vehicle collided with a parked car. In December 2007 she pleaded no contest to reckless driving and later stipulated to violating conditions to the previous orders of discipline. She was sentenced to serve 188 days in jail and was placed on 36 months of criminal probation.

In mitigation, McAlpin had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the bar in 1986.

The order took effect September 30, 2011

James P. McHenry, State Bar #17955, Laguna Hills (October 19, 2011). McHenry, 45, was suspended for 90 days and placed on two years of probation for failing to provide an accounting to several clients, promising something of value for the purpose of securing employment, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, seeking to dissuade a client from filing a complaint with the State Bar, and demanding fees from a client prior to full performance of services. In aggravation, McHenry’s misconduct caused financial harm to his clients. In mitigation, he had no record of prior discipline since he was admitted to the bar in 1995. The order took effect November 18, 2011
Christie B. Mitchell-Guttman, State Bar #197975, Orangevale (August 31, 2011). Mitchell-Guttman, 44, was suspended for 30 days and placed on two years of probation for attorney misconduct in five family law matters by failing to competently perform legal services and failing to provide an accounting.

In November 2004 Mitchell-Guttman was hired by an attorney-services company to represent a client in a marital dissolution. She filed a petition on behalf of the client in November 2004, but the client was not ready to move forward with the petition. In April 2006 the client sent documents that Mitchell-Guttman requested to finalize the divorce. During the next several months the client and Mitchell-Guttman exchanged email messages about the dissolution documents. In September 2006 the legal services company terminated Mitchell-Guttman. In November 2006 the client sent Mitchell-Guttman several emails requesting information about finalizing the divorce, but she failed to respond.

In December 2006 the client terminated Mitchell-Guttman’s services. The following month the client hired new counsel, who asked Mitchell-Guttman to sign and return a substitution of attorney form. She failed to return the form. In April 2007 the State Bar notified Mitchell-Guttman that the client had filed a complaint against her. In June 2007 Mitchell-Guttman returned the signed substitution to the client.

In mitigation, Mitchell-Guttman experienced family problems, and on four occasions in 2006 was the victim of spousal abuse. In December 2006 her ex-husband had Mitchell-Guttman falsely arrested, and while she was in custody he looted and vandalized her home and office.

The order took effect September 30, 2011

John F. Morken, State Bar #153979, San Francisco (October 19, 2011). Morken, 47, was suspended for three years and placed on five years of probation for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline. The order took effect November 18, 2011
Carl W. Nyman, State Bar #57915, Irvine (October 19, 2011). Nyman, 63, was suspended for 30 days and placed on two years of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to respond to client inquiries, failing to provide an accounting of client funds, failing to return unearned fees, and failing to pay sanctions.

In mitigation, Nyman had no record of prior discipline The order took effect November 18, 2011

Thomas D. Pamilla, State Bar #259931, Phoenix, AZ (October 19, 2011). Pamilla, 30, was suspended for one year and placed on two years of probation for negligently practicing law, charging and collecting fees in jurisdictions where he was not authorized to practice, failing to competently perform legal services, and sharing legal fees with nonattorneys.

In aggravation, Pamilla’s misconduct caused significant harm to clients. In mitigation, Pamilla cooperated with the State Bar’s investigations, and he showed remorse for his misconduct.

The order took effect November 18, 2011

Ruth C. Rose, State Bar #145887, Ingleside (August 31, 2011). Rose, 68, was suspended for 30 days and placed on two years of probation for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law and engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

Between May 2008 and June 2009 Rose was suspended from practice for failing to take and pass the Professional Responsibility Exam, a condition to a previous disciplinary matter. In July 2008 she was suspended for failing to pay her State Bar membership dues, and she remains suspended under that order. Rose kept her law office open while on suspension by providing paralegal and clerical services for other attorneys. In November 2008 a legal assistant from another law office asked Rose to come to her office to make a telephone appearance for another attorney who was unable to appear. Rose did so without mentioning to the legal assistant that she was suspended from practice. She made the telephone appearance and the court ruled on the matter, but a second defendant had also filed a demurrer that was to be heard in two days. When Rose made the second appearance, the court asked her if she was on suspension and she answered yes. The court would not allow her to speak further on the demurrer.

In aggravation, Rose had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, no clients were harmed by the misconduct, and she cooperated with the State Bar during its investigation and proceedings.

The order took effect September 30, 2011

Fred Rucker, State Bar #82754, Los Angeles (October 19, 2011). Rucker, 58, was suspended for two years and placed on three years of probation and until he makes restitution for failing to report sanctions against him, failing to pay sanctions, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, failing to competently perform legal services, failing to return client files, failing to account for client funds, failing to return unearned fees, and improperly withdrawing from representation.

In aggravation, Rucker committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed clients, the public, or the administration of justice. He also failed to participate in State Bar proceedings prior to entry of his default, and showed a contemptuous attitude.

In mitigation, Rucker had no record of prior discipline since he was admitted to the State Bar in 1978.

The order took effect November 18, 2011

Roger D. Stacy, State Bar #208500, San Diego (October 19, 2011). Stacy, 42, was suspended for one year and placed on two years of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to keep a client reasonably informed of significant developments in the client’s case, failing to inform a client that he may seek the advice of an independent lawyer, willfully disobeying or violating a court order, failing to report court sanctions imposed on him, failing to refund unearned fees, failing to deposit funds in a client trust account, and failing to account for a client’s trust fund.

In aggravation, Stacy engaged in a pattern of misconduct that involved ten clients. In mitigation, he demonstrated remorse and took steps to rectify the problems, and he had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 2000.

The order took effect November 18, 2011

Charles V. Stebley, State Bar #158219, El Dorado (October 19, 2011). Stebley, 67, was suspended for one year and until he makes restitution and the State Bar terminates the suspension for failing to competently perform legal services, improperly withdrawing from representation, failing to respond to client inquiries, failing to obey a court order, and failing to refund unearned fees. Stebley was charged with several counts of professional misconduct involving three separate clients.

In aggravation, Stebley committed multiple acts of misconduct involving multiple clients, causing them significant harm. Further, Stebley failed to cooperate during the State Bar investigation.

The order took effect November 18, 2011

Alan J. Sternberg, State Bar #48741, Orinda (October 19, 2011). Sternberg, 67, was suspended for 60 days and placed on one year of probation for threatening to present administrative charges to obtain an advantage in a civil dispute. The order took effect November 18, 2011
Wayne W. Suojanen, State Bar #193627, Aliso Viejo (April 27, 2011). Suojanen, 61, was suspended for 60 days and placed on two years of probation for attorney misconduct in two matters by failing to maintain client funds in trust, commingling funds, issuing client trust account checks to pay personal expenses, issuing client trust account checks against insufficient funds, and engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In aggravation, the misconduct involved violations to the client trust account. In mitigation, Suojanen had no record of prior discipline since he was admitted to the bar in 1997, and he cooperated with the State Bar during is investigation and proceedings.

The order took effect May 27, 2011

Zhen X. Wang, State Bar #229114, Fengai, China, (August 31, 2011). Wang, 47, was suspended for 90 days and remains suspended until the State Bar Court grants a motion terminating the suspension. He was disciplined for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to cooperate with two State Bar investigations, and engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In May 2006 Wang represented a client in an immigration case. In the petition for alien worker status, Wang included a statement ostensibly from the client but actually made by another client. In August 2007 the Immigration Service denied the petition, and in September 2007 Wang filed an appeal. The Office of Appeals found the petition submitted for the client was fraudulent and contained willful misrepresentations of fact. In November 2008 the client hired new counsel, who submitted a response to the agency’s intent to deny the client’s petition. The new attorney alleged that Wang altered the documents submitted by the client by removing the name of the original petitioner. The new attorney sought to have the client’s petition withdrawn, but the agency denied the request. Wang received the agency’s letter of intent to deny the petition, but he failed to respond.

In June 2009 the agency withdrew its fraud and misrepresentation assertions and found that the client was not responsible for the papers submitted with the petition. Between June 2009 and June 2010 a State Bar investigator wrote to Wang requesting his written response to allegations of misconduct in the client’s case. Wang failed to respond.

In aggravation, the misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing. Also, Wang failed to cooperate with a State Bar investigation.

The order took effect September 30, 2011

Mark L. Webb, State Bar #67959, San Francisco (October 19, 2011). Webb, 64, was suspended for one year and placed on five years of probation and until he makes restitution for failing to pay fees to a research attorney and filing frivolous lawsuits.

In aggravation, Webb had a record of prior discipline. His misconduct displayed dishonesty, caused great harm, and involved a pattern of misconduct. In addition, Webb committed the misconduct while he was on probation. In mitigation, Webb cooperated with the State Bar during its investigations, and he acknowledged his misconduct.

The order took effect November 18, 2011

PUBLIC REPROVAL

Bruce H. Atwater, III, State Bar #199011, San Francisco (July 18, 2011). Atwater, 39, received a public reproval for failing to comply with an agreement in lieu of discipline and failing to return unearned fees. In mitigation, Atwater had no record of prior discipline since he was admitted to the State Bar in 1998. Also, he cooperated with the State Bar’s investigation and proceedings. The order took effect August 8, 2011
William R. Cohen, State Bar #203175, Boca Raton, FL (July 12, 2011). Cohen, 40, received a public reproval following his discipline in Michigan for attorney misconduct. Under equivalent California rules, he was disciplined for failing to keep a client informed about significant developments in the client’s case, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, and failing to withdraw as attorney of record when his medical condition prevented him from practicing.

In mitigation, Cohen had no record of prior discipline since he was admitted to the State Bar in 1999. Also, no client was harmed by the misconduct and he cooperated with the State Bar during its investigation and proceedings.

The order took effect August 8, 2011

Gary W. Gorski, State Bar #166526, Sacramento (September 28, 2011). Gorski, 50, received a public reproval following his convictions in separate incidents for violating Vehicle Code § 23103, reckless driving, and Vehicle Code § 23152(a), driving under the influence of alcohol.

In aggravation, the misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Gorski had no record of prior discipline since he was admitted to the bar in 1993.

The order took effect October 14, 2011

Steven P. Haskett, State Bar #66144, San Diego (June 6, 2011). Haskett, 51, received a public reproval for failing to respond to client inquiries and failing to cooperate with a State Bar investigation. In aggravation, Haskett had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, during the period of his misconduct, Haskett experienced financial stress. Also, he entered into a stipulation with the State Bar. The order took effect June 28, 2011
Sean P. Howard, State Bar #158716, Atwater (February 9, 2011). Howard, 46, received a public reproval following his conviction for violating Penal Code § 415, disturbing the peace, a misdemeanor. In mitigation, Howard had no record of prior discipline since he was admitted to the bar in 1992. The order took effect August 19, 2011
Lawrence Solorio, State Bar #204233, Fair Oaks (October 9, 2011). Solorio, 56, received a public reproval for representing more than one client in the same matter where there was an actual conflict of interest. In January 2005 Solorio was paid $3,000 by husband-and-wife clients to help them draft estate-planning documents on behalf of the husband’s elderly great aunt, who resided in a nursing home. Solorio prepared several documents, including a power of attorney form, and he visited the great aunt at the nursing home and secured her signature on the documents. The clients were not in the room while Solorio visited the great aunt, but they came in after the documents were signed. Solorio and the clients then met at a nearby restaurant where Solorio asked the clients to issue two checks from the aunt’s estate for $12,000 each, made payable the clients. During a two-week period the clients had $168,000 in estate funds transferred to themselves from the aunt’s estate. That same month the aunt died.

The superior court found that the clients had undue influence over the aunt and had made fraudulent misrepresentations to the aunt, thereby making the will and power of attorney invalid.

In mitigation, Solorio had no record of prior discipline since he was admitted to the bar in 1999.

The order took effect August 9, 2011

Anup Tikku, State Bar #184612, San Jose (June 20, 2011). Tikku, 41, received a public reproval following his conviction for violating Penal Code §§ 242 and 243(a), battery.

In September 2010 while at home helping a child with homework, Tikku became frustrated with the child’s refusal to complete the homework and struck the child. The next day, the child went to school and the teacher reported bruises on the child’s face to the principal, who reported the incident to Child Protective Services.

In January 2011 Tikku pleaded nolo contendere to battery and was placed on two years of criminal probation. In mitigation, Tikku cooperated with the State Bar during its investigation and proceedings and he voluntarily enrolled in a parenting class to help improve his parenting skills.

The order took effect July 12, 2011

Dominic R. Valerian, State Bar #240001, San Rafael (August 15, 2011). Valerian, 31, received a public reproval following his conviction for violating Penal Code § 148, interfering with a police officer. In aggravation, Valerian’s misconduct harmed a police officer and demonstrated disrespect for the law. In mitigation, Valerian showed remorse by entering into a twelve-step alcohol rehabilitation program and participating in weekly sessions of a chemical dependency program. The order took effect September 7, 2011

There are no recent disciplinary actions of this type.