MAGAZINE
California Lawyer

DISBARMENT

Jennifer F. Blackburn, State Bar #214781, Keaau, HI (May 22, 2013). Blackburn, 39, was disbarred for failing to comply with rule 9.20 of the Rules of Court.

In aggravation, Blackburn had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, no clients were harmed by Blackburn’s misconduct, and she showed sincere remorse for failing to comply with her State Bar obligations. Also, at the time of her misconduct Blackburn experienced extreme emotional and physical difficulties. The order took effect June 21, 2013

Ghassan G. Bridi, State Bar #188070, Encino (May 22, 2013). Bridi, 42, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so.

Bridi was charged with 14 counts of misconduct, including failing to comply with a district court rule, failing to file a response to an order to show cause, failing to appear at two order-to-show-cause hearings, failing to report sanctions, failing to refile a complaint, failing to cooperate with a defendant in the filing of a joint report and ADR program questionnaire, and failing to take action to set aside the dismissal of a client’s matter. The order took effect June 21, 2013

Benjamin D. Hellewell, State Bar #263188, Palm Beach Gardens, FL (May 14, 2013). Hellewell, 35, was disbarred for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in a jurisdiction where he was not licensed, and collecting advance fees in loan modification matters in violation of Civil Code § 2944.7(a).

In May 2010 a Wisconsin resident employed Hellewell in a home loan modification matter. The client paid Hellewell $1,000 in advance fees. Hellewell was not admitted to practice law in Wisconsin. A second matter involving similar misconduct also warranted discipline.

In aggravation, Hellewell’s clients were seriously harmed by his misconduct. Also, he demonstrated a pattern of wrongdoing, and showed indifference by failing to refund wrongfully obtained fees. In mitigation, Hellewell cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect June 13, 2013

Michael T. Morrissey, State Bar #62195, Cupertino (May 15, 2013). Morrissey, 64, was disbarred for falsely declaring he had complied with a court order, failing to cooperate in a State Bar investigation, committing an act involving moral turpitude, and failing to comply with rule 9.20 of the Rules of Court. The order took effect June 14, 2013
Joseph E. Petrillo, State Bar #58010, San Francisco (May 1, 2013). Petrillo, 73, 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 Rules of Court. The order took effect May 31, 2013
Stephen A. Rodriguez, State Bar #219019, Pasadena (May 22, 2013). Rodriguez, 41, was summarily disbarred for his conviction on multiple counts of violating Penal Code § 487(a), grand theft, a felony. The conviction is now final and the State Bar concluded that it met the criteria for summary disbarment.

In aggravation, Rodriguez had a record of prior discipline. The order took effect June 21, 2013

Vivian C. San Jose, State Bar #222909, Corona (May 14, 2013). San Jose, 48, was disbarred for collecting advance fees in loan modification matters in violation of Civil Code § 2944.7(a), failing to competently perform legal services, compensating a person for the purpose of securing employment of her law firm, failing to promptly refund unearned fees, and failing to respond to reasonable status inquiries.

Between February 2010 and September 2011 numerous clients employed San Jose to negotiate and obtain home loan modifications. San Jose charged and received advance fees before she completed the legal services described in her client agreements.

In April 2010 San Jose met two nonlawyers who offered to provide her with attorney support services from an office in Fresno. From April to November 2010 San Jose employed the nonlawyers to market her services and to sign bankruptcy representation engagement agreements between San Jose and clients. San Jose compensated the nonlawyers for each client they signed up. The nonlawyers also collected documents necessary for each bankruptcy petition and scheduled meetings between San Jose and the clients. All of San Jose’s clients at the Fresno office paid advance fees, but none received legal services of value.

In November 2010 San Jose learned that the nonlawyers were treating bankruptcy clients rudely. She instructed them to stop signing up new clients and to wind down their relationship with her. In September 2011 San Jose learned that the nonlawyers had continued to sign up clients using her bankruptcy engagement agreement, and had deposited the clients’ fees into their own accounts. San Jose reported the nonlawyers to the Bakersfield and Fresno police departments.

In aggravation, San Jose had a record of prior discipline. Her current misconduct involved nine separate matters, including multiple violations of the Business and Professions Code. Her bankruptcy clients were harmed by her failure to provide any legal services. In mitigation, San Jose entered into a stipulation with the State Bar. The order took effect June 13, 2013

Damon C. Watson, State Bar #187886, Los Angeles (May 22, 2013). Watson, 42, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so, and failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline. The order took effect June 21, 2013
Jack R. Willis, State Bar #43789, Los Angeles (May 14, 2013). Willis, 72, was disbarred for failing to maintain client funds in trust, failing to keep a client reasonably informed, and committing an act involving moral turpitude.

In November 2004 two clients hired Willis to represent them in a personal injury matter related to an automobile accident. The parties agreed that Willis would represent them on a contingency fee basis. In October 2006 Willis settled the clients’ claims for $10,000 and $100,000, respectively. Willis received the settlement drafts and deposited them into his client trust account. He did not inform the clients that he had received the settlement drafts until March 2009.

Willis was entitled to his fees and costs from the settlement funds, but otherwise was required to maintain $60,512 in the clients’ trust account. He later transferred the funds to two new accounts that were not client trust accounts. By February 2008 the balance was $1,788 in one new account and $51,568 in the other; Willis had misappropriated $7,155 of the clients’ funds. By January 2009 he had misappropriated $11,233 of the clients’ funds.

In March 2009 the clients contacted Willis and requested that he disburse the settlement funds to them. Willis provided an accounting, then deposited sufficient funds from other sources to pay the clients the money they were due.

In aggravation, Willis had a record of prior discipline. He misappropriated client funds, harmed his clients, and engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Willis cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect June 13, 2013

SUSPENSION

Lisa R. Alexholland, State Bar #224000, Oakland (May 22, 2013). Alexholland, 49, was suspended for two years and placed on five years of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to keep a client reasonably informed of significant developments, failing to promptly provide an accounting, failing to promptly refund unearned fees, making misrepresentations to the State Bar, failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline, and engaging in acts involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In aggravation, Alexholland had a record of prior discipline. Her nine separate acts of wrongdoing demonstrated a pattern of misconduct and significantly harmed clients. Also, she made no effort to refund unearned fees. The order took effect June 21, 2013

Emmanuel E. Enyinwa, State Bar #207088, San Francisco (May 1, 2013). Enyinwa, 46, was suspended for 30 days and placed on two years of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to refund unearned fees, and failing to provide an accounting.

In aggravation, Enyinwa had a record of prior discipline. Also, his misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing. The order took effect May 31, 2013

Mansour S. Haddad, State Bar #172061, San Luis Obispo (May 22, 2013). Haddad, 46, was suspended for two years and placed on four years of probation following his convictions for engaging in elder abuse in violation of Penal Code § 368(B)(1), unlawfully disconnecting a telephone in violation of Penal Code § 591, and resisting arrest in violation of Penal Code, § 148(A)(1). The convictions, all misdemeanors, violated the terms of Haddad’s prior criminal probation for violating Vehicle Code, §§ 23152(b)/23550.5, driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or more with a prior DUI conviction, a felony.

In aggravation, Haddad had a record of prior discipline. He engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing surrounded by bad faith, dishonesty, concealment, and overreaching. In mitigation, at the time of his misconduct Haddad experienced extreme difficulties in his personal life, leading to relapses of alcohol abuse. Also, he cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect June 21, 2013

David Kyle, State Bar #55821, Inglewood (May 14, 2013). Kyle, 77, was suspended for six months and placed on two years of probation for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In aggravation, Kyle had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, Kyle cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect June 13, 2013

Anthony N. Luti, State Bar #207852, Hollywood (May 14, 2013). Luti, 43, was suspended for 120 days and placed on two years of probation for commingling nearly $55,000 in funds belonging in his client trust account, a breach of his common law fiduciary duty to his clients and an act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In aggravation, Luti showed indifference toward his misconduct. He failed to protect his clients’ funds in trust and engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that demonstrated a pattern of misconduct.

In mitigation, Luti had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 2000. His clients were not harmed as a result of his misconduct, and he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect June 13, 2013

Pierce H. O'Donnell, State Bar #81298, Santa Barbara (May 31, 2013). O’Donnell, 66, was suspended for six months and placed on two years of probation for violating provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act (2 U.S.C. § 431).

In 2003 a friend asked O’Donnell to help raise money for the presidential campaign of John Edwards. O’Donnell agreed and committed to raising $50,000. He personally contributed $2,000, the maximum amount allowed for an individual. He attempted to raise the rest of the $50,000 but was unsuccessful. Instead, he asked his secretary to solicit employees of his law firm to make contributions, which he would subsequently reimburse. Thirteen individuals made $2,000 contributions, and O’Donnell later reimbursed them.

In July 2008 the U.S. Department of Justice filed a three-count felony indictment against O’Donnell for violating 2 U.S.C. §§ 441f/437g(d) (illegal campaign contribution made in the name of another person). O’Donnell eventually signed a plea agreement to settle the case. In August 2011 the government again charged O’Donnell, bringing two misdemeanor counts based essentially on the same facts, and O’Donnell pleaded guilty.

In aggravation, O’Donnell had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, 36 character references from attorneys across the nation were submitted to the State Bar attesting to O’Donnell’s good character, and his misconduct did not harm his clients. Also, at the time of O’Donnell’s offenses, he was suffering from an undiagnosed case of bipolar disorder. The order took effect June 30, 2013

Gretchen V. O'Neal, State Bar #219837, Peoria, AZ (May 1, 2013). O’Neal, 39, was suspended for 90 days and placed on one year of probation for committing an act involving moral turpitude.

O’Neal was required to complete 25 hours of minimum continuing legal education between February 2008 and January 2011. Afterward, O’Neal reported to the State Bar that she had completed her MCLE requirements during the compliance period. However, O’Neal had not completed any MCLE courses. She later took the necessary courses after being contacted regarding a compliance audit.

In aggravation, O’Neal lacked candor during the State Bar investigation. In mitigation, O’Neal had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 2002. Also, she cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect May 31, 2013

Leigh A. Patten, State Bar #249790, Laguna Niguel (May 1, 2013). Patten, 42, was suspended for 60 days and placed on two years of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to keep a client informed of developments, and failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In June 2008 Patten was hired on a contingency fee basis to represent a client in a breach of contract case. Patten filed a complaint and appeared telephonically at two status conferences. However, she later informed her client that due to a family emergency, she would not be able to represent her at trial. She told her client and opposing counsel that she would request a continuance in the matter. On the first day of the trial, Patten failed to make an appearance and the court denied her request for a continuance. The matter was later dismissed.

In a second matter, in July 2001 the State Bar filed and properly served a reproval on Patten. Pursuant to the reproval, Patten was required to make restitution to two complainants, but she failed to do so. She was also required to submit proof of attending the State Bar’s ethics school, but she did not attend.

In aggravation, Patten had a record of prior discipline, and she committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that demonstrated a pattern of her misconduct. In mitigation, during the period of misconduct Patten experienced serious health problems. Also, she cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect May 31, 2013

David M. Spieker, State Bar #215548, Modesto (May 14, 2013). Spieker, 55, was suspended for one year and placed on two years of probation for forming a partnership with a nonlawyer, lending his name for use by nonlawyers, sharing legal fees with a nonlawyer, aiding in the unauthorized practice of law, failing to take reasonable steps to avoid prejudice to a client, failing to competently perform legal services, and failing to promptly refund unearned fees. In five similar cases, various clients hired Spieker and two nonlawyers to perform mortgage loan modification and restructuring services. They performed no legal services of value in connection with the modifications, and refunded none of the advanced attorneys fees.

In aggravation, Spieker caused significant harm to the clients by failing to pay restitution. Also, he engaged in multiple acts of misconduct. In mitigation, Spieker had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 2001. He cooperated by admitting his culpability and entering into a stipulation. The order took effect June 13, 2013

Hoa P. Truong, State Bar #156411, Fountain Valley (May 14, 2013). Truong, 60, was suspended for 90 days and placed on two years of probation for accepting representation of more than one client in a matter where the interests of the clients potentially conflicted, and for continuing employment adverse to a former client when he had obtained confidential information material to the employment.

In aggravation, Truong had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, he cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect June 13, 2013

Judith G. Weinstock, State Bar #93413, Los Angeles (May 14, 2013). Weinstock, 61, was suspended for 30 days and placed on one year of probation for committing an act involving moral turpitude.

Weinstock was required to complete 25 hours of minimum continuing legal education during the period between February 2008 and January 2011. At the end of that period Weinstock reported to the State Bar that she had completed her MCLE requirements. However, Weinstock had not completed any MCLE courses. She later took the necessary courses after being contacted regarding a compliance audit.

In mitigation, Weinstock had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1980, and she cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect June 13, 2013

Stephan C. Williams, State Bar #37755, Walnut Creek (April 22, 2013). Williams, 80, was suspended for one year and placed on three years of probation for failing to comply with rule 9.20 of the Rules of Court. In aggravation, Williams had a record of prior discipline. The order took effect May 22, 2013

PROBATION

Gregory P. Falk, State Bar #76361, Bakersfield (May 1, 2013). Falk, 60, was placed on three years of probation for failing to competently perform legal services.

In July 2009 a client retained Falk to represent her in a matter involving child custody, child support, and visitation issues concerning her minor son. Falk resolved the matter in a timely and appropriate manner. The client’s husband then sought to adopt the minor as his stepfather, and the couple hired Falk to represent him. The couple completed adoption papers and paid Falk $1,500 in advance fees.

However, between September 2009 and July 2010 Falk failed to perform any meaningful work on the matter. In July 2010 he closed his sole practice in Bakersfield and joined a law firm. The move caused disruption to his practice and clients.

Falk eventually filed the adoption petition in April 2012, but the court returned it two days later due to procedural errors. Falk thereafter failed to correct and refile the petition with the court. His failure to perform meaningful work on the matter for two years constituted a willful violation of the rules.

In aggravation, Falk had a record of prior discipline, and his misconduct caused significant harm to his client. In mitigation, Falk demonstrate his remorse by paying restitution to the client, and he displayed candor and cooperated during the State Bar’s investigation and proceedings. The order took effect May 31, 2013

Annette L. Goudy, State Bar #152608, Santa Ana (May 1, 2013). Goudy, 55, was placed on two years of probation for failing to promptly refund unearned fees and failing to provide an accounting.

In June 2008 a client retained Goudy in a conservatorship matter, paying her $5,000 in advanced fees. However, Goudy failed to take any action on the matter and did not earn any portion of the fees. In 2012 the client filed a small claims case seeking a judgment for return of the $5,000 advance fees. She also submitted a complaint to the State Bar. In October of that year Goudy finally refunded the unearned fees, but she did not provide an accounting.

In aggravation, Goudy’s misconduct caused significant harm to her client. Moreover, she engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Goudy had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1991, and she cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect May 31, 2013

There are no recent disciplinary actions of this type.