MAGAZINE
California Lawyer
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DISBARMENT

Bryan C. Becker, State Bar #241956, San Diego (April 29, 2014). Becker, 36, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. Becker was charged with failing to competently perform legal services, failing to make necessary court appearances or to file court documents on a client’s behalf, failing to respond to a client’s reasonable status inquiries, improperly withdrawing from employment, and failing to return $2,529 in unearned fees. The order took effect May 29, 2014
Roderick K. Bickerstaff, State Bar #153180, Los Angeles (April 11, 2014). Bickerstaff, 56, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. Bickerstaff was charged with four counts of misconduct stemming from one client matter, including failing to maintain client funds in trust, failing to promptly pay client funds, misappropriating funds, and committing an act of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption. In its petition for disbarment, the State Bar noted that Bickerstaff had a record of prior discipline. The order took effect May 11, 2014
Raymond O. Buendia, State Bar #94975, Chula Vista (April 29, 2014). Buendia, 62, was disbarred for failing to competently perform legal services, misleading a judge with false statements, and committing an act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In aggravation, Buendia had a record of prior discipline. Moreover, his misconduct harmed his client, and it demonstrated a pattern of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Buendia cooperated with the State Bar in its investigation and proceedings. The order took effect May 29, 2014

Raymond O. Buendia, State Bar #94975, Chula Vista (April 29, 2014). Buendia, 62, was disbarred for failing to competently perform legal services, misleading a judge with false statements, and committing an act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In aggravation, Buendia had a record of prior discipline. Moreover, his misconduct harmed his client, and it demonstrated a pattern of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Buendia cooperated with the State Bar in its investigation and proceedings. The order took effect May 29, 2014

Alfred W. Driscol, III, State Bar #60996, Chico (April 11, 2014). Driscol, 66, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. Driscol was charged with misappropriating $87,534 in client funds and misrepresenting to his clients that the funds in the client trust account were still available. In its petition for disbarment, the State Bar noted that there were 13 misconduct investigations pending against Driscol. The order took effect May 11, 2014
Carl W. Nyman, State Bar #57915, Irvine (April 29, 2014). Nyman, 65, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. Nyman was charged with failing to comply with conditions to a previous order or discipline. The order took effect May 29, 2014
Matthew H. Powell, State Bar #87602, San Diego (April 29, 2014). Powell, 62, was disbarred for failing to support the law, disobeying a court order, misappropriating funds, and committing an act of moral turpitude.

In December 2010 Powell was hired by a client to file a bankruptcy petition on his behalf. Later that month Powell filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition for the client, whom Powell represented until October 2012. During this period, the client paid Powell $12,250 in attorneys fees. However, Powell never sought the bankruptcy court’s approval for payment of the fees, as required by 11 U.S.C. § 327 and related rules. Powell also failed to obtain the bankruptcy court’s approval of his employment. In May 2013 the bankruptcy court ordered Powell to disgorge $12,250 in attorneys fees, but he failed to do so.

In aggravation, Powell engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing, harming his client and the administration of justice. In mitigation, Powell had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1979. Also, he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect May 29, 2014

Martin B. Snyder, State Bar #78253, Los Angeles (April 11, 2014). Snyder, 63, 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 comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline. In its petition for disbarment, the State Bar noted that Snyder had a record of prior discipline. The order took effect May 11, 2014
Paul E. St. Amant, State Bar #236141, Menifee (April 11, 2014). St. Amant, 42, was disbarred for permitting nonattorneys to use his name and State Bar number to operate a purportedly lawful business, sharing legal fees with a nonattorney, aiding in the unauthorized practice of law, improperly soliciting a prospective client, collecting advance fees for loan modification services in violation of Civil Code § 2944.7(a)(1), failing to deposit funds in a client trust account, misappropriating funds, failing to competently perform legal services, failing to inform a client of significant developments, failing to render appropriate accounts, failing to refund unearned fees, and committing acts involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In 2010 nonattorney Ruben Vargas registered Consumer Legal Centers, A Professional Law Corporation, with the California secretary of state. However, CLC was not and has never been a professional law corporation registered pursuant to the laws of California and the State Bar Act or to relevant state regulations. CLC was managed and owned by Vargas and other nonattorney employees.

In 2011 St. Amant entered into a contract with Vargas on behalf of CLC in which he agreed to a monthly payment of $5,000, provided that he worked a minimum of 20 hours per month on CLC legal matters. Afterward, St. Amant held himself out as the managing attorney and/or owner of CLC. CLC nonattorney employees also informed the public and their clients that St. Amant was the attorney handling all legal matters when in fact he did not. As a result, St. Amant misled several clients and shared fees he received from those clients with nonattorney CLC employees. St. Amant also allowed CLC’s nonattorney employees to provide legal services, with scant supervision, to clients St. Amant obtained through CLC. He repeatedly failed to competently perform legal services, provided false accounting, misappropriated $37,500, and failed to refund more than $88,000 to clients.

In aggravation, St. Amant’s misconduct caused significant harm to his clients. Also, he engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing, involving 30 counts of misconduct. In mitigation, St. Amant had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 2005. Also, he agreed to enter into a stipulation. The order took effect May 11, 2014

Roger D. Stacy, State Bar #208500, San Diego (April 11, 2014). Stacy, 44, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. Stacy was charged with failing to competently perform legal services, failing to return unearned fees, failing to communicate, failing to obey a court order, and misappropriating funds. In its petition for disbarment, the State Bar noted that Stacy had a record of prior discipline. The order took effect May 11, 2014
Diane M. Trzcinski, State Bar #78199, Los Angeles (April 29, 2014). Trzcinski, 68, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. Trzcinski was charged with failing to cooperate in a State Bar investigation involving MCLE compliance, and failing to maintain a current membership records address. In its petition, the State Bar noted, among other things, that Trzcinski had not contacted the State Bar since the entry of default against her. Trzcinski also failed to respond to the petition for disbarment. The order took effect May 29, 2014
Jennifer M. Urquizu, State Bar #231134, Riverside (April 23, 2014). Urquizu, 37, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. Urquizu was charged with 16 counts of misconduct involving three client matters and a bankruptcy court matter. The charges included failing to competently perform legal services, failing to communicate, failing to pay client funds, failing to render appropriate accounts, failing to refund unearned fees, failing to release client files, failing to comply with the bankruptcy court’s disgorgement orders, and failing to cooperate with a State Bar investigation. In its petition for disbarment, the State Bar noted that Urquizu had a record of prior discipline. The order took effect May 23, 2014
Hal E. Wright, State Bar #157814, Davis (April 23, 2014). Wright, 60, was disbarred for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to promptly notify a client of the receipt of funds, failing to render appropriate accounts, failing to refund unearned fees, and committing multiple acts of moral turpitude.

In September 2010 a client retained Wright in a personal injury matter against the Big Idea Theater in Sacramento. Without informing the client, Wright settled the claim through the theater’s insurance company for $40,000, even though the value of the case greatly exceeded that amount.

In April 2011 Wright forged the signatures of his client and his client’s wife on a release form he sent to the theater’s insurance company. Thereafter, Wright received two checks amounting to $40,000 from the insurance company. Wright again forged the signatures on these checks, deposited them in his client trust account, and then diverted the funds to another account for his own personal benefit. Furthermore, between September 2010 and January 2013 Wright made numerous false statements to the client regarding the personal injury case. Wright indicated that he had filed and was pursuing a personal injury lawsuit, but that was not true.

In May 2012 the client also hired Wright to obtain proceeds that were left to the Davis Musical Theater Company in a patron’s will. After receiving $15,500 from the trustee of the patron’s trust, Wright deposited the funds into his client trust account. He paid $3,000 to his client and then falsely told him that it was a payment from the insurance company in relation to the personal injury case. Wright never told his client that he received $15,500 from the trust, misappropriating $12,500 for his personal use.

In aggravation, Wright had a record of prior discipline. He engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his clients. Also, he demonstrated indifference toward rectification of his misconduct by failing to return any of the funds. In mitigation, Wright cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect May 23, 2014

Actions From Previous Issues

Kristin L. Day, State Bar #269679, Roseville (March 24, 2014). Day, 35, was disbarred for aiding in the unauthorized practice of law, lending her name to be used by a nonattorney, forming a partnership with a nonattorney, sharing legal fees with a nonattorney, collecting an illegal fee, failing to competently perform legal services, failing to refund unearned fees, violating the regulations of the profession in Pennsylvania, and committing acts involving moral turpitude.

In February 2011 Day and Brandon Hintz, a nonattorney, formed a partnership called United Foreclosure Attorney Network (UFAN). UFAN’s purpose was to provide mortgage litigation and other debt-related services to borrowers and property owners. Day was aware that Hintz was not authorized to practice law. Day signed independent contract agreements with nonattorney entities, which were authorized to solicit and sign new clients for UFAN. These legal assistants engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by conducting initial client consultations, determining whether or not to accept clients for UFAN, and providing legal advice without attorney supervision. The legal assistants worked according to a script, and they gave all clients the same information.

Day lent her name to these assistants so they could continue to secure new clients for UFAN. Day did not perform any legal services of value for UFAN’s clients, but she nevertheless collected advance attorneys fees. The fees were split between Day, Hintz, and the legal assistants. In one matter, a client residing in Pennsylvania hired UFAN for litigation and paid advance fees. But Day was not admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania.

In aggravation, Day’s misconduct significantly harmed her clients. She committed multiple acts of wrongdoing in a scheme to defraud those clients. Also, she showed indifference toward rectification of or atonement for her misconduct by only partially refunding fees to one client, and failing to make full restitution to eight others. In mitigation, Day entered into a stipulation with the State Bar. She also provided several letters attesting to her good character. The order took effect April 23, 2014

This action originally appeared in our September 2014 issue.

Stanley L. Evans, State Bar #119091, Carmel (March 26, 2014). Evans, 61, was disbarred for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In June 2011 Evans was suspended for a minimum of two years and placed on five years of probation. While on probation, Evans failed to timely submit a quarterly report, and he failed to timely attend State Bar Ethics School. Evans also failed to submit a waiver authorizing the Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) to provide the Office of Probation and the State Bar Court with information regarding the terms and conditions of his participation and compliance with LAP. Finally, Evans failed to timely submit laboratory blood and/or urine reports to the Office of Probation.

In aggravation, Evans had a record of prior discipline. Also, he committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and demonstrated indifference to his misconduct by failing to comply with probation conditions. In mitigation, Evans entered into a stipulation with the State Bar. The order took effect April 25, 2014

This action originally appeared in our September 2014 issue.

Kenneth P. Feria, State Bar #221685, San Francisco (March 24, 2014). Feria, 43, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He was charged with eleven counts of misconduct, including failing to report judicial sanctions, violating a court order, failing to competently perform legal services, and committing acts involving moral turpitude. The order took effect April 23, 2014

This action originally appeared in our September 2014 issue.
Sean P. Gjerde, State Bar #217467, Wilton (April 11, 2014). Gjerde, 38, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. In its petition for disbarment, the State Bar noted that Gjerde had a record of prior discipline. The order took effect May 11, 2014

This action originally appeared in our October 2014 issue.
Samantha C. Harris, State Bar #170337, Sunland (April 11, 2014). Harris, 49, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. Harris was charged with 42 counts of misconduct involving seven client matters. The charges included failing to competently perform legal services, failing to communicate, making misrepresentations and habitually disregarding the interests of her clients, collecting advance fees in connection with loan modification services in violation of Civil Code § 2944.7, aiding in the unauthorized practice of law, permitting the misuse of her name, improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to return unearned fees, failing to notify clients of the sale of a law practice, failing to cooperate in a State Bar investigation, and committing acts involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption. In its petition for disbarment, the State Bar recommended that Harris also be ordered to pay $30,978, plus interest, in restitution. The order took effect May 11, 2014

This action originally appeared in our October 2014 issue.
Lawrence V. Harrison, State Bar #202689, Riverside (April 11, 2014). Harrison, 69, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He was charged with six counts of misconduct, including failing to communicate, improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to render appropriate accounts, failing to refund unearned fees, and failing to return a client’s papers or property. In its petition for disbarment, the State Bar noted that Harrison had a record of prior discipline. The order took effect May 11, 2014

This action originally appeared in our October 2014 issue.
Daniel M. Horton, State Bar #160532, Rancho Cordova (April 11, 2014). Horton, 49, was disbarred following his misdemeanor conviction for annoying or molesting a child under the age of 18, an act involving moral turpitude.

At the time of the misconduct, Horton served as a juvenile judicial commissioner for the Sacramento County Superior Court, presiding over juvenile dependency and detention hearings.

In November 2010 Jane Doe claimed that Horton approached her at a tanning salon and falsely represented that he was a modeling agent in search of a model. Horton brought up the issue of nude modeling even after Jane Doe revealed she was only 17. During the course of Jane Doe’s interaction with Horton, he inappropriately touched her and indecently exposed himself. Jane Doe did not have the courage to file a complaint until after the statute of limitations had passed. As a result, authorities could not charge Horton with a crime. However, the Sacramento Police Department decided to conduct a sting operation on Horton using two decoys who could pass as juveniles.

In February 2012 the police department deployed two female decoys on Horton’s expected travel route during his lunch break. Horton approached the decoys in the same way he reportedly approached Jane Doe. Horton, purporting to be a modeling agent in search of nude models, asked one decoy if she would be interested in auditioning to perform in a nude video, but she declined. However, she did express interest in nude modeling. Horton then asked her to perform a five-minute audition in a nearby alley, but she declined.

Ultimately, Horton was charged with violating Penal Code § 647.6(a)(2) (motivated by unnatural sexual interest in children); and Penal Code § 664/288.4(a)(1) (motivated by unnatural sexual interest in children, attempting to arrange a meeting).

Horton pleaded no contest and was convicted of one misdemeanor count, which involved conduct motivated by an unnatural sexual interest in children. He was sentenced to 90 days of jail time and three years of probation. He was also required to register as a sex offender, and to complete a sex offender management program.

In aggravation, Horton significantly harmed Jane Doe and the administration of justice, and he engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Horton had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1992. Also, he cooperated by entering into a stipulation and was entitled to some mitigation based on letters attesting to his good character. The order took effect May 11, 2014

This action originally appeared in our October 2014 issue.

Judith L. Hubert, State Bar #93982, San Bernardino (March 24, 2014). Hubert, 78, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. She was charged with failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline. The order took effect April 23, 2014

This action originally appeared in our September 2014 issue.
John A. Hurley, State Bar #145907, Anaheim Hills (April 11, 2014). Hurley, 59, 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 comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline, including failing to timely submit quarterly reports, failing to provide proof of restitution payments, failing to comply with Lawyer Assistance Program conditions, and failing to provide proof of attendance and completion of State Bar Ethics School. In its petition for disbarment, the State Bar noted that Hurley had a record of five previous orders of discipline. It ordered him to pay $13,000, plus interest, in restitution. The order took effect May 11, 2014

This action originally appeared in our October 2014 issue.
Emeka G. Onwualu, State Bar #161868, Inglewood (April 11, 2014). Onwualu, 62, was disbarred for committing 29 acts of misconduct involving seven client matters. His misconduct included repeatedly failing to competently perform legal services, collecting advance fees for loan modification services in violation of Civil Code § 2944.7(a)(1), failing to promptly respond to reasonable status inquiries, failing to keep a client reasonably informed of significant developments, failing to take steps to avoid reasonably foreseeable prejudice to a client upon termination of employment, failing to render appropriate accounts, failing to refund unearned fees, failing to cooperate and participate in a State Bar disciplinary investigation, and failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In aggravation, Onwualu had a record of prior discipline, and the misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his clients. In mitigation, he cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect May 11, 2014

This action originally appeared in our October 2014 issue.

Henry A. Pattiz, State Bar #44073, Studio City (April 11, 2014). Pattiz, 72, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He was charged with violating rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. In its petition for disbarment, the State Bar noted that Pattiz had a record of two prior disciplinary orders, and that the State Bar’s Client Security Fund had paid $24,000 in claims resulting from his misconduct. The order took effect May 11, 2014

This action originally appeared in our October 2014 issue.
Padrik S. Ryan, State Bar #256997, Coarsegold (April 11, 2014). Ryan, 39, was disbarred following his conviction for importing marijuana, an act involving moral turpitude. In addition, Ryan failed to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In September 2012 Ryan drove his truck from Mexico into the United States through the San Ysidro port of entry. A narcotics-detecting dog alerted Border Patrol agents to his truck. Agents discovered 84.96 pounds of marijuana, with a wholesale value of at least $25,000, concealed in the truck’s gas tank. Ryan had knowledge of the illicit cargo, and knowingly entered the country with it for commercial purposes.

At the time of his arrest, there was an outstanding bench warrant for Ryan’s arrest in California on charges of felony hit-and-run and resisting arrest. Ultimately, he was convicted of violating of 21 U.S.C. §§ 952 and 960 for the importation of marijuana.

In February 2013 Ryan was sentenced to ten months in prison. That same month the State Bar Court issued an order suspending Ryan from the practice of law pending final disposition of his criminal case. He was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court, but he failed to do so.

In aggravation, Ryan had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, Ryan cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect May 11, 2014

This action originally appeared in our October 2014 issue.