MAGAZINE
California Lawyer

DISBARMENT

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
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
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
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

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
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

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
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

Actions From Previous Issues

Toni L. Christiani, State Bar #202884, San Diego (March 24, 2014). Christiani, 47, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. She was charged with one count of misconduct for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline. The order took effect April 23, 2014

This action originally appeared in our August 2014 issue.
William A. Cooper, State Bar #30652, Sacramento (February 27, 2014). Cooper, 79, was disbarred for failing to maintain client funds in trust and committing acts involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption. In January 2011 Cooper was hired by a client to represent him in a bankruptcy matter. The two agreed that Cooper would be paid a contingency fee of 33.3 percent of any judgment or settlement.

In June 2011 the case settled, and Cooper deposited a check for $38,000 into his client trust account. Cooper was required to maintain two-thirds of that amount for his client, but he failed to do so. Cooper misappropriated at least $3,743 for his own benefit, and later misappropriated an additional $2,500.

In aggravation, Cooper showed indifference toward rectification of or atonement for his misconduct, forcing his client to file a small claims action against him. Also, he demonstrated a lack of candor and cooperation by trying to mislead the State Bar during its investigation. In mitigation, Cooper had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1960. He also cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 29, 2014

This action originally appeared in our July 2014 issue.

Jay C. Cox, State Bar #147858, Dallas, TX (February 27, 2014). Cox, 52, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. Cox was charged with failing to comply with conditions to four previous orders of discipline, including a suspension following convictions in four criminal matters warranting discipline but not involving moral turpitude. Cox failed to file a response to the notice of disciplinary charges. In July 2013 the State Bar filed the petition for disbarment. The order took effect March 29, 2014

This action originally appeared in our July 2014 issue.
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.

Adam R. Fairbairn, State Bar #168204, San Miguel (February 26, 2014). Fairbairn, 48, was disbarred for practicing law while suspended from practice, failing to communicate, failing to cooperate with a State Bar investigation, and committing acts involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In 2012 Fairbairn was the attorney of record for defendants in a lawsuit. In February of that year Fairbairn falsely informed the plaintiff’s counsel that he would be suspended from the practice of law for failing to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination. However, Fairbairn had already been suspended for that reason. He told plaintiff’s counsel that he would provide him with the name of the defendants’ new attorney, but instead Fairbairn remained the attorney of record. He later hired a special-appearance attorney to represent the clients at hearings. Despite his suspension from practice, Fairbairn continued to participate in conferences, and held himself out as entitled to practice law when he was not. There were two other matters involving similar misconduct warranting discipline.

In aggravation, Fairbairn had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, he cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 28, 2014

This action originally appeared in our July 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.
Baker A. Gregory, State Bar #194654, Ontario (February 24, 2014). Baker, 51, was disbarred for accepting advance fees in loan modification matters in violation of Civil Code § 2944.7(a), practicing law in jurisdictions where he is not licensed, and committing acts involving moral turpitude. He was found culpable for ten counts of misconduct involving 18 client matters.

Between June 2008 and April 2012 Baker represented homeowners in loan modification matters, collecting advance legal fees before completing these services. He agreed to represent clients from Wisconsin, Oregon, Ohio, Washington, and Maryland, even though he was not licensed to practice law in those jurisdictions.

In other client matters, Baker was found culpable of failing to competently perform legal services, failing to maintain client records, failing to communicate, failing to render appropriate accounts, failing to report sanctions, improperly withdrawing from employment, and entering into an agreement with a client providing that his misconduct not be reported to the State Bar.

In aggravation, Baker engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that demonstrated a pattern of misconduct, causing harm to his clients, the public, and the administration of justice. In mitigation, Baker had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1998. Also, he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 26, 2014

This action originally appeared in our July 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.
Gary Lane, State Bar #50960, Irvine (March 12, 2014). Lane, 68, was disbarred for failing to competently perform legal services, receiving advance fees in loan modification matters in violation of Civil Code § 2944.7(a), aiding and abetting the unauthorized practice of law, failing to communicate, misleading a judge, scheming to collect illegal fees, improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to render appropriate accounts, failing to return unearned fees, and committing acts involving moral turpitude. He was charged in 16 client matters.

Lane was engaged in the loan modification practice in March 2009 when the Legislature enacted SB 94 (codified as Civ. Code §§ 2944.6 and 2944.7). Thereafter, instead of performing conventional loan modifications, Lane told clients that he needed to file a lawsuit on their behalf to protect their rights.

In June 2009 a client hired Lane’s company, Consumer Protection Legal Services (CPLS), to represent her in a civil action. The client paid Lane $3,000 in advance fees, and later paid him an additional $2,000. CPLS filed a complaint, but when the opposing party moved to dismiss the lawsuit, Lane failed to file a response and the defendant’s motion was granted. The court deemed the suit frivolous and completely without merit, meaning Lane did not earn any of the charged fees.

Lane failed to timely inform his client that the case had been dismissed. The client later requested a refund, but Lane returned only $995, and he failed to provide an accounting.

In a second matter, in June 2009 a client hired CPLS for home loan modification services. The client paid CPLS $2,995 in advance fees. CPLS filed a civil action against the lender, who responded with a demurrer and a motion to strike portions of the complaint. CPLS failed to respond and failed to appear at a hearing, causing the court to sustain the demurrer.

The court later dismissed the action entirely. CPLS then filed a second complaint, but the court again sustained a demurrer against the plaintiff. After the lender moved for sanctions, the court ordered sanctions of $3,000. CPLS failed to provide a loan modification for the client, and failed to earn any of its fees. There were 14 other matters involving misconduct warranting discipline.

In aggravation, Lane committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed his clients. He demonstrated little recognition or understanding of his wrongdoing. Also, he showed indifference toward rectification of or atonement for the consequences of his misconduct. In mitigation, Lane had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1972. He cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect April 11, 2014

This action originally appeared in our August 2014 issue.