MAGAZINE
California Lawyer

DISBARMENT

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
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

Actions From Previous Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This action originally appeared in our June 2014 issue.

Kelly E. Darwin Giles, State Bar #144113, Culver city (February 24, 2014). Giles, 50, was disbarred following his conviction of felonies involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In September 2012 Giles was convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and 1546(a) (conspiracy to commit immigration fraud), and 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(3) (witness tampering), both felonies involving moral turpitude. The convictions are now final, and the State Bar has determined that they meet the criteria for summary disbarment. The order took effect March 26, 2014

This action originally appeared in our July 2014 issue.

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

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

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

This action originally appeared in our June 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.

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

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

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

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

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

This action originally appeared in our June 2014 issue.

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

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

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

This action originally appeared in our June 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.

Mayra I. Laureano, State Bar #194702, Long Beach (February 27, 2014). Laureano, 48, 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 rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. The order took effect March 29, 2014

This action originally appeared in our July 2014 issue.
Kamran Y. Malik, State Bar #247885, Anaheim (February 27, 2014). Malik, 35, 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 and failing to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

In aggravation, Malik had a record of prior discipline. The order took effect March 29, 2014

This action originally appeared in our July 2014 issue.

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

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

This action originally appeared in our June 2014 issue.

James J. Murray, State Bar #66952, Roswell, GA (February 11, 2014). Murray, 68, was disbarred for failing to maintain client funds in trust, misappropriating client funds, failing to render an accounting, failing to promptly return client funds, and failing to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

In aggravation, Murray had a record of prior discipline. He engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that harmed his client, and his misconduct was surrounded by bad faith and dishonesty.

The order took effect March 13, 2014

This action originally appeared in our July 2014 issue.

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

This action originally appeared in our June 2014 issue.
Kenneth G. Reidenbach, II, State Bar #159887, Lancaster, PA (February 11, 2014). Reidenbach, 63, was disbarred for committing a felony involving moral turpitude.

In December 2011 a jury found Reidenbach guilty of violating 18 U.S.C. § 371 (conspiracy to conceal property and commit bankruptcy fraud), § 152(1) (aiding and abetting the concealment of property in bankruptcy), § 152(7) (aiding and abetting an agent in concealing property in bankruptcy), § 153 (aiding and abetting embezzlement against a bankruptcy estate), § 157 (bankruptcy fraud), and § 152(3) (making a false statement in bankruptcy).

The conviction is now final, and the State Bar has determined it met the criteria for summary disbarment. The order took effect March 13, 2014

This action originally appeared in our July 2014 issue.

Albert M. Sterwerf, State Bar #175454, Tustin (February 24, 2014). Sterwerf, 53, 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 maintain client funds in a trust account, an act involving moral turpitude. The order took effect March 26, 2014

This action originally appeared in our July 2014 issue.
Stephen P. Wainer, State Bar #156197, Bakersfield (February 24, 2014). Wainer, 47, was disbarred for failing to competently perform legal services and committing acts involving moral turpitude.

In October 2006 Wainer was assigned by his law firm to represent a client pursuing a disability claim. Wainer later left the firm and opened a new practice, and the client agreed to have him continue representing her. Eventually, Wainer lost the civil case, and his petition for review was denied. Wainer failed to file an appeal, but he told the client he had filed the necessary paperwork to pursue one. He later told her that the appeal was pending, even though he had not filed an appeal and knew his statement was false. Wainer later provided the client documents that purportedly were related to the appeal but were not. The client later learned that the appeal had not been filed, which Wainer later admitted to her.

In aggravation, Wainer had a record of prior discipline. He also committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his client. In mitigation, Wainer cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 26, 2014

This action originally appeared in our July 2014 issue.

Craig T. Wormley, State Bar #182137, Beverly Hills (February 27, 2014). Wormley, 46, was disbarred for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline, accepting fees from a nonclient, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, appearing without authority, failing to competently perform legal services, failing to communicate, improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to render appropriate accounts, failing to return client papers, failing to return unearned fees, failing to cooperate with a State Bar investigation, and committing acts involving moral turpitude. There were seven client matters warranting discipline.

In aggravation, Wormley had a record of prior discipline. He also committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that harmed his clients. In mitigation, several witnesses attested to Wormley’s good character. The order took effect March 27, 2014

This action originally appeared in our July 2014 issue.