MAGAZINE
California Lawyer

SUSPENSION

James G. Morris, State Bar #110955, Burbank (March 26, 2014). Morris, 56, was suspended for one year and placed on two years of probation for failing to report a civil fraud judgment and committing acts involving moral turpitude.

In 2005 and 2006 Morris defended Micromark, a California corporation, in a lawsuit against B Five, its lessee in a commercial building. Micromark replaced Morris as counsel, and it then rehired him in 2007 to represent the company in all of its legal matters, including the B Five lawsuit.

Morris reviewed the case and discovered that Micromark was in default. He concluded that the default could not be set aside, but he did not inform opposing counsel or take any legal action. The superior court entered a judgment against Micromark for $2.4 million.

By December 2007 Morris agreed to file a motion to set aside the default, and he placed encumbrances on the commercial building to secure two promissory notes totaling $703,000. After B Five won its judgment, it filed suit against Micromark and Morris, arguing that the deeds of trust that secured the promissory notes were fraudulent conveyances. The superior court agreed, concluding that the transfers were not made in good faith or for a reasonably equivalent value; it also found that Morris assisted in efforts to hinder and delay B Five’s collection of its judgment.

In aggravation, Morris’s misconduct significantly harmed B Five. In mitigation, Morris had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1983, and he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect June 14, 2014

Linda L. Seals, State Bar #129003, Irvine (March 26, 2014). Seals, 56, was suspended for 60 days and placed on two years of probation for failing to provide the State Bar with written notice that she employed her husband, a suspended attorney, in her legal practice.

Seals was married to attorney Jay Tenenbaum when he was suspended in 2011 from the practice of law for three years; he was disbarred in 2012. After the effective date of Tenenbaum’s suspension, he performed services for Phoenix Law Group, a legal practice owned by Seals. In 2011 and 2012 Tenenbaum worked daily in the Phoenix Law Group office, performing clerical and administrative duties. Seals was required by rule 1-311(D) of the Rules of Professional Conduct to serve notice on the State Bar of Tenenbaum’s employment, but she willfully failed to do so.

In aggravation, Seals had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, she admitted her misconduct and cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect April 25, 2014

Leonard Tachner, State Bar #58436, San Jose (March 26, 2014). Tachner, 70, was suspended for 90 days and placed on two years of probation for professional misconduct related to a disciplinary action imposed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

In April 2013 the USPTO disciplined Tachner in three client matters for failing to pay patent maintenance fees, thereby allowing the clients’ patents to expire. The USPTO suspended Tachner from practicing before that office in patent, trademark, and other nonpatent matters for a period of five years. His culpability in the underlying proceeding warranted imposition of discipline by the State Bar.

In aggravation, Tachner’s misconduct demonstrated a pattern of wrongdoing, and his failure to perform caused significant harm to his clients. In mitigation, Tachner had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1973. Also, he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect April 25, 2014

Robert N. Vohra, State Bar #163798, Washington, DC (March 26, 2014). Vohra, 53, was suspended for two years and placed on three years of probation for engaging in misconduct in another jurisdiction.

In 1995 a Canadian corporation retained Vohra to determine and ensure compliance with U.S. registration requirements, and to facilitate its offer of sales franchises throughout the United States. He failed to perform the assigned task, and he misrepresented to his law partner that the work had been performed for the Canadian corporation.

Vohra later wrote to the Canadian corporation, enclosing a chart listing the states where the company was registered to sell franchises. The listing was partly correct and partly inaccurate. Vohra later admitted that he had made misrepresentations regarding the filings.

In April 2000 the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Board on Professional Responsibility found that Vohra had committed violations of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals then suspended Vohra from the practice of law and placed him on probation for two years.

In a second matter, in September 2004 Vohra was employed by husband-and-wife clients to obtain E-2 visas based on their investment in a UPS store in Arlington, Virginia. Vohra filed applications for them using an incorrect form, and the forms were rejected. He failed to advise the clients of the rejection, and he did not resubmit the correct forms until November 2005. The resubmitted applications were denied, but Vohra misrepresented to the clients that they were still pending. When the clients learned the applications had been denied, they confronted Vohra, who falsely said that he had filed a motion to reopen and reconsider the matter. The clients then hired replacement counsel.

In April 2011 the D.C. court’s Board on Professional Responsibility found that Vohra had committed violations of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals suspended Vohra from the practice of law for three years.

In aggravation, Vohra committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his clients. In mitigation, Vohra had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1993, and he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. Also, during the period of his misconduct Vohra experienced major depression and later received medical treatment to alleviate it. The order took effect April 25, 2014

Actions From Previous Issues

Bruce H. Atwater, III, State Bar #199011, San Francisco (March 26, 2014). Atwater, 42, was suspended for 60 days and placed on two years of probation for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In July 2011 Atwater received an order of public reproval that required him to comply with certain conditions for one year. However, Atwater failed to timely submit two quarterly reports, failed to provide timely proof of attending at least four substance-abuse program meetings, failed to furnish laboratory blood and/or urine reports to the State Bar Office of Probation, and failed to timely furnish evidence of psychiatric treatment. In addition, he failed to provide proof of passage of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination.

In aggravation, Atwater had a record of prior discipline. He committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and failed to cooperate with the State Bar during its investigation and proceedings. Also, he demonstrated indifference toward rectification of or atonement for his misconduct. In mitigation, Atwater entered into a stipulation. The order took effect April 25, 2014

This action originally appeared in our September 2014 issue.

Kenneth B. Brock, State Bar #158311, Oxnard (March 26, 2014). Brock, 53, was suspended for 90 days and placed on two years of probation following his conviction on two misdemeanors.

In June 2011 a police officer saw a vehicle driven by Brock straddling lanes of traffic while traveling at high speed. The officer stopped Brock, who admitted he had been drinking. He was arrested, and breath samples showed his blood-alcohol level was .20 or .21 percent.

In a second incident in October 2011, after Brock was convicted and his license suspended, he was pulled over by a California Highway Patrol officer and admitted to driving with a suspended license.

In aggravation, Brock had a record of prior discipline. Also, he committed multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Brock entered into a full stipulation with the State Bar. The order took effect April 25, 2014

This action originally appeared in our September 2014 issue.

Gordon D. Brown, State Bar #171745, Oakland (March 26, 2014). Brown, 68, was suspended for 60 days and placed on two years of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to obtain the written consent of his clients, and committing an act involving moral turpitude.

In March 2011 Brown was hired by a client and her two adult daughters following their involvement in an automobile accident. Brown did not explain the potential conflicts of interest between his multiple clients, and he failed to obtain their signed written consent to representation. From June 2011 through January 2013 USAA Insurance, the other driver’s insurance carrier, wrote Brown 13 letters requesting medical bills and records. Brown did not provide USAA with the requested information.

In January 2013 Brown met with the other driver and presented her with a proposed settlement agreement for $6,800. However, neither his clients nor USAA Insurance ever authorized a settlement. Brown was merely misleading the other driver regarding the status of the case. Once Brown’s clients realized his misconduct, the mother terminated his employment.

In aggravation, Brown committed multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Brown had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1994. Also, he entered into a stipulation and admitted culpability. The order took effect April 25, 2014

This action originally appeared in our September 2014 issue.

Scott M. Currey, State Bar #242320, Dixon (March 24, 2014). Currey, 41, was suspended for 30 days and placed on two years of probation for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In January 2012 Currey received a private reproval and was ordered to comply with the conditions attached for a period of two years. However, Currey failed to timely submit a quarterly report to the Office of Probation, and he failed to make monthly restitution payments to a former client.

In aggravation, Currey had a record of prior discipline. Also, he committed multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Currey cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect April 23, 2014

This action originally appeared in our August 2014 issue.

Steven C. Feldman, State Bar #103676, Laguna Niguel (February 27, 2014). Feldman, 60, was suspended for 60 days and placed on two years of probation for practicing law in a jurisdiction where he was not licensed, charging illegal fees, receiving advance fees for a loan modification matter in violation of Civil Code § 2944.7(a), and failing to return unearned fees.

In September 2008 a Florida resident employed Feldman and paid him $3,995 in advance fees to provide legal services in connection with a loan modification matter. Feldman was not authorized to practice law in Florida. Despite this, Feldman gave legal advice and performed legal services in Florida, which constituted the unauthorized practice of law. Feldman also failed to later refund the client’s advance fees. There were nine other matters involving similar misconduct warranting discipline.

In aggravation, Feldman committed multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Feldman had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1982. Also, he cooperated with the State Bar’s investigation and proceedings and expressed remorse for his misconduct. He sought advice from experts in loan modification matters who suggested he acted in good faith, and he also presented character witnesses. The order took effect March 29, 2014

This action originally appeared in our August 2014 issue.

Glen S. Fleetwood, State Bar #113429, Westlake Village (March 26, 2014). Fleetwood, 61, was suspended for 90 days and placed on three years of probation for improperly advancing facts prejudicial to his client and failing to maintain the confidence and secrets of his client.

In March 2012 Fleetwood was hired by a client to represent him in a criminal case arising from his arrest for driving under the influence (DUI). The following month the client went to Fleetwood’s office without an appointment. After waiting for what the client felt was a long time, the client placed a note containing profanities in a sealed envelope addressed to Fleetwood. The next day, Fleetwood lodged the note in the DUI matter as part of his motion to be relieved from representation. Fleetwood informed the client he had provided the note to the court and the city attorney prosecuting his DUI matter. Fleetwood sent several more letters to the client regarding his case, but at no time did Fleetwood ever indicate that he was threatened by the client’s conduct.

In May 2012 Fleetwood filed a motion to be relieved as counsel in the DUI matter, explaining that he believed disclosure of the client’s note was necessary because he felt threatened. The motion stated that the client had lied about his criminal past, was a rapist and a “violent criminal,” intimidated others by claiming to have expertise in civil litigation, and had a “personal assistant” who was a prostitute. Ultimately, the trial court granted Fleetwood’s motion to be relieved as the client’s counsel.

In December 2012 disciplinary proceedings were instituted against Fleetwood. Fleetwood claimed that his behavior was justified because he feared for his life. However, the State Bar Court found that his assertions lacked credibility and that his conduct warranted discipline.

In aggravation, Fleetwood had a record of prior discipline. Also, his misconduct significantly harmed his client. In addition, Fleetwood showed no remorse or understanding of his misconduct. In mitigation, Fleetwood presented two witnesses who testified to his good character. The order took effect April 25, 2014

This action originally appeared in our September 2014 issue.

Steven S. Hanagami, State Bar #165093, Rancho Santa Margarita (March 24, 2014). Hanagami, 54, was suspended for 30 days and placed on one year of probation for falsely reporting to the State Bar that he had met his minimum continuing legal education (MCLE) requirements when he had not, an act involving moral turpitude. After being contacted by membership services regarding an audit of his MCLE compliance, Hanagami completed the remaining 16 hours.

In mitigation, Hanagami had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1993. Also, he admitted to the misconduct and entered into a stipulation. The order took effect April 23, 2014

This action originally appeared in our September 2014 issue.

Barbara E. Irving, State Bar #108412, Sierra Madre (March 24, 2014). Irving, 72, was suspended for 90 days and placed on two years of probation for disclosing confidential information that was prejudicial to her clients’ reputation.

In June 2012 Irving was hired by a client to represent him and his family business in a breach-of-contract case. Irving also represented the client’s wife in an unrelated matter. The client’s wife was a potential witness in the breach-of-contract case.

In November 2012 Irving filed a motion to withdraw as attorney of record for the husband. In a declaration in support of her motion, Irving disclosed communications, observations, and personal opinions aimed at insulting and embarrassing the client and his wife. The information had no relevance to the breach-of-contract case, and it was potentially detrimental to both clients in other cases in which Irving represented them.

The clients did not authorize Irving to disclose the information in her declaration. Furthermore, disclosure was unnecessary to reasonably establish a breakdown of the attorney-client relationship.

In aggravation, Irving’s misconduct involved dishonesty and demonstrated bad faith. Her misconduct also caused her clients harm by exposing them to public embarrassment. In mitigation, Irving had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1983. Also, she entered into a stipulation. The order took effect April 23, 2014

This action originally appeared in our September 2014 issue.

Frederick T. Jelin, State Bar #105786, Los Angeles (March 24, 2014). Jelin, 65, was suspended for 90 days and placed on three years of probation for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In July 2012 the State Bar Court publicly reproved Jelin for conduct on a commercial airplane that resulted in his criminal conviction for resisting arrest when he refused to leave the plane. Under the reproval order, Jelin was required to schedule a meeting with his probation officer to discuss the terms and conditions of his discipline. Jelin failed to do so, and he also failed to file required quarterly reports.

In aggravation, Jelin had a record of prior discipline. Also, he committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and demonstrated defiance toward the disciplinary process. In mitigation, Jelin cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect April 23, 2014

This action originally appeared in our September 2014 issue.

Scott G. Lyon, State Bar #199800, Manteca (March 26, 2014). Lyon, 44, was suspended for 60 days and placed on two years of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to promptly respond to reasonable status inquiries, failing to refund unearned fees, and failing to keep all agreements made in lieu of disciplinary prosecution.

In May 2011 Lyon was hired by a client to handle a bankruptcy matter. The client paid Lyon $1,000 in advance fees and $75 in costs. Thereafter, Lyon failed to communicate with the client, and he effectively withdrew from representing the client. In addition, Lyon failed to refund the $1,000.

In 2012 Lyon signed an agreement in lieu of discipline (ALD) regarding the matter in which he agreed to comply with specified duties for one year. However, he failed to submit four required quarterly reports and did not attend the State Bar Ethics School. Lyon also failed to timely pay his client restitution. Ultimately, Lyon complied with all the ALD requirements.

In aggravation, Lyon committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that caused his client significant harm. In addition, he demonstrated indifference toward rectification of or atonement for his misconduct. In mitigation, Lyon 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 April 25, 2014

This action originally appeared in our September 2014 issue.

Brian D. McMahon, State Bar #147662, Playa Del Rey (March 26, 2014). McMahon, 57, was suspended for two years and placed on four years of probation for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In February 2011 the California Supreme Court ordered that McMahon be placed on probation for three years, subject to certain conditions. However, McMahon failed to submit to a medical examination by a mutually agreed upon physician, failed to timely submit two quarterly reports, failed to timely submit eight monthly screening reports containing an analysis of his blood or urine, and failed to submit proof of attendance at the State Bar Ethics School and the Client Trust Accounting School. Finally, McMahon was required to make restitution payments to two former clients on the first of each month. He sought to have his restitution obligation reduced, and eventually he succeeded. However, he still failed to make monthly payments between April 2011 and October 2012.

In aggravation, McMahon had a record of prior discipline. Also, he committed multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, McMahon entered into a stipulation with the State Bar. Also, he presented evidence from 14 character witnesses. The order took effect April 25, 2014

This action originally appeared in our September 2014 issue.

William A. Miller, State Bar #98426, Hughson (February 27, 2014). Miller, 32, was suspended for six months and placed on two years of probation for making misrepresentations to the court, failing to cooperate with a disciplinary investigation, and committing an act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

In July 2011 Miller substituted into criminal proceedings, representing the defendant. At the time, the proceedings had been put on hold to determine the defendant’s competency. A court-appointed expert opined that the client was competent to stand trial. At the trial-readiness conference, Miller requested a continuance because his supposed expert witness was not available. However, at no time did Miller retain the expert in his client’s case. Moreover, Miller knew that the statements he made to the court were false. Nevertheless, the court continued the matter.

On separate occasions Miller made numerous other representations to the court that he knew were false, including stating that his expert would be available for trial on a certain date, and that the expert would testify that his client was incompetent to stand trial. Miller later admitted that he never retained an expert and that his purported expert had not spoken with his client.

In aggravation, Miller had a record of prior discipline. Also, he engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that harmed the administration of justice. In mitigation, Miller cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 29, 2014

This action originally appeared in our August 2014 issue.

David L. Naples, State Bar #233928, La Habra (March 26, 2014). Naples, 46, was suspended for 120 days and placed on two years of probation for collecting advance fees in home-loan modification matters in violation of Civil Code § 2944.7, an act of moral turpitude.

Between March and August 2010 Naples offered to perform mortgage-loan modification services for five different clients. Each client paid Naples between $3,500 and $3,525 in advance legal fees. In addition, his clients were financially desperate; some had to withdraw funds from their savings or use a credit card to pay the advance fees. However, Naples did little or no work in connection with the services he promised. One client, who was on disability income, ultimately lost his home to foreclosure. Another was forced to perform her own short sale due to Naples’s negligence.

In aggravation, Naples committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his clients and demonstrated a pattern of misconduct. In mitigation, Naples acknowledged his good faith, but mistaken, interpretation of the mortgage-loan modification statutes. In addition, he presented several character witnesses. The order took effect April 25, 2014

This action originally appeared in our September 2014 issue.

David S. Silber, State Bar #176377, Nevada City (March 30, 2014). Silber, 55, was suspended for 60 days and placed on two years of probation for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In November 2011 Silber was placed on two years of probation and ordered to comply with the conditions attached. However, Silber failed to timely file quarterly reports with the Office of Probation, failed to provide proof of attendance at the State Bar Ethics School, and failed to timely develop an adequate law office management plan; his initial plan was rejected by the Office of Probation for numerous deficiencies. Silber later submitted an amended plan, which was approved after it was due. Finally, Silber was required to obtain psychiatric or psychological treatment from a licensed professional, but he failed to do so.

In aggravation, Silber had a record of prior discipline. Also, he engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, during the period of his misconduct Silber was experiencing family problems. The order took effect April 19, 2014

This action originally appeared in our August 2014 issue.

Charles R. Wear, State Bar #102381, Moreno Valley (February 27, 2014). Wear, 64, was suspended for one year for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In July 2012 the California Supreme Court placed Wear on probation and ordered him to comply with certain conditions. However, Wear failed to provide the Office of Probation with proof that he had completed the State Bar Ethics School or attended its Client Trust Accounting School.

In aggravation, Wear had a record of prior discipline. Also, he committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and demonstrated indifference toward rectification of or atonement for his misconduct. The order took effect March 29, 2014

This action originally appeared in our August 2014 issue.

Thaddeus Z. Wolny, State Bar #119113, Pittsburg (February 27, 2014). Wolny, 63, was suspended for six months and placed on three years of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to promptly refund unearned fees, failing to cooperate in a disciplinary investigation, and failing to timely comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

In February 2012 Wolny was hired by a client to file and prosecute a bankruptcy petition. The client paid Wolny $1,325 in advance fees. From June to September 2012 the client attempted to contact Wolny but was unable to do so. The following month the client terminated Wolny’s services. Wolny finally responded to the client, and he promised to refund the advance fees. Wolny did not provide any legal services, and he failed to refund the advance fees until July 2013. When a State Bar investigator sent Wolny a letter, he failed to reply.

In a second matter, in July 2013 the California Supreme Court issued an order requiring Wolny to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. Wolny received the order and filed a compliance declaration, which was rejected. After the original deadline had passed, he filed a second compliance declaration that was accepted.

In aggravation, Wolny had a record of prior discipline. Also, he committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that harmed his client. In mitigation, Wolny cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect March 29, 2014

This action originally appeared in our August 2014 issue.