MAGAZINE
California Lawyer

PUBLIC REPROVAL

Michael D. Waks, State Bar #106452, Long Beach (). Waks, 58, received a public reproval for failing to provide written disclosure about his financial relationship with another entity that he knew, or reasonably should have known, would affect resolution of a client’s underlying matter.

In January 2011 Waks was hired on a contingency basis by a client who had been a passenger in a truck driven by his uncle that was involved in an accident. The client was referred to three medical providers for treatment, one of which was MAX MRI Imaging Inc. Meanwhile, Waks began negotiations with the uncle’s insurance carrier.

In April 2011 Waks authorized a lien by MAX on the client’s case to cover medical costs. The next day, Waks signed a factoring agreement, assigning MAX’s lien to Medical Finance LLC. Waks had an ownership interest in Medical Finance. The client signed both documents. Medical Finance then purchased MAX’s lien for $400. Waks failed to inform the client that he had an ownership interest in Medical Finance.

To settle the accident claim, Waks demanded $70,000. The insurer countered with a $500 offer, which the client rejected. Next, Waks filed a lawsuit on the client’s behalf. Waks, as president of Medical Finance, then sent a letter to himself, as his client’s attorney, with details of the lien assignment and the total amount of the medical bill.

In February 2012 the insurer served an offer to compromise of $501, which the client rejected. At that point, Waks expressed his desire to resign from the case, which the client did not oppose. In a meeting the following month, the client signed a substitution of attorney relieving Waks of his duties. At this time, Waks revealed that he had a financial interest in Medical Finance, but at no time did he provide the client with a written disclosure.

In mitigation, Waks had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1982. Also, he cooperated by entering into a stipulation.

Ann K. Waltzer, State Bar #130865, Santa Cruz (April 16, 2014). Waltzer, 52, received a public reproval following her conviction for violating Penal Code § 148(a)(1), resisting, delaying, or obstructing an officer, a misdemeanor; and for violating Penal Code § 242–243(b), battery on a peace officer, a misdemeanor.

In April 2012, while at a hotel in San Jose, Waltzer and a companion were heavily intoxicated and yelling at hotel security. Four police officers arrived. At one point Waltzer grabbed one of the officers’ hands, the officer objected, and Waltzer became verbally abusive. Waltzer and her companion were asked to leave the premises and were escorted to their room to retrieve their belongings. One officer told Waltzer that the door to the room needed to stay open. Waltzer yelled at the officer and slammed the door shut. Hotel security then opened the door and Waltzer was placed under arrest. Waltzer attempted to break free from the officer and refused to comply with the officer’s commands. After Waltzer was handcuffed and escorted to the elevator, she turned and spit in the officer’s face, and her saliva entered his eye. A preliminary alcohol screening breath test showed Waltzer’s blood-alcohol content was .147.

Following Waltzer’s plea of nolo contendere, the court sentenced her to two years of formal probation and four days in jail, and ordered her to perform 50 hours of volunteer work and attend 60 meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In February 2014 the Review Department found that Waltzer’s conviction did not involve moral turpitude, but did involve other misconduct warranting discipline.

In mitigation, Waltzer had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1987. Also, she cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect May 7, 2014

Actions From Previous Issues

Bruce H. Atwater, III, State Bar #199011, San Francisco (July 18, 2011). Atwater, 39, received a public reproval for failing to comply with an agreement in lieu of discipline and failing to return unearned fees. In mitigation, Atwater had no record of prior discipline since he was admitted to the State Bar in 1998. Also, he cooperated with the State Bar’s investigation and proceedings. The order took effect August 8, 2011

This action originally appeared in our July 2012 issue.
William R. Cohen, State Bar #203175, Boca Raton, FL (July 12, 2011). Cohen, 40, received a public reproval following his discipline in Michigan for attorney misconduct. Under equivalent California rules, he was disciplined for failing to keep a client informed about significant developments in the client’s case, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, and failing to withdraw as attorney of record when his medical condition prevented him from practicing.

In mitigation, Cohen had no record of prior discipline since he was admitted to the State Bar in 1999. Also, no client was harmed by the misconduct and he cooperated with the State Bar during its investigation and proceedings.

The order took effect August 8, 2011

This action originally appeared in our July 2012 issue.

Gary W. Gorski, State Bar #166526, Sacramento (September 28, 2011). Gorski, 50, received a public reproval following his convictions in separate incidents for violating Vehicle Code § 23103, reckless driving, and Vehicle Code § 23152(a), driving under the influence of alcohol.

In aggravation, the misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Gorski had no record of prior discipline since he was admitted to the bar in 1993.

The order took effect October 14, 2011

This action originally appeared in our July 2012 issue.

Steven P. Haskett, State Bar #66144, San Diego (June 6, 2011). Haskett, 51, received a public reproval for failing to respond to client inquiries and failing to cooperate with a State Bar investigation. In aggravation, Haskett had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, during the period of his misconduct, Haskett experienced financial stress. Also, he entered into a stipulation with the State Bar. The order took effect June 28, 2011

This action originally appeared in our July 2012 issue.
Sean P. Howard, State Bar #158716, Atwater (February 9, 2011). Howard, 46, received a public reproval following his conviction for violating Penal Code § 415, disturbing the peace, a misdemeanor. In mitigation, Howard had no record of prior discipline since he was admitted to the bar in 1992. The order took effect August 19, 2011

This action originally appeared in our July 2012 issue.
Nazissa Parsakar, State Bar #152797, Los Angeles (April 16, 2014). Parsakar, 51, received a public reproval for repeatedly violating court orders.

In August 2011 Parsakar filed a civil complaint on behalf of two clients. In September 2012 the court ordered Parsakar and her clients to pay $1,400 in discovery sanctions, but they failed to do so. A month later the court again imposed discovery sanctions against Parsakar and her clients, this time for $860. Parsakar and her clients failed to timely pay. In December 2012 the court imposed a $300 sanction against Parsakar for failing to appear at a scheduled Order to Show Cause hearing.

Parsakar eventually paid all three sanctions. In January 2013 she failed to appear for a second OSC hearing, and the court again ordered her to pay $300 in sanctions. The court also sanctioned Parsakar $150 for failing to inform the court of the status of a related bankruptcy proceeding. Parsakar failed to timely pay any portion of those sanctions or to request relief; she finally paid the sanctions in June 2013.

In aggravation, Parsakar committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that harmed the administration of justice, the profession, and the opposing party by unnecessarily consuming time and resources. In mitigation, Parsakar had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1991, and she cooperated by entering into a stipulation. At the time of her misconduct, Parsakar was experiencing family problems. The order took effect May 7, 2014

This action originally appeared in our October 2014 issue.

Julie L. Plisinski, State Bar #199585, Ladera Ranch (October 27, 2011). Plisinski, 39, received a public reproval for failing to competently perform legal services and failing to return unearned fees.

In mitigation, Plisinski had no record of prior discipline since she was admitted to the bar in 1998. Also, she cooperated with the State Bar during its investigation and proceedings. The order took effect November 17, 2011. The order took effect November 17, 2011

This action originally appeared in our August 2012 issue.

Lawrence Solorio, State Bar #204233, Fair Oaks (October 9, 2011). Solorio, 56, received a public reproval for representing more than one client in the same matter where there was an actual conflict of interest. In January 2005 Solorio was paid $3,000 by husband-and-wife clients to help them draft estate-planning documents on behalf of the husband’s elderly great aunt, who resided in a nursing home. Solorio prepared several documents, including a power of attorney form, and he visited the great aunt at the nursing home and secured her signature on the documents. The clients were not in the room while Solorio visited the great aunt, but they came in after the documents were signed. Solorio and the clients then met at a nearby restaurant where Solorio asked the clients to issue two checks from the aunt’s estate for $12,000 each, made payable the clients. During a two-week period the clients had $168,000 in estate funds transferred to themselves from the aunt’s estate. That same month the aunt died.

The superior court found that the clients had undue influence over the aunt and had made fraudulent misrepresentations to the aunt, thereby making the will and power of attorney invalid.

In mitigation, Solorio had no record of prior discipline since he was admitted to the bar in 1999.

The order took effect August 9, 2011

This action originally appeared in our July 2012 issue.

Anup Tikku, State Bar #184612, San Jose (June 20, 2011). Tikku, 41, received a public reproval following his conviction for violating Penal Code §§ 242 and 243(a), battery.

In September 2010 while at home helping a child with homework, Tikku became frustrated with the child’s refusal to complete the homework and struck the child. The next day, the child went to school and the teacher reported bruises on the child’s face to the principal, who reported the incident to Child Protective Services.

In January 2011 Tikku pleaded nolo contendere to battery and was placed on two years of criminal probation. In mitigation, Tikku cooperated with the State Bar during its investigation and proceedings and he voluntarily enrolled in a parenting class to help improve his parenting skills.

The order took effect July 12, 2011

This action originally appeared in our July 2012 issue.

Dominic R. Valerian, State Bar #240001, San Rafael (August 15, 2011). Valerian, 31, received a public reproval following his conviction for violating Penal Code § 148, interfering with a police officer. In aggravation, Valerian’s misconduct harmed a police officer and demonstrated disrespect for the law. In mitigation, Valerian showed remorse by entering into a twelve-step alcohol rehabilitation program and participating in weekly sessions of a chemical dependency program. The order took effect September 7, 2011

This action originally appeared in our July 2012 issue.