MAGAZINE
California Lawyer

DISBARMENT

Douglas J. Haycock, State Bar #95071, Sacramento (March 26, 2013). Haycock, 60, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so.

In three separate client matters, Haycock was charged with failing to competently perform legal services, failing to communicate, failing to render appropriate accounts, violating a court order, and improperly withdrawing from representation. The order took effect April 25, 2013

Fred Rucker, State Bar #82754, Los Angeles (March 13, 2013). Rucker, 59, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He was charged with misconduct in seven client matters and found culpable of failing to competently perform legal services, failing to report judicial sanctions, failing to render appropriate accounts, improperly withdrawing from representation, and failing to refund unearned fees.

In aggravation, Rucker had a record of prior discipline. Also, he failed to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline requiring him to make restitution to former clients. The order took effect April 12, 2013

Kathie J. Simmons, State Bar #129727, Santa Rosa (March 26, 2013). Simmons, 63, was disbarred for failing to deposit advanced costs into a client trust account, failing to competently perform legal services, misappropriating funds, misleading a judge or judicial officer, failing to report judicial sanctions, failing to refund unearned fees, failing to comply with conditions attached to a previous order of discipline, failing to cooperate in a disciplinary proceeding, and engaging in acts involving moral turpitude.

In September 2010 a client retained Simmons in a bankruptcy matter. Simmons collected $2,500 in advance fees, which included a filing fee. She failed to pay the filing fee, which resulted in the dismissal of her client’s bankruptcy petition. Thereafter, Simmons failed to make timely installment payments to reinstate the matter. She also failed to seek reimposition of the automatic stay, and failed to appear at the first meeting of creditors despite having received adequate notice.

In January 2011 the client terminated Simmons’s representation. At the time, Simmons owed the client $2,226 in advance fees, which she failed to fully refund. The bankruptcy court later sanctioned Simmons for filing applications falsely representing that her client was unable to pay the filing fees except in installments, and for falsely representing that she had the client’s original signatures on the applications. Simmons failed to report this judicial sanction to the State Bar.

In addition, Simmons failed to comply with conditions to a private reproval that required her to file quarterly reports and provide proof of attendance at State Bar Ethics School and State Bar Trust Accounting School, proof of restitution payments, and proof of timely passage of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam.

In aggravation, Simmons had a record of prior discipline. Also, her misconduct involved a trust violation that caused significant harm to a client, and it demonstrated a pattern of wrongdoing. The order took effect April 25, 2013

David A. St. John, State Bar #48746, Oxnard (March 13, 2013). St. John, 68, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He was charged with misconduct in four separate client matters.

In one matter, St. John failed to pursue his clients’ bankruptcy case and failing to request the court’s approval for a $15,000 advance fee he had collected. Later, he failed to obey a court order requiring him to return the advance fee and to pay the bankruptcy court $2,000 each month until he disgorged the full amount. St. John failed to refund the unearned portion of the advance fee, and he failed to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation and proceedings.

In a second matter, St. John failed to oppose numerous motions in his client’s lawsuit, resulting in dismissal of the case. Also, he failed to appear at three bankruptcy court hearings on his client’s behalf, failed to refund $5,000 in unearned advance fees, and failed to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation.

In a third matter, St. John collected $25,000 in advance fees, and an additional $2,000 to be paid to a nonattorney as a referral fee, without obtaining bankruptcy court approval. He failed to account for the advance fees, failed to refund the unearned fees, failed to promptly return his client’s file, and failed to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation.

St. John was ordered to make restitution of $47,000 in three client matters The order took effect April 12, 2013

Robert M. Victor, State Bar #156232, Woodland (March 8, 2013). Victor, 46, was disbarred for failing to obey a court order, failing to cooperate in a State Bar investigation, and engaging in acts involving moral turpitude.

In February 2011 Victor was hired to represent a client in connection with negotiations to produce a film. Victor sent an email to the other party, a film studio, requesting that it wire $500,000 to his client trust account. However, his client had no intention of maintaining the funds in Victor’s trust account. Although the studio was led to believe that Victor’s client would deposit $1.5 million into the trust account, he did not do so.

At his client’s instruction, Victor began to disburse the studio’s funds from the trust account. Within two days, Victor had removed all the funds from the account through various transfers.

When the studio contacted Victor to confirm his client’s deposit of his own funds into the trust account, Victor forwarded a statement of another account through computer “screenshots” of another account as a statement. When the studio tried to contact him, Victor did not respond. The screenshots were eventually revealed to be completely bogus, as the account did not exist.

Victor and his client then entered into an agreement with a second studio, using a similar arrangement. The second studio transferred to the client trust account $475,000, which Victor immediately began to disburse. Victor’s client did not deposit any funds into the account.

As soon as the second studio became aware of the situation, it demanded that its funds be returned. Victor again provided a computer screenshot, purportedly showing that $925,000 was being held in an account.

In May 2011 Victor filed a complaint in an interpleader action. However, he did not deposit any funds with the court. The court later ordered that Victor transfer the funds into an escrow account, but he failed to do so. Eventually, the first studio filed a cross-complaint against Victor for breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, breach of contract, conversion, and constructive trust. The second studio also filed an action against Victor.

In June 2011 the court found Victor in contempt for failing to follow court orders.

In aggravation, Victor was found culpable of four counts of misconduct. His misconduct significantly harmed two film studios, and he failed to demonstrate any realistic recognition of or remorse for his wrongdoing. He displayed a lack of candor by claiming ignorance and innocence. In mitigation, Victor had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1991. The order took effect April 7, 2013

Bruce S. Weiner, State Bar #78533, Cerritos (March 26, 2013). Weiner, 61, was disbarred for failing to competently perform legal services, collecting advance fees in connection with loan modification work in violation of Civil Code § 2944.7(a), failing to refund unearned fees, failing to provide an accounting, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in another jurisdiction, and failing to cooperate in a disciplinary investigation. There were 18 client matters involving similar conduct warranting discipline.

In aggravation, Weiner had a record of prior discipline. He engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that resulted in significant financial harm to several of his clients. The order took effect April 25, 2013

SUSPENSION

Marie D. Allen, State Bar #138263, Cypress (March 7, 2013). Allen, 63, was suspended for 30 days and placed on one year of probation for issuing numerous checks from her client trust account drawn on insufficient funds, failing to cooperate in a disciplinary proceeding, and engaging in acts involving dishonesty, moral turpitude, or corruption.

In mitigation, Allen had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1988. Also, she demonstrated remorse for her wrongdoing. The order took effect April 6, 2013

Allyson E. De Guzman Bautista, State Bar #202023, Escondido (March 7, 2013). Bautista, 55, was suspended for six months and placed on three years of probation for charging and collecting an unconscionable fee, and for failing to provide a full accounting.

In mitigation, Bautista had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1999. Also, he cooperated with the investigation by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect April 6, 2013

Nicole R. Gallegos, State Bar #231744, Irvine (March 7, 2013). Gallegos, 36, was suspended for nine months and placed on two years of probation for collecting advance fees in connection with loan modification work in violation of Civil Code § 2944.7(a), failing to refund unearned fees, failing to provide an accounting, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in another jurisdiction, and failing to maintain a current address in the membership records of the State Bar. There were seven matters involving similar conduct warranting discipline. In aggravation, Gallegos engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that harmed her clients, and she failed to make any restitution. In mitigation, Gallegos acknowledged her wrongdoing and cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect April 6, 2013
Paul H. Ottosi, State Bar #69250, Lancaster (March 20, 2013). Ottosi, 67, 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 aggravation, Ottosi had a record of prior discipline. Also, he violated multiple conditions to a private reproval and failed to accept responsibility for his misconduct. In mitigation, Ottosi experienced extreme emotional difficulties at the time of his misconduct, and he cooperated with the State Bar’s investigation and proceedings. The order took effect April 19, 2013

Timothy J. Stock, State Bar #132487, West Sacramento (March 26, 2013). Stock, 68, was suspended for two years and placed on three years of probation following his conviction for violating Health and Safety Code § 11359, possession of marijuana for sale, a felony involving moral turpitude.

In mitigation, Stock had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1987. Also, he suffered from extreme emotional and physical difficulties at the time of his misconduct, and he cooperated with the investigation. The order took effect April 25, 2013

India S. Thompson, State Bar #143787, Sherman Oaks (March 7, 2013). Thompson, 65, was suspended for 90 days and placed on three years of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to keep a client reasonably informed, and failing to cooperate in a disciplinary proceeding.

In aggravation, Thompson had a record of prior discipline. Also, her misconduct caused harm to a client. In mitigation, Thompson cooperated with the State Bar by entered into a stipulation. The order took effect April 6, 2013

Kasra S. Torabi, State Bar #240233, Encino (March 7, 2013). Torabi, 35, was suspended for 60 days and placed on one year of probation for making false statements, seeking to mislead a judge or judicial officer by making false statements to the court, and engaging in acts involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.

Torabi and his law practice represented plaintiffs in a civil action. In December 2010 Torabi filed an ex parte application for a temporary restraining order (TRO) regarding a pending trustee’s sale of foreclosed real property; he also filed a preliminary injunction on behalf of his clients. The trial court denied his request for the TRO but set a hearing on the request for a preliminary injunction.

Torabi caused a letter to be sent to an agent of the defendant, stating that the court had granted the plaintiffs’ request for an order to show cause regarding the preliminary injunction. The letter further stated that the defendant’s agent was enjoined from proceeding with the foreclosure sale, and it threatened the agent with contempt. This caused the agent to postpone the foreclosure sale on the subject property.

Torabi maintained that the letter was not misleading, and he even denied drafting it. However, he knew or was grossly negligent in not knowing that the statements made in the letter were false. The court later found Torabi in contempt of court for abusing the power of the court and pretending to act under the authority of a court order by sending the letter and interfering with court proceedings.

In mitigation, Torabi had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 2005. Also, he cooperated in the disciplinary proceedings by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect April 6, 2013

Tanya C. Zerounian, State Bar #235207, Simi Valley (March 7, 2013). Zerounian, 36, was suspended for six months and placed on 18 months 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 cooperate and participate in the State Bar’s investigation and proceedings.

In aggravation, Zerounian’s misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing that harmed her clients. Also, she demonstrated indifference toward rectification of or atonement for her misconduct. The order took effect April 6, 2013

PROBATION

David J. Carriere, State Bar #178002, Corte Madera (March 7, 2013). Carriere, 43, was placed on two years of probation for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In aggravation, Carriere had a record of prior discipline. The order took effect April 6, 2013

There are no recent disciplinary actions of this type.