MAGAZINE
California Lawyer

DISBARMENT

James W. Biedebach, State Bar #152980, Del Mar (May 22, 2013). Biedebach, 47, was disbarred for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline and for misrepresenting his compliance to the State Bar, an act of moral turpitude.

In 2011 Biedebach was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on three years of probation. He failed to file quarterly reports and failed to present proof that he had completed the required six hours of minimum continuing legal education (MCLE) and ethics programs, and passed exams at the State Bar’s ethics and client trust accounting schools.

He also failed to timely file a compliance affidavit.

In aggravation, Biedebach had a record of prior discipline. Also, he engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, he partially complied with the disciplinary conditions. The order took effect June 21, 2013

Steven H. Hertz, State Bar #153971, Mission Viejo (May 31, 2013). Hertz, 57, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so.

Hertz was charged with ten counts of misconduct, including failing to competently perform legal services, failing to respond to numerous status requests, failing to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition on his client’s behalf, failing to refund unearned fees, failing to return a client’s documents, and failing to respond to a State Bar investigation.

In aggravation, Hertz had a record of prior discipline. The order took effect June 30, 2013

Sydney C. Kirkland, State Bar #213138, Escondido (May 31, 2013). Kirkland, 58, was disbarred for failing to maintain client funds in trust, failing to render appropriate accounts, disobeying court orders, and engaging in acts involving moral turpitude.

Kirkland represented a client as her estate planning attorney and prepared amendments to her trust. She also represented a friend of the client, and prepared estate planning documents for him as well. In 2011 Kirkland’s client died, leaving her estate to the friend as her sole beneficiary.

Upon the client’s death Kirkland and the friend became successor co-trustees of the client’s trust. As a co-trustee, Kirkland withdrew money from the trust and deposited it into her own accounts. She was required to maintain $285,839 in her client trust account until it could be appropriately distributed, but she failed to do so. She also began using funds from her client’s trust for her own personal use.

In June 2011, the co-trustee requested that Kirkland provide an accounting, but Kirkland failed to do so. Adult Protective Services (APS) of San Diego County also became involved, due to suspected elder abuse by Kirkland. Kirkland claimed that the funds were being held in an E*Trade account, but this representation was false.p> The next month Kirkland terminated her attorney-client relationship with the co-trustee, who then hired a new attorney. The new attorney requested that Kirkland release the co-trustee’s files and an inventory of the trust assets. Kirkland failed to do so. The co-trustee eventually filed a probate matter seeking to remove Kirkland as a co-trustee; her power as co-trustee were suspended, but she continued to disburse funds from the trust account.Kirkland later admitted she had provided false information to the co-trustee and to APS, but she continued to make false representations regarding the trust funds and the location of trust assets. In July 2012 the probate court entered a judgment against Kirkland, but she did not pay it.

In aggravation, Kirkland’s misconduct caused significant harm to her co-trustee client. Kirkland committed 18 separate counts of misconduct, including multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, she had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 2001. Also, she cooperated with the investigation by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect June 30, 2013

Douglas E. MacKenzie, State Bar #212953, Mountain View (May 22, 2013). MacKenzie, 60, was disbarred for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ordered that MacKenzie be disciplined for committing professional misconduct in its jurisdiction.

In December 2011 the State Bar initiated a disciplinary proceeding against MacKenzie as a result of misconduct found by the USPTO. MacKenzie held himself out as authorized to represent clients in trademark matters when he was not entitled to practice law in California. Also, he accepted employment without disclosing that his professional judgment could be affected by his own financial interest; represented two potentially adverse clients without first obtaining each client’s informed written consent; accepted compensation from a third party for the benefit of his clients without making full disclosure of the arrangement; and failed to timely withdraw as attorney of record after the client sued him. The order took effect June 21, 2013

William C. Miles, State Bar #40970, Walnut Creek (May 31, 2013). Miles, 70, was disbarred for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline. He failed to timely file seven quarterly compliance reports and client funds reports, and failed to complete State Bar ethics school and client trust accounting school.

In aggravation, Miles had a record of prior discipline, and he engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed the administration of justice. The order took effect June 30, 2013

Craig J. Shaber, State Bar #159151, San Diego (May 31, 2013). Shaber, 57, was disbarred following his conviction for violating Title 26 U.S.C. § 7201, tax evasion, a felony involving probable cause of moral turpitude. The Review Department concluded that the facts and circumstances surrounding Shaber’s conviction showed he had committed acts of moral turpitude warranting disbarment.

In aggravation, Shaber acknowledged signing and filing tax returns while knowing they were materially false. Also, he used his client trust account to evade paying taxes, and he attempted to deflect blame for his misconduct onto his partner. In mitigation, Shaber had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1992. He cooperated with the investigation by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect June 30, 2013

SUSPENSION

Joy A. Bull, State Bar #138009, Chula Vista (May 31, 2013). Bull, 67, was suspended for 90 days and placed on one year of probation for failing to comply with conditions to a disciplinary order issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington.

Bull and her firm, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, represented a trade union’s pension fund in a class action. Bull was a settlement partner granted leave by the court to appear pro hac vice. In April 2011 the parties agreed to a settlement of the underlying matter. The firm then filed a motion for approval of the final settlement, as well as an application for attorneys fees and expenses.

Bull filed, under penalty of perjury, a declaration in support of the motion and application. She stated that the firm incurred $223,096 in expenses for an investigator and an in-house forensic accountant. The union challenged the claimed expenses. Although Bull and the firm originally stated that the expenses were billed at “market rates,” she stated in a later declaration that her presentation was simply wrong. The court ordered a public reproval for Bull’s reckless disregard for the truth and her lack of candor. The State Bar concluded that Bull’s conduct warranted imposition of discipline in California.

In mitigation, Bull had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1988. Moreover, she acknowledged her wrongdoing and cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect June 30, 2013

Daniel K. Lak, State Bar #216983, Irvine (May 31, 2013). Lak, 46, was suspended for 60 days and placed on three years of probation for commingling funds and committing an act involving moral turpitude.

Between September 2011 and January 2012 Lak misused his client trust account by depositing cash and earned fees into it and then using the account to pay personal and business expenses. In addition, on four separate occasions Lak issued checks from the client trust account against insufficient funds.

In aggravation, Lak committed multiple acts of misconduct. In mitigation, he had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 2001. Also, his misconduct did not harm his clients, and he cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect June 20, 2013

Leah Singer-Lamstein, State Bar #161413, San Rafael (May 31, 2013). Singer-Lamstein (Lamstein), 46, was suspended for 30 days and placed on one year of probation for committing an act involving moral turpitude. Lamstein was required to complete 25 hours of minimum continuing legal education between February 2008 and January 2011. At the end of that period Lamstein reported to the State Bar that she had completed her MCLE requirements during the compliance period. However, she had failed to complete any MCLE courses. She later took the necessary courses after being contacted regarding a compliance audit.

In mitigation, Lamstein had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1992. Also, she cooperated by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect June 30, 2013

Jennifer M. Urquizu, State Bar #231134, Riverside (May 31, 2013). Urquizu, 36, was suspended for two years and placed on three years of probation for failing to competently perform legal services, failing to respond promptly to reasonable status inquiries, failing to keep a client reasonably informed, failing to refund unearned fees, aiding in the unauthorized practice of law, failing to render appropriate accounts, failing to cooperate with the State Bar, failing to maintain an address in official membership records, failing to disburse client funds, and failing to release client papers. During a one-year period five client matters involving 29 counts of misconduct warranted discipline.

In aggravation, Urquizu took fees from clients who were in severe financial distress and failed to provide legal services. She was difficult for clients to reach, and has failed to pay clients $12,611 in restitution. In mitigation, Urquizu cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect June 30, 2013

PROBATION

Arshak Bartoumian, State Bar #210370, Glendale (May 14, 2013). Bartoumian, 40, was placed on probation for one year for willfully disobeying court orders.

In September 2011 Bartoumian was employed to represent clients in a matter. He attempted to file a substitution of attorney with the court, but failed to follow the General Orders of the Central District of California. In particular, he failed to submit a mandatory chambers copy of the substitution of attorney request. The following month the court ordered Bartoumian to file the substitution of attorney in accordance with the rules and to show cause in writing why he should not be sanctioned. He was required to respond, but he did not. The court then ordered Bartoumian to pay sanctions; after he failed to do so, he was ordered to pay additional sanctions.

In November 2011 Bartoumian paid the sanctions, but he did not otherwise comply with the court orders and failed to file a correct substitution of attorney form.

In mitigation, Bartoumian had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 2000. He was candid and cooperative during the investigation and entered into a stipulation.

Mary Dee S. Rickards, State Bar #132414, Malibu (May 22, 2013). Rickards, 55, was placed on one year of probation for failing to comply with conditions to a previous order of discipline.

In January 2011 the State Bar Court imposed a private reproval requiring Rickards to submit quarterly compliance reports and provide proof of attendance at the State Bar ethics school and proof of passing the multistate professional responsibility exam (MPRE) within one year. Rickards failed to timely submit three reports, failed to attend ethics school, and failed to take and pass the MPRE by the deadline.

In aggravation, Rickards had a record of prior discipline. In mitigation, she entered into a full stipulation with the State Bar. The order took effect June 21, 2013

Marc C. Rosenberg, State Bar #174592, Tarzana (May 22, 2013). Rosenberg, 51, was placed on three years of probation for charging and receiving advance fees in connection with loan modification services in violation of Civil Code § 2944.7(a).

In aggravation, Rosenberg’s misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing. In mitigation, Rosenberg had no record of prior discipline since being admitted to the State Bar in 1994. He cooperated by entering into a stipulation and agreed to refund the unearned fees. The order took effect June 21, 2013

There are no recent disciplinary actions of this type.