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August 2018

| Aug. 1, 2018


Discipline Report

Aug. 1, 2018

August 2018

Recent attorney disbarments, suspensions, probations, and public reprovals in California.

DISBARMENT

Bruce Alan Cole State Bar #68770, Capistrano Beach (June 8, 2018) Cole was summarily disbarred after he pled guilty to committing two offenses in Missouri: stealing (Miss. Ann. Stat. § 570.30) and securities fraud (Miss. Ann. Stat. §409.5-501). Because both offenses are felonies involving moral turpitude as a matter of law, he was not entitled to a California State Bar hearing to determine whether discipline less serious than disbarment might be imposed.

Mayvelyn Garvida Diaz State Bar #253182, Glendale (June 1, 2018)

Diaz was disbarred by default. She earlier pled guilty to several offenses--including forgery (Cal. Penal Code §470(d)), fraudulently executing an instrument purporting to convey real property (Cal. Penal Code §531(a)), and fraudulently obtaining money, property, or labor (Cal. Penal Code §532(a)) -- all misdemeanors involving moral turpitude as a matter of law, and trespass (Cal. Penal Code §602(k)) and two counts of entering and occupying property without consent (Cal. Penal Code §602(m)).

Diaz failed to appear at the State Bar trial to determine whether professional discipline should be imposed based on her wrongful conduct, and she did not move to have a default order set aside or vacated. A State Bar Court judge admitted the facts and circumstances surrounding the convictions with no further proof required to establish their truth, and recommended disbarment.

In the underlying matter, a student studying for the Law School Admissions Test returned to his family home to find the gate locked and a note affixed to it, purporting to give "official notice" that the property was subject to an option to lease and purchase. It included a warning: "Do not step on the property. Doing so is trespassing and a felony. Those with a felony are not able to pass the character section of the CA State Bar." The student saw shadows in the home and summoned police, believing a burglary was in progress.

When the student entered the residence with police, he saw Diaz--and recognized her as having held herself out as the attorney representing a neighbor in an earlier dispute over legal ownership of a shared driveway. Under questioning, Diaz produced written documents: a lease, option to purchase, and assignment -- all of which she knew to be forged, false, and fraudulent. She consented to a search of her purse, which contained two keys to the family home -- with bottle of prescription drugs and Advil, which belonged to the student's family members.

A subsequent investigation revealed that the home's security system had been damaged and stripped of its parts and that Diaz's cell phone contained photos of documents identifying the family members--including bank cards, Social Security cards, and checks, and photos of prescription bottles of medicine and close-up shots of their signatures. In recommending disbarment, the State Bar Court judge found that the offenses of trespass and entering and occupying the property without consent involved moral turpitude "because they involve intentional dishonesty and fraud."

Jeffrey Alan Dickstein State Bar #70638, Tulsa, Oklahoma (June 30, 2018)

Dickstein was disbarred by default after he failed to respond to the notice of disciplinary charges filed against him, and a default was entered. He did not move to have the order set aside or vacated.

Dickstein was found culpable of failing to provide proof of compliance--the duty of a disbarred, resigned or suspended attorney--as required in an earlier disciplinary order (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20).

He had been disciplined by the State Bar for professional misconduct twice previously.

Julia Patricia Gibbs State Bar #102072, Sacramento (June 9, 2018)

Gibbs was disbarred after she stipulated to failing to comply with the terms imposed in an earlier probation order. Specifically, she failed to provide proof of attending the State Bar's Ethics School and to file a quarterly written report as required.

In aggravation, Gibbs committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and had two prior records of professional discipline.

In mitigation, she entered into a prefiling stipulation.

William Orval Guffey State Bar #132965, Chula Vista (June 1, 20018)

Guffey was disbarred by default after he failed to appear at a proceeding to determine whether his misconduct in another jurisdiction also supported professional discipline by the California State Bar.

Guffey participated in a status conference but not the trial, and an initial default order was vacated after a showing that notice of trial was not properly served upon him. A subsequent notice was deemed legally adequate, however, and Guffey did not move to have the default entered against him set aside or vacated.

In the underlying matter, he was found culpable of four counts of professional misconduct in Washington equivalent to failing to maintain client funds in trust, failing to render an account of client funds, and failing to promptly pay funds to the client despite multiple requests to do so. He was also culpable of misappropriating client funds for his own use and then misrepresenting in a resignation letter to the Washington Bar Association that he did not know of any client complaints pending against him--an act involving moral turpitude.

Brian Malcom Keith State Bar #145934, Eugene, Oregon (June 30, 2018)

Keith was disbarred after he stipulated to pleading guilty to driving under the influence above the legal limit in Nevada (Nev. Rev. Stat. 484C.400). It was determined that the facts and circumstances surrounding the violation did not involve moral turpitude, but involved other misconduct warranting discipline.

In aggravation, Keith had been disciplined by the California State Bar for professional misconduct twice previously.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation in the instant matter.

Raaqim A.S. Knight State Bar #217630, Los Angeles (June 30, 2018)

Knight was disbarred. He had stipulated to failing to provide timely proof of compliance as required in an earlier disciplinary order (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20) and to violating several conditions of probation imposed in that order. The probation requirements he violated included scheduling and having an initial meeting with his assigned probation deputy, submitting five written quarterly reports to the Office of Probation, and providing proof of attending the State Bar Ethics School and passing its final exam.

In aggravation, Knight committed multiple acts of misconduct, had a prior record of discipline, and showed indifference toward rectification by disregarding reminder letters from his probation deputy and failing to comply with probation conditions. Additional aggravating weight was allotted for the uncharged violation of failing to file a sixth quarterly written report as mandated.

In mitigation, he admitting culpability. He was also afforded minimal mitigating weight for presenting testimony of three witnesses and declarations from seven other individuals--all of whom attested to his good character; the reduction in weight occurred because the vast majority of evidence came not from people aware of the full extent of the misconduct.

Haris Kyle McKinley State Bar #292894, Sacramento (June 9, 2018)

McKinley was summarily disbarred after he pled nolo contendere to knowingly and maliciously preventing or dissuading a victim or witness from attending or giving testimony at a trial, proceeding, or inquiry authorized by law in furtherance of a conspiracy (Cal. Penal Code §136.1(c)(2)).

McKinley opposed the summary disbarment, arguing that the offense of which he was convicted is not a crime involving moral turpitude per se, and that his case should properly be referred to the State Bar's hearing department for that determination.

In recommending summary disbarment, the presiding judge took notice of case law finding the crime did not inherently involve moral turpitude, but underscored that the "specific intent" to obstruct justice involved in the offense falls within the term's definition.

Kathleen L. Murry State Bar #112485, Petaluma (June 9, 2018)

Murry was summarily disbarred after she pled no contest to the offense of theft from an elder or dependent adult (Cal. Penal Code §368(d)).

In recommending the discipline to be imposed, the presiding judge of the State Bar Court noted that the underlying offense met both requirements for mandatory summary disbarment. First, it necessarily involves moral turpitude. And second, although the initial felony conviction was subsequently reduced to a misdemeanor, the judge underscored that a crime is a felony if it is declared to be so specifically irrespective of whether "in a particular case the crime may be considered a misdemeanor as a result of postconviction proceedings, including proceedings resulting in punishment or probation."

Daniel Herbert Neufeld State Bar #68476, Danville (June 9, 2018)

Neufeld was disbarred by default after he failed to participate in his disciplinary proceeding, either in person or through counsel, despite having adequate notice and opportunity to do so.

He was found culpable of several counts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter. The wrongdoing included: collecting a fee in a loan modification matter before fully performing all services he had contracted to perform, collecting an illegal fee , failing to render an accounting to the client, and failing to refund unearned advanced fees. He also failed to comply with conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order requiring him to file four written quarterly reports and to pay restitution to the client.

Neufeld had one prior record of discipline.

Eugene Roy Salmonsen, Jr. State Bar #81079, Los Angeles (June 9, 2018)

Salmonsen was disbarred after being found culpable of 20 counts of professional misconduct related to four client matters. The wrongdoing included: failing to maintain client funds in a trust account, failing to obey a court order, and misappropriating client funds--all acts involving moral turpitude. In addition, he was culpable of two counts each of failing to communicate with clients and of failing to refund unearned advanced fees; three counts each of failing to provide legal services with competence, failing to release files to clients after being requested to do so, and failing to cooperate in State Bar investigations of the misconduct alleged; and four counts of failing to render accounts of client funds.

In the underlying matters, Salmonsen accepted advanced fees from the clients, but then took no effective actions in three of their cases; in the fourth, he sought the help of a tax expert and determined the client could not pursue further recovery on one of the issues. He also provided none of the clients an accounting of their fees, and was found culpable of failing to return them after they terminated his employment.

In reviewing the misconduct alleged and recommending disbarment, the State Bar Court judge focused on Salmonsen's misappropriation of more than $23,000 of his clients' funds--finding it to be "intentional, repeated, and eventually in violation of a court order prohibiting any disbursement of the funds unless authorized in advance by a court."

In aggravation, Salmonsen committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed his clients, failed to make restitution to them, and was disciplined by the State Bar for professional misconduct twice before.

In mitigation, he entered into an extensive stipulation of facts and presented testimony from six witnesses attesting to his good character and extensive community service.

Shahrzah Talieh State Bar #189667, Irvine June 30, 2018)

Talieh was disbarred by default after she failed to participate in her disciplinary proceeding despite receiving adequate legal notice of it. She did not move to have the default order entered set aside or vacated. The factual allegations set out in the underlying conviction matter were admitted without additional proof to establish their veracity.

Talieh and her husband were separated, with a custody order in place for their two minor children. On a day the husband had the right to custody, she went to his home and took the children's passports, then met the nanny dispatched to pick the children up from school and told her she and the children were going shopping to buy a gift for the husband. Talieh then took the children and could not be located for two days. She was subsequently convicted of two felony counts of child abduction (Cal. Penal Code §278.5(a)).

The State Bar Court judge determined that the facts and circumstances surrounding the conviction involved moral turpitude.

Maureen Reilly Wahl State Bar #260986, Windsor (June 30, 2018)

Wahl was disbarred by default after she failed to participate in her disciplinary proceeding despite having adequate legal notice and opportunity to do so. She was found culpable of 12 counts of professional misconduct related to two client matters. The wrongdoing included: failing to communicate the terms of a settlement offer to her clients, failing to respond to several reasonable inquiries from clients, failing to inform the clients of a significant case development, improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to promptly release the clients' file after terminating employment, failing to return unearned advanced fees, failing to update her address on the State Bar's membership records, and making false statements to her clients about the actions she had taken in their case--misconduct involving moral turpitude. She was also found culpable of two counts each of failing legal services with competence and failing to cooperate with the State Bar's investigations.

Matthew Richard Young State Bar #215562, San Francisco (June 30, 2018)

Young was disbarred after he stipulated to failing to comply with 33 separate conditions attached to a disciplinary probation order imposed earlier--including repeatedly failing to submit written quarterly reports to the State Bar, failing to make required restitution payments, and failing to submit proof of restitution to the Office of Probation. After the court modified his probation conditions, he still failed to compl

y with 14 of them. In aggravation, Young had a prior record of discipline, demonstrated a pattern of serious misconduct over an extended time, and demonstrated significant indifference in rectifying or atoning for his misconduct.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, saving the State Bar significant time and resources.

SUSPENSION

Sean James Ballard State Bar #160070, Hemet (June 4, 2018)

Ballard was suspended in the interim pending final disposition of his convictions of 17 counts of money laundering (Cal. Penal Code §186.10(a)) and one count of grand theft (Cal. Penal Code §487(a)). The offenses are felonies involving moral turpitude.

Lawrence Calvin Blunt, III State Bar #38977, Sacramento (June 25, 2018)

Blunt was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated by the California Supreme Court in an earlier disciplinary order.

Alexander Chase State Bar #256763, San Francisco (June 25, 2018)

Chase was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination--one of the conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.

Byron Grant Cornelius State Bar #108248, Palm Springs (June 9, 2018)

Cornelius was suspended from practicing law for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing 14 acts of professional responsibility related to two client matters.

Specifically, he was found culpable of: failing to timely release the client's file, failing to communicate the terms of an offer to the client, failing to report a court-ordered sanction to the State Bar, and failing to promptly refund unearned advanced fees. He was also culpable of two counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, failing to obey court orders, improperly terminating employment, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar's investigations of the wrongdoing alleged. In one of the client matters, Cornelius was retained to represent a couple in a civil case. He filed an initial complaint, but was later sanctioned for failing to file a case management statement. He subsequently failed to notify the clients of a settlement offer received on their behalf -- and neither appeared at the trial setting conference nor answered the clients' numerous requests for a status update on their case.

In the other matter, Cornelius was hired to assist a probate officer in transferring ownership of his mother's condominium to a sibling. The client made clear that it was important to complete the transfer within two months so the estate's final federal tax return could be filed. Cornelius took no action for more than two years, then transferred it to another attorney. That attorney also took no action in the case, which was eventually transferred to a third attorney. Because the client's contact information was not contained in the file and the attorney also could not reach Cornelius, he could not work on the matter.

In aggravation, Cornelius committed multiple acts of misconduct over multiple client matters that significantly harmed the clients.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for approximately 31 years without a record of discipline, and suffered emotional difficulties caused by a client verbally and physically abusive to him over a three-year period--a period that overlapped with the misconduct in the instant matter.

Robert Scott Dervaes, Jr. State Bar #202133, San Francisco (June 11, 2018)

Dervaes was suspended in the interim pending final disposition of his conviction of the felony of false imprisonment effected by violence, menace, fraud, or deceit (Cal. Penal Code §236).

In issuing the order, the State Bar presiding judge noted that the offense is divisible into several crimes. When committed by means of fraud or deceit, it inherently involves moral turpitude; when committed by violence or menace, however, it does not.

The Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar was ordered to submit further records establishing whether the false imprisonment conviction was effected by violence, menace, fraud or deceit to clarify its categorization.

Jared Morgan Galanis State Bar #238549, Baltimore, Maryland (June 9, 2018)

Galanis was suspended from practicing law for two years and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to pleading guilty to misprision of a felony (18 U.S.C. §4)--an offense that is also a felony. The review department of the State Bar Court suspended him from practice pending a final disposition of his disciplinary proceeding--including a determination of whether the crime he committed involved moral turpitude or warranted professional discipline.

In the 1980s, Galanis' father was convicted of various felonies relating to a scheme in which he and several others stole millions of dollars from a bank through fraudulent loans and millions from investors; he was sentenced to 27 years in prison, and released from custody after serving 17 -- living at first with Galanis, who was a law student.

Three years later, Galanis, then a lawyer, was assisting his parents in repairing their credit--and gave his father access to his law firm email account so he could help draft letters to creditors. Unbeknownst to Galanis, however, his father set up a subfolder on the server and routed email to it. Shortly thereafter, the father, along with two of Galanis' siblings and several others began a "pump and dump" fraud scheme to defraud the shareholders of a publicly traded company. The government alleged that the co-conspirators siphoned nearly $20 million in profits.

Galanis subsequently discovered that his father had impersonated him in emails and telephone calls in furtherance of the scheme. As part of the investigation of the fraud matter, Galanis gave the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) several emails, but did not disclose that his father had written them. Galanis' father and one of his brothers were convicted of several securities fraud charges. Galanis voluntarily enrolled as inactive status with the State Bar around the time of the convictions.

The State Bar Court found that Galanis was culpable of misconduct involving moral turpitude by failing to disclose material information to the SEC.

In mitigation, Galanis entered into a pretrial stipulation and submitted evidence of his good character as attested by a wide range of references taken from the legal and general communities. He was also allotted slight mitigation weight for having practiced law for six years without a record of discipline.

In recommending the discipline to be imposed, the State Bar Court judge noted that Galanis' "unique and unfortunate situation" was caused by the criminal activities of his father and brothers. The judge also could not locate any disciplinary cases in California involving a conviction for misprision of a felony and undertook an extensive review of cases in other jurisdictions, finding a range of discipline imposed--from six months of actual suspension to disbarment. The recommendation of suspension and probation, a deviation from the most severe order of disbarment came after weighing the facts and circumstances and the reality that the misconduct appeared "aberrational."

Glen Michael Hunsberger State Bar #217849, Las Vegas, Nevada (June 11, 2018)

Hunsberger was suspended in the interim pending a final disposition of his convictions of conspiring to manufacture and possess controlled substances within 1,000 feet of an elementary school intending to distribute them (21 U.S.C. §§841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A), 846, and 860(a)) and conspiring to launder money (18 U.S.C. §§1956(a)(1)(A)(i), (B)(i), (B)(ii), and (h)). Both offenses are felonies involving moral turpitude.

Esther M. Kim State Bar #271155, Hesperia (June 1, 2018)

Kim was suspended from practicing law for 90 days and placed on probation for two years after she stipulated to committing three counts of professional misconduct in a single client matter: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to provide the client with reasonable status updates about the case, and constructively terminating her employment without trying to protect the client's interests.

In the underlying matter, Kim was retained to represent a client in a personal injury matter. The client provided her with a copy of the most recent settlement offer she had received from her insurance company. The claim examiner then attempted to contact Kim by fax, mail, and telephone, but was unsuccessful.

The statute of limitations for the client's claims expired nearly a year after the client first contacted Kim; during that time, she neither communicated with her client nor took any steps to protect the client's claim. About 4 1/2 months after the claim expired, Kim sent the client a letter stating: "Due to extreme circumstances, our offices are being closed for good"--with the client's original documentation enclosed.

In aggravation, Kim had a prior record of discipline and caused significant harm to the client, who lost any potential to recover damages.

In mitigation, she entered into a prefiling stipulation, saving the State Bar Court time and resources.

David Michael Livingston State Bar #204347, Los Angeles (June 9, 2018)

Livingston was suspended for two years and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to pleading guilty to one count of soliciting business with reckless disregard for whether the solicited party or entity intends to commit insurance fraud--as reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor (Cal. Penal Code §549). The State Bar Court's hearing department got the case to determine whether the facts and circumstances involved moral turpitude or other misconduct warranting professional discipline.

The underlying matter involved an insurance scheme implicating several co-defendants, including Livingston. Livingston hired two people as independent contractors who prepared fraudulent car accident insurance claims through his law office, using his client trust account to disburse fraudulent insurance settlements to clients and medical providers. One of the workers admitted that Livingston paid him a percentage of the fees for each settled case; the other said he split attorney's fees with Livingston. Many of the alleged clients were relatives or close friends who later admitted their claims were based on fictitious accidents.

The State Bar Court judge found that the facts and circumstances surrounding the offense involved moral turpitude.

In aggravation, Livingston committed multiple acts of misconduct that caused significant harm to the public.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law discipline-free for approximately 15 years, and submitted letters from 11 individuals taken from a range of the legal and general communities--all of whom attested to his good character.

Ronald Tan Marquez State Bar #272963, Chico (June 30, 2018)

Marquez was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing two counts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter: failing to obey court orders and failing to report court-ordered sanctions to the State Bar.

In the underlying matter, Marquez was hired to file a conservatorship over the client's father. After filing the petition, he had to file an inventory and appraisal (I&A), but failed to do so--even after requesting a 60-day continuance. He subsequently filed a deficient I&A. During a series of hearings, Marquez failed to comply with nine court orders, and ultimately was sanctioned $1,500. He did not report the sanctions order to the State Bar as required, and paid the court the $1,500 owed only after the State Bar had initiated an investigation into the matter.

In aggravation, Marquez committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that harmed the administration of justice by requiring additional court hearings.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, submitted 10 character references from a wide range of people in the legal and general communities, and suffered from family problems due to his father's deteriorating mental and physical health and eventual death. He was also allotted nominal mitigating weight for having practiced law for five years without a record of discipline.

Glenn Kazuo Nakawaki State Bar #118064, Ontario (June 25, 2018)

Nakawaki was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination as required in the terms of a previous disciplinary order.

Sean Enrique O'Keefe State Bar #116418, San Diego (June 25, 2018)

O'Keefe was suspended from the practice of law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam--one of the terms imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.

Douglas Elliott Reum State Bar #268490, Los Angeles (June 1, 2018)

Reum was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to pleading no contest to two criminal misdemeanors: maliciously and intentionally maiming, mutilating, torturing, or wounding a living animal (Cal. Penal Code §597(a)) and aggravated trespass (Cal. Penal Code §602.5(b)).

In the underlying matter, Reum engaged in a verbal and physical altercation with his cohabitant. Police summoned to the scene observed bruises on the cohabitant's forearm and wrist, and noted that Reum was under the influence of alcohol. During the altercation, he had injured the cohabitant's poodle by throwing it down a flight of stairs.

In aggravation, Reum committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation acknowledging his misconduct. He was also allotted slight mitigation credit for practicing law for seven years without a record of discipline and for entering treatment for his alcohol use--which was required under the terms of his criminal plea.

Michael Joseph Runkle State Bar #273383, Charlotte, North Carolina (June 9, 2018)

Runkle was suspended from practicing law for six months and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to pleading guilty to one count of attorney capping, or paying for client referrals (Bus. & Prof. Code §6152(a)(1)). The offense is a misdemeanor.

Runkle formed a professional relationship with the owner of a bail bond company whose agents referred clients to him in exchange for 20% of his earnings on each case. Runkle participated in the scheme, knowing it was both illegal and a violation of attorney ethical duties.

The State Bar Court judge determined that the conduct constituted corruption and that the facts and circumstances involved moral turpitude. In aggravation, Runkle engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing by paying illegal referral fees numerous times.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and provided 11 letters from a wide range of references in the legal and general communities attesting to his good character.

Ajay Paul Sahni State Bar #297679, Corona del Mar (June 25, 2018)

Sahni was suspended in the interim pending final disposition of his convictions of two felonies: driving with a blood alcohol level of .08% or more and causing bodily injury (Cal. Veh. Code §23153(b)) and driving with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others intending to evade a peace officer (Cal. Veh. Code §2800.2).

The case was referred to the State Bar's hearing department for a hearing and determination of whether the facts and circumstances surrounding the violation involved moral turpitude or other misconduct warranting professional discipline.

Barbara Smedley State Bar #122217, Pleasanton (June 9, 2018)

Smedley was suspended from practicing law for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to committing four acts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter: commingling personal funds in her client trust account, repeatedly allowing the account balance to fall to a negative balance, using the trust account funds to pay personal expenses, and refusing to cooperate in the State Bar investigation of the wrongdoing she was alleged to have committed.

Smedley followed a practice of allowing credit card processing companies to automatically debit her client trust account to assess fees for processing payments from clients' credit cards to deposit funds into that account. There were repeated negative balances in the account when there was insufficient money left in it to cover those debits, which were variable. The State Bar sent Smedley several letters requesting additional information about the negative balances and warning her to change the practice.

In recommending discipline, the State Bar Court judge cited an opinion of the California Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct that expressly states: "An attorney cannot accept a deposit of advanced fees from a client by credit card to the extent that the credit card issuer deposits funds into a merchant account that is subject to invasion" (Formal Opinion 2007-172).

In mitigation, Smedley entered into a pretrial stipulation and had practiced law discipline-free for more than 30 years.

Peter Lynn Smith State Bar #197828, San Leandro (June 25, 2018)

Smith was suspended in the interim pending final disposition of his convictions of bringing in illegal aliens without presentation to an immigration officer (8 U.S.C. §1324(a)(2)(B)(iii)) and aiding and abetting (18 U.S.C. §2). The offenses are felonies.

The case was referred to the State Bar's hearing department for a hearing and determination of whether the facts and circumstances surrounding the violation involved moral turpitude or other misconduct warranting professional discipline.

Kent Vanderschuit State Bar #192674, Carlsbad (June 9, 2018)

Vanderschuit was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to failing to comply with conditions imposed in an earlier discipline order, a private reproval. Specifically, he failed to timely submit a written quarterly report and failed to provide the Office of Probation with proof he had passed the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as required.

In aggravation, Vanderschuit had a prior record of discipline and demonstrated indifference toward rectifying his wrongdoing.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, saving the State Bar time and resources.

Navinder Virk State Bar #224585, San Francisco (June 9, 2018)

Virk was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days and placed on probation for one year after stipulating to failing to comply with conditions attached to an earlier probation order. Specifically, she failed to timely file one written quarterly report and also failed to provide proof of attending the State Bar's Ethics School.

In aggravation, Virk committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and had one prior record of discipline.

In mitigation, she entered into a prefiling stipulation and provided evidence she could not attend an earlier session of Ethics School because she had to leave town to tend to her mother who had fallen ill.

Nima Stephen Vokshori State Bar #245570, Los Angeles (June 9, 2018)

Vokshori was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing three acts of professional misconduct related to a single client: collecting an illegal fee, collecting a fee before completing all services related to a loan modification, and seeking an agreement that the misconduct should not be reported to the California State Bar.

Vokshori was hired to represent a client seeking a loan modification. The client entered two fee agreements: one deemed a "legal services agreement," and the other a "retainer agreement."

The bank ultimately denied the loan modification request, but before the legal services were completed, Vokshori had collected $3,000 in fees from the client. Upon the close, his office calculated he was entitled to $351 in unearned fees. To secure that money, the client was sent a "release and refund" agreement--specifying that the client was not to bring any complaint against Vokshori, "including administrative complaints based on fees charged for the loan modification services."

After the State Bar initiated its disciplinary proceeding, Vokshori refunded $3,000 to the client.

In aggravation, Vokshori engaged in overreaching by exploiting his superior knowledge and the trust placed in him--presenting multiple contracts to the "highly vulnerable" retired client who had limited financial resources was fighting to save his home from foreclosure.

In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation and had practiced law discipline-free for more than nine years.

Andrew Harris Wilson State Bar #63209, Nevada City (June 4, 2018)

Wilson was suspended in the interim pending final disposition of his conviction of conspiring to unlawfully sell unregistered securities (15 U.S.C. §§77e(a)(1), 77e(a)(2), 77x, and 17 CFR §230.144), a felony involving moral turpitude.

Riordan J. Zavala State Bar #143870, Placentia (June 9, 2018)

Zavala was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for two years after a contested disciplinary proceeding in which he was charged with two counts of professional misconduct: failing to comply with all laws and failing to obey a court order.

In the underlying matter, Zavala was retained to represent a client in a dispute with a flooring company. After learning the client had recently filed for bankruptcy, he wrote to inform the bankruptcy trustee he would proceed with the case on the condition that his retainer agreement would be "respected."

The bankruptcy was reopened, and the flooring case was settled shortly afterward; Zavala immediately filed a notice asserting a "priority lien" against any money recovered, though he had not been hired by the bankruptcy trustee. The trustee and her attorney notified Zavala he legally could not take any action in the lawsuit; however, he moved to strike the notice of settlement, which was denied. The bankruptcy court subsequently approved the settlement and found Zavala in contempt of the automatic stay provisions of the bankruptcy, ordering him to pay $9,011 in sanctions. A U.S. district court concluded that his appeal of the contempt order was frivolous.

In aggravation, Zavala committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and demonstrated a lack of insight and unwillingness to acknowledge his own misconduct.

In mitigation, he had practiced law for 23 years without a record of discipline.

PROBATION

Eric Joseph Chaves State Bar #164472, Beverly Hills (June 30, 2018)

Chaves was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to pleading nolo contendere to driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(b)), and an admitted prior conviction of the same offense.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for approximately 24 years without a record of discipline, and submitted letters from eight individuals taken from the legal and general communities who attested to his good character and extensive volunteer activities.

Robert E. Gentino State Bar #93808, Los Angeles (June 1, 2018)

Gentino was placed on probation for one year following an appeal of a hearing judge's findings of culpability, which included making misrepresentations to his client--an act involving moral turpitude.

Both Gentino and the Office of Chief Counsel of the State Bar had appealed. The State Bar Court panel affirmed the findings of fact and culpability for two acts of professional misconduct: failing to perform legal services with competence and failing to inform his client of significant developments in the case.

In the underlying matter, Gentino was hired to represent a defendant in a consignment sale dispute. He did not appear at the initial case management conference, and the judge entered a minute order setting a trial date and directing the parties to file briefs and related lists five days before trial. The plaintiff did not provide this information in its notice to Gentino, who did not check the court's local rules or obtain a copy of the order on his own.

The plaintiff subsequently filed an amended complaint, and Gentino filed a demurrer in response, which was later stricken as untimely and a default was entered. He assured the client he would save her case, but did not inform her that the default had been entered. He then moved to reconsider and vacate, but did not appear at the hearing on that motion after learning of an unfavorable tentative ruling. Finally, he failed to move to vacate, even though his client had requested that he do so.

Both the hearing judge below and panel on appeal found these repeated failures to perform constituted a failure to perform legal services competently.

The hearing judge also found that Gentino failed to communicate four significant developments to his client--including his failure to file a timely responsive pleading and judgments and orders entered in the case; the panel found four additional instances of failures to communicate based on trial testimony.

In aggravation, Gentino committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed his client.

In mitigation, he had practiced law for 35 years without a record of discipline and submitted evidence of extensive pro bono and community service. He was also given moderate mitigation weight for five character witnesses who had no broad range of knowledge about him--one of whom was unaware of the charges against him.

Justin Drayton Graham State Bar #219791, Los Angeles (June 9, 2018)

Graham was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing five acts of professional misconduct related to two client matters. The wrongdoing included: accepting representation from clients with potentially conflicting interests without first obtaining their written consents, failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to maintain client funds in a trust account, failing to maintain the requisite balance in the client trust account, and repeatedly issuing checks from the account despite its insufficient balance--an act involving moral turpitude.

In one client matter, Graham was retained to represent both the driver and passenger of a car involved in an accident. The two individuals signed separate fee agreements a few weeks apart. The agreements did not inform the clients they had potentially conflicting interests, and neither client gave an informed written consent to the representation.

In the other matter, Graham added his office manager, a non-attorney, as an authorized signatory to his client trust account. Neither Graham nor the office manager subsequently reconciled the account. In three instances, the balance dipped below the permissible level after transfers were made and checks were written from the account. In aggravation, Graham committed multiple acts of misconduct and had a prior record of discipline.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, took remedial measures in one case by removing the non-attorney employee's access to the client trust account, and caused no harm to the clients, public, or the administration of justice with his misconduct.

Izabella Stepanyan State Bar #270820, Glendale (June 9, 2018)

Stepanyan was placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to committing two acts of professional misconduct related to a single client case: violating a court order and failing to report a sanction imposed to the State Bar.

On the day Stepanyan was substituted into a case, the court continued the hearing related to a restraining order for an additional seven weeks. Shortly before the hearing date, Stepanyan advised the client to seek other counsel, as she was leaving to take a new job. The client did not secure new representation before the hearing date, however.

On the day of the hearing, Stepanyan met with opposing counsel to resolve outstanding issues, but did not appear at the hearing held later that day. The court ordered her to appear at a later hearing to determine whether sanctions should be imposed. When she failed to appear in the Order to Show Cause matter, she was sanctioned $1,500.

In aggravation, Stepanyan committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, she entered into a prefiling stipulation, and was given limited mitigation weight for having practiced law for seven years without a record of discipline and for submitting letters from four individuals testifying to her good character, though they were not taken from a range of both the legal and general communities.

Robert Sherman Wynne State Bar #145410, Fresno (June 30, 2018)

Wynne was placed on probation for two years following his successful completion of the State Bar Court's Alternative Discipline Program (ADP). He also received credit for the 60-day period of suspension during which he was previously involuntarily enrolled as inactive.

In the underlying matter, Wynne had three misdemeanor criminal convictions for alcohol-related driving offenses--none involving moral turpitude.

In aggravation, Wynne committed multiple acts of misconduct and had a prior record of professional discipline,

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and successfully completed the ADP.

PUBLIC REPROVAL

Keith Goffney State Bar #175821, Los Angeles (June 6, 2018)

Goffney was publicly reproved after an appeal of an earlier disciplinary order recommending public reproval for the misconduct.

In the underlying matter, Goffney had been found culpable of two counts of professional misconduct: holding himself out to practice law and actually practicing law while his license had been involuntarily suspended due to his failure to comply with a judgment related to an arbitration award. While on inactive status, he filed two requests for continuances in a case and appeared in court for both.

The State Bar hearing judge below found that Goffney's misconduct was mitigated by practicing law for 28 years without a record of discipline, his lack of bad faith, and that he caused no actual harm to the client. In aggravation, Goffney was cited for his lack of insight.

On appeal, Goffney argued that the charges should be dismissed because they were not brought to trial within 125 days of when the first Notice of Disciplinary Charges were filed as required by the California State Bar Rules of Procedure (Rules Proc. of State Bar, Rule 5.102(C)). The State Bar Court judge dismissed this argument, noting that discipline proceedings are not governed by the rules of procedure applicable to criminal litigation and underscoring that "any delay in a disciplinary proceeding will merit consideration only if the delay causes 'specific, legally cognizable prejudice.'" The judge found Goffney had not demonstrated such prejudice.

Goffney also contended that his actions did not constitute the unauthorized practice of law. In rejecting that argument, the State Bar Court judge aligned with the superior court judge in the case, who had admonished Goffney he could have hired a licensed attorney to make the appearance instead of doing it himself.

Stephen Ray Rasmussen State Bar #115176, Portland, Oregon (June 5, 2018)

Rasmussen was publicly reproved after he stipulated to being disciplined for professional misconduct in another jurisdiction.

In the underlying proceeding, Rasmussen, who was licensed to practice law in Oregon in 1987, three years after being admitted in California, handled a $35 million medical malpractice claim against a hospital and doctor. In response to an information request from the malpractice insurer's lawyer, the doctor's office manager faxed typewritten notes the doctor had taken that supplemented the medical chart; the notes were placed in the client's file. Rasmussen, a senior associate with the client's firm, became responsible for that doctor/client after a change in firm personnel. In preparing a response to a request for production, he was unaware that the typewritten notes existed. In a later deposition, the doctor was accused not only of failing to turn over the records, but of lying about having other notes. Rasmussen's firm had possession of the notes even before the lawsuit was filed. The insurer then advised the client to retain his own attorney at his own cost.

In a stipulation to the Oregon Supreme Court, Rasmussen admitted his failure to address the typewritten notes in both the request for production and response to the motion for sanctions constituted conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice as established by Oregon state law.

The California State Bar Court judge determined that, as a matter of law, the culpability of misconduct determined in the Oregon Supreme Court also warranted professional discipline in California.

In aggravation, Rasmussen caused significant harm to the client by subjecting him to a potential default judgment and forcing him to hire substitute counsel.

In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation in the California matter, had practiced law for 33 years discipline-free, and submitted letters from six individuals--all of whom attested to his good character.

#348629

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