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Discipline Report

Sep. 1, 2017

Discipline Report - September 2017

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

DISBARMENT
Al Fadel Amer, Long Beach
Lauren M. Arens, San Diego
Jonathan S. Bae, Santa Clara
James Allen Bascue , Los Angeles
Raymond Chun-i Liu, Cerritos
Roni Lynn Deutch, North Highlands
Beryl Dean Droegmueller, Vista
Kent Wycliffe Easter, Newport Beach
Earl Nelson Feldman, Del Mar
Stefan Ghaemi, San Diego
Michael Lee Goolsby, Corona Del Mar
Kenneth L. Gross , Beverly Hills
Bruce Howard Haglund, Irvine
David Allen Hiersekorn, Placentia
Richard D. Huffman, II , Del Mar
Victor Jacobovitz, Los Angeles
Deron Adam Kartoon , Los Angeles
Marcia Janae Machado, Fresno
Ralph R. Martinez-Agamenon , Montclair
William Lawrence McKinney , Bolivar, Tennessee
Geoffrey Carl Morrison, San Diego
Bob Gene Pierce, Jr. , Long Beach
Ray Shannon Pool, Fresno
Thomas Osmonde Russell, III, Huntington Beach
Mark Sitrak Simonian, Los Angeles
Anatoly Smolkin , San Francisco
Gregory Edgar Stearns, Key West, Florida

SUSPENSION
Leslie Victor Amponsah, Los Angeles
Tara Jane Arnold, West Lake Hills, Texas
John Roger Blanchard, Lakewood
Teresa Faye Bristow , Sacramento
Peter T. Brown, Van Nuys
Guy Frank Candelaria, Fountain Valley
Richard Dennis Coats, Alhambra
Ilija Cvetich , Sacramento
Charles Xavier Delgado, Murrieta
Steven Lee Dickinson, Powell, Ohio
Cari Donahue, La Jolla
Jose Castillo Escano, Los Angeles
Jared Morgan Galanis , Baltimore, Maryland
Julia Patricia Gibbs, Sacramento
Nicolas Joson Gomez, Jr., Quezon City, Philippines
Joseph Frieden Hanan , Los Angeles
David Alan Hancock, Glendora
Shameem Hasan, Los Angeles
Donald Arthur Hilland , San Fernando
Peter Miles Hoffman, Los Angeles
William Arthur Hustwit, Las Vegas, Nevada
Barry Steven Jorgensen, San Ysidro
Martin Edgar Keller , San Bernardino
Adam J. Luetto , Fullerton
Haris Kyle McKinley , Elk Grove
Louisa Belle Pensanti, Sherman Oaks
Alejandro Portales , Santa Ana
Zachary Brooke Roberts, Henderson, Nevada
Steven Mark Sacks , San Francisco
Clifford Nelson Schuster , Anaheim
Sidney Michel Schwartz, Chula Vista
Hilary Gail Shankin-Murphy, Oak Park
Micah Jared Smith , Camarillo
Carl Douglas Spieckerman , Vallejo
Paul Raymond Turley , Oakland
Mark Henry Williams, Inglewood
Barbara Truman Zorr, San Rafael

PROBATION
Andrew Russell Martin, San Francisco
Donald William McVay, Rancho Santa Fe
Eusevio Padilla, Davis
Eric Bryan Seuthe, Beverly Hills

PUBLIC REPROVAL
Keith Goffney , Los Angeles
Edelmira Medina , Hacienda Heights

DISBARMENT

Al Fadel Amer
State Bar # 197745, Long Beach (July 23, 2017)

Amer was disbarred by default after failing to participate, either in person or through counsel, at his State Bar disciplinary proceeding, despite receiving adequate legal notice.

He had been charged with eight counts of professional misconduct in two client matters, and was found culpable of seven of those counts: failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, improperly withdrawing from representation, and two counts each of failing to return unearned fees and accepting legal fees from a third party without the client written informed consent. In addition, he was found to have misrepresented facts and submitted false statements to the State Bar—wrongdoing involving moral turpitude.

Lauren M. Arens
State Bar # 261946, San Diego (July 26, 2017)

Arens was disbarred by default after she failed to participate in her disciplinary trial or to have the default that was entered either set aside or vacated. The State Bar Court determined she had received adequate notice.

She was found culpable of six counts of professional misconduct related to two client matters: two counts each of failing to obey a court order, failing to perform legal services with competence, and failing to cooperate with the State Bar’s investigation of the wrongdoing alleged.

Jonathan S. Bae
State Bar # 229967, Santa Clara (July 23, 2017)

Bae was disbarred by default. He was given adequate notice and opportunity but failed to appear in the disciplinary proceeding in which he was charged with eight violations.

He was subsequently found culpable of all counts charged: three counts of failing to properly maintain client funds in a trust account; two counts each of commingling personal and client funds and of misappropriating client funds—misconduct involving moral turpitude, and a final count of failing to cooperate in the State Bar investigation of the wrongdoing alleged.

James Allen Bascue
State Bar # 47433, Los Angeles (July 26, 2017)

Bascue was disbarred by default after he failed to participate in his disciplinary proceeding, despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He did not seek to have the default order set aside or vacated.

Bascue had earlier been convicted of assault with a firearm (Cal. Penal Code §245(a)(2)). In the underlying incident, he had called 911, claiming he was being attacked in his home. Responding uniformed officers surrounded the home and observed Bascue inside, loading a gun and pointing it around the room. After the officers announced their presence, he fired a couple shots at them, but missed. Officers determined he was intoxicated—and he admitted to that condition and subsequently pled guilty to the firearm assault.

The State Bar Court judge determined that the offense did not involve moral turpitude, but warranted professional discipline.

Raymond Chun-i Liu
State Bar # 242154, Cerritos (July 23, 2017)

Chun-i Lui was disbarred by default after he failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, at the disciplinary proceeding in which he was charged with six counts of professional misconduct stemming from a single client matter. The State Bar Court determined he had been given adequate legal notice.

Upon final default, he was deemed culpable of all counts charged: aiding the unauthorized practice of law by allowing a non-attorney employee to offer legal advice to a client, improperly terminating his employment without giving notice to his client, failing to promptly return the client’s papers and property after being requested to do so, failing to refund unearned advanced fees, failing to provide an accounting of the client’s funds, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the misconduct alleged.

Roni Lynn Deutch
State Bar # 152429, North Highlands (July 26, 2017)

Deutch was disbarred by default after failing to appear either in person or through counsel at her disciplinary proceeding, despite receiving adequate legal notice. She did not move to have the default set aside or vacated.

She was found culpable of five counts of professional misconduct: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to respond to client inquiries, failing to refund unearned fees, failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation, and failing to update her membership records address within 30 days after moving as required.

Beryl Dean Droegmueller
State Bar # 76278, Vista (July 23, 2017)

Droegmueller was disbarred after he stipulated to failing to file a declaration of compliance as mandated in a prior disciplinary order (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20).

In aggravation, Droegmueller had two prior records of discipline.

In mitigation, he entered into a full stipulation prior to the notice of disciplinary charges being filed, saving the State Bar time and resources.

Kent Wycliffe Easter
State Bar # 199838, Newport Beach (July 23, 2017)

Easter was disbarred after he stipulated to using fraud and deceit in executing the felony of false imprisonment (Cal. Penal Code §§236 and 237(a)), misconduct involving moral turpitude.

Easter’s six year-old son was briefly locked outside school following an afterschool tennis class, waiting for his mother to pick him up. Easter and his wife, both attorneys, wrote to the school demanding that the parent volunteer responsible for shepherding the children to the school’s front door that day be fired or removed as a volunteer; they also filed a police report related to the incident. The next month, Easter’s wife filed for a temporary restraining order, claiming the parent volunteer was stalking her, and the Easters also filed a civil lawsuit alleging their son had been falsely imprisoned.

Some months later, a call was placed to the local police department by a person claiming to have seen the parent volunteer driving erratically near the school with drugs in her car. Investigating officers found the volunteer’s car parked in the school lot, a baggie of marijuana visible from the window and a marijuana pipe and prescription drugs found inside the vehicle. Police detained the volunteer and questioned her for hours in the parking lot, then searched her home and took DNA swabs from both her and her daughter; she maintained her innocence throughout.

A subsequent investigation revealed that, according to cell phone records, Easter was outside the volunteer’s home at 2 a.m. the morning the erratic driving charges were reported, during which time he also exchanged numerous text messages with his wife. He was also revealed to have placed the call to police, and his DNA was found on the pills and pipe police had retrieved from the volunteer’s car during their search. Easter and his wife were subsequently arrested and convicted of false imprisonment for planting the drugs and enlisting the police to act based on fraud and deceit.

In aggravation, Easter significantly harmed the falsely accused woman, causing her extreme emotional distress.

In mitigation, he had practiced law 13 years without discipline, though the State Bar judge found the mitigation weight was tempered by the “serious nature of the misconduct.”

Earl Nelson Feldman
State Bar # 45125, Del Mar (July 23, 2017)

Feldman was disbarred after being found culpable of professional misconduct related to mishandling a charitable trust. Despite his initial involvement in the proceeding, he was disbarred by default after failing to appear for trial. He did not seek to have the default order set aside or vacated.

He was found culpable of breaching his fiduciary duty by failing to make purported charitable donations from the trust, improperly disbursing more than $882,600 to himself; falsely reporting to the IRS that he had made approximately 75 charitable donations on behalf of the trust; and misappropriating $1,266,038 from the trust. All three counts involved moral turpitude.

Stefan Ghaemi
State Bar # 281280, San Diego (July 23, 2017)

Ghaemi was disbarred by default after he failed to participate in his disciplinary proceeding despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so.

He was found culpable of five counts of professional misconduct in a single client matter: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to promptly release the client’s papers and property after numerous requests, failing to refund unearned advanced fees, failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the wrongdoing alleged, and failing to update his bar membership records address within 30 days as required.

Michael Lee Goolsby
State Bar # 159660, Corona Del Mar (July 23, 2017)

Goolsby was disbarred by default after failing to file a formal response to the notice of disciplinary charges filed against him or to participate in his disciplinary proceeding.

He was found culpable of professional misconduct in violating disciplinary probations earlier imposed in two separate Supreme Court orders. His wrongdoing included: failing to schedule initial meetings with the Office of Probation, failing to file written quarterly and final probation reports, failing to update his change of address on State Bar membership records, failing to pay the required restitution payments, failing to successfully complete Ethics School, and falsely stating to the State Bar that he had complied with all probation conditions—misconduct involving moral turpitude.

Kenneth L. Gross
State Bar # 52081, Beverly Hills (July 26, 2017)

Gross was disbarred by default after he failed to appear for the trial of his disciplinary charges. The State Bar Court judge determined he had actual notice of the proceeding and adequate notice of the trial date prior to the entry of the default order.

He was found culpable of six counts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter that turned on entering into a business transaction that was neither fair nor reasonable to his client; he neither provided adequate counsel nor obtained the client’s prior written consent.

In related violations, he failed to maintain the client’s funds in trust, failed to render an accounting of the client’s funds, failed to promptly pay the client’s portion of funds he held despite repeated requests, and also committed two acts involving moral turpitude: breaching his fiduciary duties to the client by failing to hold her funds—amounting to $268,207— in trust where they could accrue interest and then misappropriating them for his own use.

Gross had one prior record of discipline.

Bruce Howard Haglund
State Bar # 92683, Irvine (July 23, 2017)

Haglund was disbarred after he stipulated to knowingly aiding and abetting a fraudulent investment scheme in violation of the Securities Exchange Act (17 C.F.R. §240.10b-5 and SEC Rule 10b-5)—an offense involving moral turpitude.

The Securities and Exchange filed a complaint against several defendants alleging they orchestrated two investment schemes falsely promising outsized returns. In all, the defendants raised more than $11 million by assuring at least 24 individuals their money would be invested in high-yield, bank-issued securities not known by the general public. To give the scheme an air of legitimacy, investors were told that Haglund was serving as escrow attorney, and their funds would be held in his client trust account until used to purchase the promised financial instruments.

In fact, no financial instruments were purchased; Haglund wired the invested funds to himself and the other defendants soon after receiving it. He also used some of the money to repay investors who suffered losses in an earlier investment scheme in which he was involved.

A district court ultimately found the defendants jointly and severally liable—and ordered Haglund to pay a civil penalty of $6.74 million; that judgment was affirmed on appeal.

In aggravation, Haglund committed multiple acts of misconduct and significantly harmed a large number of individuals.

In mitigation, he entered into a full stipulation prior to trial and had no prior record of discipline in nearly 37 years of practicing law.

David Allen Hiersekorn
State Bar # 237471, Placentia (July 26, 2017)

Hiersekorn was disbarred by default after he failed to participate in the disciplinary proceeding in which he was charged with three counts of professional misconduct despite having adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He did not seek to have his default set aside or vacated.

He was found culpable of all counts charged in the single matter: failing to maintain client funds in trust, failing to provide an accounting to trust beneficiaries despite repeated requests to do so, and ultimately misappropriating $210,209 in trust funds for his own use.

Richard D. Huffman, II
State Bar # 157740, Del Mar (July 26, 2017)

Huffman was disbarred by default after failing to participate in his disciplinary proceeding despite having adequate notice and opportunity to do so.
He was found culpable of three counts of professional misconduct in a single client matter: failing to render a proper accounting of advanced fees and to release the client’s papers and property after terminating employment, as well as failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the allegations of misconduct.

Huffman had been disciplined by the State Bar twice before.

Victor Jacobovitz
State Bar # 66297, Los Angeles (July 26, 2017)

Jacobovitz was disbarred after stipulating to committing seven acts of professional misconduct in four separate matters—most involving mismanagement of funds in his client trust account.

Specifically, he was culpable of four counts of commingling client and personal funds and failing to maintain the requisite balance his client trust account, and also of misappropriating $1,800 in client funds—an act involving moral turpitude. In addition, he was culpable of failing to keep a client reasonable informed of case developments and making an intentional misrepresentation in a compliance declaration filed with the California Supreme Court—additional misconduct involving moral turpitude.

In aggravation, Jacobovitz had two prior records of discipline, significantly harmed other individuals by depriving them of funds, and committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation acknowledging his wrongdoing.

In recommending disbarment, the State Bar Court noted that Jacobovitz “demonstrated a consistent abuse” of his client trust account, even after attending two sessions of Client Trust School, and concluded “it is unlikely that further instruction is likely to sufficiently protect the public.”

Deron Adam Kartoon
State Bar # 155925, Los Angeles (July 23, 2017)

Kartoon was disbarred by default after he failed to file a declaration with the State Bar Court showing that he complied with the California Rules of Court (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20) as mandated in an earlier disciplinary order. He did not seek to have the default set aside or vacated.

He had three prior records of discipline.

Marcia Janae Machado
State Bar # 231144, Fresno (July 23, 2017)

Machado was summarily disbarred after pleading guilty to a single count of assisting in or inspiring insurance fraud (Cal. Penal Code §550(b)(1)). The offense is a felony, involving moral turpitude on its face.

Ralph R. Martinez-Agamenon
State Bar # 235107, Montclair (July 26, 2017)

Martinez-Agamenon was disbarred after being found culpable of 24 counts of professional misconduct in five client matters. He had originally been charged with 25 counts of misconduct, and stipulated to being culpable of all of them, but the State Bar Court judge dismissed one of the counts related to providing a client accounting.

In addition to failing to promptly release client files after being asked to do so and improperly withdrawing from employment, the remaining wrongdoing included: four counts each of mishandling mortgage loan modification services and failing to return unearned advanced fees; three counts of failing to perform legal services with competence; and two counts each of failing to render appropriate accountings of client funds, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the wrongdoing alleged. He was also culpable of several counts involving moral turpitude involving asking clients to lie to or deceive the court, and in one case, he misrepresented to the State Bar that he had attended a hearing on a day there was actually a government shutdown.

Though the cases spanned a range of practice areas—from marriage dissolutions to immigration to loan modifications to bankruptcy—the cases followed roughly similar facts patterns: Martinez-Agamenon would accept client fees, then failed to provide the agreed services. In several cases, he attempted to induce clients to lie in court to cover his tracks—for example, telling one to tell the judge he had “just been retained” in hopes of being granted a continuance, when in fact he had been retained 14 months earlier. He typically refused to communicate with or return fees to clients when they attempted to terminate his services.

In aggravation, Martinez-Agamenon committed multiple acts of misconduct, overreached in his handling of highly vulnerable immigration clients, and failed to make restitution to the clients. In addition, he stipulation to causing the clients significant harm, though the State Bar Court afforded this factor minimal weight since there was no evidence of the specific harm each client suffered.

In mitigation, he had practiced law for 11 years without a record of discipline and for entering into a stipulation, though that credit was reduced due to his failure to cooperate during the State Bar’s investigation of the misconduct.

William Lawrence McKinney
State Bar # 66803, Bolivar, Tennessee (July 23, 2017)

McKinney was disbarred by default after failing to participate in his disciplinary proceeding despite having adequate notice and opportunity to do so.

In a single client matter, he was found culpable of: failing to release his client’s papers and property after terminating employment and being requested to do so, failing to respond to the client’s reasonable inquiries about the status of his case, and failing to keep the client informed of significant developments in the case—including losing the client’s case file. In addition, he was found culpable of willfully violating court rules (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20) by failing to file a timely declaration of compliance as mandated in a disciplinary order imposed earlier.

McKinney had three prior records of discipline.

Geoffrey Carl Morrison
State Bar # 172059, San Diego (July 23, 2017)

Morrison was disbarred by default after he failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, in his disciplinary proceeding, despite receiving adequate legal notice. He was found culpable of willfully violating court rules (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20) by failing to file a declaration of compliance as mandated in a previous disciplinary order.

He had been disciplined by the State Bar twice before.

Bob Gene Pierce, Jr.
State Bar # 223942, Long Beach (July 23, 2017)

Pierce was disbarred after he stipulated to committing 10 acts of professional misconduct.

His wrongdoing included failing to promptly pay clients funds to which they were entitled as well as two counts each of failing to deposit and maintain client funds in trust, failing to render appropriate accountings to clients, and failing to cooperate and participate in disciplinary proceedings pending against him. He was also culpable of several acts involving moral turpitude: two counts of misappropriating client funds and one count of issuing a check to a client knowing there were insufficient funds to cover it.

In aggravation, Pierce committed multiple acts of misconduct, significantly harmed clients by depriving them of settlement funds to which they were entitled, and paid no portion of the misappropriated funds in restitution.

In mitigation, he entered into a full pretrial stipulation as to facts and culpability and had practiced law for 11 years without a record of discipline.

Ray Shannon Pool
State Bar # 226188, Fresno (July 26, 2017)

Pool was summarily disbarred after pleading guilty to possessing material involving the sexual exploitation of minors (18 U.S.C. §2252(a)(4)(B)). The offense is a felony involving moral turpitude.

The Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar transmitted records establishing that the conviction had become final, and Pool did not respond.

Thomas Osmonde Russell, III
State Bar # 107800, Huntington Beach (July 23, 2017)

Russell was disbarred after being found culpable of several counts of professional misconduct in two client matters. His wrongdoing included: failing to obey a court order to appear at a hearing, commingling client funds with his own, and knowingly making misstatements to the State Bar—misconduct involving moral turpitude. He was also found culpable of two counts of misappropriating client funds, which also involves moral turpitude.

In one matter, Russell entered into an agreement to act as escrow agent in an individual’s sale of shares to an LLC, with the transfer to be approved by the LLC’s brokerage clearing agent. The escrow instructions clearly stated that funds were to be paid only to the seller. After the seller provided the instruction to transfer her shares, the LLC wired $31,500 into Russell’s client trust account; that same day, Russell began disbursing the funds to various individuals, including himself, in contravention of the agreement. The LLC subsequently informed him its agent had been unable to clear the shares and requested immediate return of the $31,500. At trial, Russell claimed he disbursed the funds only after being informed by an LLC employee that the transferred shares had been approved—testimony the State Bar Court judge found “was not credible, lacked candor, and is belied by all of Respondent’s actions.”

In the other matter, Russell failed to appear at a contempt hearing related to his delinquent child support payments, then falsely informed the State Bar he had not received notice of the hearing.

In aggravation, Russell committed multiple acts of misconduct, significantly harmed those wrongfully deprived of funds, displayed a lack of candor in testifying about both matters at issue, and demonstrated indifference toward rectifying or atoning for his misconduct.

In mitigation, he had practiced law discipline-free for more than 30 years and entered into a stipulation of facts—though the stipulation was given reduced weight due to his “ongoing denials of culpability for the bulk of his misconduct.”

Mark Sitrak Simonian
State Bar # 96969, Los Angeles (July 23, 2017)

Simonian was disbarred by default after failing to participate in his disciplinary proceeding.

He was found culpable of falsely reporting to the State Bar that he had completed 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education when he was grossly negligent in not knowing he had failed to complete the requisite hours—misconduct involving moral turpitude. In addition, he failed to respond to two State Bar letters investigating the misconduct alleged.

Simonian had two prior records of discipline.

Anatoly Smolkin
State Bar # 274388, San Francisco (July 26, 2017)

Smolkin was disbarred by default after failing to appear at or participate in his disciplinary trial. After being reached, he sent a definitive email message to the State Bar, stating: “I have no use whatsoever for a legal license, and have better things to do with my time than waste it with the case referenced in the subject line of this email. Do what you must with regards to the case, but please do not send me any further communications by any means.” He did not move to have the default entered set aside or vacated.

The underlying matter involved a three-month campaign of threats, harassment, and intimidation in which Smolkin targeted his wife, 11-year-old daughter, and at least 15 other individuals with sexual violence and death threats. A jury ultimately convicted him of 30 felonies and 17 misdemeanors—including stalking, making criminal threats, violating a restraining order, and resisting and battering a police officer. He was sentenced to serve seven years in state prison.

The State Bar Court found the facts and circumstances involved moral turpitude.

Gregory Edgar Stearns
State Bar # 80704, Key West, Florida (July 23, 2017)

Stearns was disbarred by default after failing to appear at the trial charging him with one count of moral turpitude for misrepresenting his compliance with Minimum Continuing Legal Education requirements.

The State Bar Court judge determined Stearns had received adequate legal notice, but did not appear at the pretrial conference nor did he file a motion to continue the trial.

SUSPENSION

Leslie Victor Amponsah
State Bar # 164434, Los Angeles (July 23, 2017)

Amponsah was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to commingling personal and business funds in his client trust account on three separate occasions.

In aggravation, Amponsah committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation fully resolving the matter before disciplinary charges were filed against him and had practiced law for approximately 22 years without a prior record of discipline.

Tara Jane Arnold
State Bar # 172917, West Lake Hills, Texas (July 26, 2017)

Arnold was suspended from practicing law for two years and place on probation for four years after she stipulated to willfully violating a court order. Specifically, she failed to timely file a declaration of compliance with the State Bar Court—one of the conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20).

In aggravation, Arnold had two prior records of discipline.

In mitigation, she entered into a full pretrial stipulation in the present case.

John Roger Blanchard
State Bar # 182233, Lakewood (July 26, 2017)

Blanchard was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing three acts of professional misconduct related to a single matter. His wrongdoing included failing to maintain the requisite balance in his client trust account, then misappropriating his clients’ funds for his own purposes—an act involving moral turpitude, as well as failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the wrongdoing alleged.

In the underlying matter, Blanchard maintained a client trust account in which he deposited settlement checks received on behalf of three clients to whom he wrote checks representing their shares of settlements. However, he made numerous cash withdrawals from the account and failed to maintain the required balance, resulting in insufficient funds to cover two of the checks issued. He also failed to respond to two letters from a State Bar investigator inquiring about the account irregularities.

In aggravation, Blanchard committed multiple acts of misconduct and was unable to account for a portion of the funds that should have been held in trust.

In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation prior to charges being filed against him, had practiced law discipline-free for approximately 19 years, and submitted evidence of 10 individuals spanning the general and legal communities willing to attest to his good character.

Teresa Faye Bristow
State Bar # 241075, Sacramento (July 23, 2017)

Bristow was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to committing nine acts of professional misconduct in three client matters.
Specifically, she was culpable of: two counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence and improperly terminating employment, as well as five counts of failing to keep clients reasonably informed of significant matters in their cases.

The misconduct at issue followed a similar fact pattern: Bristow was retained to represent clients in family law matters, then took minimal action or ceased working on their cases after going out on medical leave. Her law partner ultimately closed their firm. None of the clients were informed of either the medical leave or the office closure.

In aggravation, Bristow committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation acknowledging her wrongdoing and had practiced law for eight years without a record of discipline. In addition, she relied in good faith on her law partner’s representations that he would communicate with her clients and perform necessary work for them while she was on leave and also presented evidence that that the mental and physical health problems necessitating the leave have been stabilized.

Peter T. Brown
State Bar # 125446, Van Nuys (July 10, 2017)

Brown was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated in an earlier State Bar disciplinary order.

Guy Frank Candelaria
State Bar # 175401, Fountain Valley (July 23, 2017)

Candelaria was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to three acts of professional misconduct in a single client matter involving a loan modification.

Specifically, he was culpable of accepting a legal fee before fully performing all loan modifications services promised and of failing to provide the clients with a separate written statement regarding loan negotiations in at least 14-point type in contravention of state law (Cal. Civ. Code §2944.6), as well as failing to render a proper accounting of the clients’ funds he received.

In aggravation, Candelaria committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, illegally depriving the clients of money to which they were entitled, and failed to make restitution to them.

In mitigation, he entered into a full pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for 21 years without a prior record of discipline, and demonstrated remorse by providing a declaration promising to stop taking advanced fees for loan modification cases. In addition, he provided three letters from members of the general community and one from another attorney attesting to his good character.

Richard Dennis Coats
State Bar # 117285, Alhambra (July 23, 2017)

Coats was suspended from practicing law for one year and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to violating several conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order. Specifically, he failed to submit one quarterly and one final report to the Office of Probation and also failed to complete Ethics School within the time specified.

In aggravation, Coats committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and had a prior record of discipline.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, acknowledging his misconduct.

Ilija Cvetich
State Bar # 133534, Sacramento (July 23, 2017)

Cvetich was suspended from practicing law for two years and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to committing six acts of professional misconduct in a single client matter.

Specifically, he was culpable of: failing to inform his client of a significant case development, failing to promptly pay the client funds to which he was entitled and to maintain those funds in a client trust account. Three additional counts involved moral turpitude: two counts related to forging his client’s signature and an additional count involved commingling and misappropriating the funds.

Cvetich was hired to represent a client to pursue a worker’s compensation claim. Though the two also discussed the possibility of filing a discrimination case against the employer, they did not sign a fee agreement for that matter. An associate attorney Cvetich employed took on the client’s worker’s comp case, and with Cvetich’s agreement, also filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination and employment discrimination. After the associate settled the employment lawsuit, opposing counsel sent two checks in settlement: one payable to the client and the other to Cvetich, who gave the associate a copy of the settlement agreement on which he had forged the client’s name. The client had not authorized the signature.

Again without the client’s authority, Cvetich forged his name on the check and deposited both checks in his client trust account, eventually misappropriating the total amount for his own use.

In aggravation, Cvetich committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed the client by depriving him of settlement funds for 10 months.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation. Provided declarations from a range of 14 references who attested to his good character, had practiced law for 25 years without a prior record of discipline, and submitted evidence of undergoing effective treatment for the emotional difficulties he was experiencing during the time of the misconduct.

Charles Xavier Delgado
State Bar # 51919, Murrieta (July 17, 2017)

Delgado was suspended from the practice of law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam—one of the terms imposed on him in an earlier disciplinary order.

Steven Lee Dickinson
State Bar # 110475, Powell, Ohio (July 3, 2017)

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

Cari Donahue
State Bar # 273436, La Jolla (July 26, 2017)

Donahue was suspended from the practice of law for one year and placed on probation for three years.

She had been charged with nine counts of professional misconduct in five matters, and stipulated to committing four of those counts during the disciplinary hearing. The State Bar Court judge found her culpable of eight counts—including forming a partnership with a non-lawyer, failing to support the law, collecting an illegal fee, and failing to promptly pay a client funds due, as well as four counts of failing to obey court orders.

Donahue began working as an appearance attorney for a firm that handled loan modifications, then became owner, manager, and operator of the business. However, for two years, was physically present there only once monthly while two non-lawyers staffed and ran the business, eventually converting it into a virtual office. Donahue supplied her signature to create a signature stamp, with a proviso to the non-attorneys that they use it only with her authorization. Court appearances were mostly handled by appearance attorneys.

In one case, Donahue failed to appear at two scheduled hearings in a bankruptcy court. In another, she paid only a small potion of the sanctions imposed and violated an automatic stay order, which a bankruptcy judge noted “was based on her failure to understand some of the most fundamental tenets to bankruptcy and Chapter 13 law.”

In a third matter, Donahue was found culpable of collecting an illegal fee and forming an illegal partnership after the evidence showed a non-lawyer in her office falsely held himself out as a lawyer and failed to stop the foreclosure of the family’s home. And in another matter, she failed to pay statutory attorney’s fees as ordered by a court. Finally, she was found culpable of failing to pay a client a portion of the money received after legal fees were deducted; she claimed she was not aware that her office made the payment arrangements.

In aggravation, Donahue committed multiple acts of misconduct, had a prior record of discipline and failed to make restitution to the client owed funds.

In mitigation, she was given moderate credit for entering into a stipulation as to facts and admission of documents. She was also given moderate mitigation credit for presenting declarations from seven individuals who attested to her good character; only one of them was an attorney, so the attestations did not come from “a wide range of references in the legal and general communities.”

Jose Castillo Escano
State Bar # 204718, Los Angeles (July 24, 2017)

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

Jared Morgan Galanis
State Bar # 238549, Baltimore, Maryland (July 10, 2017)

Galanis was suspended from practicing law following his conviction of misprision of a felony (18 U.S.C. §4), a felony that may or may not involve moral turpitude.

As the conviction is now deemed final, the case was referred to the Hearing Department for the moral turpitude determination, as well as a recommendation of any professional discipline that should be imposed.

Julia Patricia Gibbs
State Bar # 102072, Sacramento (July 24, 2017)

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

Nicolas Joson Gomez, Jr.
State Bar # 144361, Quezon City, Philippines (July 3, 2017)

Gomez 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.

Joseph Frieden Hanan
State Bar # 229936, Los Angeles (July 31, 2017)

Hanan was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam—one of the terms imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.

David Alan Hancock
State Bar # 288134, Glendora (July 26, 2017)

Hancock was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing seven acts of professional misconduct related to two separate client matters.

The wrongdoing included: failing to return unearned advanced fees, failing to respond to a client’s reasonable inquiries about case status, and failing to communicate a significant case development to a client, as well as two counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence and failing to promptly release clients’ files upon terminating employment.

In a marriage dissolution case, Hancock accepted $2,000 in advanced fees, then failed to perform any work on the matter. In the other case, he was retained to assist in a civil matter involving squatters living on her premises. After filing an initial lawsuit, however, he failed to appear in court and the case was dismissed.

In aggravation, Hancock committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed both the clients involved.

In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation before charges were filed against him, saving the State Bar time and money and also demonstrated recognition of his wrongdoing by expressing remorse for the harm he caused.

Shameem Hasan
State Bar # 223281, Los Angeles (July 26, 2017)

Hasan was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days and placed on probation for three years.
He initially agreed to participate in the State Bar’s Alternative Discipline Program (ADP), a disciplinary option for lawyers with substance abuse or mental health issues, but his case went to trial after he failed to complete the required contract.

He stipulated to four counts of culpability at the close of his trial: failing to release his client’s file, failing to respond to reasonable case status inquiries, failing to refund unearned advanced fees, and failing to refund advanced costs. In addition, the trial judge found him culpable of failing to perform legal services with competence and recommend three months of actual suspension as discipline.

Hasan appealed. He did not challenge culpability, but argued he should have been admitted into the ADP. The State Bar Court panel rejected the argument, as untimely and procedurally improper, as the referral should have been made 45 days before the first trial date and the ADP challenge should have been addressed by interlocutory review.

In the underlying matter, Hasan, then a law partner with his brother, was retained to challenge an earlier denial of an immigration petition. He then began working at anther firm.

Responding to the client through his email address at the former firm, he quoted the client an advanced attorney fee of $1,000 and advanced costs totaling $738, which she paid in full in installments. He then failed to take any action in the case, ignoring the client’s numerous requests for an update over a 7½-month period. She then filed a complaint with the State Bar.

When contacted by State Bar investigators, Hasan claimed he did not finish the petition because his client had opted to delay its filing—a characterization the hearing judge found to be a “complete misrepresentation.”

In aggravation, both the hearing judge and panel found Hasan committed multiple acts of misconduct, acted in bad faith and with dishonesty in dealing with his highly vulnerable client, demonstrated a lack of candor in misrepresenting the matter to the State Bar, and also demonstrated an overall lack of insight into his misconduct. In addition, both the hearing judge and panel assigned aggravation for Hasan’s failure to update his address in State Bar membership records, an uncharged violation.

In mitigation, the hearing judge assigned significant weight to Hasan’s discipline-free record in 11 years of practicing law; the panel reduced this to limited credit since he failed to establish his conduct is unlikely to recur. The judge and panel also allotted limited mitigation credit for testimony from four character witnesses, none of whom were aware of the full extent of the misconduct at issue.

The review panel also rejected Hasan’s argument that he should have been allotted additional mitigation credit because he was experiencing emotional difficulties during the time of the misconduct, finding he failed to prove a nexus between his problems and his wrongdoing.

However, the panel allowed some mitigation credit for Hasan’s cooperation in stipulating to some of the counts of misconduct, noting that this occurred late in the trial process.

Donald Arthur Hilland
State Bar # 240436, San Fernando (July 23, 2017)

Hilland was suspended from practicing law for 12 months and placed on probation for three years after being found culpable of four counts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, and corruption.

In the underlying matter, Hilland filed a personal Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, which was dismissed because he failed to file all required documents. He subsequently filed a second bankruptcy case, falsely attesting that he had received credit counseling within 180 days of filing as required by law. That filing contained a dated electronic signature that had been lifted or forged from the first filing, though Hilland testified under oath at the initial meeting of creditors that the information he tendered contained no errors or omissions.

The U.S. Trustee filed a complaint commencing an adversary proceeding against Hilland based on the falsified credit counseling stamp. Pursuant to a settlement stipulation, the discharge in the bankruptcy case was denied. Hilland had asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege to all questions pertaining to preparing and filing the second certificate.

While the adversary proceeding was progressing, Hilland filed several quarterly written reports with the Office of Probation, as mandated by an earlier disciplinary order—declaring in each that he had complied with all laws and conditions.

On appeal, the State Bar Court panel dismissed two counts of seeking to mislead a judge as duplicative of the moral turpitude charges, but found clear and convincing evidence of all four of the moral turpitude charges based on the misconduct at issue.

In recommending a lengthy period of suspension, the panel underscored that Hilland had made multiple false representations under penalty of perjury, noting that he had been dishonest with a tribunal and lacked insight into his misconduct, “failing to comprehend that integrity is a quality of all who wish to practice law in California.”

In aggravation, Hilland committed multiple acts of misconduct, significantly harmed the administration of justice by attempting to mislead the bankruptcy court and had a prior record of discipline. The panel also gave aggravating weight to Hilland’s lack of insight and remorse, highlighting that the present misconduct occurred a mere four months after his first discipline which also involved falsifying a document.

In mitigation, he was allotted limited weight for entering into a stipulation of facts, which were easily provable.

Peter Miles Hoffman
State Bar # 66205, Los Angeles (July 23, 2017)

Hoffman was suspended for six months and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing six acts of professional misconduct related to his actions while on Not Entitled status.

Specifically, he was culpable of practicing law while not authorized to do so, two counts of failing to comply with the law, and three counts of moral turpitude related to misrepresenting his legal authority to practice,

Hoffman was placed on interim suspension after his felony convictions of conspiracy to commit mail or wire fraud and aiding and abetting wire fraud—required to notify clients, co-counsel, opposing counsel, and adverse parties of his suspension by certified mail in keeping with court rules (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20).

When suspended, he represented a party in a collective bargaining arbitration matter: communicating with opposing counsel and the American Arbitration Association (AAA) about substantive legal matters in the case and submitting a responsive pleading document to the AAA tribunal. While undertaking these actions, he was of the unreasonable belief that his actions did not constitute holding himself out to practice law, as civil law (Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. §1282.4(h)) and AAA rules both allow non-lawyers to represent parties in such matters.

Hoffman verbally advised his client and opposing counsel of his suspended status, but not the AAA tribunal—and falsely stated in writing in a declaration to the State Bar that he had complied with all requirements of Rule 9.20.

In aggravation, Hoffman committed multiple acts of misconduct and had a prior record of discipline.

In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation before the State Bar filed disciplinary charges against him.

William Arthur Hustwit
State Bar # 43439, Las Vegas, Nevada (July 23, 2017)

Hustwit was suspended from practicing law for six months and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to failing to comply with several conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary probation.

Specifically, he failed to timely submit four written quarterly reports and a final written report to the Office of Probation, failed to attend the State Bar Ethics School and to provide evidence of assign its final examination.

In aggravation, Hustwit committed multiple acts of misconduct and had a prior record of discipline.

In mitigation, he entered a prefiling stipulation in the case, acknowledging his wrongdoing.

Barry Steven Jorgensen
State Bar # 79620, San Ysidro (July 26, 2017)

Jorgensen was suspended from the practice of law for nine months and placed on probation for two years after being found culpable of three counts of professional misconduct: aiding the unauthorized practice of law, employing a resigned member of the bar, and seeking to mislead a judge—wrongdoing involving moral turpitude.

In the underlying matter, Jorgensen was the attorney of record representing a defendant in a case tried by jury. Because it was his first trial as lead counsel, he sought assistance from a former attorney who had resigned from the California bar with charges pending and was not licensed to practice in any other jurisdiction. The former attorney was not paid for his service, but sat with Jorgensen at the counsel table, directed him in court, and answered some of the court’s questions about jury instructions.

Opposing counsel objected to the arrangement, protesting that the suspended lawyer was “practicing law illegally.” The judge said she had been led to believe he was an attorney licensed out of state, and said she had an ethical obligation to inform the State Bar, noting “for the record, he has continually been whispering in Mr. Jorgensen’s ear with a stage whisper.”

Jorgensen argued he was not culpable of making a misrepresentation to the judge, because the false impression was “nothing more than a misunderstanding.” The State Bar Court judge, however, found he had an ethical obligation to correct that false impression and had the opportunity to do so, but failed to act.

Jorgensen also contended there was a lack of evidence demonstrating that he aided in unauthorized practice because the former attorney was merely acting as his legal assistant. The judge also rejected this characterization, noting the direct responses to the court’s questions on jury instructions, as well as the stage whispering amounting to “constant communication” between the two.

Finally, the judge noted that Jorgensen had “employed” the former attorney under the existing rule on Employment of Disbarred, Suspended, Resigned, or Involuntarily Inactive Members, which does not require compensation, and does require giving prior written notice to the State Bar (Rules of Prof. Cond., Rule 1-311). No notice was given in this case.

In aggravation, Jorgensen committed multiple acts of misconduct, had a prior record of discipline, and demonstrated a lack of insight about the wrongfulness of his actions, making him “an ongoing danger to the public and legal profession.”

In mitigation, he was afforded limited weight for entering into a stipulation of facts that expedited the trial, though many of the admissions were easily proved.

Martin Edgar Keller
State Bar # 104159, San Bernardino (July 3, 2017)

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

Adam J. Luetto
State Bar # 264188, Fullerton (July 23, 2017)

Luetto was suspended from the practice of law for two years and placed on probation for four years after he stipulated to being convicted of four offenses involving moral turpitude and two other offenses that did not involved moral turpitude, but warranted discipline, as well as failing to comply with a court order as required in a disciplinary order imposed earlier.

On four separate occasions, Luetto was arrested after shoplifting various items from large retail outlets; in each case, he pled guilty to committing petty theft—a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude (Cal. Penal Code §§483(a) and 490.2). In another instance, he also pled guilty to possession of burglary tools (Cal. Penal Code §466) and reckless driving (Cal. Veh. Code §2103(a)) after police stopped him for driving erratically near a shopping mall and became concerned he would shoplift again.

In an additional matter consolidated with these cases, he failed to timely file a compliance affidavit with the State Bar Court as required in an earlier disciplinary order (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20).

In aggravation, Luetto committed multiple acts of wrongdoing.

In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation prior to trial acknowledging his misconduct and accepting responsibility for it. He was also afforded mitigation weight for emotional and mental health difficulties he self-medicated with alcohol that escalated into opioid addiction for which he eventually voluntarily sought treatment—though the weight of that factor was limited since no evidence was presented of a prognosis for his recovery.

Haris Kyle McKinley
State Bar # 292894, Elk Grove (July 31, 2017)

McKinley was suspended in the interim pending finality of his conviction of the felony of knowingly and maliciously intimidating a witness or victim in furtherance of a conspiracy (Cal. Penal Code §136.1(c)(2).

Louisa Belle Pensanti
State Bar # 200988, Sherman Oaks (July 23, 2017)

Pensanti was suspended from practicing law for 90 days and placed on probation for two years after she stipulated to committing seven acts of professional misconduct in four separate client matters. Specifically, she was culpable of: failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries about the status of a case and communicating with a represented party without consent of that party’s counsel; two counts of failing to promptly refund unearned advanced fees; and three counts of failing to perform legal services with competence.

In three of the matters at issue, she accepted retainers from clients in a variety of legal areas, then failed to take action or communicate with them about their cases. In the fourth case, a juvenile custody proceeding, she spoke privately with the mother, who was represented by another attorney; that attorney sought to be removed, claiming Pensanti had caused a breakdown in her relationship with her client.

In aggravation, Pensanti committed multiple acts of misconduct, had a prior record of discipline, and significantly harmed the judicial system by interfering in an attorney/client relationship.

In mitigation, she entered into a prefiling stipulation, cooperated with the State Bar by self-reporting her removal from a case, suffered emotional difficulties after the deaths of three people close to her, and submitted references from seven individuals familiar with her wrongdoing who attested to her good character.

Alejandro Portales
State Bar # 202992, Santa Ana (July 23, 2017)

Portales was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing professional misconduct in a single client matter: two counts of failing to keep the clients informed of significant case developments.

Portales was hired to represent a married couple to handle issues related to a real estate dispute. Eventually, the clients agreed to settle the matter for $60,000. During the course of litigation, the clients were sanctioned $4,000 for refusing to provide additional discovery. Portales replied to an email query from one of the clients about the final settlement, stating he would release the funds after deducting costs or fees—but failed to mention his outstanding costs and fees would consume the entire amount. The clients did not respond, which Portales interpreted as authorization to apply the settlement to the costs and fees—and did so.

The clients subsequently disputed giving their authorization, but did not pursue any claim related to the amount of fees charged.

In aggravation, Portales committed multiple acts of misconduct and had a prior record of discipline.

In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation fully resolving the matter and submitted letters from a wide sample of the legal and general communities attesting to his good character.

Zachary Brooke Roberts
State Bar # 201739, Henderson, Nevada (July 24, 2017)

Roberts was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated in an earlier State Bar disciplinary order.

Steven Mark Sacks
State Bar # 250547, San Francisco (July 24, 2017)

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

Clifford Nelson Schuster
State Bar # 152164, Anaheim (July 10, 2017)

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

Sidney Michel Schwartz
State Bar # 98467, Chula Vista (July 26, 2017)

Schwartz was suspended from practicing law for two years and placed on probation for five years after he stipulated to pleading guilty to one count of importing goods illegally (18 U.S.C. §§2 and 545).

Acting as treasurer of a corporation, Schwartz wired money to Chinese corporations as payment for counterfeit housings and batteries for cell phones and other electronics they produced. A sister company owned by Schwartz’s son-in-law then sold the products, many of which bore an unauthorized trademark from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, through retail stores in Mexico.

Over a period of nearly four years, Schwartz received nine notices from U.S. Customs advising that the imported goods were counterfeit. Eventually, Customs seized a shipment of the counterfeit goods valued at between $120,000 and $320,000—and Schwartz was subsequently indicted and charged with 28 counts related to the trafficking; 27 of those counts were dismissed after he entered a guilty plea.

In aggravation, Schwartz harmed the public through his actions.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law without a record of discipline for more than 32 years, provided evidence of eight individuals from a range of the legal and general communities willing to attest to his good character, suffered emotional difficulties related to taking care of his ailing mother, and submitted evidence of pro bono and community service work.

Hilary Gail Shankin-Murphy
State Bar # 93225, Oak Park (July 23, 2017)

Shankin-Murphy was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to improperly withdrawing from employment.

Shankin-Murphy was hired to probate an estate, with the parties agreeing to an hourly fee for the representation. The court returned the initial spousal probate petition she filed—noting several specific deficiencies in it; second and third petitions were also deemed deficient.

After a fourth petition was filed, Shankin-Murphy failed to appear at the hearing the court set, and the petition was dismissed. She took no further steps toward finalizing the probate.

In mitigation, Shankin-Murphy entered into a stipulation prior to trial and had practiced law for approximately 30 years without discipline.

Micah Jared Smith
State Bar # 289527, Camarillo (July 31, 2017)

Smith was suspended in the interim following his conviction of continuous sexual abuse of a child (Tit. 11, Del. Code §776), sexual abuse of a child by a person in a position of trust-second degree (Tit. 11, Del. Code §769), and three counts of unlawful sexual contact-first degree (Tit. 11, Del. Code §769). All offenses are felonies involving moral turpitude as a matter of law.

Carl Douglas Spieckerman
State Bar # 67636, Vallejo (July 24, 2017)

Spieckerman was suspended in the interim pending final disposition of his conviction of unauthorized and knowing possession of controlled substances in prison (Cal. Penal Code §4573.6), a felony that may or may not involve moral turpitude.

Paul Raymond Turley
State Bar # 177777, Oakland (July 17, 2017)

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

Mark Henry Williams
State Bar # 220341, Inglewood (July 23, 2017)

Williams was suspended from the practice of law for two years and placed on probation for four years after he stipulated to disobeying a court order.

A condition imposed by the California Supreme Court in an earlier discipline matter required him to file quarterly written reports with the State Bar as well as a compliance declaration stating he had no clients, no client matters, and no unearned client fees (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20). He did so, but in fact, still had an open client matter involving a marital dissolution. When he discovered the open case, he immediately substituted out of the matter and filed a new Rule 9.20 declaration.

In mitigation, Williams entered into a pretrial stipulation in the case. The State Bar Court judge also found the steps he took to resolve the outstanding matter and disclosure to the State Bar “collectively represent substantial compliance with Rule 9.20”—another mitigating factor.

Barbara Truman Zorr
State Bar # 112693, San Rafael (July 26, 2017)

Zorr was suspended from practicing law for 90 days and placed on probation for two years after she stipulated to reporting to the State Bar she had completed the requisite 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education when in fact she had not completed any hours—misconduct involving moral turpitude.

In aggravation, Zorr had a prior record of discipline.

In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation

PROBATION

Andrew Russell Martin
State Bar # 226244, San Francisco (July 23, 2017)

Martin was placed on probation for two years after a consolidated conviction referral matter following his successful completion of the State Bar Court’s Alternative Discipline Program (ADP).

He had previously been convicted of three misdemeanors: driving with a blood alcohol level of .08% or more (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(b)), driving while his license had been suspended (Cal. Veh. Code §14601.1), and battery (Cal. Penal Code §242). All three offenses are misdemeanors.

Martin stipulated that the DUI conviction did not involve moral turpitude, but was an offense warranting professional discipline; that the suspended license incident, which involved road rage and lying to arresting officers about his identity did involve moral turpitude; and the battery, in which he had accosted another man while intoxicated and riding public transportation, also involved moral turpitude.

In aggravation, Martin committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, he successfully completed the ADP.

Donald William McVay
State Bar # 103882, Rancho Santa Fe (July 26, 2017)

McVay was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to one count of commingling personal funds in his client trust account. At his direction, the Social Security Administration had directly deposited four benefit checks into the account.

In aggravation, McVay committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and had a prior record of discipline.

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

Eusevio Padilla
State Bar # 248748, Davis (July 26, 2017)

Padilla was placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing five acts of professional misconduct in a single client matter.

His wrongdoing included: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to promptly respond to reasonable client inquiries about the status of a case, failing to promptly release the client’s papers and property after terminating representation, failing to render an appropriate accounting of the client’s funds, and failing to promptly refund unearned advanced fees.

Padilla was hired to file a petition to obtain an immigration visa. He did not prepare a written fee agreement for the clients, but quoted an upfront fee of $1,000 and an additional $1,000 when the work was completed. They paid an initial $1,000, then $500 more at his request.

Padilla submitted a visa application, but failed to properly submit payments and an additional document until three months later. He did not submit the required documents over the next nine months, and ignored the clients’ repeated requests for updates.

They then terminated Padilla’s employment, more than three years after retaining him. He did not provide them with an accounting of the funds paid, and returned their client file and refunded them $1,500 only after the State Bar began investigating the matter.

In aggravation, Padilla committed multiple acts of misconduct, significantly harmed the clients—both by delaying the immigration matter and depriving them of their funds, demonstrated indifference to atoning for the consequences of his misconduct, and mistreated a highly vulnerable individual: a minority seeking to change immigration status.

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

Eric Bryan Seuthe
State Bar # 90269, Beverly Hills (July 23, 2017)

Seuthe was placed on probation for two years following a remand from the Review Department. He was found culpable of a single violation in one matter: failing to render an appropriate accounting to a client.

Seuthe represented a client who had been injured in an accident involving an uninsured, intoxicated driver.

Initially, he received $5,000 from the client’s insurer to cover medical payments. He provided the client with a check for $3,000 and wrote one to himself for the remainder, then met with the client and provided her with a written explanation of her medical bills and medical payment funds.

Subsequently, the client obtained an arbitration award of $115,000 against her insurer for the uninsured motorist claim. Seuthe deposited those funds into his client trust account and gave her a distribution letter detailing portions for his legal fees, arbitration and case costs, and an immediate disbursement to the client of $50,000 with $11,000 held back to negotiate a reduction in medical provider billings.

Seuthe also represented the client in other matters, including a bad faith claim against her insurer and a medical malpractice action against her surgeon. Another attorney substituted into the medical malpractice action, requesting an accounting and indicating the client’s belief that he still held $5,000 on her behalf. Seuthe responded that he held only $2,000 in trust for payment of costs related to a pending action. He refused to provide the attorney with an accounting, claiming his response was sufficient—after which the attorney threatened to report him to the State Bar, and ultimately did so.

The State Bar Court judge found Seuthe culpable of improper accounting, noting that the first document he provided was merely an itemization of medical bills that failed to clearly reflect payments actually made or to reference any balance. The judge also found the arbitration award document was a distribution letter rather than a proper accounting—indicating intentions to distribute the funds rather than a specification of amount and nature of payments.

In aggravation, Seuthe had a prior record of discipline.

In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation as to facts and admission of documents. He was also allotted moderate mitigation credit for testimony by three witnesses and declarations from four individual as to his good character—all of whom were clients rather than representing the requisite wide range from both the legal and general communities—and for providing a modicum of pro bono services for clients and friends.

PUBLIC REPROVAL

Keith Goffney
State Bar # 175821, Los Angeles (July 28, 2017)

Goffney was publicly reproved after being found culpable of two counts of unauthorized practice of law.

In an earlier and unrelated fee arbitration matter, Goffney had been placed on Not Entitled status because he failed to pay a client a final award. While still not entitled to practice, he filed an ex parte pleading and attended an ex parte hearing on behalf of a client; the State Bar Court judge deemed these actions to be the unauthorized practice of law and recommended professional discipline.

However, the judge dismissed the State Bar’s related charges of moral turpitude, noting that Goffney had openly disclosed that he was not entitled to practice law when he appeared before the court and held an honest—albeit mistaken and misguided—belief that his conduct was proper based on a discussion with a court clerk.

In aggravation, Goffney demonstrated a lack of insight into the wrongfulness of his misconduct, which the judge noted as “particularly troubling because it suggests the misconduct will reoccur.”

In mitigation, he had practiced law for nearly 28 years without a record of discipline, did not harm any client by his actions, and showed no bad faith—in fact, believed he was serving his client’s interests—by appearing in court in the case.

Edelmira Medina
State Bar # 285577, Hacienda Heights (July 5, 2017)

Medina was publicly reproved after stipulating to committing four acts of professional misconduct in two client matters. The wrongdoing included: failing to provide a client accounting after being requested to do so, failing to perform legal service with competence, and two counts of failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the misconduct alleged.

In one case, Medina represented a client in a breach of contract action, accepting an advanced fee of $2,500. She filed a complaint on behalf of the client four and a-half months later. However, three months after that, the client terminated the representation and requested an itemized accounting of the fee that had been paid. Medina provided the accounting only after the State Bar filed disciplinary charges against her in the matter.

In the other matter, Medina represented a client in a marital dissolution case. The court ordered her to prepare and file a judgment in the case. She filed two—both of which were rejected as deficient; the court both times detailed the information that needed to be provided to correct the filings. Medina also filed declarations of disclosure and expenses—both of which were also rejected as incomplete and returned by the court. She took no further action in the case until filing the documents to finalize the judgment, nearly 15 months after being retained.

State Bar investigators contacted her about suspected wrongdoing in both of the cases, but she failed to respond.

In aggravation, Medina committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation as to facts and culpability, submitted evidence from nine individuals attesting to her good character and to her pro bono activities. In addition, she was allotted mitigation credit for suffering from major medical issues during the time of the misconduct, though that credit was limited since there was no current prognosis for recovery.

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