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Discipline Report

Mar. 1, 2018

Discipline Report - March 2018

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

DISBARMENT
Kenneth Asher Amirian, Newbury Park
Francesca Angela De la Flor, Altadena
Richard Leo Denman, New York, New York
Richard Roger Hurley, Santa Ana
Amy Lauren McDonald, La Jolla
Orion Douglas Memmott, Santa Cruz
Larry Lee Nash, Northridge
Yen Hoang Thi Nguyen, Arcadia
Douglas Anthony Parigian, Lowell, Massachusetts
Mary Frances Prevost, San Diego
Heather June Stanley, Bakersfield
George Steven Wass, Palm Springs
Mary Lynn Wyatt, Carson City, Nevada

SUSPENSION
John David Abel, Clovis
Dennis Earl Braun, Los Angeles
Roy A. Ekstrand, Costa Mesa
Deborah Ann Eldridge, Sacramento
Mona Falah, Santa Monica
Michael Armin Gardner, Falls Church, Virginia
Frank Edward Goseco, Rancho Santa Margarita
Lee Alan Gross, Irvine
Megan Martin Halvonik, Sacramento
Richard Eugene Harrold, Bakersfield
Ricky James Inokuchi, Gold Beach, Oregon
Donald William McVay, Rancho Santa Fe
Patrick Thomas Nichols, Victorville
Juliet Monique Oberding, Sausalito
Lauro Nick Pacheco, Jr., Mission Hills
Earle Arthur Partington, Honolulu, Hawaii
Michael Arthur Pina, Santa Barbara
Douglas Robert Shoemaker, Woodland Hills
Lawrence Jacob Song, Playa del Rey
Tiffany Carrie Stevens, New York, New York
Mark Alan Wiesenthal, Beverly Hills
Qin Zhang, Los Angeles

PROBATION
Chelsea Halpine-Berger, Lebanon, Connecticut
Alexander Michael Kaplan, Anaheim
Sebastian Rucci, Youngstown, Ohio

PUBLIC REPROVAL
Freddie Fletcher, Los Angeles
Sara Nicole Gunderson, Santa Monica
Timothy Lord Stewart, San Francisco

DISBARMENT

Kenneth Asher Amirian, State Bar # 264435, Newbury Park (January 28, 2018)

Amirian was disbarred by default after he failed to appear at his disciplinary proceeding despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He did not seek to have the default order entered against him set aside or vacated.

He was found culpable of five counts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter. His wrongdoing included: accepting fees from a nonclient without his client's written consent, improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to render an appropriate accounting of the client's funds, failing to promptly refund unearned advanced fees, and failing to notify the State Bar of his change of address for official membership records.

There were two disciplinary investigations pending against Amirian at the time he was disbarred.

Francesca Angela De la Flor, State Bar # 60953, Altadena (January 28, 2018)

De la Flor was disbarred after a contested disciplinary proceeding in which she was charged with 11 counts of professional misconduct. She was found culpable of six of the counts charged; the others were dismissed as duplicative.

Her wrongdoing included: five counts of recording various deeds with the fraudulent intent of encumbering property--misconduct involving moral turpitude, and one count of giving false testimony at trial, which also involved moral turpitude.

De la Flor and a partner entered a five-year lease on property, intending to run an antiques business on it. The lease granted the lessees three options to extend for an additional five years each, with each option based on rent at 95% of the market value; it did not specify how fair market value was to be determined.

After De la Flor exercised the first renewal option, the lessors assigned the lease to a business consulting service. She informed the new leaseholder of her intention to exercise the second renewal option. The transaction stalled after the parties could not resolve the issue of the applicable fair market value as well as whether or not other lease terms had been violated. After a trial, the rent was nearly doubled, and De la Flor was deemed to be more than $236,300 in arrears.

Shortly after that order was issued, De la Flor formed three corporations, naming family members as agents and officers. Eventually, she recorded two deeds of trust, two quitclaim deeds, and a warranty deed purporting to transfer her interests in or secure encumbrances on various properties in favor of the corporate entities. A superior court found that all three entities were in fact alter ego organizations that De la Flor had created for the sole purpose of making her assets unavailable to satisfy claims and the judgment against her.

At the trial to determine whether the properties were transferred fraudulently, De la Flor made eight false and misleading statements regarding the legitimacy of the business enterprises and the money and property allegedly secured in the transactions at issue.

In aggravation, De la Flor committed multiple acts of misconduct involving moral turpitude, significantly harmed creditors and the administration of justice, and demonstrated indifference toward rectifying or atoning for the consequences of her misconduct.

In mitigation, she cooperated with the State Bar by stipulating to facts, though not to culpability. She also received minimal mitigating weight for practicing law for 13 years without a record of discipline, as she did not actively practice during 12 of those years.

Richard Leo Denman, State Bar # 164058, New York, New York (January 28, 2018)

Denman was disbarred by default after he failed to appear at his disciplinary proceeding despite receiving adequate legal notice of it. He did not move to have the default order set aside or vacated.

In the underlying matter, he was convicted of bank larceny (18 U.S.C. §2113(b)) a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, after devising a scheme in which he purported to act as a legal advisor to the heirs of an estate, while actually converting a substantial portion of the estate assets for his own use.

There was one other disciplinary case pending against Denman when the disbarment order.

Richard Roger Hurley, State Bar # 183440, Santa Ana (January 28, 2018)

Hurley was disbarred after being found culpable of 11 acts of professional misconduct at a consolidated trial related to four separate client matters. His wrongdoing included: failing to promptly pay a client funds to which he was entitled, accepting fees from a nonclient without the client's written consent, failing to return unearned advanced fees, failing to report court-imposed sanctions to the State Bar, failing to render an appropriate accounting of client funds; and three counts each of failing to provide legal services with competence and failing to obey court orders requiring him to appear at hearings and to pay sanctions.

In aggravation, Hurley had been disciplined by the State Bar twice before and committed multiple acts of misconduct--three of which significantly harmed his clients.

In mitigation, he received moderate credit for the stress of family and financial problems caused by his daughter's drug addiction and his need to secure custody of his two granddaughters, as no expert testimony was provided on the issue.

Amy Lauren McDonald, State Bar # 196157, La Jolla (January 28, 2018)

McDonald was disbarred by default after she failed to appear, either in person or through counsel, at the disciplinary proceeding charging her with three counts of professional misconduct. The State Bar Court judge determined she had adequate legal notice of the proceeding, and that she did not move to have the default set aside or vacated.

She was found culpable of two of the counts charged: improperly withdrawing from employment and failing to cooperate in the State Bar's investigation of the wrongdoing alleged.

Orion Douglas Memmott, State Bar # 37600, Santa Cruz (January 12, 2018)

Memmott was summarily disbarred after the State Bar received evidence of the finality of his convictions of subscribing to a false tax document (26 U.S.C. §7206(1)) and attempted tax evasion (26 U.S.C. §7201).

The tax evasion offense is a felony involving moral turpitude as a matter of law.

Larry Lee Nash, State Bar # 51227, Northridge (January 28, 2018)

Nash was disbarred after he stipulated to committing 11 counts of professional misconduct related to two client matters.

His wrongdoing included failing to notify a client of funds received on his behalf and three counts of failing to maintain client funds in trust. It also included several offenses involving moral turpitude: three counts of misappropriating client funds for his own use and four counts of making false claims to a client, a judge and to the State Bar.

In one matter, Nash represented the husband in a dissolution matter, agreeing to hold funds from the sale of the couple's real estate before distributing it to the parties after credits and debts had been satisfied. However, he allowed the balance in his trust account to dip well below the permissible level--then lied about the balance in a court filing and a hearing, and again later to a State Bar investigator.

The other matter also involved mismanaging and misappropriating client trust funds, making misrepresentations to both the client and a State Bar investigator about the status of the account and use of the funds.

In aggravation, Nash committed multiple acts of misconduct, harmed his clients by misappropriating funds due them, and failed to make restitution to one of the clients involved.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and paid restitution to one of the clients before the State Bar began its investigation. He was also accorded mitigation credit for having practiced law for nearly 45 years without a record of discipline--though the weight was "reduced greatly" due to the seriousness of the misconduct committed.

Yen Hoang Thi Nguyen, State Bar # 214529, Arcadia (January 12, 2018)

Nguyen was disbarred by default after she failed to appear at the trial of the disciplinary charges filed against her despite receiving adequate legal notice. She did not seek to have the default order set aside or vacated.

She was found culpable of five charges of professional misconduct--all related to a single client matter. The wrongdoing included: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to release the client's papers and property after being requested to do so, failing to render an appropriate accounting of the client's advanced fees, failing to respond to the client's reasonable inquiries about the case status, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar's investigation of the wrongdoing charged.

Douglas Anthony Parigian, State Bar # 156312, Lowell, Massachusetts (January 12, 2018)

Parigian was summarily disbarred after the State Bar received proof of the finality of his convictions of conspiring to commit offenses against the United States (18 U.S.C. §371), securities fraud (15 U.S.C. §§78j(b), 78ff(a), and 17 C.F.R. 240.10b-5). The offenses are felonies.

Mary Frances Prevost, State Bar # 157782, San Diego (January 12, 2018)

Prevost was disbarred by default after she failed to appear at the proceeding in which she was charged with six ethical violations in two client matters. Prior to the trial, she had filed a motion to disqualify the State bar Court judge; that motion was denied.

She subsequently filed a motion for relief of default, seeking permission to submit a late response to the petition for disbarment filed and served on her by the Office of Chief Trial Counsel (OCTC) of the State Bar. That request was granted, but Prevost did not file a timely response--instead moving to have the matter reconsidered and renewing the request that the judge recuse herself. After additional procedural wranglings, the case was resubmitted for decision.

Prevost was then found culpable of five of the charges: failing to inform a client of significant case developments, failing to deposit client funds in trust and then misappropriating them--misconduct involving moral turpitude, failing to promptly pay a client unearned advanced fees after being requested to do so, and failing to provide a client with an accounting of advanced fees received.

Prevost had two prior records of discipline.

Heather June Stanley, State Bar # 185108, Bakersfield (January 28, 2018)

Stanley was disbarred by default after she failed to appear, either in person or through counsel, at her disciplinary proceeding. The State Bar Court judge determined she had received adequate legal notice--and had appeared telephonically in early status conferences in the case, but did not move to have the default order vacated or set aside.

She was found culpable of five counts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter. The wrongdoing included failing to render an accounting of the client's funds and two counts failing to deposit client funds in trust, as well as two counts involving moral turpitude: misappropriating client funds and making a misrepresentation to a State Bar investigator.

George Steven Wass, State Bar # 161732, Palm Springs (January 28, 2018)

Wass was disbarred by default. He failed to participate in the proceeding charging him with disobeying a California Supreme Court order requiring him to file a declaration of compliance (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20).

Wass had been disciplined by the State Bar for professional misconduct three times previously, and there were two additional disciplinary matters pending against him when the disbarment order was entered.

Mary Lynn Wyatt, State Bar # 165804, Carson City, Nevada (January 28, 2018)

Wyatt was disbarred by default after she failed to appear at the trial of her disciplinary charges, despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. She did not seek to have the default order set aside or vacated.

She was found culpable of 16 acts of professional misconduct in two client matters. The wrongdoing included: failing to inform a client of a significant development, failing to maintain client funds in a trust account, and failing to promptly return a client's papers and property when asked; as well as two counts each of failing to return unearned advanced fees, failing to render appropriate accountings of client funds, failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to respond to a client's reasonable case status inquiries, and of failing to cooperate in the State Bar's investigations of the wrongdoing alleged. She was also culpable of misrepresenting legal developments to two clients and misappropriating the client's funds--both acts involving moral turpitude.

SUSPENSION

John David Abel, State Bar # 230796, Clovis (January 12, 2018)

Abel was suspended from practicing law for six months and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing 26 acts of professional misconduct related to five client matters.

His wrongdoing included: failing to update his State Bar membership records within 30 days of moving offices and misrepresenting facts to his client--misconduct involving moral turpitude; two counts each of failing to comply with court orders, improperly withdrawing from representation, failing to respond to clients' reasonable case status inquiries, and failing to release clients' papers and property; three counts of failing to inform clients of significant case developments; four counts of failing to return unearned advance fees after being requested to do so and of failing to cooperate in the State Bar's investigations; and five counts of failing to perform legal services with competence.

The fact patterns in each of the cases was substantially similar: Abel abandoned all of the clients after being hired--forcing them to either hire new counsel or obtain court-appointed counsel; one client has an active warrant for his arrest due in part to the abandonment. Despite the clients' requests for return of their files and fees, Abel did not respond.

In aggravation, Abel committed multiple acts of wrongdoing.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and had practiced law for 11 1/2 years without a record of discipline. In addition, he was afforded mitigating credit for emotional difficulties due to a relationship with a physically abusive woman--though the State Bar Court judge noted that some of the misconduct predated the relationship.

Dennis Earl Braun, State Bar # 152816, Los Angeles (January 16, 2018)

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

Roy A. Ekstrand, State Bar # 122271, Costa Mesa (January 28, 2018)

Ekstrand was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to being of culpable of misconduct in another jurisdiction that also warranted the imposition of professional discipline by the California courts.

Ekstrand was registered as a patent agent before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and admitted as an attorney by the Illinois Supreme Court. Over a two-year period, he represented clients in patent cases before the USPTO--and on eight occasions, he drafted and signed eight checks for filing fees that were returned for insufficient funds.

He subsequently entered into a Proposed Settlement of Disciplinary Matter with the USPTO's deputy general counsel, which was approved as final. The State Bar Court judge determined that the disciplinary proceeding in that jurisdiction provided fundamental constitutional protection.

In aggravation, Ekstrand committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for approximately 31 years without a record of discipline, established that none of his clients was harmed by the wrongdoing, provided declarations from seven individuals attesting to his good character, expressed his remorse and recognition of wrongdoing, and suffered from an extreme financial hardship during the time of the misconduct.

Deborah Ann Eldridge, State Bar # 197963, Sacramento (January 19, 2018)

Eldridge was suspended from the practice of law for three years and placed on probation for four years following an appeal by the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar.

The judge below had found Eldridge culpable of violating two subdivisions of a California Rule of Court requiring her to notify all clients, co-counsel, opposing counsel, and the courts about a disciplinary suspension and to file an affidavit with the Clerk of the State Bar Court showing compliance with the rule (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20a) and (c)). The judge found Eldridge had an honest but mistaken belief she had complied with the rule--misconduct that did not involve moral turpitude--and then recommended an actual suspension of two years.

When the California Supreme Court order requiring compliance was filed, Eldridge had at least four cases pending. However, instead of giving the required notice, she either substituted out or withdrew from the cases before the order became effective. On the compliance declaration form she filed with the State Bar Court, she checked language indicating she had notified clients, co-counsel, and opposing counsel in pending matters of her suspended status.

On appeal, Eldridge argued she had "imperfect compliance" with the rule 9.20 declaration. The panel found, however, that her misrepresentations "were made with gross negligence amounting to moral turpitude because she recklessly failed to carefully and accurately fill out the rule 9.20 declaration."

In aggravation, Eldridge had a previous record of discipline.

In mitigation, she presented testimony from 14 witnesses--11 of whom were familiar with the full extent of the charges and her former discipline record--who vouched for her good character. She was also allotted mitigation credit for emotional difficulties experienced during the time of the misconduct, and for expressing remorse for her wrongful actions.

Mona Falah, State Bar # 280995, Santa Monica (January 28, 2018)

Falah was suspended from practicing law for two years and placed on probation for three years. She was found culpable of three counts of gross negligence in mishandling funds in her client trust account--misconduct involving moral turpitude, failing to promptly release the client's file after being requested to do so, and commingling personal funds in her client trust account.

Falah was hired to represent a client in a marital dissolution. He paid $3,500 in advanced fees and made additional deposits totaling $120,000, proceeds from real estate transactions, into her client trust account. Over the course of the representation, Falah distributed some of the funds to the client and to third parties on the client's behalf. However, the trust fund balance dipped far below the permissible amount. In total, she was found culpable of misappropriating more than $26,500 of the client's funds. The client eventually hired a new attorney, who requested a copy of the client's file; however, Falah stipulated she did not provide the file as requested.

In aggravation, Falah committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, she entered into a stipulation as to facts and culpability.

The Office of Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar argues the appropriate discipline for the misconduct at issue was disbarment; Falah contends two years of probation with a "minimum period of actual suspension" was more fitting.

In recommending two years of actual suspension, the State Bar Court judge noted Falah was inexperienced, but did not make restitution to the client nor did she offer much compelling proof in mitigation.

Michael Armin Gardner, State Bar # 196079, Falls Church, Virginia (January 8, 2018)

Gardner was suspended in the interim pending final disposition of his convictions of one count of object sexual penetration of a child (Va. Code Ann. §18.2-67.2) and four counts of aggravated sexual battery upon a child (Va. Code Ann. §18.2-67.).

The offenses are felonies involving moral turpitude.

Frank Edward Goseco, State Bar # 132732, Rancho Santa Margarita (January 12, 2018)

Goseco was suspended for two years after it was determined in a probation revocation proceeding that he had violated several conditions attached to a disciplinary order imposed earlier.

Specifically, he failed to schedule a meeting with the Office of Probation in a timely manner, failed to file an underlying criminal matter report with his quarterly reports, failed to provide the Office of Probation with a timely medical waiver and access to his medical records, failed to provide proof of attending four Alcoholics Anonymous meetings monthly on several quarterly reports, and failed to provide adequate information regarding his outpatient treatment program.

In aggravation, Goseco committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and had a prior record of discipline based on alcohol-related driving convictions.

Lee Alan Gross, State Bar # 153412, Irvine (January 8, 2018)

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

Megan Martin Halvonik, State Bar # 141627, Sacramento (January 12, 2017)

Halvonik was suspended for 30 days and placed on probation for two years after she stipulated to committing several acts of professional misconduct in a single client matter. The wrongdoing included: failing to maintain her client's confidences, threatening to bring charges against her client to obtain advantage in a civil matter, breaching the common law fiduciary duty of loyalty owed her client, sending a barrage of harassing emails to those involved in an insurance negotiation--which involved moral turpitude, and two counts of making misrepresentations to an insurer during settlement negotiations--acts that also involved moral turpitude.

Halvonik agreed to represent a client with a personal injury claim in exchange for free paralegal services. After a few months, however, their relationship soured. The client terminated the employment after Halvonik yelled at her and threatened to report her. When an insurance representative called Halvonik to confirm that she no longer represented the client, she told him the client suffered from a "stress condition"--without having any evidence to support that characterization.

The client eventually wrote a letter asking Halvonik to stop emailing, phoning, and texting--as well as showing up at her workplace. After the client's claim was settled, an insurance representative wrote Halvonik a letter asking for evidence of an attorney lien. Communications between the two soon became heated, with the insurance company hiring outside counsel to deal directly with Halvonik. Over the course of three months, she sent approximately 124 harassing emails to the insurance counsel and its officers and board members--some containing statutory language, some containing riddles and book excerpts, some accusing the recipients of fraud and threatening legal action.

Halvonik subsequently began treatment with a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with a mood disorder.

In aggravation, Halvonik committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for approximately 24 years without a record of discipline, and suffered from mental health issues that were untreated during the time of the misconduct.

Richard Eugene Harrold, State Bar # 255163, Bakersfield (January 16, 2018)

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

Ricky James Inokuchi, State Bar # 122685, Gold Beach, Oregon (January 28, 2018)

Inokuchi was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing professional misconduct in the state of Oregon. The State Bar Court judge determined that Oregon's disciplinary proceeding provided fundamental constitutional protection and also warranted the imposition of professional discipline in California, where he was also licensed to practice.

In aggravation, Inokuchi committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation and had practiced law in Oregon for nearly 31 years without a record of discipline.

Donald William McVay, State Bar # 103882, Rancho Santa Fe (January 2, 2018)

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

His wrongdoing failing to respond to his client's reasonable case status inquiries, failing to explain the legalities of a case sufficiently to allow the client to make informed decisions, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, and failing to respond to a disciplinary authority's demand for information.

Patrick Thomas Nichols, State Bar # 214860, Victorville (January 8, 2018)

Nichols 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.

Juliet Monique Oberding, State Bar # 144776, Sausalito (January 12, 2018)

Oberding was suspended for 90 days and placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to violating two conditions attached to a probation order imposed earlier. Specifically, she failed to submit timely proof of attending the State Bar Ethics School and of passing its final test and failed to submit a timely written final report to the Office of Probation.

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

In mitigation, she entered into a prefiling stipulation acknowledging her misconduct.

Lauro Nick Pacheco, Jr., State Bar # 173391, Mission Hills (January 12, 2018)

Pacheco was suspended for six months and placed on probation for two years following a trial charging him with 27 counts of professional misconduct in nine client matters.

Pacheco stipulated to the facts underlying several of the charges after the three-day trial began, and pled nolo contendere to some others. The State Bar Court judge found him culpable of 18 of the counts charged. The wrongdoing included: improperly withdrawing from employment and failing to refund unearned advanced fees; two counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence and failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries about case status; and six counts each of failing to cooperate in the State Bar's investigations of the wrongdoing he was alleged to have committed as well as failing to render appropriate accountings of client funds.

The fact patterns in the cases were substantially similar: Pacheco accepted advanced fee payments, but then did little to no work on the clients' cases--failing to respond either to their requests for information or accountings or to the State Bar's inquiries after complaints were filed. In one case, a client pursuing a wrongful foreclosure case lost her home after her case was dismissed; another client lost out on a judgment of more than $144,000 after Pacheco failed to take steps to collect it. One client made more than 50 phone calls to Pacheco's office--none of which was returned until about two years after he was retained.

In aggravation, Pacheco committed multiple acts of misconduct, significantly harmed several of the clients, and failed to make any restitution to at least one of them.

In mitigation, he had practiced law for approximately 18 years without a record of discipline.

Earle Arthur Partington, State Bar # 45731, Honolulu, Hawaii (January 12, 2018)

Partington was suspended from practicing law for one year following a probation revocation proceeding. He did not file a response to the Office of Probation's motion to revoke, so the State Bar Court took the matter under submission.

He was found culpable of failing to comply with two conditions directed by the California Supreme Court in an earlier probation order. Specifically, he failed to contact and meet with his probation deputy and also failed to submit a written quarterly report to the Office of Probation.

In aggravation, Partington had one prior record of discipline, demonstrated indifference to rectifying his misconduct after being notified of the need and the consequences of failing to comply with probation conditions, and failed to cooperate in his disciplinary proceeding.

Michael Arthur Pina, State Bar # 157116, Santa Barbara (January 2, 2018)

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

Douglas Robert Shoemaker, State Bar # 230379, Woodland Hills (January 28, 2018)

Shoemaker was suspended from the practice of law for six months and placed on probation for one year in a contested probation revocation proceeding after he was found culpable of violating several conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order. Specifically, he failed to contact the Office of Probation to arrange meetings with his probation deputy and failed to timely submit two written quarterly reports.

In aggravation, Shoemaker had a prior record of discipline, committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, and demonstrated indifference toward rectifying the consequences of his misconduct.

Lawrence Jacob Song, State Bar # 127483, Playa del Rey (January 8, 2018)

Song was suspended in the interim pending final disposition of his conviction of assault likely to produce great bodily injury (Cal. Penal Code §245(a)(4)). The offense is a felony that may or may not involve moral turpitude.

Tiffany Carrie Stevens, State Bar # 225940, New York, New York (January 22, 2018)

Stevens 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.

Mark Alan Wiesenthal, State Bar # 185340, Beverly Hills (January 2, 2018)

Wiesenthal 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.

Qin Zhang, State Bar # 225324, Los Angeles (January 8, 2018)

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

PROBATION

Chelsea Halpine-Berger, State Bar # 298527, Lebanon, Connecticut (January 28, 2018)

Halpine-Berger was placed on probation for two years after she stipulated to pleading nolo contendere to driving under the influence of alcohol (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(a)), a misdemeanor. She also admitted to two prior alcohol-related driving convictions, as well as refusing a chemical test. She also stipulated, in another incident, to pleading guilty to driving with a .08% or more blood alcohol count (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(b)), a misdemeanor, and to an enhancement for driving with a blood alcohol count of .15% or greater.

In both situations, witnesses summoned police after observing Halpine-Berger driving erratically.

The State Bar Court judge concluded that the facts and circumstances surrounding the violations did not involve moral turpitude, but did involve other misconduct warranting professional discipline.

In aggravation, Halpine-Berger committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and significantly harmed a member of the public, whose vehicle was hit and damaged.

In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation.

Alexander Michael Kaplan, State Bar # 266669, Anaheim (January 12, 2018)

Kaplan was placed on probation for two years after he successfully completed the State Bar Court's Alternative Discipline Program (ADP).

In the underlying conviction referral matters, consolidated here, he pled guilty and was convicted of committing a hit-and-run with property damage (Cal. Veh. Code §20002(a), three counts of driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(a)) and driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(b))--in two cases with three priors, which elevates the offenses from misdemeanors to felonies, and admitting to driving with a blood alcohol content that exceeded 15%. He also admitted to one count of driving in violation of provisions of a restricted license (Cal. Veh. Code §14603), an infraction.

In aggravation, Kaplan committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, and voluntarily entered the Lawyers Assistance Program as well as a chemical dependency program.

Sebastian Rucci, State Bar # 178114, Youngstown, Ohio (January 12, 2018)

Rucci was placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to four counts of illegally selling beer or intoxicating liquor (Ohio Rev. Code §4301.58) and two counts of keeping a place where beer or liquor are sold illegally (Ohio Rev. Code §4399.09). The offenses are misdemeanors that did not involve moral turpitude, but the State Bar Court judge determined that they warranted professional discipline.

In response to six separate complaints that alcoholic beverages were being served without a proper liquor permit, undercover agents investigated--and were sold alcohol at a cabaret Rucci owned in Ohio. Though he had obtained a valid liquor license at one time, the sales were made after that license had expired.

In another matter, officers arrived at a hotel in Ohio that Rucci co-owned, where he was hosting a benefit. Though the hotel had a valid liquor license, alcohol consumption was limited to the confines of the hotel and its patio. However, the investigation officers observed several patrons walking around outside the patio area at the event, consuming cans of beer and mixed drinks.

Rucci did obtain a patio expansion permit for the hotel, but six months later, shut it down and opened a rehabilitation facility for substance abuse treatment.

In aggravation, Rucci committed multiple acts of wrongdoing.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and had practiced law for approximately 15 years without a record of discipline. The State Bar Court judge also noted that the misconduct was unlikely to recur because Rucci's new business--a rehabilitation facility for alcoholics--clearly does not involve the sale of alcohol.

PUBLIC REPROVAL

Freddie Fletcher, State Bar # 134734, Los Angeles (January 17, 2018)

Fletcher was publicly reproved after appealing a hearing judge's order finding him culpable of violating two court-imposed orders for sanctions.

Fletcher represented a client and the client's corporation in a civil matter. He did not respond to several discovery requests, but filed a voluntary dismissal of a cross-complaint, which was granted. However, Fletcher was sanctioned at a later court hearing. The parties later entered a settlement and mutual release, which also resolved the sanctions owed.

On appeal, Fletcher argued the sanctions order was void and unenforceable for lack of jurisdiction, as the cross-complaint had been dismissed before the sanctions motion was filed. The State Court Bar panel, however, noted that it does not review superior court's orders for jurisdictional validity, and also noted that "case law provides that civil courts may maintain jurisdiction to determine and enforce statutory actions against dismissed parties and their attorneys where the misconduct meriting sanctions occurred before the dismissal."

In mitigation, Fletcher had practiced law discipline-free for approximately 25 years and was allotted moderate mitigating weight for the six witnesses who testified to his good character, since none of them were taken from the legal community. The panel also allotted significant rather than moderate credit for Fletcher's pro bono and community services after reevaluating that evidence in light of "the nature, qualify, specificity, amount, quality, and persuasiveness" of his service.

Sara Nicole Gunderson, State Bar # 302582, Santa Monica (January 5, 2018)

Gunderson was publicly reproved after she stipulated to pleading nolo contendere to the misdemeanor of driving under the influence (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(a)) and child endangerment (Cal. Penal Code §273(a)).

Gunderson was the driver of a car that collided with a parked vehicle; her husband and 4-year-old son were passengers. Officers summoned to the scene detected an odor of alcohol coming from Gunderson, and upon questioning, she admitted to drinking two glasses of wine despite taking also medication that contained warnings against operating machinery or drinking alcohol.

The State Bar Court judge determined that the facts and circumstances surrounding the violations did not involve moral turpitude, but did warrant professional discipline.

In mitigation, Gunderson entered into a pretrial stipulation acknowledging her misconduct and provided letters from nine individuals taken from a range of the legal and general communities--all of whom attested to her good character. She was also allotted mitigating weight for a letter from her treating psychiatrist who detailed her emotional breakdown that occurred immediately before the present conduct, and verified the condition is now stabilized due to a modified therapeutic regimen.

Timothy Lord Stewart, State Bar # 96116, San Francisco (January 9, 2018)

Stewart was publicly reproved after he stipulated to pleading nolo contendere to the misdemeanor of driving while having a blood alcohol content of .08 or more (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(b)) on two separate occasions. In one instance, he was stopped by police who saw him driving without his headlights on; in the other, he was stopped after driving 30 miles over the speed limit. In both cases, he performed poorly on some of the field sobriety tests, and chemical breath tests indicated blood alcohol levels of .10 and .12.

The State Bar Court judge determined that the facts and circumstances surrounding the violations did not involve moral turpitude, but did involve misconduct warranting professional discipline.

In mitigation, Stewart entered into a pretrial stipulation and had practiced law for approximately 37 years without a record of discipline.

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