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June 2018

| Jun. 1, 2018


Discipline Report

Jun. 1, 2018

June 2018

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

DISBARMENT
Abel Hernandez, San Antonio, Texas
Frank Martin Jodzio, San Diego
Gregory Richard Kaign, Placerville
Tom Frank Maniscalco, Corona
Michael Robert McCabe, Lakeside
John Francis Shellabarger, Goleta
Paul Francis Smith, Twentynine Palms
Jay Mitchell Vogel, West Hollywood

SUSPENSION
David Thaddeus Achord, San Diego
David Lee Bergren, Sacramento
John Cody (aka Bobby Thompson), Sierra Vista, Arizona
Anthony E. Contreras, Chino
Troy Xavier Kelley, Tacoma, Washington
Douglas Alan Kuber, Surfside, Florida
Robert Alan Machado, San Jose
Lesley Adele Montion-Garcia, Long Beach
Michael William Newcomb, Temecula State
Sanam Alicia Nikkhoo, La Habra
Edward James O'Reilly, Long Beach
David James Quezada, Orange
Stephen Christopher Ronca, San Luis Obispo
David Andrew Seeley, Culver City
Leonard Michael Sikes, Warren, Ohio
Barlow Smith, Marble Falls, Texas
Jennifer Susan Smith, Haleiwa, Hawaii
Kevin Renard Taylor, Rancho Palos Verdes
William Wesley Webb, Glendale, Arizona

PROBATION
Timothy Elwood Gomes, San Francisco
Robert Lee Wood, San Jose
PUBLIC REPROVAL
Michael Francis Rieselman, Los Angeles

DISBARMENT
Abel Hernandez
State Bar #159902, San Antonio, Texas (April 26, 2018)
Hernandez was disbarred by default after failing to appear at his disciplinary trial despite receiving adequate notice of the proceeding. He subsequently moved to set aside the default, claiming his failure to appear resulted from excusable neglect due to "untreated, debilitating mental illness."
However, the State Bar Court judge noted that the diagnosis occurred before the pretrial conference in the matter, at which Hernandez appeared and participated "without any apparent difficulty," and he mentioned no inability to participate in the trial scheduled for the next week.
The judge also noted that Hernandez attached no medical record or declaration of any medical professional to the motions he filed. He was found culpable of failing to comply with conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary probation. Specifically, he failed to timely file seven quarterly written reports, completely failed to file one quarterly report and the final report, and failed to attend Ethics School as directed.
Hernandez had been disciplined by the State Bar for professional misconduct twice before.

Frank Martin Jodzio
State Bar #48978, San Diego (April 26, 2018)
Jodzio was disbarred by default after failing to participate in his disciplinary hearing despite having adequate notice and opportunity to do so.
He was found culpable of 12 counts of professional misconduct related to five client matters. His wrongdoing included: four counts each of unauthorized practice of law in other jurisdictions, collecting illegal fees, and failing to cooperate in State Bar investigations of the wrongdoing he was alleged to have committed.
Jodzio had been disciplined by the State Bar on two prior occasions.

Gregory Richard Kaign
State Bar #124049, Placerville (April 20, 2018)
Kaign was disbarred by default after he failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, in the State Bar's disciplinary proceeding despite receiving adequate legal notice. He did not move to have the default judgment entered against him set aside or vacated.
He was found culpable of three counts of professional misconduct related to two separate client matters: commencing an action with a corrupt motive by filing a complaint intending to harass the defendants and failing to maintain respect due to a court by making false disparaging comments about a court commissioner in a pleading. The third count comprised moral turpitude based on the other two wrongful actions.
There were other disciplinary matters pending against Kaign when he was disbarred.

Tom Frank Maniscalco
State Bar #79308, Corona (April 26, 2018)
Maniscalco was disbarred from the practice of law after he stipulated to an earlier jury verdict finding him guilty of three counts of murder in the second degree (Cal. Penal Code §187). He was subsequently sentenced to a term of 46 years to life in prison. The offense is a felony involving moral turpitude, and the State Bar Court judge noted that "the conviction, on its face, justifies disbarment."
In mitigation, Maniscalco entered into a pretrial stipulation.

Michael Robert McCabe
State Bar #137844, Lakeside (April 13, 2018)
McCabe was disbarred from practicing law after he stipulated to violating a court order by failing to timely file an affidavit showing compliance as required in an earlier discipline order (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20). While he did eventually file a declaration, he did so approximately seven months after the date it was due.
In aggravation, McCabe had a previous record of discipline.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, saving the State Bar time and resources by obviating the need for a trial.

John Francis Shellabarger
State Bar #132805, Goleta (April 26, 2018)
Shellabarger was disbarred from the practice of law after a contested disciplinary proceeding in which he was charged and found culpable of violating probation conditions imposed earlier by the California Supreme Court. Specifically, the conditions required him to schedule a meeting with his assigned probation officer, file four quarterly written reports, and to submit a statement of compliance pursuant to a sealed stipulation of facts.
In contesting the disbarment recommendation, Shellabarger argued that the underlying probation order was not binding on him because it had been served directly on another attorney appointed by the court to represent him in a different matter; that attorney had also filed motions and taken other actions in the instant case once it had gone to trial.
The State Bar Court judge noted that service was effective when the order was mailed to the other attorney--who also forwarded a copy to Shellabarger within 24 hours of receiving it in keeping with established office procedures. Shellabarger also admitted he knew of the court's order when he elected not to comply with it.
In aggravation, Shellabarger committed multiple acts of misconduct, had two prior records of discipline, and demonstrated indifference toward rectifying his wrongdoing.

Paul Francis Smith
State Bar #42384, Twentynine Palms (April 26, 2018)
Smith was disbarred by default. He failed to respond to the Notice of Disciplinary Charges filed against him or to move to have the default set aside or vacated. The State Bar Court judge determined that he had received adequate legal notice of the proceeding.
He was found culpable of failing to comply with several conditions attached to a disciplinary order imposed earlier. Specifically, he failed to schedule an initial meeting with his probation officer, failed to file three quarterly written reports and the final report with the Office of Probation, and failed to provide proof of attending the State Bar Ethics School as directed.
Smith had been disciplined by the State Bar for professional misconduct twice before.

Jay Mitchell Vogel
State Bar #136926, West Hollywood (April 26, 2018)
Vogel 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 did not move to have the default judgment entered against him vacated or set aside within the requisite 90 days.
He was found culpable of failing to render a proper accounting of advanced fees to a client after terminating his employment.
Vogel had been disciplined by the State Bar once before, and two disciplinary investigations were pending against him when he was disbarred.

SUSPENSION
David Thaddeus Achord
State Bar #200703, San Diego (April 26, 2018)
Achord was suspended from practicing law for 90 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to pleading guilty to the felony of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse resulting in a traumatic condition (Cal. Penal Code §273.5(A)) and the misdemeanor of unlawfully resisting a public peace officer on duty (Cal. Penal Code §148(A)(1)).
In the underlying matter, sheriff's deputies were summoned to Achord's home to investigate a heated argument he and two neighbors were having; he was "boisterous" appeared to be intoxicated at the time. All the parties agreed to leave the scene.
In a two-hour period, Achord called 911 24 times--and call responders warned him not to abuse the emergency system.
Later that same day, deputies were again summoned to Achord's home by his wife, who told them he had threatened her with a knife and with physical violence. After discarding a utility knife in a nearby planter, Achord initially resisted arrest before being transported to a local medical center, where he yelled derogatory terms at the doctor and nurses and verbally threatened the sheriff's deputy. He was later booked into county jail; his wife obtained an Emergency Protective Order (EPO) against him.
About three months later, sheriffs were summoned to Achord's home again to investigate a domestic violence complaint. He had again threatened his wife and hit her in the stomach an estimated 30 times. She subsequently obtained another EPO.
The State Bar Court judge determined the violations charged did not involve moral turpitude, but involved other misconduct warranting professional discipline.
In aggravation, Achord committed multiple acts of wrongdoing.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and had practiced law for 17 years without a record of discipline.

David Lee Bergren
State Bar #154047, Sacramento (April 2, 2018)
Bergren was suspended from practicing law in the interim pending final disposition of his conviction of committing a lewd act upon a child under the age of 14 (Cal. Penal Code §288(a)). The offense is a felony involving moral turpitude.

John Cody (aka Bobby Thompson)
State Bar #93300, Sierra Vista, Arizona (April 2, 2018)
Cody was suspended from the practice of law in the interim pending final disposition of several offenses he had committed in Ohio. He was found guilty of complicity to theft (Ohio Rev. Code §2913.02(A)(3)), and two counts of tampering with records (Ohio Rev. Code §29913.42(A)(2)), and seven counts of complicity to money laundering (Ohio Rev. Code §1315.55(A)(1) and (A)(2)). All the offenses are felonies involving moral turpitude.
In its transmittal of records, the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar (OCTC) indicated Cody had been convicted of the additional offenses of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity (Ohio Rev. Code §2923.02(A)(1)) and identity fraud (Ohio Rev. Code §2913.49(B))--identifying them as felonies also involving moral turpitude. However, the presiding judge of the California State Bar Court noted that identity fraud appears to qualify as a misdemeanor under the analogous California statutory provision (Cal. Penal Code §530.5) and also underscored that the indictment charging him with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity "at least recklessly" may or may not involve moral turpitude. The OCTC was ordered to provide further analysis and legal support for its characterizations.

Anthony E. Contreras
State Bar #171699, Chino (April 13, 2018)
Contreras was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing two acts of professional misconduct in a single client matter: engaging in the unauthorized practice of law and wrongfully soliciting a prospective client.
Contreras was hired to intervene in a conservatorship and to stop an impending sale of a home; the client was concerned that the proposed conservator had connections to the conservatee's daughter, who had mistreated her in the past. Though Contreras knew that the conservatee was represented by other counsel, he filed a complaint and petition to quiet title against the proposed homebuyer in which he identified himself as her attorney. He then went to the assisted living facility in which the conservatee lived, attempting to provide her with several documents, including a retainer agreement; staff there told him she could not sign documents without her family's consent.
In aggravation, Contreras had a prior record of discipline and committed multiple acts of wrongdoing involving a person in a vulnerable condition.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, tried to rectify his misconduct by moving to dismiss the underlying civil complaint prior to the State Bar's involvement, and introduced evidence from eight individuals from a broad range of backgrounds--all of whom attested to his good moral character.

Troy Xavier Kelley
State Bar #146504, Tacoma, Washington (April 30, 2018)
Kelley was suspended from practicing law in the interim pending final disposition of his convictions of several felonies involving moral turpitude. The convictions included corrupt interference with internal revenue laws (26 U.S.C. §7212(a)); possessing and concealing stolen property (18 U.S.C. §2315); two counts of making false declarations (18 U.S.C. §1623(a)); and five counts of filing false income tax returns (26 U.S.C. §7206(1)).

Douglas Alan Kuber
State Bar #130165, Surfside, Florida (April 30, 2018)
Kuber was suspended from the practice of law in the interim pending final disposition of his conviction of aiding and abetting a conspiracy to commit wire fraud (18 U.S.C. §§ 1 and 1349). The offense is a felony involving moral turpitude.

Robert Alan Machado
State Bar #88836, San Jose (April 11, 2018)
Machado was earlier suspended in the interim pending final disposition of his conviction of being an accessory to the unauthorized practice of law (Cal. Penal Code §32), a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude.
Machado's counsel moved to delay the effective date of the suspension, as the previous order filed by the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar had misstated the charge of which he was convicted. The State Bar Court judge granted that motion; the suspension's effective date became April 11, 2018.

Lesley Adele Montion-Garcia
State Bar #200009, Long Beach (April 23, 2018)
Montion-Garcia was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated in an earlier State Bar disciplinary order.

Michael William Newcomb
State Bar #188321, Temecula (April 16, 2018)
Newcomb was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination--one of the conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.

Sanam Alicia Nikkhoo
State Bar #297290, La Habra (April 16, 2018)
Nikkhoo was suspended in the interim pending final disposition of her conviction of identity theft (Cal. Penal Code §530.5(a)). The offense is a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude. The case was referred to the State Bar's hearing department for a hearing and recommendation on appropriate professional discipline to be imposed.

Edward James O'Reilly
State Bar #241931, Long Beach (April 26, 2018)
O'Reilly was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to two acts of professional misconduct: threatening legal action to obtain an advantage in a civil lawsuit and acting to wrongfully harm another person's reputation, which involved moral turpitude.
In the underlying matter, O'Reilly was hired by a client to develop leads and secure clients for class action lawsuits. After he performed the work, he and the client had a dispute over the fees to be paid for it--and O'Reilly terminated the employment relationship. During a 19-month period, he sent more than 300 emails to the client and the client's firm making disparaging remarks and threatening them with various criminal and administrative complaints. He also took surreptitious photos and videos of the client and posted them on social media outlets, with disparaging comments.
The client eventually sued O'Reilly for declaratory relief and defamation. The parties reached a stipulated judgment in both matters. As part of the stipulation, O'Reilly admitted he sent "hundreds if not thousands of emails" to members of the public, legal community, and organizations and the client's business associates accusing the client of "committing various crimes, acts of moral turpitude, and other unethical behavior with knowledge of their falsity and/or in reckless disregard for the truth."
In aggravation, O'Reilly committed multiple acts of misconduct.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for eight years without a record of discipline, submitted letters from 12 individuals attesting to his good character, and offered a declaration supported by letters detailing his pro bono work and community service.

David James Quezada
State Bar #197439, Orange (April 26, 2018)
Quezada was suspended from the practice of law for one year and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to failing to comply with several conditions imposed in a previous disciplinary probation. Specifically, he failed to timely schedule his required probation meeting, failed to submit his final written report, and failed to attend the State Bar's Ethics School as mandated in the discipline order.
In aggravation, Quezada committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and had one prior record of discipline.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation acknowledging his misconduct.

Stephen Christopher Ronca
State Bar #183255, San Luis Obispo (April 23, 2018)
Ronca 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.

David Andrew Seeley
State Bar #78089, Culver City (April 23, 2017)
Seeley was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination as required in a previous disciplinary order.

Leonard Michael Sikes
State Bar #131797, Warren, Ohio (April 23, 2018)
Sikes 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.

Barlow Smith
State Bar #80680, Marble Falls, Texas (April 9, 2018)
Smith was suspended from practicing law in the interim following his conviction of knowingly or intentionally delivering a prescription or prescription form for other than a valid medical purpose in the course of professional practice (Texas Penal Code §481.129(c)(1)). The offense is a felony.
The conviction is final, and the case was referred to the hearing department for a hearing and decision as to whether the facts and circumstances surrounding the violation involved moral turpitude or other misconduct warranting professional discipline.

Jennifer Susan Smith
State Bar #75056 Haleiwa, Hawaii (April 16, 2018)
Smith was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated in an earlier State Bar disciplinary order.

Kevin Renard Taylor
State Bar #218711, Rancho Palos Verdes (April 26, 2018)
Taylor was suspended from the practice of law for one year and placed on probation for three years following a contested disciplinary proceeding. He had earlier stipulated to failing to file a timely declaration of compliance as mandated in a previous discipline order (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20).
On review, Taylor argued that he had filed his compliance affidavit two months late because he was experiencing extreme emotional difficulties and because his landlord had withheld his mail for two months due to a dispute in the office rent, so he did not receive the State Bar's mailed reminder of his probation conditions.
In finding culpability, the State Bar Court judge noted: "It is well settled that strict compliance with an attorney's obligations under Rule 9.20 is required."
In aggravation, Taylor had three prior records of discipline.
In mitigation, he suffered from emotional difficulties directly responsible for his misconduct that were verified by a therapist, presented evidence from six individuals who attested to his good character, and also received some minimal mitigation credit for stipulating to some easily provable facts.

William Wesley Webb
State Bar #165121, Glendale, Arizona (April 26, 2018)
Webb was suspended from practicing law for one year and placed on probation for two years. He had earlier stipulated to engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in Arizona by representing clients while suspended under the terms of a disciplinary order. The Arizona State Bar disbarred him from practicing in that state.
The California State Bar judge determined that Arizona's proceeding provided fundamental constitutional protection and also that Webb's misconduct warranted imposing discipline in California.
In aggravation, Webb had a prior record of discipline in Arizona, which also involved the unauthorized practice of law.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation, saving the State Bar time and resources.

PROBATION
Timothy Elwood Gomes
State Bar #168140, San Francisco (April 13, 2018)
Gomes was placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing three acts of professional misconduct related to two separate client matters. His wrongdoing included: failing to render an accounting of client funds and two counts of failing to return unearned advanced fees to clients.
In both cases, Gomes represented clients in criminal and related matters. In one case, he failed to refund $2,095 owed to a client as determined in binding arbitration. In the other, he paid only $1,500 of the total $10,000 he had agreed to refund to a client in accord with a settlement and release agreement.
In aggravation, Gomes committed multiple acts of misconduct.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and had practiced law for approximately 22 years without a record of discipline.

Robert Lee Wood
State Bar #100515, San Jose (April 26, 2018)
Wood was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to failing to meet with the Office of Probation and to file a quarterly written report with that office--both terms imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.
In aggravation, Wood committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and had a prior record of discipline.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, presented evidence of a medical condition--a detached retina--that affected his ability to comply with the conditions imposed, and submitted letters from eight individuals from a range of the legal and general communities who attested to his good character.

PUBLIC REPROVAL
Michael Francis Rieselman
State Bar #167358, Los Angeles (April 10, 2018)
Rieselman was publicly reproved after he stipulated to committing two acts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter: improperly withdrawing from representation and failing to cooperate in the State Bar's investigation of the wrongdoing alleged.
In the underlying matter, Rieselman agreed to represent a client in a criminal case, entering a verbal agreement she pay him a flat fee of $150 per appearance. He appeared at an initial arraignment and subsequently appeared in court three times related to a preliminary hearing. He then informed the client he would not continue appearing for her unless she paid his flat fee. She attempted to contact him to inform him of a felony arraignment, but he did not return her calls, did not appear, and filed neither a motion for substitution of attorneys or a motion to withdraw from the case--nor did he respond to the State Bar investigator's queries about his conduct.
In aggravation, Rieselman committed multiple acts of misconduct.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation acknowledging his wrongdoing and had practiced law for nearly 13 years without a record of discipline.

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