Aug. 1, 2019
Recent attorney disbarments, suspensions, probations, and public reprovals in California.
Alan Frank Broidy
State Bar No. 89430, Los Angeles (July 3, 2019)
Broidy was disbarred after he stipulated to committing seven acts of professional misconduct related to two distinct client matters.
He was culpable of: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to maintain the requisite balance in his client trust account, failing to promptly pay a client funds to which she was entitled, and failing to obtain clients’ prior written consents and fully inform them about joint representation and about complete loan agreement terms. He was also culpable of two counts involving moral turpitude: misappropriating client funds and making material misrepresentations to clients.
In one client matter, Broidy was retained to represent a client in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. As part of a stipulation in the proceeding, he was directed to wire a settlement payment, pay outstanding U.S. Trustee fees, and satisfy a pending claim before deducting his agreed fees and paying the client the remainder from the sale of the assets. instead, he misappropriated nearly $512,500 of the client’s funds for his own purposes, while failing to maintain the requisite balance in his client trust account and failing to promptly pay the portion of the proceeds to which she was entitled.
In the second matter, Broidy was hired to represent a client’s interests in her spouse’s bankruptcy case. He filed a motion objecting to the discharge of the debtor, who had not disclosed all community assets on his schedules and had withheld the client’s personal property. That motion was filed one day late, however, and the debtor’s discharge was granted.
The client’s father subsequently received a Form 1099 based on the fraudulent claim that he had received income from the debtor’s business entity. Broidy then began representing the father in the same bankruptcy matter as his original client, advising them to file an adversary proceeding to revoke the bankruptcy discharge. The complaint was dismissed in a global mediation, during which Broidy promised to personally pay both clients $125,000 as an inducement to settle their interests in the bankruptcy matter. They agreed. Broidy did not pay the amount when due, then promising to pay them a total of $135,000. While owing that sum, Broidy sought and secured a $10,000 loan from one of the clients, promising to pay them both $150,000 by a specified date. There was no written disclosure of the loan terms. He failed to make the loan payment — later executing a promissory note for that amount which he also failed to pay.
In aggravation, Broidy committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his clients and also failed to make restitution to them.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law approximately 35 years discipline-free, and submitted declarations from nine individuals aware of his misconduct — all of whom vouched for his good character.
In recommending disbarment, the State Bar Court judge underscored that the misconduct in the two matters was “extensive, long-standing, and directly related to the practice of law.”
Michael John Brown
State Bar No. 115473, San Diego (July 3, 2019)
Brown was disbarred by default after he failed to appear for the disciplinary trial in which he was accused of committing seven counts of professional misconduct involving two client matters. He eventually filed a notice of intent to default, and did not move to have the default order entered against him set aside or vacated.
As a result, the factual allegations in the Notice of Disciplinary Charges were deemed admitted, and Brown was found culpable of all charges.
His wrongdoing included: commingling personal funds in a client trust account, failing to render complete accountings for client funds, and misrepresenting a settlement amount to a medical provider — misconduct involving moral turpitude, as well as two counts each of failing to maintain client funds in a trust account and misappropriating client funds, which also involved moral turpitude.
R. Scott Dervaes, Jr.
State Bar No. 202133, San Francisco (July 3, 2019)
Dervaes was disbarred by default after he failed to file a response to a Notice of Hearing on Conviction. The State Bar Court judge determined that reasonable diligence was used to notify him of the proceedings prior to the default being entered.
He had been convicted of false imprisonment (Cal. Penal Code Section 236) with a special allegation of use of a deadly weapon (Cal. Penal Code Section 12022(b)(1)). The offense is a felony; the Office of Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar asserted in its default motion that the facts and circumstances surrounding the conviction did not involve moral turpitude, but did involve other conduct warranting professional discipline.
Dervaes had two prior records of discipline.
State Bar No. 93106, Irvine (July 24, 2019)
Langmuir-Logan was disbarred by default after a proceeding that was referred to the Hearing Department for a determination of whether the facts and circumstances surrounding two prior convictions involved moral turpitude or other misconduct warranting professional discipline. In an unrelated matter, he was also charged with nine counts of professional misconduct related to a single client, which was consolidated with the two conviction matters in the instant case.
Though Langmuir-Logan initially participated in the proceedings, he did not file a pretrial statement, or appear for the pretrial conference or for the trial itself. He did not appeal his convictions, which were deemed final — and did not move to set aside or vacated the default order entered against him in the consolidated proceeding.
In the conviction matters, Langmuir-Logan was found culpable of driving under the influence of alcohol with one prior offense (Cal. Veh. Code Section 23152(a)) and driving with a blood alcohol level of .08% or more with one prior (Cal. Veh. Code Section 23152(b)). He had also previously been convicted of disturbing the peace with a loud noise after an argument with his wife (Cal. Penal Code Section 415(2); the offense is a misdemeanor.
In the client matter, Langmuir-Logan was found culpable of eight of the nine counts charged. They included failing to report a civil judgment against him, failing to support the law by engaging in financial elder abuse, failing to disclose information that misled trustees and trust beneficiaries, and failing to render appropriate accountings, as well as three counts involving moral turpitude: misrepresenting financial information to a client, engaging in self-dealing with trust property, and misappropriating property belonging to his clients’ trust.
Langmuir-Logan had been disciplined by the State Bar once previously.
Ken Zhiyi Liang
State Bar No. 237027, Sun City (July 24, 2019)
Liang was summarily disbarred following finality of his convictions of Conspiracy to obstruct justice (18 U.S.C. Sections 1512(c)2 and (k), obstruction of justice by corrupting obstructing an official proceeding (18 U.S.C. Section 1512(c)(2)), and obstruction of justice with intent to prevent communication to a law enforcement officer and judge of the United States (18 U.S.C. Section 1512(b)(3)).
He failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, in his disciplinary proceeding.
The offenses are statutorily defined as felonies. The State Bar Court judge found they also involve moral turpitude because “they stem from corruption and the intent to obstruct the judicial system” and “involve such a flagrant disrespect for the law or for societal norms, that knowledge of the attorney’s conduct would be likely to undermine public confidence in and respect for the legal profession.”
Joseph Darrell Palmer
State Bar No. 125147 (July 24, 2019)
Palmer was disbarred after failing to comply with the terms of a disciplinary order that had been imposed earlier.
Specifically, he failed to timely file six written quarterly reports with the Office of Probation as mandated in that order. The first report he filed was both timely and compliant. However, the second report was returned twice for being noncompliant; that and the third quarterly reports he tendered were merely copies of the first report, with the date whited out and changed. Subsequent reports were also deemed deficient for various reasons — and Palmer did not provide any originals of the reports as requested and required.
Palmer had two prior records of discipline when the disbarment recommendation was made.
Kevin Lee Thomason
State Bar No. 190377, San Francisco (July 24, 2019)
Thomason was summarily disbarred after pleading nolo contendere to 13 counts of various crimes. One offense, arson of another person’s property (Cal. Penal Code Section 451(d)), was a felony involving moral turpitude — which alone would have been a sufficient basis for a summary disbarment.
While noting that fact, the State Bar Court judge also listed Thomason’s other convictions, both “for reference” and to “present a complete record.” They included the following felonies: possessing ammunition when deemed a “prohibited person” (Cal. Penal Code Section 30305(a)(1)) and conducting unlawful firearm activity (Cal. Penal Code Section 29815), as well as two counts each of threatening a public officer (Cal. Penal Code Section 71), resisting an executive officer (Cal. Penal Code Section 69), making criminal threats (Cal. Penal Code Section 422), and committing vandalism causing more than $400 in damages (Cal. Penal Code Section 594(a)).
Thomason was also convicted of two misdemeanors: drawing or exhibiting a firearm (Cal. Penal Code Section 417(a)(2)) and committing vandalism causing less than $400 in damages (Cal. Penal Code Section 594(a)).
Christopher Matthew Weidinger
State Bar No. 262347, San Francisco (July 3, 2019)
Weidinger was disbarred by default after he failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, in the disciplinary proceeding in which he was charged with nine counts of professional misconduct related to three correlated matters.
The State Bar Court judge determined he had received adequate legal notice and had indicated a preference to let the default stand rather then move to set it aside and proceed to trial.
As a result, he was found culpable of all counts charged. His wrongdoing included three counts of seeking to mislead a judge and six counts involving moral turpitude by knowingly and intentionally misrepresenting himself as another attorney in court and in client matters without that attorney’s knowledge or consent.
Andrew Michael Ganz
State Bar No. 231601, San Francisco (July 3, 2019)
Ganz was suspended from practicing law for 90 days and placed on probation for two years after a contested disciplinary proceeding in which he was found culpable of four of the six counts of professional misconduct with which he was charged.
His wrongdoing included failing to obey the law and violating a defendant’s constitutional rights, as well as two counts involving moral turpitude: failing to disclose exculpatory evidence, and making misleading statements to the public defender.
The State Bar Court judge characterized the underlying matter as “a detailed, fact-intensive case.” In brief, Ganz was assigned to prosecute his first homicide case involving a man accused of murdering his girlfriend, who had been found dead in a motel room.
Although the death occurred under suspicious circumstances, the pathologist conducting the autopsy had indicated the manner of death was undetermined despite the investigating detective’s pressure to characterize it as a homicide. The pathologist called a meeting with the coroner, detectives, and attorneys involved in the case specifically to refute the detective’s theory that the death was caused by the defendant shoving a sock down the decedent’s throat, presenting her finding that there had been no swelling in the larynx. The coroner’s report ultimately indicated the death was caused by asphyxia; the manner of death was indicated as “undetermined.”
Ganz ultimately opted to refile a felony homicide complaint against the defendant. He did not disclose the pathologist’s meeting and refutation of murder as the cause of death when the public defender asked for information related to the refilling.
An additional complication in the matter: The pathologist, who also became a witness in the case, was subsequently terminated; she believed Ganz, who had complained to investigators about the autopsy report she completed, was partially to blame for her firing.
In a later message to the PD, Ganz apologized for not disclosing the meeting with the pathologist. However, he disingenuously noted that it “didn’t occur to him” that she would feel “pressured in any way,” when he had expressly told investigators that he feared a jury might perceive her as being “bullied.” He had also feigned confusion over a request for information related to complaints about the pathologist’s work, when in fact he had personally complained about it both publicly and to a sheriff’s investigator. And he also failed to disclose reports and statements made by an intended DNA evidence expert 30 days prior to trial as required.
As a side note, Ganz had been reminded by his office of the prosecutorial duty to disclose evidence favorable to the defense prior to a preliminary hearing as determined in a recent appellate case (People v. Gutierrez, 214. Cal. App. 4th 343 (2013)).
The judge in the criminal case relevant here instructed the jury that the prosecution failed to disclose relevant evidence — and noted the late disclosure could be considered in evaluating the evidence as a whole. It found the defendant not guilty.
In aggravation, Ganz significantly harmed the public and administration of justice by failing to uphold his prosecutorial duty to reveal exculpatory evidence.
In mitigation, he had practiced law discipline-free for approximately nine years and was candid and cooperative during the State Bar’s investigation of the wrongdoing alleged. He was also given “some, but not significant weight” in mitigation for the 21 witnesses who attested to his good character — the weight minimal because most had not known him for a significant length of time and also came from a narrow section of the legal community rather than representing a range of people and professions.
David Joseph Koppelman
State Bar No. 272171, Los Angeles (July 24, 2019)
Koppelman was suspended from the practice of law for six months and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to seeking to improperly influence an anticipated criminal prosecution — misconduct involving moral turpitude.
In the underlying matter, Koppelman was hired to represent a client in a potential civil action against a man who had also been suspected of rape. Unbeknownst to the client and to Koppelman, however, the district attorney had declined to file a rape charge after reviewing the police report, transcripts, and witness statements.
In a meeting with the accused man’s attorney, Koppelman represented that his client would settle her potential civil claim and be unavailable to testify at the criminal prosecution in exchange for $5 million. The attorney, suspecting extortion, excused himself and contacted a detective for advice on whether he could record Koppelman’s offer without violating the anti-recording statute (Cal. Penal Code Section 632); they both concluded that an exception applied in this case.
When Koppelman and the attorney convened again, he repeated the offer and payment request — which was recorded this time. No settlement was ultimately reached in the case, but the lawyer provided the recorded conversation to the State Bar, which instigated the instant case.
In mitigation, Koppelman entered into a pretrial stipulation and presented letters from 10 individuals taken from a range of the legal and general communities — all of whom attested to his good character. He was also allotted nominal mitigation credit for having practiced law discipline-free for five years.
Robert Alan Machado
State Bar No. 88836, San Jose (July 24, 2019)
Machado was suspended from practicing law for two years and placed on probation for four years after he stipulated to pleading nolo contendere to the misdemeanor of being an accessory to a disbarred attorney’s felony charge of the unauthorized practice of law (Cal. Penal Code Section 32). The State Bar Court judge determined that the facts and circumstances surrounding the conviction involve moral turpitude.
The underlying matter stemmed from Machado’s long relationship with another attorney and his wife; the three shared office space, and the wife worked as an unlicensed paralegal for both of the attorneys. The other attorney had been disciplined for professional misconduct several times, and was ultimately disbarred. When the attorney was suspended from practice, Machado sometimes filled in for him on cases.
The other attorney was engaged to handle five lawsuits for a large microchip manufacturer, but the State Bar ordered him on inactive status shortly after that. The attorney then informed the client that Machado would substitute into the cases until the “clerical” issue with his license was resolved. Machado was then listed as counsel of record on the cases, though the other attorney filed case documents under Machado’s purported signature and made appearances via CourtCall, a remote appearance platform, while representing that he was Machado.
At length, Machado executed a declaration in support of a motion for reconsideration in the case at issue. In it, he stated that he had not written, reviewed, signed any of the filings or declarations bearing his signature, that he had not in fact appeared in the CourtCall appearance, and that he purposely refused to be involved in the cases because he knew he would be named in a malpractice suit for failing to supervise the other attorney and paralegal. He was ordered to pay $325,000 in restitution, while also agreeing that the clients could pursue him for any addition damages they incurred as a result of his misconduct.
In aggravation, Machado caused significant harm to his clients.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for more than 30 years without a record of discipline, and was allotted limited mitigating credit for providing character declarations for six individuals — three of whom were family members.
Michael Stuart Paxton
State Bar No. 77712, Palmdale (July 24, 2019)
Paxton was suspended for six months and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing 14 acts of professional misconduct related to four client matters.
His wrongdoing included: violating a specific order of the court, failing to keep a client reasonably informed of significant case developments, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, failing to promptly release a client’s papers and property upon termination of employment, failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the wrongdoing alleged, and sending a client a false and misleading billing statement — misconduct involving moral turpitude; two counts of failing to render appropriate accountings of client funds; and three counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence and failing to return unearned advanced fees.
The cases at issue involved somewhat similar fact patterns: Paxton undertook representation of clients in a variety of legal matters — a dissolution of marriage, a restraining order against a neighbor, a loan default dispute, an unlawful retainer action — accepting advanced fees, but then performing little to no substantive work on their cases. The misconduct harmed the clients in a number of ways. One was sanctioned by a court for failing to comply with a discovery request, another lost his cause of action due to Paxton’s delay in acting, a third paid $30,000 in fees for very little legal work, and a fourth had his case dismissed due to Paxton’s failure to appear at case management conferences and hearings.
In aggravation, Paxton committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his clients.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation and had practiced law for approximately 38 years without a record of discipline.
Stephen Gary Quade
State Bar No. 156961, Fresno (July 3, 2019)
Quade was suspended from the practice of law for one year and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing 13 acts of professional misconduct related to two client matters.
His wrongdoing included: failing to deposit advanced costs into a client trust account and failing to inform a client of a significant case development; two counts each of accepting compensation from a third party without obtaining the client’s consent, failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to return unearned advanced fees, failing to render accountings of client fees; and three counts involving moral turpitude: submitting a false accounting in a State Bar investigation, misappropriating client funds, and making false statements in a court filing.
In one of the client matters, Quade agreed to file a writ of habeas corpus for a client serving a 42-year sentence in a criminal matter, accepting a total of $16,850 in advanced fees and costs from the client’s mother without obtaining the client’s written consent to do so. Quade also entered an oral agreement with another attorney to research, prepare, and file the writ; he identified that attorney as his “associate counsel,” though both were sole practitioners. The client’s mother and his girlfriend directly paid that attorney an additional $2,000.
When more than three years had passed without the writ being filed, the client filed a complaint with the State Bar, which prompted the “associate counsel” to file the writ. The appellate court denied the writ as untimely. As part of the State Bar investigation, Quade drafted and submitted an accounting showing services rendered in the amount of $15,425. He claimed the accounting was prepared by the associate — a knowing falsehood.
In the other client matter, Quade was hired to represent a client in various criminal matters, accepting a total of $32,000 as advanced fees. However, after he failed to substitute in as appellate counsel and failed to file an opening brief with the appellate court in one of the matters, the case was dismissed. After that time, Quade misrepresented to the client’s family that he was still working on the appeal. After arguing about the lack of progress in the case, the client’s father hired new counsel.
When ordered by the appellate court to file an informal response to the new counsel’s motion to recall a remitter, Quade made numerous misrepresentations — including that he had not been retained to file an appeal.
In aggravation, Quade engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing, caused significant financial harm when representing extremely vulnerable incarcerated clients, and failed to make restitution by refunding unearned fees and costs.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for approximately 26 years without a record of discipline, submitted 10 letters from a range of individuals attesting to his good character, and presented medical evidence of a condition — since improved — that affected his ability to practice law during the time of the misconduct.
David Rey Silva
State Bar No. 152690, Petaluma (July 24, 2019)
Silva was suspended for 90 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing five acts of professional misconduct related to two distinct matters.
He was culpable of: breaching his fiduciary duty to a client and her lienholders, failing to render an appropriate accounting to his client, failing to maintain complete records of his client’s funds, commingling personal funds with funds in his client trust account, and issuing checks from his client trust funds when there were insufficient funds to cover them — an act involving moral turpitude.
In the underlying client matter, Silva was hired to represent a woman who had been injured in a vehicle accident. He negotiated a settlement of $20,000 — to which the client agreed. The third party insurer issued two checks in paying the settlement — one made payable to the California Department of Health Care Services to cover its lien; the other payable to Silva and the client, which he deposited into his client trust account. When the client inquired about receiving her portion of the settlement funds, Silva told her he was in the process of negotiating a reduction in a Medi-Cal lien, and eventually did so. However, he did not disburse or account for any of the funds due for an additional 11 months, and was unable to provide State Bar investigators with the client trust account ledger cards and monthly account journals they requested.
In the account mismanagement case, a bank notified the State Bar that three checks were presented against insufficient funds in Silva’s client trust account. The overdrafts occurred because he had mistakenly deposited loan proceeds into his business account instead of his client trust account. Over an 11-month period, he also made five deposits of legal fees into his client trust account, and did not promptly withdraw the fees to which he was entitled.
In aggravation, Silva committed multiple acts of wrongdoing.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law discipline-free for approximately 24 years, presented letters from six individuals attesting to his good character, and presented evidence of volunteer and community service. He was also given mitigating credit for taking remedial steps to revamp support in his law practice and for attending the State Bar’s Client Trust Accounting School to learn proper accounting practices.
Rafael Mazo Amezaga, Jr.
State Bar No. 198609, Santa Barbara (July 24, 2019)
Amezaga was placed on probation for two years following a conviction referral matter based on his misdemeanor conviction of driving with a .08% or higher blood alcohol content (Cal. Veh. Code Section 23152(b), with enhancements of having a blood alcohol content of .15% or higher (Cal. Veh. Code Section 23578), and a prior conviction within the last 10 years (Cal. Veh. Code Section 23540).
Earlier, after a traffic stop and arrest in 2014, Amezaga pled guilty to the misdemeanor of driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher. He did not receive any professional discipline for that conviction.
Approximately five weeks after his criminal probation for that offense ended, Amezaga was involved in a collision with another vehicle — after which he pled guilty to driving under the influence with the enhancements of a blood alcohol content of .15% or higher and a conviction within the last 10 years.
The State Bar Court judge found that the facts and circumstances surrounding the present conviction did not involve moral turpitude, but did involve other misconduct warranting professional discipline.
In aggravation, Amezaga lied to investigating law enforcement officers about his alcohol consumption prior to both arrests and showed indifference toward rectifying his substance abuse problem.
In mitigation, he cooperated in the State Bar’s proceeding by entering into a stipulation of facts, presented testimony and declarations by seven individuals — all of whom attested to his good character, introduced evidence of significant pro bono and community work, and was given some mitigating credit for suffering emotional difficulties due to his parents’ illness and death and his own divorce. He was also allotted minimal weight in mitigation for practicing law discipline-free before the first DUI conviction, with the court noting that it “could not find the misconduct was not likely to recur.”
— Barbara Kate Repa