Peter Robert Chernik
State Bar No. 43965, San Francisco (November 13, 2020)
Chernik was disbarred by default after he failed to appear at his disciplinary trial. He had earlier filed a response to the notice of disciplinary charges alleging he had committed a single act of professional misconduct and was informed his failure to appear would result in a disbarment recommendation.
He was found culpable of failing to maintain the respect of the court by using “profane and vulgar language” to address a judge during a telephonic court appearance.
Chernik had one prior record of professional discipline at the time he was disbarred.
Moataz Sayed Hamza
State Bar No. 272952, San Diego (November 13, 2020)
Hamza was disbarred by default after he failed to participate fully in the disciplinary proceeding in which he was charged with committing 22 counts of professional misconduct related to four separate matters.
He filed an initial response to the notice of disciplinary charges in the case and also appeared by telephone with his counsel at a subsequent status conference, where he requested to be relieved of counsel and to proceed in pro per. However, he did not appear at the trial, of which he had proper legal notice, and a default was entered against him.
On entry of the default, the factual allegations in the charge were deemed admitted, and Hamza was found culpable of 21 of the counts charged; an additional count was dismissed as duplicative.
His wrongdoing included: making improper contact with courtroom and staff officials and failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries; two counts each of failing to render proper accountings of client funds, failing to comply with a court orders, failing to promptly release client files after being requested to do so, and failing to perform legal services with competence; as well as three counts of failing to cooperate in State Bar investigations of the alleged misconduct.
In addition, he was found culpable of numerous counts involving moral turpitude, including: misappropriating client funds, issuing an insufficiently funded check, and tampering with a witness, as well as five counts of making false allegations to his client and to court personnel.
At the time Hamza was disbarred, there were two separate disciplinary investigations pending against him.
Richard Lee Hutchinson
State Bar No. 92727, San Clemente (November 21, 2020)
Hutchinson was disbarred after he stipulated to committing two acts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter: failing to provide an appropriate accounting of client funds and misappropriating $50,000 of those funds — an act involving moral turpitude.
In a period spanning nearly seven years, Hutchinson represented only one client, depositing funds into his trust account that related solely to that client’s financial transactions. Early in their employment relationship, the client was convicted of wire fraud and tax evasion and sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Just before the client began his incarceration, a Nevada attorney introduced three individuals who were seeking funds to facilitate a gold investment to Hutchinson. The individuals in the investment group knew only that Hutchinson was an attorney licensed in California who had received funds for a company purportedly based in Brussels, Belgium that offered services including arranging for bank-issued standby letters of credit.
That information prompted the financier of the group, who was in fact not a sophisticated investor, to enter into an arrangement with the Belgium-based company. In furtherance, the financier deposited $50,000 he had borrowed from a friend into the Nevada attorney’s client trust account. A Memo of Understanding (MOU) provided that the Nevada attorney was to release the funds into Hutchinson’s client trust account; Hutchinson was then to release the funds to a purported Hong Kong company to obtain the sought-after letter of credit.
Hutchinson was not a signatory to the MOU, but received the funds into his account without first determining their source and purpose and without ascertaining whether any written document enumerated his duties with respect to handling those funds. Nevertheless, Hutchinson made transfers of the $50,000 to several sources: his client, his client’s criminal defense attorney, a Japanese law firm, and himself.
The standby letter of credit was never delivered, prompting the financier to seek return of the $50,000 deposit. Hutchinson neither provided an accounting of the funds nor returned them.
In aggravation, Hutchinson committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed a vulnerable, financially unsophisticated individual — and failed to make any restitution in the matter.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation acknowledging his misconduct and had practiced law for nearly 37 years without a record of discipline.
Noelle Lynn McCabe
State Bar No. 253349, Irvine (November 13, 2020)
McCabe was charged with a single ethical violation: failing to comply with conditions of a disciplinary probation order imposed earlier. She failed to participate in the State Bar proceedings related to the charge, either in person or through counsel. The State Bar’s motion for default in the case included a supporting declaration of reasonable diligence taken to provide legal notice. She did not move to have that order set aside or vacated.
The specific violations in the instant case included: failing to report her change of address to the State Bar as required, failing to arrange an initial meeting with her assigned probation case specialist, failing to submit four quarterly written reports as well as a declaration of compliance related to all probation conditions, and failed to provide proof of attending the State Bar Ethics School and of passing its final test.
McCabe had one prior record of professional discipline when she was disbarred.
Michael Stuart Paxton
State Bar No. 77712, Palmdale (November 21, 2020)
Paxton was disbarred by default after he failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, at the proceeding consolidating two disciplinary cases in which he was charged with 13 counts of professional misconduct.
The State Bar Court judge determined that Paxton had received adequate notice of the proceeding, and did not move to have the default judgment subsequently entered against him set aside or vacated.
Paxton was found culpable of all counts charged — including failing to file a declaration of compliance as required under the terms of a previous disciplinary order (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20), as well as failing to comply with several other specific conditions imposed. He was also found culpable of numerous other violations, most of them related to two client matters: accepting legal fees from a third party without obtaining the client’s informed written consent, failing to inform a client of significant developments in a case, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, failing to inform the State Bar of his address change after vacating his office, and two counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to return unearned advanced fees, and failing to cooperate in State Bar investigations of the misconduct alleged. An additional count involved moral turpitude: making a false and misleading statement to his client about court actions.
Paxton had been disciplined on one prior occasion before being disbarred in the instant case.
Craig Ronald Triance
State Bar No. 161079, Glendora (November 13, 2020)
Triance was disbarred after he stipulated to failing to comply with an earlier disciplinary order specifying stayed suspension that was predicated on meeting several enumerated conditions.
Specifically, he failed to timely submit three quarterly written reports to the Office of Probation as required.
In aggravation, Triance committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, demonstrated indifference toward rectifying his misconduct, and had been disciplined by the State Bar for professional misconduct three times in the past.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation.
Gil Lee Arbel
State Bar No. 300303, Valley Village (November 13, 2020)
Arbel was suspended from practicing law for 90 days and placed on probation for two years following an appeal of the hearing judge’s recommendation of six months of actual suspension.
In the disciplinary trial below, Arbel had been found culpable of eight counts of professional misconduct — seven of them involving moral turpitude.
The relevant facts are that shortly after being admitted to practice law in California, Arbel responded to an ad for an associate attorney position and was hired to fill it, supervising a small number of personal injury cases.
The person who had placed the ad for the job was not an attorney, but represented to Arbel that the firm was owned and supervised by licensed lawyers. However, Arbel soon learned that the California State Bar was investigating the individual based on allegations of the unauthorized practice of law; he then incorporated a new law firm, assuming control of some of the former firm’s active cases.
In initially running the new business, he issued a total of 21 checks for business and other expenses written or paid from his client trust account; six checks were returned for insufficient funds — prompting the present State Bar investigation.
The panel on appeal affirmed that Arbel was culpable of commingling funds in his client trust account, and also found him culpable of four counts of issuing checks from an account with nonsufficient funds — misconduct involving moral turpitude. It dismissed two additional counts involving moral turpitude based on alleged misrepresentations about mishandling funds involved in both firms, finding his numerous responses to State Bar investigators were adequate or amounted to a negligent error.
Arbel also raised numerous procedural challenges on appeal, and the panel agreed with one of them: that the hearing judge’s refusal to take judicial notice of a proferred certificate was an abuse of discretion.
In aggravation, Arbel committed multiple acts of misconduct, though only moderate weight was assigned because that misconduct occurred in the short period of three months.
In mitigation, he was allotted moderate credit for stipulating to facts though not culpability, as well as nominal credit for three character witnesses whose testimony was not fully informed and was limited in nature and quality.
The panel on appeal also gave substantial mitigating weight to Arbel’s show of remorse and recognition of wrongdoing — evidenced by his admission of errors made and prompt actions to correct them.
Donald Dennis Beury
State Bar No. 141733, San Diego (November 13, 2020)
Beury was suspended from the practice of law for six months and placed on probation for two years following his appeal of the hearing judge’s recommendation of that discipline. Though the panel on appeal found less culpability, dismissing one of the fours counts charged, it affirmed the discipline recommendation.
Beury was ultimately found culpable of three counts of professional misconduct: failing to obey a court order, as well as two counts of failing to report court-ordered sanctions to the State Bar.
In the underlying latter, Beury was hired to handle a number of different legal matters for a client.
In one case, a judge ordered “sanctions in the form of a fee award” against him and the client, jointly and severally, for initiating and maintaining a frivolous action. A copy of the sanctions order was mailed to Beury at his official State Bar membership records address, but he had moved and did not receive it. The same day the sanctions order was mailed, the client filed a notice that it was a self-represented party; Beury did not receive a copy.
The panel on appeal rejected Beury’s claim that the superior court clerk’s mailing should not serve as conclusive evidence that he received the sanctions order. It cited the code provision that states: “A letter correctly addressed and properly mailed is presumed to have been received in the ordinary course of mail” (Cal. Evid. Code Section 641).
Beury also represented the client in another matter, initially appearing at an attorneys-only early neutral evaluation and case management conference at which a settlement conference was scheduled. After Beury and his client failed to appear at the conference, opposing counsel submitted a declaration for his fees and costs in attending: a total of $1,412. The judge ordered Beury to pay the amount. He argued that he did not pay because he could not afford to do so — a claim the State Bar Court panel rejected, citing the failure to mount a timely challenge in federal court.
In aggravation, Beury had one prior record of discipline and committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed Both his client and the administration of justice.
Joseph Patrick Collins
State Bar No. 163442, Santa Monica (November 21, 2020)
Collins was suspended from practicing law for six months and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to failing to comply with several conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary probation order.
Specifically, he failed to timely submit three quarterly written reports to the Office of Probation, failed to file proof of paying court-imposed sanctions, failed to meet with his probation case specialist after she requested a meeting, and failed to submit evidence of completing the State Bar’s Ethics School and of completing and passing its final test.
In aggravation, Collins had a prior record of discipline, committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, and demonstrated indifference toward rectifying his misconduct by failing to respond to communications from both the Office of Probation and only “sporadically” participating in his disciplinary proceedings.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, saving the State Bar significant time and resources.
John Paul Garcia
State Bar No. 222210, Los Angeles (November 13, 2020)
Garcia was suspended for 30 days and placed on probation for one year in a conviction proceeding after he stipulated to pleading no contest to driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more (Cal. Veh. Code Section 23152(b)), with an admitted special allegation of a prior DUI conviction. The offense is a criminal misdemeanor.
The matter was referred to the State Bar’s Hearing Department for a hearing and appropriate discipline to be imposed.
The relevant facts revealed that police officers initiated a traffic stop after witnessing Garcia straddling and weaving between freeway lanes as he drove. They smelled alcohol and saw a bottle of Jack Daniels in the vehicle’s back seat., though he denied consuming any alcohol that evening. When asked for his driver’s license, Garcia informed officers he was an attorney, and tendered his California State Bar card, as well as his business card. He performed poorly on the field sobriety tests at the scene, and a later breath test indicated a blood alcohol concentration of .213/.189/.191 percent.
The State Bar Court judge determined that the facts and circumstances surrounding the offense did not involve moral turpitude, but did involve other misconduct warranting professional discipline.
In aggravation, Garcia had a prior record of discipline.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and submitted letters from seven individuals — four attorneys, two friends, and his ex-wife — all of whom attested to his good character and devotion to community service.
Allen Clarence Hassan
State Bar No. 104024, Sacramento (November 13, 2020)
Hassan was suspended from practicing law for six months and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing 15 acts of professional misconduct related to two client matters, as well as numerous other violations of trust account and State Bar reporting provisions.
His wrongdoing included: failing to deposit client funds into a trust account, failing to refund unearned advanced fees to a client, failing to report the imposition of professional discipline to the State Bar, failing to comply with conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order and failing to report his employment of an involuntarily inactive member of the State Bar; two counts of violating court orders; three counts of failing to keep clients reasonably informed of significant case developments; and five counts of failing to perform legal services with competence.
Hassan was entitled to practice both aw and medicine in California.
In one client matter at issue, he was hired to represent a client in action against his employer and union, paid $10,000 as a retainer. However, he then failed to serve or otherwise communicate with defendants as ordered by the court — delegating many of the case management tasks to an individual he had employed who had been involuntarily placed on inactive status by the State Bar.
The cases were ultimately dismissed — with one court underscoring Hassan’s failure to meet and confer, failure to file a status report, failure to follow court orders, and failure to prosecute the case. Hassan did not inform his client of the dismissal. After the client died, another individual retained Hassan to continue to pursue claims against the decedent’s employer — though those cases were also ultimately dismissed based on lack of diligence in pursuing them.
In the course of the representation, Hassan was disciplined both by the California State Bar and Medical Board of California for unrelated misconduct, though he violated the terms of probation imposed by both professional boards.
In the second client case, Hassan was paid $6,500 in advanced fees by an individual who wished to pursue both an existing malpractice case and secure visitation rights to his biological child. While Hassan initially appeared to inform the court he would be substituting in as counsel in the malpractice case, he thereafter took no part in the subsequent court-ordered mediation, and the case was dismissed. He did not inform the client of the dismissal.
In aggravation, Hassan had a prior record of professional discipline and committed multiple acts of wrongdoing in the instant matter.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and provided five letters from individuals in the legal and medical communities vouching for his good character.
Valmiki Alejandro Reyes
State Bar No. 259451, Los Angeles (November 21, 2020)
Reyes was suspended for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to violating numerous conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.
Specifically, he failed to arrange and participate in an initial meeting with his assigned probation deputy, failed to file a declaration that he had reviewed professional code provisions as required, failed to file four quarterly written reports as well as a final report, and failed to attend and provide proof of passing the State Bar Ethics School. In addition, he failed to obtain written approval of an abstinence-based program from the Office of Probation and failed to file requisite reports and attendance logs for the program.
In aggravation, Reyes committed multiple acts of misconduct and had a prior record of discipline.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation.
Jerry D. Rothman
State Bar No. 226686, San Fernando (November 13, 2020)
Rothman 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 all conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary probation order.
The violations included failing to schedule and attend an initial meeting with the Office of Probation, failing to submit five quarterly written reports, and failing to provide proof of attending the State Bar Ethics School as well as proof of passing its final test.
In aggravation, Rothman had a prior record of professional discipline and, in the present case, committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and showed indifference toward rectifying his misconduct by refusing to complete any of the conditions in his outstanding probation order.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation admitting to cupability, saving the State Bar time and resources.
Richard William Stamp
State Bar No. 208490, Los Angeles (November 13, 2020)
Stamp was suspended for two years and placed on probation for four years after he stipulated to committing three criminal violations related to several incidents: the felony of fleeing a pursuing peace officer while driving recklessly (Cal. Veh. Cod Section 2800.2), as well as the misdemeanor offenses of brandishing a replica firearm (Cal. Penal Code Section 417.4), and resisting, obstructing, or delaying a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code Section 148(a)(1)).
In one incident, a utility worker reported to police that he had seen an individual brandishing a rifle and pointing it at a residence. Responding officers pursued Stamp, who was fleeing in his vehicle, driving 25 miles per hour over the limit before colliding with a fire hydrant. While water gushed from the hydrant, Stamp refused to comply with officer’s demands at the scene. During a five-hour standoff, they doused him with fire retardant and used flashbangs — a loud diversionary tactic — in attempts to get him to comply. When he was finally arrested, Stamp told officers he was attempting to use a scope he had attached to a pellet gun to get a look at his children, explaining that he hadn’t seen them in a long time. The family had never lived in the home upon which the gun was trained. Stamp violated probation twice in the matter, and both times he was arrested for felony evading.
In another incident, police engaged in a high speed pursuit of Stamp, who had evaded an attempted traffic stop after he was observed driving recklessly. He reached a speed of 100 miles per hour before his car lost a tire and became disabled.
And in a third incident, Stamp again engaged in a high speed chase with officers — running red lights and weaving in and out of traffic after a concerned citizen reported he had been closely following him in a car. After nearly two hours, highway patrol officers were able to deflate the tires on Stamp’s car and disable it using “stop sticks.” When arrested for this offense, Stamp had two outstanding warrants from his previous convictions.
The State Bar Court judge determined that the facts and circumstances surrounding the felony of fleeing from officers involved moral turpitude, though the other two misdemeanor convictions did not.
In aggravation, Stamp committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, and was also given aggravating weight for the uncharged violation of failing to report his felony conviction to the State Bar within 30 days as required.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law discipline-free for 15 years, and presented evidence from two medical experts who testified that Stamp had suffered from psychiatric conditions that were untreated during the time of his misconduct, but that the precipitating condition has been corrected through medication, rendering the risk of future acts of misconduct “virtually nonexistent.”
Kevin Renard Taylor
State Bar No. 218711, Los Angeles (November 13, 2020)
Taylor was suspended from practicing law for two years and placed on probation for three years after a contested disciplinary proceeding in which he was found culpable of failing to comply with seven conditions attached to a disciplinary probation order imposed earlier. He stipulated to facts, conclusions of law, and disposition in the matter.
Specifically, he was found culpable of: failing to deposit disputed funds in a non-IOLTA account, failing to file proof of such a deposit with the Office of Probation, failing to initiate fee arbitration as required, failing to file a conformed copy of a fee arbitration filing with the Office of Probation, failing to set up an initial meeting with his assigned probation deputy, failing to submit an initial written quarterly report, and failing to make a full restitution payment to a former client in lieu of arbitration.
After Taylor entered into a stipulation in his third disciplinary matter, the California Supreme Court imposed probation with a number of conditions attached. The Office of Probation subsequently sent him an email and four reminder letters enumerating the probation terms and consequences of noncompliance, as well as a final chart summarizing his noncompliance with the agreed conditions. A few months after the trial in the matter, Taylor filed a motion to reopen the record and submit evidence of full restitution which the court granted; he had paid several partial payments in restitution owed — and a final one to the client’s son after the client’s death.
Taylor enrolled in the Lawyers Assistance Program, and has since complied with the terms and conditions of his monitoring plan.
In aggravation, Taylor had four prior records of discipline and committed multiple acts of wrongdoing in the instant case.
In mitigation, he demonstrated candor by cooperating with the State Bar in investigating and prosecuting the matter, presented testimony from four individuals who vouched for his good character, and submitted evidence of suffering extreme emotional difficulties during the time of his misconduct, as well as evidence of successful treatment and current management of the condition.
Lisa Michelle Edgar-Dickman
State Bar No. 241008, San Ramon (November 21, 2020)
Edgar-Dickman was placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to committing three acts of professional misconduct related to a single matter: failing to provide legal services with competence, failing to provide the State Bar with written notice she had employed a resigned member, and allowing the resigned member to receive and handle client funds.
In the underlying matter, Edgar-Dickman hired an individual who had resigned from the State Bar with charges pending to assist her with clerical work. She was then retained to help a client whose asylum application had been denied. The client paid a total of $10,000 in furtherance of a potential appeal of the immigration case, with the funds received by the resigned attorney.
The client came to Edgar-Dickman through another individual, a non-attorney who worked as an “immigration advisor” in Alabama. Client correspondence related to the case, as well as a notice of entry of appearance as an attorney listed Edgar-Dickman’s address as being in Alabama, though she lived at all relevant times in California.
The appeal was ultimately summarily denied. The State Bar Court judge noted that Edgar-Dickman had failed to follow the requirements set out for ineffective assistance of counsel challenges in immigration cases as determined by case law (Lozada v. Immigration and Naturalization Serv., 857 F. 2d 10 (1988)).
In aggravation, Edgar-Dickman committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that harmed a highly vulnerable client: an immigrant seeking asylum.
In mitigation, she entered into a prefiling stipulation and had practiced law discipline-free for eight years prior to the misconduct at issue.
State Bar No. 221140, Sacramento (November 13, 2020)
Hudson was placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to failing to comply with several conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.
Specifically, she failed to schedule and participate in a timely meeting with the Office of Probation, and also failed to submit a quarterly written compliance report as required.
In aggravation, Hudson had a prior record of professional discipline.
In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation, submitted letters from four clients who attested to her good character and legal skill, and suffered from a diagnosed condition of post-traumatic stress disorder during the time of the misconduct, for which she subsequently entered effective treatment.
Thomas Can Thien Nguyen
State Bar No. 140262, Westminster (November 21, 2020)
Nguyen was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing three acts of professional misconduct related to a single client case.
Specifically, he was culpable of intentionally disobeying a court order, failing to report judicial sanctions imposed against him, and failing to promptly release a client’s papers and property after being requested to do so.
In the underlying matter, Nguyen was hired to represent a client in a workers’ compensation appeal. Approximately five months later, the client terminated his representation and hired new counsel, who requested the client’s file from Nguyen. However, he failed to release it for several months, impeding the client’s ability to pursue the claim. Nguyen was subsequently sanctioned $1,001, but failed to report that to the State Bar. After the court denied his request to set aside or reduce the sanctions imposed, he paid them — 185 days after he was initially ordered to do so.
In aggravation, Nguyen committed multiple acts of wrongdoing.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for nearly 28 years discipline-free, submitted evidence of providing pro bono community service, and also received diminished mitigating weight for three character reference letters, as they were taken from a narrow range of individuals.
Ian Michael Wallach
State Bar No. 237849, Los Angeles (November 13, 2020)
Wallach was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing professional misconduct in another jurisdiction, for which he was given a private admonition.
In the underlying matter, Wallach, who is admitted to practice law in both California and New York, represented his wife in an effort to procure return of a $15,000 deposit she had made to secure rental of a New York apartment that she subsequently decided not to rent. He initially sent the rental agent an email demanding return of the deposit, threatening to post reviews on the agent’s rental properties warning that they were all scams. When the agent did not return the deposit, Wallach filed a lawsuit alleging fraud and conversion.
The trial court found the complaint bereft of support, and imposed a sanction for engaging in frivolous conduct — directing payment of the award solely to Wallach’s wife, since the sanctions motion indicated her alone.
The California State Bar Court judge found that, as a matter of law, the culpability of professional misconduct determined in the New York proceeding also warrants imposing professional discipline in California.
In aggravation, Wallach caused significant harm to the public and administration of justice, as the rental agent was forced to hire counsel to defend and process the four-year lawsuit.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for nine years in California and for 14 years in New York without any record of discipline, submitted letters from 12 individuals — all of whom attested to his good character and professionalism, and presented evidence of performing pro bono legal and community service.
— Barbara Kate Repa
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