State Bar No. 318965, Glendale (September 22, 2021)
Aslanian was disbarred by default after he failed to participate in his disciplinary proceeding, despite having adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He did not move to have the default entered against him set aside or vacated.
He was found culpable of the two ethical violations with which he had been charged: failing to cooperate with the State Bar’s investigation of the charges against him and failing to update his official records within 30 days of changing it, as required.
Edward Paul Friedberg
State Bar No. 31279, Sacramento (September 1, 2021)
Friedberg was disbarred after he stipulated to committing four acts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter: failing to promptly notify a client of settlement funds received, two counts of failing to hold and maintain disputed and funds belonging to the client in a trust account, and misappropriating client funds — an act involving moral turpitude.
In the underlying matter, Friedberg received a total of $1,850,000 from insurance companies in settlement funds related to two cases he handled for a client and his corporation. Their fee agreement provided that Friedberg and the client were each entitled to half of the settlement proceeds, minus costs incurred.
Friedberg received settlement checks from two insurance companies and deposited both checks into his client trust account, though he did not notify the client he had received them until eight months had passed. On the same days he deposited the settlement funds, he disbursed the entire amount received into his operating account, then made a series of withdrawals that caused that account balance to dip to an impermissibly low level, and failed to provide the client with an accounting. The client subsequently talked with Friedberg’s law partner and learned the settlement had been received, and requested an explanation. Friedberg responded that he intended to deduct $186,790 from the client’s share of the settlement to satisfy a debt the client’s uncle owed to him. The client disputed this distribution, but Friedberg did not return the funds to his client trust account, opting instead to keep them for himself.
After seeking a new attorney, the client demanded that the full fund amount be returned or placed in a segregated account pending resolution of the parties’ dispute. In a compelled arbitration, a panel awarded the client the full settlement amount of $186,790 as well as other sums. Friedberg has not paid the judgment or distributed any additional settlement funds to the client.
In aggravation, Friedberg had a prior record of discipline and committed multiple acts of misconduct in the instant case that significantly harmed his client.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation.
William Jay King
State Bar No. 199908, Irvine (September 22, 2021)
King was disbarred. He stipulated to committing 25 acts of professional misconduct related to several client matters, consolidated in the present case.
He was culpable of: failing to maintain complete records of client property, failing to inform clients of significant developments in their cases, failing to take steps to avoid foreseeable prejudice to his clients after withdrawing from representation, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, and failing to refund advanced fees after terminating his services; two counts of failing to render clients with appropriate accountings; four counts each of failing to provide legal services with competence and failing to maintain requisite balance in his client trust account; and five counts of failing to cooperate with the State Bar in its investigation of the wrongdoing he was alleged to have committed.
Additional misconduct involved moral turpitude: issuing checks from an account knowing there were insufficient funds to cover them, as well as two counts each of misappropriating client funds and making material misrepresentations — one to a client about the status of her case and another to a public administrator about the amount of funds remaining in a trust account.
In the case involving the most allegations of misconduct — nine counts — King was hired to represent a client in distributing her late husband’s estate, of which she was administrator and a beneficiary. He accepted $5,500 as an initial payment and advanced fees.
A dispute arose when the client’s in-laws filed a petition to quiet title on some real estate, claiming it was the decedent’s separate property and he had bequeathed it to them. Over an 11-month period, the probate court held eight hearings on King’s failure to provide a final inventory and appraisal of the estate; he did not appear at the scheduled hearings, nor did he file a final inventory. The estate administrator eventually sold the property for $351,931; King received a wire transfer for that amount and deposited it into his client trust account, which soon after that, dipped to an impermissibly low balance — a downward trajectory that continued.
King eventually sent the client one invoice, which was not itemized, for $6,859; he had been paid a total of $17,359 in legal fees. The client paid the invoice, and made several requests to King to discuss her case and to demand an inventory and appraisal, as well as the balance of the estate funds. He did not respond, and she eventually hired new counsel. King did not respond to communications with that attorney or with the client.
The public administrator was eventually appointed as administrator of the estate; King “verified” that he was holding approximately $175,000 on behalf of the estate in his client trust account. In reality, the account balance was about $49. After the State Bar investigation began and the client threatened police action over return of the remaining estate funds, King issued a check for $175,966 to satisfy the demands.
The other cases consolidated in the group were less complicated and less nuanced, but involved verified allegations of misappropriation or mismanagement of client funds.
In aggravation, King disregarded his fiduciary duties, caused significant harm to several clients, displayed a lack of candor to both his clients and to State Bar investigators, and committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that demonstrated a pattern of misconduct in misappropriating client property and in failures to perform competently, maintain funds, and cooperate.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation and had practiced law for approximately 20 years discipline-free before the misconduct began.
Randall Tyson Longwith
State Bar No. 213315, Fullerton (September 1, 2021)
Longwith was disbarred by default after he failed to participate in his disciplinary proceeding. The State Bar Court judge determined he had been properly served with the notice of the charges against him, that reasonable diligence had been used to notify him of the relevant proceedings, and that he did not move to set aside or vacate the default order entered against him.
Consequently, the factual allegations in the notice of disciplinary charges were deemed admitted, and supported the conclusion of culpability. His wrongdoing included seven counts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter: failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to render an accounting of client funds, failing to return unearned advanced fees, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the misconduct alleged, as well as two counts of failing to perform with competence.
There was one additional disciplinary matter pending against Longwith when he was disbarred in the instant proceeding.
Edward John Nowakowski
State Bar No. 131827, Del Mar (September 22, 2021)
Nowakowski was disbarred after he stipulated to being culpable of seven counts of professional misconduct related to a single client case.
His wrongdoing included failing to comply with a court order and two counts of failing to render an appropriate accounting of trust funds after repeated requests to do so. Additional counts involved moral turpitude: misappropriating funds held in trust, presenting trust beneficiaries with a falsified bank statement, and filing two falsified petitions with the court.
In the underlying matter, Nowakowski was hired to draft a revocable living trust for a client; he was named as successor trustee — a role he assumed after the client died 13 years later. The trust corpus consisted primarily of three pieces of real property: one to be distributed to the decedent’s wife; the other two to be sold and distributed to named beneficiaries. That sale netted a total of $683,751.
Nowakowski opened a bank account on behalf of the trust and deposited the proceeds from the real property sales into it. During the next 19 months, he made multiple electronic transfers from the account totaling nearly $394,700 that were neither for client purposes nor for the benefit of the trust beneficiaries. During that time, an additional amount of nearly $8,000 was expended for various trust purposes, and $281,046 was distributed to the trust beneficiaries — who soon began to make repeated requests for a trust accounting. Nowakowski provided them with a bank statement on which the account name and number were redacted that showed a balance of $411,921; however, that account was not affiliated with the trust at issue.
One of the trust beneficiaries filed a petition to remove Nowakowski as trustee, which was granted. A court-ordered accounting revealed Nowakowski had improperly withdrawn $394,681.88 from the trust. He was ordered to provide a complete trust accounting and reimburse the amount misappropriated, but as of the date of his disbarment order, had not done so.
In aggravation, Nowakowski committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that substantially harmed the trust beneficiaries who were deprived of their funds, and failed to make restitution of the funds he had taken.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation and had practiced law for approximately 29 years without a record of discipline.
State Bar No. 231257, Beverly Hills (September 1, 2021)
Darvish was suspended from practicing law for two years and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing 29 acts of professional misconduct related to eight client matters.
His wrongdoing included: one count each of failing to withdraw from employment properly and improperly withdrawing from employment; two counts each of failing to refund client funds after being requested to do so and failing to participate in the State Bar’s investigation of the misconduct alleged; six counts of failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries; eight counts of failing to perform legal services with competence; and nine counts of failing to obey court orders.
The facts patterns in the cases, which spanned a three-year period, were substantially similar: Darvish agreed to represent clients in various bankruptcy matters, then failed to file petitions, additional documentation, or request extensions as needed or requested. In most of the cases, he failed to respond to clients’ requests for additional information or updates. In addition, several of the cases were dismissed due to Darvish’s failures to act.
The bankruptcy court determined he had filed 22 deficient petitions, as well as committing other violations in performance, communication, and fund withdrawal.
In mitigation, Darvish entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for approximately 12 years without a record of discipline, submitted letters from two attorneys and three members of the general community attesting to his good character, and presented evidence that he suffered from extreme emotional difficulties during the time of the misconduct that had a clear nexus to it — and is taking steps toward rehabilitation.
In aggravation, he engaged in a pattern of misconduct that caused significant damage to his clients.
Craig Lee Henderson
State Bar No. 194953, Chico (September 1, 2021)
Henderson was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing two acts of professional misconduct related to a single client: failing to perform legal services with competence and failing to keep his client informed of significant case developments.
In the matter at issue, Henderson was retained to represent a client in a dissolution of marriage. Initially, he filed a responsive declaration, appeared at a motion hearing, accepted service of filings, and signed a stipulation to continue a hearing in the case. After that, however, he took no action in the matter — and a default was entered against his client. She hired another attorney, but was unsuccessful in attempts to get the default set aside.
In aggravation, Henderson had a prior record of discipline and committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed his client.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation.
David Cline Johnston
State Bar No. 71367, Modesto (September 22, 2021)
Johnston was suspended from practicing law for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing six acts of professional misconduct — five of them related to a single client matter, the sixth involving a probationary infraction.
His wrongdoing included: failing to provide legal services with competence, failing to inform his client of significant case developments, failing to respond to his client’s reasonable inquiries, violating a court order, failing to cooperate in a State Bar investigation, and failing to comply with a condition attached to an earlier disciplinary order.
In the client matter, Johnston was retained to defend an individual in a breach of contract action brought by a bank. In the course of representation, he was served with discovery requests, but failed to notify the client of the requests or of the due dates. Opposing counsel sent a meet and confer letter informing Johnston he was late in responding, agreeing to waive objections and also agreeing to extend the discovery deadline. Johnston missed that deadline, as well as another extension.
Opposing counsel eventually filed and was granted a motion to compel responses; the court also imposed a mandatory monetary sanction of $200. Two days after the final deadline to submit responses had passed, Johnston emailed an incomplete copy of the discovery requests to opposing counsel. In the meantime, he had failed to make good on his promises to contact his client, who hired a new attorney. Defenses in the case were forfeited due to Johnston’s inaction.
Johnston did not respond to several requests for information from State Bar investigators, nor did he timely complete the State Bar Ethics School, as ordered in an earlier, unrelated disciplinary matter.
In aggravation, Johnston had two prior records of discipline and also committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that substantially harmed his client.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and submitted letters from five individuals attesting to his good character. He was also the caregiver for his wife, who suffered ongoing and changing situations that diverted his time and attention from his law practice — and was allotted mitigating weight for that reality.
Michael Anthony Younge
State Bar No. 170929, Laguna Hills (September 1, 2021)
Younge was suspended for 60 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to being found culpable of professional misconduct in another jurisdiction. The State Bar Court judge determined that the disciplinary proceedings there provided fundamental constitutional protection in the instant case.
In the underlying matter, Younge filed a petition for bankruptcy for a client, and shortly after, filed a related adversary proceeding raising several causes of action including fraud; the bankruptcy court dismissed that petition, then subsequently dismissed the bankruptcy case.
Younge also sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) to enjoin the sale of the client’s property, which was slated for a foreclosure sale. After the TRO was denied, Younge quitclaimed the property to his own wife, who paid no money for the transfer of title. Younge’s wife was then involved in her own bankruptcy proceeding, which prevented a foreclosure of the property.
At a subsequent proceeding, the bankruptcy court deemed the transfer of property “outrageous” and “beyond the pale.” It concluded, among other things, that the transfer’s sole purpose was to hinder and delay the foreclosure sale, needlessly increasing the cost of litigation. Because of this misconduct, the bankruptcy court’s disciplinary panel suspended Younge from practicing in its court for a minimum of five years.
The State Bar Court judge found that as a matter of law, the bankruptcy panel’s determination of professional misconduct also warranted imposing discipline in its jurisdiction.
In aggravation, Younge had two prior records of discipline and significantly harmed the administration of justice by wasting court resources through his wrongdoing.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation and provided letters from eight individuals taken from a range in the legal and general communities who vouched for his good character and pro bono service.
Scott Alexander Adrian
State Bar No. 305325, Burbank (September 22, 2021)
Adrian was placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing one act of professional misconduct — misrepresentation involving moral turpitude — related to a single client matter.
In the matter at issue, Adrian visited a business, holding himself out to be an attorney investigating a complaint by an individual who had been injured on the premises. After repeating that misrepresentation to a security officer and the facility supervisor, Adrian was told to move his car from near the entrance and wait for the supervisor to return. Instead, he went into the facility and took pictures of the site where the accident had occurred.
In mitigation, Adrian entered into a pretrial stipulation, caused no harm by his misconduct, and provided evidence from 15 individuals from the legal and general communities who knew of and understood his wrongdoing — all of whom attested to his good character.
David Percy Hall
State Bar No. 196891, Carlsbad (September 22, 2021)
Hall was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing six acts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter.
His wrongdoing included: failing to perform legal services with competence and improperly withdrawing from employment, as well as two counts each of failing to keep his client reasonable informed of significant case developments and failing to obey court orders.
In the matter at hand, Hall was hired to defend a client who was sued by an investment firm. As counsel of record, he received requests to produce documents, interrogatories, and motions, but he failed to respond to them or inform his client of relevant motions and hearings. He was ultimately sanctioned $1,440 based on his inactions, but also failed to inform his client they had been imposed.
Hall then effectively withdrew from employment, knowing that a hearing in the case was pending, but again, failing to inform his client of the proceeding. He did not respond to his client’s numerous emails, text messages, and phone calls seeking information and direction. After he failed to appear at a hearing on a motion to compel compliance, the court imposed additional discovery sanctions against him and his client, jointly and severally.
Hall eventually called the client and told him he could not represent him — encouraging him to file a malpractice suit; he did, and it is currently pending.
In aggravation, Hall committed multiple acts of misconduct.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law discipline-free for approximately 20 years, provided proof of an extreme mental health issue along with a nexus to the misconduct, submitted evidence of his good character as attested in three reference letters, and demonstrated a recognition of his wrongdoing by urging his client to pursue a malpractice action against him — though that weight was limited, as he took no affirmative steps to right his wrongs.
Timothy Michael Truax
State Bar No. 121862, Segundo (September 22, 2021)
Truax was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing five acts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter.
His wrongdoing included: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, failing to render an appropriate accounting of advanced fees, failing to return unearned advanced fees to the client, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the wrongdoing he was alleged to have committed.
Truax agreed to represent an individual in a potential claim against him and his building company — accepting an advance deposit of $2,500 to be applied to an hourly fee. In the months that followed, the client became increasingly frustrated by Truax’s failure to provide an update in the case, eventually requesting an update or a refund.
While Truax did not respond to numerous State Bar requests for information, he did provide a full refund to the client nearly nine months after the investigation began.
— Barbara Kate Repa