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October 2022

| Oct. 7, 2022

Discipline Report

Oct. 7, 2022

October 2022

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

DISBARMENT
Donald S. Edgar
State Bar #139324, Santa Rosa (September 16, 2022)
Edgar was disbarred after seeking a review of the hearing judge's finding that he was culpable of four counts of failing to comply with notice requirements imposed in an earlier disciplinary order. Suspended attorneys subject to one of the court rules (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20) that requires them to notify clients, co-counsel, and opposing counsel or adverse parties of their disqualification to act as counsel during their suspension periods.
In the instant appeal, Edgar admits he did not fully comply with the rule, but argues he was confused about the filing deadline, and believes that he was not required to demonstrate "perfect compliance" because he filed a supplemental declaration explaining his position. In the declaration he filed, Edgar failed to check a box indicating that he had either notified all clients, opposing counsel, and courts of his disqualification--or that he had no clients as of the filing date. The "supplemental declaration" attached stated that he mistakenly believed that notifications only needed to be sent to all those involved in pending matters in which he was still attorney of record.
The hearing judge rejected Edgar's testimony on the issue, finding it lacked credibility because he continued to represent three clients in three separate matters one month after notifications were due--despite having actual knowledge of his duties and timelines, as well as reminders received in letters from the Office of Probation and his own counsel. The judge also found that Edgar had failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that the clients he had informed of his withdrawal were aware that it was because of a disciplinary suspension.
The panel on appeal affirmed the culpability findings, and also agreed that no additional weight in discipline should be assigned to the count related to filing notices to courts in pending cases, as it was based on one of the other counts requiring notice.
In aggravation, Edgar had a prior record of discipline.
In mitigation, he was allotted moderate weight for entering a stipulation admitting facts that were eaily provable, for testimony of his good character offered by several individuals--though the attorney declarants were not aware of the full extent of his misconduct, and for evidence of performing community service primarily offered through his own testimony and from generalized facts from witnesses.
The court opinion began with a caveat and an explanation related to the common violation at issue: "This matter emphasizes the importance of full compliance with California Rules of Court, rule 9.20. It is not sufficient for an attorney to partially comply with his reporting and notice obligations, even when confused or unaware of the required duties. When an attorney fails to timely comply, it remains mandatory for the attorney to complete the obligations imposed by the rule. As in this case, failure to do so may result in very severe discipline."

Glen Michael Hunsberger
State Bar #217849 Las Vegas, Nevada (October 1, 2022)
Hunsberger was summarily disbarred after pleading guilty to conspiring to distribute a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) & (b)(1)(B)), 860(a), and 846) and conspiring to launder money (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(1)(A)(i), (B)(i), (B)(ii), & (h)).
Both offenses are felonies involving moral turpitude.
The State Bar Court recommendation of disbarment was issued when Hunsberger failed to file a petition for writ of certiorari and the convictions became final.

Elisabeth Meyer Kimmel
State Bar #149897, Las Vegas, Nevada (October 1, 2022)
Kimmel was summarily disbarred. She had earlier pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1349). No appeal was filed in the case, and the conviction became final.
The record established both criteria for summary disbarment: the offense is a felony, and involved "the specific intent to deceive, defraud, steal, or make or suborn a false statement, or involved moral turpitude."

Jan Peter Quaglia
State Bar #129143, Burbank (September 4, 2022)
Quaglia was disbarred by default after he did not participate in the disciplinary proceeding in which he was charged with failing to comply with conditions attached to a prior disciplinary order--a public reproval.
The State Bar Court judge determined that all procedural requirements, including proper notice, had been satisfied, and that Quaglia did not respond to several related State Bar email requests, did not appear at the status conference in the case, and did not file a response to the notice of disciplinary charges filed against him, nor did he move to have the default judgment ultimately entered against him set aside or vacated.
His wrongdoing included failing to timely schedule an initial meeting with the Office of Probation, failing to submit compliant quarterly reports as well as a final report, failing to attend and present proof of attending the State Bar's Ethics and Client Trust Accounting Schools, and failing to take and provide proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination as ordered.
Quaglia had one prior record of discipline at the time he was disbarred.

Robert Daniel Rodriguez
State Bar #242396, San Ramon (September 23, 2022)
Rodriguez was disbarred after appealing the State Bar Court hearing judge's finding of culpability on nine counts of professional misconduct and recommending disbarment. Both the culpability and discipline recommendations were affirmed in the instant case.
Rodriguez was found culpable of: failing to maintain funds in a client trust account, failing to perform legal services with competence, seeking to mislead a judge, violating a law, failing to cooperate in State Bar investigations of the wrongdoing alleged, and two counts of failing to inform clients of significant case developments, as well as two counts involving moral turpitude: misappropriating client funds and making a misrepresentation to the court. (Both the hearing judge and panel on appeal found Rodriguez culpable of misrepresentation and seeking to mislead a judge, but only assigned disciplinary weight for one count, as the facts underlying both offenses were the same. The same reasoning applied to the counts of failing to maintain client funds in trust and misappropriating them.)
The wrongdoing related to three separate client matters and a contract dispute over unpaid services.
In one of the underlying matters, Rodriguez represented a client in a personal injury matter, which was settled for $40,000. By agreement, Rodriguez was to receive $16,500 for attorney's fees and costs, and retain $8,070 subject to negotiations with two medical lienholders. The remainder of $15,430 was to be distributed to the client along with any funds left over from the lienholder negotiations and payments. However, Rodriguez failed to pay the client the additional funds due from one lienholder's reduction, and completely failed to make the payment negotiated with the other medical provider; in the meantime, the balance in his client trust account dipped to 0. He remitted the amount to the client only after the State Bar started an investigation in the matter.
In another client matter, Rodriguez was retained to enforce the final judgment for a client in a marriage dissolution case. On the same day he informed the client he intended to process the wage garnishment, Rodriguez was informed he would be suspended due to his failure to comply with a condition imposed in an earlier disciplinary order. He filed a notice of withdrawal in the case, then learned the writ of execution could not be served because he had failed to check the correct box on the form. Rodriguez informed the client to proceed in pro per, but did not inform her he had been suspended or that he had formally withdrawn from the case.
And in the third matter, Rodriguez represented a woman and her two minor daughters, who had been injured in a traffic collision. Though the client is a native Spanish-speaker, Rodriguez prepared documents, including an application for her to serve as guardian ad litem, in English--without providing translations. He ultimately received a settlement check and deposited it, without first obtaining a minor's compromise or court order regarding distribution of the funds as required. He distributed a portion of the settlement to the client as guardian, reserving the remainder to cover expenses, fees, and costs.
The superior court judge, who testified that minors' compromises were required before the court could dismiss the action, issued an order to show cause why Rodriguez should not be imposed for failure to file them. Rodriguez's subsequent attempt to request a dismissal was rejected for improperly completing the relevant Judicial Council form. He did not inform the judge that he had already distributed some of the settlement funds, nor that he could not appear at the scheduled show cause hearing due to his impending suspension. He filed to have the client substituted in as legal representative, which was legally impermissible as guardian ad litems may not act as their own attorneys. Rodriguez did not appear at subsequent hearings, though the client did appear without counsel and testified she believed the case had been closed. The judge filed a State Bar complaint against Rodriguez in the matter.
An additional count of wrongdoing centered on a State Bar complaint filed by a court reporting company after Rodriguez failed to pay for deposition services.
In aggravation, Rodriguez had a prior record of discipline, committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, demonstrated bad faith in making misrepresentations to his client--who was significantly harmed and highly vulnerable as a non-English speaker, and showed indifference toward rectifying the consequences of his misconduct.
In mitigation, he received limited weight for experiencing mental and physical difficulties based on his own testimony, for character references who were not taken from a wide range in the community and who did not demonstrate a full awareness of the misconduct involved, and for evidence of pro bono work supported only by his own undetailed testimony.

Donald Martin Stone
State Bar #51655, Winnetka (October 1, 2022)
Stone was disbarred by default after he failed to appear at his trial on disciplinary charges after receiving adequate notice and an opportunity to do so. He did not move to have the default entered against him set aside or vacated.
He had earlier been convicted of committing theft (Cal. Penal Code § 484(a))--a misdemeanor that involved moral turpitude as a matter of law.
The matter had been abated pending an investigation of an email message that the Office of Chief Trial Counsel (OCTC) received from an address Stone had used to communicate with the State Bar in the past that read: "I saw this and don't know what it is. Donald passed months ago." The matter was unabated, however, after OCTC investigators went to Stone's home; he answered the door and identified himself.
There were other disciplinary investigations and charges pending against Stone when he was disbarred.

SUSPENSION
Darryl Wayne Genis
State Bar #93806, Santa Barbara (final order August 31, 2022; effective September 30, 2022)
Genis was suspended for two years and placed on probation for three years following an appeal in which he argued for a suspension of no more than six months; the Office of Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar also appealed the original decision, urging disbarment.
The underlying facts are largely undisputed. Genis earlier pled guilty to three counts of willful failure to file tax returns for three consecutive years (26 U.S.C. § 7203); he was sentenced to 24 months in prison and one year of supervised release for the misdemeanors. When he was sentenced, Genis owed the IRS a total of $679,958--a combination of the amounts determined in the convictions plus additional amounts for other years in which he owed taxes and failed to file returns.
The record reflects that during the eight years Genis failed to meet his tax obligations, he did make payments on a second mortgage, and to purchase real estate, a boat, and an athletic club membership--while also supporting a severe gambling addiction.
The primary issue to be resolved in the instant case was whether the facts and circumstances surrounding Genis's conviction involved moral turpitude or other misconduct warranting professional discipline.
In aggravation, Genis had two prior records of discipline--and in the instant case, committed multiple acts that constituted a pattern of misconduct that significantly harmed the public.
In mitigation, he presented live testimony from four character witnesses and declarations from 17 additional witnesses taken from a range in the legal and general communities, and received moderate mitigating weight for entering into a limited stipulation and for evidence--including expert testimony--that established he had a gambling disorder that contributed to his criminal misconduct which has currently abated ad for which he continues to receive therapy.
On appeal, the Office of Chief Trial Counsel argued that the misconduct at issue involved moral turpitude because it spanned a period of 10 years, involved a substantial amount of money, and was motivated by personal financial gain. The State Bar Court panel, however, analyzed two precedents involving failure to pay taxes in which no moral turpitude was found. It emphasized that "there was no evidence that Genis attempted to hide or conceal his assets or falsify documents to avoid tax liabilities."
It also underscored that Genis was allotted mitigation not found in the cited precedents: "a diagnosed gambling addiction that contributed to his criminal activity." While it found no moral turpitude, the panel did find the convictions were "a serious concern given his role as an attorney," and recommended actual suspension.
Though the discipline order became final on August 31, 2022, when the Supreme Court denied Genis's petition for rehearing, he was granted a temporary delay in its effective date, as well as an extension of time to file appropriate documents in the case. A second request for an extension of time was denied, however--and the suspension went into effect on September 30, 2022.

David Romano Isola
State Bar #150311, Lodi (October 1, 2022)
Isola was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after an appeal of a hearing judge's findings of culpability and recommendation of the more stringent discipline of two years of actual suspension.
Isola had originally been charged with 26 counts of professional misconduct related to an environmental remediation matter connected to a dry cleaning business. The hearing judge dismissed 11 of those charges after an 11-day trial. The panel on appeal dismissed all but two of the remaining counts--finding Isola culpable of failing to inform a client of significant case developments and of failing to communicate a settlement offer to that client.
Isola provided legal services in partnership with a consulting firm; together, they promoted their business as environmental remediation--promising no costs to clients who had insurance coverage. Isola and his partner met with the former and current owners of a dry cleaning business; the two owners had worked together to locate insurance on the dry cleaning business after environmental contaminants were found on the property. Though no retainer agreement was entered, Isolda came away from the meeting with the understanding that he was authorized to pursue a lawsuit to force the insurer to cover the remediation in accord with New Jersey's Spill Act (N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11). He went to work for the original owner--finalizing a settlement agreement six years later, which was the next time he communicated with the client.
In the course of the representation, Isola signed a Licensed Site Remediation Professional retention form as counsel for the former owners. (In its opinion, the State Bar Court panel acknowledged that neither the expert testimony nor its own independent research revealed whether it was permissible for an attorney to sign such a form on a client's behalf.) He also accepted service of a complaint and filed answers in lawsuits against the original owners which had been brought to trigger insurance coverage, and sued the insurer in an attempt to get it to increase defense costs it would cover. Eventually, Isola secured a settlement on behalf of the original owners that completely released them from liability and preserved insurance coverage on the property related to future potential claims.
The Office of Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar based many of its original charges on the assertion that Isola had acted without legal authority to do so--a claim the State Bar Court rejected out of hand. And most of the additional counts alleged his actions involved moral turpitude, alleging he sought to mislead the parties and court by making material misrepresentations in various communications and filings.
In dismissing 11 of the 13 counts still pending in the instant case, the panel found Isola had not acted with moral turpitude. It noted: "Instead, he neglected to communicated with his clients over a six-year period, while he successfully pursued their interests."
In aggravation, Isola committed multiple acts of wrongdoing.
In mitigation, he had practiced law discipline-free for 21 years, and submitted good character evidence attested to by 10 individuals taken from a range in the legal and general communities.

David Joshua Kaufman
State Bar #183326, San Francisco (October 1, 2022)
Kaufman was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to failing to comply with several conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.
Specifically, he failed to schedule and participate in an initial meeting with the Office of Probation and failed to submit two quarterly written reports.
In aggravation, Kaufman had a prior record of discipline and committed multiple acts of wrongdoing in the instant case
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation.

Brian P. Moquin
State Bar #257583, Salt Lake City, Utah (September 24, 2022)
Moquin was suspended from practicing law for one year and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing six acts of professional misconduct related to three separate client matters.
His wrongdoing included: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to return unearned advanced fees, and failing to avoid interests adverse to a client, as well as three acts of professional misconduct committed in another jurisdiction in which he was also disciplined.
In one case, Moquin was admitted in Nevada pro hac vice, then failed to comply with disclosure and discovery requirements or to file and oppose motions in the case in addition to violating related court orders. The case was ultimately dismissed with prejudice--though Moquin failed to adequately communicate that to the client, who hired a new attorney. Moquin then failed to provide the new counsel with the client's file and documents. He entered a guilty plea to the charges that resulted, and the Supreme Court of Nevada enjoined him from practicing there for two years.
The California State Bar Court judge found that as a matter of law, the misconduct in Nevada was analogous to violating local rules governing failure to communicate with the client, failure to return the client file, and failure to perform legal services competently.
In the two California cases, Moquin basically delayed or failed to take meaningful actions for the clients--one of whom terminated his services about three weeks after hiring him. Moquin did not return the unearned $5,000 paid as a retainer after being requested to do so. In the second case, which also involved the Nevada client, he borrowed $86,000 from the client, promising to repay him from the fees he would receive from obtaining a favorable settlement. Moquin did not reduce the agreement to writing, nor did he inform the client of the right to seek advice about the arrangement from an independent lawyer. The California court issued a judgment against the client, and Moquin failed to repay the loan.
In aggravation, Moquin committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his clients.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law discipline-free for 10 years, and suffered severe stress due to marital problems and child custody issues that occurred during the time of the misconduct in the instant case.

PROBATION
James Mark Meizlik
State Bar #62116, Los Angeles (September 24, 2022)
Meizlik was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing two acts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter: failing to perform legal services with competence and improperly withdrawing from representation.
In the underlying matter, Meizlik was hired to represent a client in an immigration proceeding. He filed an application for asylum and appeared at a removal proceeding at which the court informed him of the need to file a brief supporting an exception to the one-year filing rule; Meizlik agreed, but did not do so. After the asylum petition was denied, Meizlik filed an appeal--which was also denied.
Meizlik sent a letter to the client who was being held in immigration detention, urging him to appeal the denial of the asylum application to the Ninth Circuit. He did not inform the client that he could not personally pursue the appeal because he was not admitted to practice before that court. The client did not have sufficient time to file the appeal or to retain additional counsel to help do so.
Meizlik then filed a motion to withdraw as counsel, which the Immigration Court rejected as non-compliant. He took no further action in the case.
In aggravation, Meizlik committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and had been disciplined for professional misconduct three times previously.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation.

-Barbara Kate Repa

#369726

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