DISBARMENTLeroy Bishop Austin
State Bar #175497, Los Angeles (March 17, 2023)
Austin was disbarred after a three-day trial in which three disciplinary matters were consolidated, and in which he was found culpable of 14 of the 19 counts of professional misconduct with which he was charged.
Specifically, the State Bar Court found clear and convincing evidence that Austin had: failed to comply with conditions imposed in a prior disciplinary case, failed to comply with the law and constitution, and committed two violations involving moral turpitude by making material misrepresentations to the State Bar and to a court. He was also found culpable of two counts each of failing to comply with a court rule for disciplined attorneys (Cal. R. of Court, Rule 9.20) and failing to comply with court orders; and six counts of engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.
Austin was found to have violated conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order by failing to notify clients by certified or registered mail that he had been suspended for professional misconduct, failing to file copies of his notices to involved opposing counsel and adverse parties with the courts, and failing to file an affidavit with the State Bar Court verifying that he had complied with these requirements. In addition, he failed to schedule and participate in an initial meeting with his assigned probation case specialist by the date specified, failed to timely submit three quarterly written reports, and to submit a declaration verifying he had read the California Rules of Professional Conduct and specified Business & Professions Code sections as required under his probation terms.
Facts relevant to the other matters at issue: Austin practiced bankruptcy law for approximately 28 years, with the help of a paralegal he supervised. During a six-month period in which he was actually suspended, Austin filed six petitions on behalf of bankruptcy clients. All of those petitions were signed with his electronic signature, and in several of them, he remained counsel of record until the cases were closed--informing neither the client nor the bankruptcy court and trustee of his suspended status.
During that same time period, Austin also took on representation of a client with a personal injury claim. A few months later, he wrote a letter informing the client he was withdrawing, allegedly due to "existing litigation commitments and their economic considerations." Austin did not inform the client of his disciplinary suspension.
In later correspondence with State Bar investigators, Austin falsely represented that all of his pending cases had been transferred to another attorney and that all clients had been informed of his suspended status.
In aggravation, Austin had two previous records of discipline, committed multiple acts of misconduct in the present case, demonstrated indifference and a lack of insight into his wrongdoing, and failed to make restitution to one of the clients in contravention of a court order.
In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation as to facts and culpability to some of the charges, and was allotted minimal mitigating weight for testimony offered by three witnesses--all of whom were employed in the legal field and none of whom had read the charges at issue.
In recommending disbarment, the State Bar Court cited California Supreme Court decisions related to attorneys who willfully violate court orders. One opined: "Other than outright deceit, it is difficult to imagine conduct in the course of legal representation more unbefitting an attorney" (Barnum v. State Bar, 52 Cal.3d 104, 112 (1990)). And another noted: "Disobedience of a court order, whether as a legal representative or as a party, demonstrates a lapse of character and a disrespect for the legal system that directly relate to an attorney's fitness to practice law and serve as an officer of the court" (In re Kelley, 52 Cal.3d 487, 495-96 (1990)).
Charles P. Brown
State Bar #159358, Oceanside (March 26, 2023)
Brown was disbarred by default after he failed to participate in his disciplinary proceeding, either in person or through counsel. The State Bar Court judge concluded that all due process requirements, including adequate notice, had been satisfied.
At some point, the Office of Chief Trial Counsel was able to reach Brown at his official records address. Brown then indicated he had received the notice of disciplinary charges in the two cases pending against him and attempted to file responses, though the pleading was rejected because no proof of service was attached.
Brown did not move to have the default subsequently entered against him set aside or vacated, and all factual allegations were deemed admitted. He was found culpable of both counts charged in the consolidated proceeding: failing to obey a court order requiring a declaration of compliance as required in an earlier discipline order (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20) and violating several conditions imposed in an earlier reproval. Specifically, he failed to timely file two complete quarterly written reports, failed to submit proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam and of attending the State Bar Ethics School, and failed to file a final written report by the specified due date.
At the time he was disbarred, Brown had been disciplined for professional misconduct twice previously.
Estevan R. Lucero
State Bar #298076, Portland, Oregon (March 17, 2023)
Lucero was disbarred by default. At issue in his disciplinary case were a criminal conviction for stalking (Cal. Penal Code § 646.9(a)), as well as 19 additional counts of professional misconduct related to three separate notices of disciplinary charges. All the matters were consolidated in the instant case.
Lucero appeared for an initial status conference and filed a response to the notice of hearing on the conviction. He also filed responses to all three of the notices of disciplinary charges against him. He appeared at a status conference on the four consolidated matters, but then adopted the posture that he would not make any additional appearances, except for the limited purpose of entering his default. On the date his trial was scheduled, he filed a motion reiterating that position that included a picture of himself holding a sign that read: "Enter my default." The default was eventually entered, and Lucero did not move to have it set aside or vacated within the required time.
The State Bar Court found that the facts and circumstances surrounding the stalking conviction involved moral turpitude. In brief, the violation included a series of violent, threatening, and harassing actions Lucero took toward his former wife--including shattering windows in her car and home, pushing her, stealing her possessions and draining her bank account, threatening her and a person she was dating, contacting her as many as 200 times in a single day, and hacking her phone and work account.
In the client matters, he was found culpable of 18 of the 19 counts charged. His wrongdoing included: improperly withdrawing from employment and failing to obey a court order; two counts of failing to communicate significant case developments to clients; three counts of failing to refund unearned advanced fees; four counts of failing to respond to client inquiries; and six counts of failing to perform legal services with competence. An additional count of making a material misrepresentation to a client involved moral turpitude.
At the time Lucero was disbarred, there was another disciplinary proceeding pending against him.
David Rey Silva
State Bar #152690, Petaluma (March 3, 2023)
Silva was disbarred by default after he failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, in his disciplinary proceeding.
The State Bar's Office of Chief Trial Counsel filed an initial motion for entry of a default following its showing of reasonable diligence to notify Silva of the proceeding by various methods--electronically, by telephone, posted on his State Bar profile page, mail, and queries to his assigned probation office. The initial default was denied, but later renewed after Silva failed to respond to the notice of disciplinary charges sent to the new email address he eventually provided.
Silva did not seek to have the default then entered against him set aside or vacated.
He was found culpable of violating several conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order. Specifically, he failed to schedule and participate in an initial meeting with the Office of Probation, failed to submit a written declaration signifying he had read the Rules of Professional Conduct and State Bar Act as required, and failed to submit three written quarterly reports as well as three reports verifying proper handling of entrusted client funds and property.
Silva had been disciplined by the State Bar for professional misconduct on two previous occasions before he was disbarred in the present matter.
Warren Michael Finn
State Bar #34970, Playa del Rey (March 17, 2023)
Finn was suspended from the practice of law for two years and placed on probation for three years after stipulating to committing several acts of professional misconduct related to a single client case. His stipulation included an acknowledgment of 10 prior felony convictions connected to unrelated matters.
In the instant disciplinary case, he was found culpable of failing to perform with competence, failing to disclose a lack of professional liability insurance, and making a material misrepresentation to a government agency--an act involving moral turpitude.
In the client matter, Finn was consulted by a mother for help in securing school services and protection for her six-year-old son, who had been diagnosed with autism. He did not offer a retainer agreement, but instead the two executed a written "Authorization" outlining the scope of services. He did not disclose that he did not have professional liability insurance as required, since it was reasonably foreseeable that the legal representation required would exceed four hours. Finn did not communicate with the client, nor did he request any related documentation, before submitting an initial due process complaint in the case. He did not discuss or provide the client with a copy of the complaint, which mischaracterized her as a Spanish speaker who needed an interpreter.
The Education Division's Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) served a scheduling order for a hearing and mediation, and the school district sent letters related to the case before Finn discussed possible resolutions of the matter with school district representatives. The client testified she did not receive the documents, nor did Finn discuss the proposed settlement options with her before they were presented to her as an agreement at a subsequent mandatory resolution session.
She reluctantly signed the agreement, which contained several restrictive release and discharge provisions, after being assured she had three days to discuss it with family members and rescind it within that time. The agreement also provided that Finn would be paid upon submitting "an appropriate billing statement." The statement he provided contained numerous errors--including charges for a meeting and telephone conferences "with parent and translator" that had never occurred.
The day after signing the agreement, the client indicated she wanted to rescind it. That intention was relayed to Finn that day, and the next day, he received a fax indicating the decision. However, that day--at an unknown time--Finn also faxed a fully executed copy of the agreement to OAH.
The client retained new counsel, who successfully rescinded the agreement and negotiated a new settlement and release on her behalf.
In aggravation, Finn committed multiple acts of misconduct in a matter that involved a highly vulnerable client, and demonstrated indifference and a lack of remorse for his misconduct. The State Bar Court also considered Finn's prior felony moral turpitude criminal convictions, which related to insurance fraud and money laundering to be a significant aggravating factor; he had no formal record of discipline for them because he had resigned while the charges were pending.
In mitigation, he presented declarations from 11 individuals taken from a range in the legal and general communities who attested to his good character and community service work, and was allotted limited mitigating weight for entering a pretrial stipulation addressing easily provable facts.
State Bar #228990, Reseda (March 26, 2023)
Hasan was suspended from practicing law for 90 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to failing to comply with conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order: failing to schedule an initial meeting with the Office of Probation, failing to timely submit three quarterly written reports, and failing to submit a verification that he had reviewed the Rules of Professional Conduct and Business & Professions Code as required.
In aggravation, Hasan committed multiple acts of misconduct and had a prior record of discipline.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and was allotted limited mitigating weight for submitting letters from five individuals attesting to his good character--all of whom were former clients who did not indicate whether they were aware of the full extent of his misconduct.
David Alden James
State Bar #193907, Sausalito (March 3, 2023)
James was suspended from the practice of law for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to failing to comply with numerous conditions set out in an earlier public reproval. The reproval was imposed following a second conviction for a misdemeanor: driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher (Cal. Veh. Code § 23152(b)).
Specifically, in the present disciplinary matter, James failed to provide a timely declaration attesting that he had read the Rules of Professional Conduct and specified sections of the Business & Professions Code as directed; failed to timely submit two quarterly reports and completely failed to submit four quarterly reports, as well as a final one; failed to timely submit two substance abuse abstention reports and completely failed to submit five of such reports; failed to timely submit one criminal probation report and completely failed to submit six of those required reports. In addition, he failed to attend the State Bar's Ethics School as directed.
In aggravation, James committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and had a prior record of discipline.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and was allotted some mitigating credit for suffering from a medical condition--with the court noting that some of the non-compliance occurred prior to the condition, and that James had still failed to submit the outstanding documentation at issue in the present matter.
Roberto Abel Maciel
State Bar #282892, Indio (March 26, 2023)
Maciel was suspended from practicing law for six months and placed on probation for two years after a conviction referral proceeding involving two violations: committing vandalism with damages totaling $400 or more (Cal. Penal Code § 594(a)) and assault by means likely to produce bodily harm, which did in fact inflict such harm (Cal. Penal Code §§ 245(a)(4) and 12022.7(a)). Both offenses are felonies.
As relevant background: Maciel was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and some months later, was prescribed a new medicine for it that he did not tolerate well.
The next day, he experienced a psychotic episode that led to paranoid delusions. During that time, he started an argument with a friend, then drove away in his truck, which he crashed into a tree before fleeing from the scene. He also caused substantial damage to two residences and to another vehicle. After failing the field sobriety test at the scene, Maciel was transported to a police station, where a chemical blood test detected cocaine in his system. He was sentenced to five years of imprisonment.
While incarcerated, Maciel experienced another psychotic episode and attacked another incarcerated individual without provocation--kicking, striking, strangling, and bashing the individual's head against the bunk in the jail cell--causing him to lose consciousness.
The State Bar Court judge determined that neither offense involved moral turpitude, but did involve other misconduct warranting discipline.
In aggravation, Maciel committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, resulting in two separate felony convictions.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, suffered extreme mental difficulties at the time of the misconduct which are now being treated, and provided letters from 13 individuals taken from the legal and general communities--all of whom attested to his good character. He was also allotted a little mitigating weight for having practiced law for six years without a record of discipline.
Charles Kendall Manock
State Bar #161633, Fresno (March 3, 2023)
Manock was suspended from the practice of law for 60 days and placed on suspension for two years after he stipulating to committing six acts of professional misconduct--three related to mishandling client funds and three related to a client matter.
He was found culpable of: failing to maintain a proper accounting of client funds and two counts of commingling personal and client funds as well as one count each of representing clients with potentially adverse interests without securing their written consents, failing to inform those clients of the relevant circumstances of their adverse interests, and representing the clients with directly adverse interests without their informed written consents.
Manock maintained an Interest on Lawyer's Trust Account. In a period of just more than 10 months, the bank identified 170 payments for personal expenses as well as 10 deposits of personal funds made into and out of that account. In addition, he wrote a check from the account when there were insufficient funds to cover it, and failed to maintain a journal or ledger or to complete monthly reconciliations of the account funds.
In the client case, Manock represented a client accused of insurance fraud in a cease and desist action brought by the California Department of Insurance. The administrative law judge hearing the matter upheld the cease and desist order, which was subsequently adopted by the insurance commissioner. Shortly before that order was issued, Manock was also hired to act as general counsel for a company providing employment-related services, including insurance coverage; its certificates of insurance were issued by his other client.
The insurance commissioner later filed an order to show cause, finding that the certificate of liability coverage issued by the first client to the second was unlawful. The decision eventually adopted after the order to show cause imposed a penalty of $4,345,000 for the fraudulent sale of workers' compensation policies, which included the transactions between Manock's two clients. However, Manock failed to withdraw his representation or obtain informed written consent to continue the representation despite their conflicting interests.
In mitigation, Manock entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for 25 years without a record of discipline, and provided evidence of providing extensive community service as well as letters from 11 individuals taken from a range of attorneys, clients, and friends--all of whom attested to his good character.
Albert William Marchetti
State Bar #151777, Redlands (March 26, 2023)
Marchetti was suspended for 60 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to violating several conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.
Specifically, he failed to contact the Office of Probation to schedule an initial meeting by the required date, failed to timely submit three quarterly written reports, and failed to submit timely proof of attending the State Bar Ethics School and passing its final exam.
In aggravation, Marchetti had a prior record of discipline and committed multiple acts of misconduct in the instant case.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, experienced family and financial problems during the time of the misconduct--and did not harm any client, the public, or the administration of justice through his wrongdoing.
Steven Louis Morgan
State Bar #125117, Denver, Colorado (March 17, 2023)
Morgan was suspended from practicing law for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing professional misconduct in another jurisdiction: Colorado. He had been disciplined by the Supreme Court of Colorado in an order that included 45 days of actual suspension and one year of probation with conditions.
The California State Bar Court determined that the Colorado proceeding had provided fundamental constitutional protection and that as a matter of law, the admitted misconduct there also warranted imposing discipline in California.
Morgan was admitted to practice in Colorado many years after his admission to the California bar. The present case arose when a Colorado client submitted a complaint to the Attorney Regulation Committee of Colorado (OARC), alleging that Morgan had used privileged information to usurp his role at his company and had filed false criminal and civil complaints against him.
As part of the OARC's investigation, Morgan was asked to provide a copy of his fee agreement related to an earlier arbitration proceeding. In response, he provided a falsified letter and agreement that had been altered to omit the client's name as a client and business owner.
Morgan later admitted to making the alterations.
In mitigation, Morgan entered into a pretrial stipulation and had practiced law for approximately 30 years without a record of discipline.
Caryn Hong Thuy Nguyen
State Bar #206420, Irvine (March 17, 2023)
Nguyen was suspended for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to committing 11 acts of professional misconduct related to two separate client cases.
Her wrongdoing included failing to: keep her client reasonably informed of significant case developments, act with reasonable diligence on behalf of clients, release client files after being requested to do so, and to refund unearned advanced fees, as well as two counts each of improperly withdrawing from representation and failing to promptly respond to reasonable client inquiries, and three counts of failing to perform legal services with competence.
In one matter, Nguyen was hired to represent a client in a dissolution of marriage case--accepting $2,500 in advanced fees. She filed an initial petition. The opposing party ultimately defaulted, but Nguyen failed to file a request to enter the default or to otherwise advance the proceeding. She then ignored multiple entreaties from the client seeking information about the status of the case--including three phone calls and 15 written email and text inquiries.
Two years and two months after hiring Nguyen, the client hired new counsel to handle the case; Nguyen also ignored numerous requests by that counsel requesting documents related to the case. Three years after being hired, Nguyen refunded the full $2,500 the client had paid in advanced fees.
The second case involved support and custody issues between Nguyen's client and an ex-boyfriend related to their minor child. Nguyen attended a hearing in the matter, where the court ordered her to prepare and file written findings and an order. She failed to do so. The ex-boyfriend eventually filed and served the documents, instead. In a later meeting and correspondence with the client, Nguyen indicated that she was awaiting a transcript of the hearing before proceeding further. She did not respond to numerous subsequent client inquiries. Nearly two years after hiring Nguyen, the client hired new counsel to help with the case.
In aggravation, Nguyen committed multiple acts of misconduct.
In mitigation, she entered into a prefiling stipulation, had practiced law for 17 years discipline-free, and presented declarations from seven individuals taken from a range in the legal and general communities--all of whom attested to her good character and charitable work.
State Bar #293466, Los Angeles (March 3, 2023)
Oganesyan was suspended from the practice of law for 18 months and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to committing several acts of professional misconduct--all related to orders and conditions imposed in an earlier discipline order.
He was culpable of failing to file a timely and compliant declaration as ordered by the California Supreme Court (Cal. R. of Court, Rule 9.20), as well as failing to comply with numerous conditions imposed by the court-approved stipulation related to his probation. The specific provisions he violated included: failing to timely submit three quarterly written reports as well as a final report to the Office of probation; failing to provide timely proof of reviewing the California Rules of Professional Conduct and specified sections of the Business & Professions Code; failing to timely schedule an initial meeting with the Office of Probation; and failing to attend the State Bar Ethics School and pass its final examination.
In aggravation, Oganesyan committed multiple acts of misconduct and had a prior record of discipline.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, submitted evidence of performing substantial community service, and submitted declarations from 11 individuals representing a range of backgrounds in the legal and general communities--all of whom attested to his good character.
Matthew Scott Pappas
State Bar #171860, Blaine, Washington (March 26, 2023)
Pappas was suspended from practicing law for 90 days and placed on probation for one year after successfully fulfilling the conditions of participating in the State Bar Court's Alternative Discipline Program (ADP).
He had earlier stipulated to committing professional misconduct in another jurisdiction that also warranted imposing discipline in California and to committing additional violations related to two client matters: failing to comply with a court order, failing to keep his client reasonably informed of significant case developments, and improperly withdrawing from employment.
In aggravation, Pappas committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, significantly harmed both his clients and the administration of justice, and demonstrated a lack of candor related to his misconduct.
In mitigation, he entered into an amended stipulation and had no prior record of discipline--and was suffering from mental health issues that contributed to the misconduct in the present proceeding.
As a remedial measure, Pappas took steps to address his underlying mental health issues and was admitted to the ADP after establishing a nexus between the mental health issues and his misconduct.
After the court issued an order finding that he had successfully completed the program, it imposed the lower-end range of discipline--90 days of suspension rather than a lengthier period--in keeping with the terms of the negotiated ADP contract.
John Matthew Schum
State Bar #163376, Honolulu, Hawaii (March 26, 2023)
Schum was suspended for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing two acts of professional misconduct related to a single incident: failing to support the constitution and state law, and intentionally making false and misleading statements to compromise another person's financial accounts--wrongdoing involving moral turpitude.
While on a business trip, an individual found that his credit card was declined twice: once while attempting to pay a taxi fare and again by the hotel in which he was staying, When he called the issuing bank, he was informed the bank had an audio call directing that the account should be cancelled. In fact, the person who had made the call was Schum--against whom the man had a restraining order. Schum had obtained the individual's Social Security number, telephone number, and other identifying information to falsely represent that he was the cardholder.
State Bar investigators learned that the local district attorney had not initiated a criminal prosecution against Schum because a crime report about the incident was not filed until after the limitations period had passed.
In aggravation, Schum committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that caused significant financial harm to the man who was duped--as it took three weeks for his accounts to be restored.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation and was allotted minimal mitigating weight for having been on active status in California prior to the present misconduct. He received additional mitigating credit for eight character references who were aware of the full extent of his misconduct, but described it as "an isolated event that is out of character for the person they know respondent to be."
State Bar #118371, Santa Rosa (March 26, 2023)
Skuljan was suspended from practicing law for two years and placed on probation for three years in a consolidated conviction referral matter after successfully completing the State Bar Court's Alternative Discipline Program (ADP).
There were three underlying convictions: one misdemeanor and two felony convictions based on an enhancement and prior conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (Cal. Veh. Code § 23152(a)). Skuljan stipulated that the facts and circumstances surrounding the convictions did not involve moral turpitude, but did involve other misconduct warranting professional discipline. He also stipulated that he had been convicted of four other alcohol-related violations in addition to those included in the present conviction transmittals.
Skuljan was accepted into the ADP after filing a statement establishing a nexus between his alcohol abuse and the misconduct at issue. His admission included the condition that he be enrolled as inactive for at least two years--with credit given for a period of interim suspension ordered earlier.
In aggravation, Skuljan had a prior record of discipline.
In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation--and successfully completed the ADP.
Diego John Velasquez
State Bar #176961, La Jolla (March 17, 2023)
Velasquez was suspended from the practice of law for 18 months and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to committing three acts of professional misconduct related to a single client case.
His wrongdoing included: failing to maintain the required balance in his client trust account, withdrawing disputed funds from that account, and misappropriating client funds--an act involving moral turpitude.
In the underlying matter, a husband and wife retained Velasquez's firm to represent them in a personal injury action--agreeing to pay a contingency fee and accept the remainder after various medical lienholder deductions from the final settlement. Velasquez received two settlement checks--totaling $39,838--and deposited them into his client trust account; at that time, the clients owed approximately $34,807 to third-party medical lienholders. Though legally bound to hold the settlement funds until the lienholders were paid, Velasquez made a series of withdrawals from the account, causing the balance to dip to $4,385.
When one of the clients eventually inquired about the status of the case and an accounting of funds received and paid, Velasquez informed him "the final resolution process had been delayed more than usual due to the pandemic." He did not mention that he had withdrawn most of the settlement funds before reaching agreements to pay the lienholders, nor did he mention it several weeks later when pressed again for case status information.
Nearly 2 1/2 years after hiring Velasquez, the clients submitted a complaint to the State Bar about his handling of the case. Velasquez subsequently agreed to waive his attorney fees, paid off the medical liens, and disbursed a total of $14,873.50 to the clients.
In mitigation, Velasquez entered into a prefiling stipulation, had practiced law for 25 years discipline-free, presented character references from 13 individuals taken from a range in the general and legal communities, and submitted evidence of performing pro bono and volunteer community service.
John Robert Waterman
State Bar #215378, Oakhurst (March 3, 2023)
Waterman was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing two misdemeanor offenses in two unrelated incidents: disturbing the peace (Cal. Penal Code § 415(1)) and driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher (Cal. Veh. Code § 23152(b)). The conviction proceedings were consolidated in the instant case.
In the first incident, Waterman returned from a honeymoon cruise with his wife, then left their home to visit a friend. He returned smelling of alcohol, and the two argued. Waterman threw water on his wife, then tackled and straddled her--restraining her arms while headbutting and hitting her. She summoned police after he left the home, and investigating officers found him at a friend's home nearby, where he was arrested.
In the second matter, Waterman was stopped by officers while he was driving with a broken taillamp. He displayed signs of intoxication during a field sobriety test, and a breathalyzer test indicated he had a blood alcohol content of .14 percent.
The State Bar Court judge found that neither violation involved moral turpitude, but did warrant imposing discipline.
In mitigation, Waterman entered into a pretrial stipulation.
James P. White
State Bar #278756, Pleasanton (March 3, 2023)
White was suspended for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing two acts of professional misconduct: advising another individual to violate a court order and aiding and abetting another in violating that order--an act involving moral turpitude.
Both violations occurred in his handling of a single client matter.
White was retained to assist the husband in a marriage dissolution. Though the wife was living in Texas, she believed her estranged husband, a California resident, had hired someone to follow her--and secured a restraining order barring him from following, stalking, or keeping her under surveillance. White received a copy of the order and discussed a response and consequences of violating it.
His client also sought a restraining order against his estranged wife.
While both orders were in effect, White's client, suspecting that his estranged wife was working when she claimed to be unemployed, asked White whether he could have a private investigator conduct surveillance on her. White agreed, and helped to arrange hiring the investigator--who was intercepted by police after the estranged wife spotted him following her as she drove her daughter to daycare. Records revealed White had paid for the surveillance out of client funds held in trust.
In mitigation, White had entered into a prefiling stipulation, presented letters from 21 individuals who vouched for his good character, and introduced evidence of engaging in extensive community and volunteer services.
Kevin Michael Cowan
State Bar #284271, San Jose (March 3, 2023)
Cowan was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to earlier entering a plea of nolo contendere to committing assault causing serious bodily injury (Cal. Penal Code § 245(a)(4)). The violation was first charged as a felony, but later reduced to a misdemeanor.
In the underlying matter, Cowan was socializing with female friends at a bar when a man began to harass the women, despite their rejection of his attention and Cowan's request that he desist. Later that night, the man returned to the bar's parking lot, where Cowan remained talking with his friends near his car. One of the women "engaged in a verbal exchange" with the man, then attempted to pull him away from the area. Cowan then argued with the man, punching him once in the face with a closed fist. The man fell backward, and his head hit the ground. When Cowan observed that the man remained motionless, he called 911 and waited for aid to arrive. The man suffered injuries including a head laceration, skull fracture, and brain bleed--and was hospitalized for 15 days.
The State Bar's Review Department referred the matter for a hearing and decision as to whether the facts and circumstances surrounding the conviction involved moral turpitude or other misconduct warranting professional discipline.
The State Bar Court judge determined that the incident did not involve moral turpitude, but recommended probation as discipline.
In mitigation, Cowan entered into a pretrial stipulation, demonstrated remorse and recognition of his wrongdoing, presented 17 letters from individuals in a wide range in the legal and general communities who attested to his good character, and was allotted slight mitigating weight for having practiced law nearly seven years without a record of discipline.
Kevin Matthew Humphrey
State Bar #170715, Anaheim (March 17, 2023)
Humphrey was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to two convictions related to two separate incidents: possessing a loaded firearm (Cal. Penal Code § 12031(a)(1)) and driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or above (Cal. Veh. Code § 23152(b)).
In the firearm matter, Humphrey engaged in an argument with his then-wife--firing several gunshots into the ravine behind their home. He did not fire the shots at any individual. Investigating officers retrieved a loaded firearm and several casings from the scene.
The driving violation occurred several years later. Police officers observed Humphrey driving a motor vehicle erratically--veering down the road. When stopped, he was unable to complete sobriety tests at the scene. Later breath samples, taken after he was transported to the local police station, revealed blood alcohol concentrations of .19% and .20%.
The State Bar Court determined that the facts and circumstances surrounding both of the convictions did not involve moral turpitude but did involve misconduct warranting professional discipline.
In mitigation, Humphrey entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for approximately 12 years without a record of discipline, and provided declarations from 17 individuals taken from the legal and general communities--all of whom were fully aware of the misconduct at issue and all of whom attested to his good character.
Douglas Arthur Schenk
State Bar #200699, Newport Beach (March 26, 2023)
Schenk was placed on probation for two years after successfully completing the State Bar Court's Alternative Discipline Program (ADP).
The present proceeding consolidated two conviction referral orders--both involving violations of driving under the influence of alcohol (Cal. Veh. Code § 23152(a)) and driving with a blood alcohol level of .08% or more (Cal. Veh. Code § 23152(b)). The earlier case also involved a charge of driving without a valid license (Cal. Veh. Code § 12500). All the violations are misdemeanors; it was determined that the facts and circumstances surrounding them did not involve moral turpitude, but did involve misconduct warranting discipline.
Schenk submitted a declaration establishing a nexus between his substance abuse issues and misconduct, which was deemed sufficient for both matters, and he was accepted into the ADP. Documents related to the matter were sealed by court order.
In aggravation, Schenk committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, misrepresented his consumption of alcohol to police during his arrest, and demonstrated indifference by failing to comply with the terms of his criminal probation. In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had no prior record of discipline, and provided evidence of his good character. He also received mitigating credit for successfully completing the ADP.
Upon receiving evidence that Schenk completing the program, the State Bar Court ordered the lower level of discipline: probation with conditions, rather than actual suspension.
--Barbara Kate Repa