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Caution! Almost 180,000 attorneys are eligible to practice law in California. Many attorneys share the same names. All discipline reports are taken from State Bar Court documents and should be read carefully for names, ages, addresses and bar numbers. Read the Discipline Key for an explanation of the different levels of disciplinary action. Use Attorney Search to check an attorney's official bar membership record.

DISBARMENTS

SUSPENSION/PROBATION

DISBARMENTS

ROBERT BRIAN WOODS [#178125], 49, of Woodland was disbarred Dec. 21, 2005, and was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.

Woods failed to comply with rule 955, as required by a 2004 disciplinary order. He did not submit to the Supreme Court an affidavit stating that he notified his clients and other pertinent parties of his suspension.

The underlying discipline was imposed for Woods’ failure to perform legal services competently, appear at court-ordered settlement conferences, pay sanctions or keep his address current with the State Bar.


JAMES CARLISLE REGAN [#101905], 59, of Los Angeles was disbarred Dec. 30, 2005, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

The State Bar Court found that Regan committed three acts of misconduct in a personal injury matter in which he represented two people on a contingency fee basis. He filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court, paying the filing fee with a personal check. However, because he had earlier issued a bad check to the court, the court would not accept the filing fee. Regan never paid the filing fee, the statute of limitations lapsed and the case was dismissed.

He did not notify his clients and continued to pursue a settlement with the insurance company. At one point, he sent the claims adjuster a copy of the first page of the lawsuit, bearing a court stamp, but did not disclose the dismissal. The case settled for $8,500. When the insurer learned the case was dismissed, it demanded a return of the settlement.

The settlement proceeds never were disbursed, Regan did not return the money to the insurance company and he allowed the balance in his client trust account to fall below the required balance.

The bar court found that he failed to perform legal services competently or communicate with his clients and he committed acts of moral turpitude.

In a divorce and child custody matter, the court found that Regan improperly withdrew from representation. He had received a $1,000 fee, but did no work despite his promises to do so. One of his employees told the client Regan had left the country with no indication of when he planned to return, and he never gave the client a forwarding address or new phone number.

Regan was disciplined twice previously, one stemming from his pursuit of a case after his clients instructed him not to do so. The clients had the appeal dismissed on their own, but Regan filed a motion to have the appeal reinstated, falsely stating in a declaration that neither of the clients actually wanted the matter dismissed. In a second discipline, Regan improperly withdrew from representation, failed to refund $3,000 in advanced fees, set up an immigration law service with a non-lawyer and lied under oath while testifying before a labor commissioner.

In recommending Regan’s disbarment, Judge Robert M. Talcott particularly noted his record of moral turpitude that establishes a “lack in basic honesty on the part of [Regan].”


FRANK LEONARD SMITH III [#60022], 59, of High Springs, Fla. was disbarred Jan. 8, 2006, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

As required by rule 955, Smith did not file an affidavit with the Supreme Court stating that he had notified his clients and other interested parties of his suspension from practice. Failure to comply with rule 955 is grounds for disbarment.

Smith’s 2003 probation was revoked in 2004 after he failed to comply with its conditions. The underlying discipline was the result of a trust accounting violation in Florida. He also was privately reproved in 1994 after a sexual battery conviction.


GEORGE ANTHONY CREQUE [#115580], 50, of Willow Springs was disbarred Jan. 8, 2006, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

Creque did not comply with rule 955, as required by a 2004 disciplinary order: he did not submit to the Supreme Court an affidavit stating that he had notified his clients and other pertinent parties of his suspension from practice.

Creque has a string of disciplines for failing to comply with probation conditions.

He was first disciplined in 1998 for failing to communicate with a client, return client property or cooperate with the bar’s investigation. He was suspended in 2001 for not complying with probation conditions attached to the 1998 discipline.

The following year he was again disciplined for practicing law while suspended for not paying bar dues and not passing the professional responsibility exam.

The underlying discipline, imposed in 2004, was the result of failing to comply with probation conditions, as well as practicing law while not entitled, misleading a judge, acquiring an interest adverse to a client and committing acts of moral turpitude.


SUSPENSION/PROBATION

ALEXANDER J. PECEL [#167229], 37, of Valencia was suspended for six months, stayed, and placed on three years of probation. The order took effect Nov. 17, 2005.

Pecel stipulated to misconduct in two cases.

He failed to perform legal services competently in a case he handled for longtime clients who owned a flooring company. In an action to recover money owed to the client, Pecel did not comply with discovery and the complaint was dismissed. A cross-complaint was ordered to mediation, but Pecel did not appear. When the cross-complaint went to trial, Pecel did not appear and judgment of more than $34,000 was entered against his client.

The client was unaware of the status of the case until the sheriff arrived at the flooring company with a writ of attachment.

He failed to perform legal services competently in a personal injury case by not responding to the client’s numerous phone calls. After almost two years, he advised the client that it would be difficult to obtain a recovery for her and closed her file.

Pecel was privately reproved in 2003.


MICHAEL EDWIN MANNING [#149757], 44, of Covina Probation was revoked, he was actually suspended for 90 days with credit for a suspension in May and June 2005, and he was ordered to comply with rule 955. In the second order, he received a one-year stayed suspension, a 45-day actual suspension and was placed on two years of probation. The actual suspensions are to run concurrently. Both orders took effect Nov. 17, 2005.

In the probation revocation matter, he failed to comply with probation conditions attached to a 2003 discipline order by not submitting five quarterly probation reports. In the underlying discipline, he failed to respond to client inquiries, perform legal services competently or render an accounting to a client in settling an estate.

The second matter resulted from Manning’s continued misconduct in the estate case that led to the 2003 discipline. After stipulating to misconduct, he filed a petition but failed to appear in court. In addition, the court found several deficiencies in the petition and made additional orders.

Manning appeared at two probate hearings, but still had not addressed any of the deficiencies found by the court. He also did not respond to status requests from a lawyer representing one of the four beneficiaries of the estate. The court finally took the matter off its calendar when Manning again failed to appear and did not correct 11 deficiencies in the petition. Although he filed a second petition, it too contained numerous deficiencies. The estate was not closed at the time of the stipulation.

Manning stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, respond to a client’s reasonable status inquiries or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.


JOHN R. BOYD [#49293], 69, of Irvine was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Nov. 17, 2005.

Boyd was found liable for fraud in a civil lawsuit that resulted from his unauthorized use of property as security for a loan. A Laguna Beach couple had loaned proceeds from a sale of their property to Boyd and others in connection with real estate transactions. But the money was used to buy a property the couple knew nothing about. That property ultimately was sold in foreclosure and Boyd told the couple they had “lost their investment,” just as he had.

The couple won a judgment of $383,249 against Boyd, as well as attorneys fees and costs. Boyd declared bankruptcy and the couple’s judgment was among the debts discharged. At the time, he owed them $557,443.

Boyd stipulated that he committed an act of moral turpitude. In mitigation, he had no prior record of discipline.


DAVID L. GERNSBACHER [#89596], 52, of Los Angeles DAVID L. GERNSBACHER [#89596], 52, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Nov. 20, 2005.

Gernsbacher pleaded no contest to assault and failing to stop after a traffic accident. According to a stipulation he reached with the bar, Gernsbacher was involved in a traffic collision in which the other driver sustained more than $3,000 damage to his car. Following the accident, Gernsbacher assaulted the other driver and left the scene.

He was charged with four counts, but two were dropped as part of a plea bargain.


JUAN A. MOLINA [#177982], 38, of Calexico was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on probation for two years with a 60-day actual suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Nov. 20, 2005.

Molina stipulated that he practiced law while suspended, working on at least five cases. He made court appearances in two juvenile matters and at least three immigration matters without telling the court he was suspended.

He committed acts of moral turpitude by misrepresenting his status to clients and the courts.

The suspension was imposed in 2004 for failing to perform legal services competently or communicate with clients and for committing an act of moral turpitude.


LAWRENCE A. MERRYMAN [#28984], 74, of Newport Beach Probation was revoked, the stay of suspension was lifted and he was actually suspended for one year, with credit for a period of involuntary inactive enrollment that began Aug. 25, 2005. He was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect Nov. 20, 2005.

Merryman did not comply with probation conditions attached to a 2004 disciplinary order. He failed to submit quarterly probation reports or respond to inquiries from the probation department.

Merryman has a record of three previous disciplines. The first was a 2000 private reproval for failing to perform legal services competently, promptly refund unearned fees and maintain complete records of client funds. He was disciplined in 2002 and 2004 for failing to comply with conditions attached to the reproval.


MYLIK R. HARRINGTON [#213894], 31, of Los Angeles was suspended for two years, stayed, actually suspended for one year and until he makes restitution and the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension, and he was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Nov. 20, 2005.

In a default proceeding, the bar court found that Harrington committed 14 acts of misconduct in four client matters.

In the first, the mother of a prison inmate hired Harrington to file a writ of habeas corpus for her son and paid a $15,000 advance fee. He did not return numerous phone calls, but finally told the client he had personal problems and was having trouble obtaining clearance to visit her son. The mother fired Harrington 16 months after hiring him and sought a refund of her fee. Harrington did not return the money or provide any services of value.

The court found that he failed to perform legal services competently, communicate with a client, refund unearned fees, maintain a current address with the bar or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

In a second matter, Harrington received a $3,500 fee to represent a couple in a civil action. They had been acting in pro per and Harrington never filed a substitution of attorney. Opposing counsel told the couple he would direct all communications to them because Harrington had not responded to his phone calls or letters.

The clients fired Harrington and asked for a refund, but he said he was trying to settle their case. They left 27 telephone messages over the next few weeks, without a response. Summary judgment was entered against them.

Harrington agreed to refund $2,000, most of an advance fee in a criminal case, when he was terminated, but the client agreed he could keep $750 of that amount to work on a separate matter — to obtain the release of confiscated money. He neither got the money back nor returned the $750. He did write a refund check for $1,250, but it bounced.

In the last matter, also a criminal case, Harrington did not return 28 phone calls from his client and did not return her medical records when she asked for them. She eventually fired him and sought a refund of her $3,500 fee, but he did not return any money.


DOUGLAS DEAN SCHORLING [#96106], 50, of Fullerton was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a six-month actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Nov. 20, 2005.

Schorling stipulated that he committed four acts of moral turpitude in mishandling three matters at his law firm. Twice he falsified documents to make it appear he had filed petitions, and he misrepresented his actions by saying he had done certain things when he had not.

In the first matter, he prepared a petition to modify an irrevocable trust but never filed it. However, he created a file stamped copy of a signed order, claimed he paid the filing fee with his own funds, and when questioned about the case number, which was actually the number for a different case, concocted a story blaming the court clerk.

In a family trust matter, Schorling was supposed to send $750,000 of endorsed documentation to a transfer agent in order to transfer title of securities from a decedent to the client. He claimed he mailed the documents through a friend at the post office and presented 14 postal form receipt cards stamped received by the firm. In fact, the transfer agent did not receive the documents until eight or more weeks after the return receipt cards were received.

Schorling prepared another petition and put a file stamp date and case number on it, but never filed it. He also created an “order” and forged a document that was submitted to a title company and recorded in connection with the sale of real property. He sent a letter to the clients enclosing a copy of the falsified petition and order.

In mitigation, Schorling has no record of discipline and he cooperated with the bar’s investigation.


CLAUDIA L. PHILLIPS [#93233], 51, of Agoura Hills was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a six-month actual suspension and was ordered to comply with rule 955, take the MPRE and prove her rehabilitation. The order took effect Nov. 20, 2005.

A bankruptcy lawyer, Phillips employed her husband as her paralegal. Without her knowledge, he hired three people to solicit clients on her behalf.

In three matters, the employees went to the homes of people facing foreclosure, received payments of between $400 and $1,200, and took the information to Phillips’ husband, who prepared bankruptcy petitions. Claudia Phillips filed the petitions and represented the clients in all matters following the filings.

In a fourth matter, a Los Angeles bankruptcy judge found that neither Phillips nor anyone in her office met with a client or explained the difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 petitions. He also found that the petition contained inaccurate information. In lieu of discipline, Phillips agreed to sell her law practice, not practice bankruptcy law for 30 months, attend continuing education classes and supervise her husband. She complied with all conditions of the stipulation.

Phillips stipulated that she failed to perform legal services competently by failing to monitor the activities of her staff.

In mitigation, she instituted remedial office procedures prior to the threat of discipline charges, complied with the terms of the settlement agreement with the bankruptcy trustee, and her ability in bankruptcy law and good character are widely known. She suffered from prolonged emotional and financial abuse by her husband and has had significant personal problems, including a child’s medical problems, and providing support for her sister, whose husband was murdered.


WILLIAM O’NEILL III [#69629], 61, of Auburn was revoked, the stay of suspension was lifted and he was actually suspended for 90 days, with credit for a period of involuntary inactive enrollment that began July 30, 2005, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect Nov. 20, 2005.

O’Neill did not comply with probation conditions attached to a 2004 disciplinary order by not submitting two quarterly probation reports.

He was disciplined for failing to perform legal services competently, report sanctions to the bar, render an accounting of client funds in his possession, inform a client of developments in his case or return client property. O’Neill also was privately reproved in 1998, and had a third discipline that resulted in his resignation in January.


MELODIE R. WILLIAMS AJUDA [#158068], 46, of Kaneohe was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a three-month actual suspension and was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect Nov. 25, 2005.

Ajuda was disciplined in Hawaii with a three-year suspension for mishandling her client trust account. She commingled personal and client funds, used her trust account to pay business or personal expenses, failed to deposit client funds in her trust account and used the money for her own benefit, failed to use her name as the payee for checks representing earned fees, and withdrew earned fees without transferring them to a business account bearing her name.

In mitigation, several of the acts do not constitute misconduct in California, Ajuda had significant family problems, she quickly took remedial steps and she presented letters attesting to her good character. She has no prior record of discipline.


ROY CHESTER DICKSON [#105583], 58, of Yorba Linda was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 75-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Dec. 3, 2005.

Dickson stipulated to four counts of misconduct in three cases.

In the first, he was hired to represent a group of beneficiaries in a probate matter. He received almost $200,000 in proceeds for the clients, but did not disclose that he’d received nearly half — $91,633 from the sale of real property.  Several of the clients hired a new lawyer, and, when they learned about the property sale, asked him for their share.

Dickson mistakenly believed he was entitled to keep the entire amount as legal fees because some additional trust assets were discovered around the time the clients hired a new lawyer. Dickson and his clients eventually settled their dispute in a confidential agreement and he owes no restitution.

He stipulated that he failed to notify clients of his receipt of funds and did not maintain an accurate record of client funds.

In a second matter, Dickson hired a client to perform clerical duties in his office. When she quit, she filed a claim for unpaid wages with the California State Labor Commissioner, who awarded her $15,870. Dickson paid the claim plus interest nearly four years later. He stipulated that he violated his duty to uphold the law.

In the third matter, he wrote a check against insufficient funds in his client trust account and stipulated that he did not maintain a proper ledger for the account.

Dickson also was disciplined in 2001 for failing to perform legal services competently, return client files or communicate with clients. He was privately reproved in 1998.

In mitigation, he acted in good faith, cooperated with the bar’s investigation and demonstrated remorse.


DONALD BARNETT [#33012], 68, of Los Angeles was suspended for five years, stayed, actually suspended for three and a half years and until he proves his rehabilitation and makes restitution, and he was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Dec. 3, 2005.

Barnett stipulated to five counts of misconduct in two cases.

He negotiated settlements for two clients in a personal injury matter and received settlement checks totaling about $9,700. He did not notify the clients that he’d received the funds, nor did he disburse the money to them.

In the second matter, he received an $86,000 settlement check for his client and agreed to surrender the client’s insurance policy for cancellation. Barnett deposited the check in his client trust account and gave the client $10,000. A dispute arose over the settlement funds, and Barnett was required to keep the remaining $76,000 intact until the dispute was resolved. However, he allowed the balance in the trust account to fall below that level. He never gave any more money to the client.

He stipulated that he failed to notify a client that he had received settlement funds on his behalf or keep the disputed portion in his trust account, and he converted client funds to his own use, committing acts of moral turpitude.

Barnett was disciplined three times previously. He was publicly reproved in 1977 and suspended in 2000 for failing to maintain client funds in trust or promptly pay client funds and he commingled personal and client money. He did not comply with probation conditions and was again suspended in 2002. At that time, he also stipulated that he entered into an improper business transaction with a client.

In mitigation, Barnett was suffering from severe emotional difficulties at the time of the misconduct.


PHILIP HARVEY BUDA [#83369], 55, of Redwood City was suspended for one year, stayed, actually suspended for 90 days and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension, and he was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. If the suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Dec. 3, 2005.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Buda committed 10 acts of misconduct in three cases.

In the first, he represented a couple in an automobile accident in which the woman was injured. He filed a lawsuit and represented his client in a deposition, but failed to appear at several hearings, was sanctioned three times for failing to prepare a document ordered by the court and did not return his client’s file as requested. The case was dismissed.

While suspended from practice in 2002 for failing to pay bar dues, Buda accepted a divorce case and collected a $3,500 fee. When the client filed a complaint with the State Bar, Buda said he was unaware of the suspension because he’d moved and not received his mail. He did not notify the bar of his address change.

He never finalized another divorce case because the court twice rejected the judgment because it did not contain supporting documentation. He also was suspended for non-payment of bar dues for the duration of the case but held himself out as entitled to practice.

Buda did not participate in the disciplinary proceedings.


MICHAEL S. MILLER [#158019], 44, of Valley Springs was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a six-month actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Dec. 3, 2005.

Miller stipulated to two counts of misconduct while representing an elderly and comparatively unsophisticated couple in a legal dispute over a piece of property. The couple agreed to pay Miller $300 an hour and, if unable to pay half of the fees at the time they were incurred, to pay 40 percent of the gross selling price of the home.

They paid Miller $7,000 over 10 months, and when the property was sold, the title company issued a check for $238,036 to the couple. At Miller’s request, they allowed him to deposit the money in his client trust account. He later told them he was exercising the contingent fee provision of the fee agreement and taking a fee of $174,375.31. He thus took 73 percent of the net sales price of the property.

The fee was unconscionable.

Miller also convinced his clients to execute three deeds of trust against their residence, amounting to $200,000. The couple never borrowed any money, but recording the deeds of trust was an attempt to mislead the daughter into believing the parents’ home was heavily encumbered.

He stipulated that he collected an unconscionable fee and violated the duty to “employ means only as are consistent with the truth.”

In mitigation, Miller has no prior record of discipline and he paid the clients $55,000 without the necessity of a civil trial.


ROBERT STANLEY SHATZEN [#54542], 64, of Portland, Ore. was suspended for three years, stayed, actually suspended for four months and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Dec. 3, 2005.

Shatzen was disciplined in Oregon in 2004 for violating four professional responsibility rules.

Shatzen is a certified public accountant, but his CPA certificate and permit lapsed in 1983. For about six years, he continued to list himself as a CPA in the phone book and the Oregon bar membership directory. He also told clients he was a CPA. Two clients complained that he failed to prepare their tax returns and the Board of Accountancy revoked his license and assessed $52,000 in civil penalties against him.

The California bar court found that his actions amounted to moral turpitude and false advertising. He also failed to cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

In mitigation, he has no prior record of discipline.


CHRISTOPHER CHARLES HOHNS [#118886], 51, of Grass Valley was revoked, the stay of suspension was lifted and he was actually suspended for one year and until he makes restitution. Credit will be given for a period of involuntary inactive enrollment that began Aug. 12, 2005. The order took effect Dec. 14, 2005.

Hohns did not file two quarterly probation reports, submitted a third late, did not report a change in his phone number and did not submit proof of attendance at ethics school.

The underlying discipline, imposed in 2004, was the result of multiple acts of misconduct, including failure to perform legal services competently, maintain client funds in trust, notify the client about a settlement offer or the receipt of settlement funds and a failure to cooperate with the bar’s investigation.


MICHAEL B. PRICE [#51363], 60, of Burlingame was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 30-day actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Dec. 14, 2005.

Price stipulated to 12 counts of misconduct in four cases.

He did not complete an uncontested paternity action for a client who paid a $1,500 retainer. He did not communicate with the client, refund her fee or give her file to a new lawyer.

In a probate case, he received about $4,200 belonging to an estate, and when his client terminated him, he still had about $1,000 that he did not return for more than a year. He also did not promptly provide the client’s file to her new lawyer and did not provide an accounting for more than a year.

In the third matter, a divorce, he did not advance his client’s case for six months. When the client fired him, he refused to refund a $3,000 retainer fee and claims the client owes him money. He never accounted for the fee.

Another divorce client fired him after a lack of communication, and he did not provide an accounting of the $3,000 retainer for six months or a substitution of attorney form for two months.

Price stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, return client files, account for client funds, communicate with clients or take steps to protect his clients’ interests.

Price was privately reproved in 2001.

In mitigation, he had family problems at the time of the misconduct.


ANDREW KENNETH ALGER [#142838], 57, of Bodega Bay was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a nine-month actual suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation. Credit will be given for a period of involuntary inactive enrollment from July 2003 to May 2004. The order took effect Dec. 21, 2005.

Alger stipulated to the unauthorized practice of law and a failure to file a rule 955 affidavit with the Supreme Court on time. He participated in the State Bar Court’s Alternative Discipline Program for lawyers with mental health or addiction problems and completed the program successfully. Imposition of discipline was deferred.

Alger practiced law while suspended in 2000 by appearing at a status conference in the Yolo County superior court.

He originally was disciplined in 1998 for failing to perform competently in two matters, communicate with clients in one matter or cooperate with the bar’s investigation. In 2001, he was disciplined for failing to comply with probation conditions attached to the reproval — he did not make restitution to two clients, submit four quarterly probation reports or attend ethics school.

Later in 2001, the bar court found that in additional cases, Alger failed to perform services competently, inform clients of significant case developments and pay court sanctions; he also improperly withdrew from employment.

In mitigation, he made restitution and completed the diversion program. The court found that his methamphetamine addiction caused his failure to comply with probation conditions.


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