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PETER A. LEWINE , 59, of Los Angeles was disbarred Feb. 3, 2002, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Lewine failed to promptly pay out client funds or properly maintain settlement funds in a trust account and he misappropriated client funds, an act of moral turpitude.
Lewine settled a personal injury case for his client and her minor daughter for $25,000. The two endorsed their checks and authorized payment to medical providers, a legal fee to Lewine and the remainder to themselves. Lewine never paid the medical providers and allowed the balance of the trust account to fall below the required amount.
He did not return repeated phone calls and when the client finally reached him, Lewine was rude and vulgar and ended the phone call.
He has two prior disciplines - a public reproval in 1994 for allowing his trust account to fall below the required amount, and a two-year suspension in 2001 for misappropriating client funds.
BRIAN VICTOR WILLIAM POGUE , 47, of Los Angeles was disbarred Feb. 3, 2002, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Pogue failed to comply with rule 955, as required by a 2000 discipline order.
In the underlying discipline, Pogue was suspended and placed on probation for failing to appear at a hearing in a suit he filed on behalf of three plaintiffs. He was sanctioned $500 and ordered to appear at a later hearing. He neither paid the sanctions nor appeared at the subsequent hearing.
KENNETH DALE FAIR , 55, of Anaheim was disbarred Feb. 7, 2002, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Fair did not comply with rule 955, as required by a 2000 disciplinary order. That order was a probation revocation imposed when Fair did not submit a quarterly probation report or proof of attendance at ethics school and continuing education courses.
In addition, he has three other disciplinary actions on his record.
In 1994, he stipulated to misconduct toward several clients, including abandoning their cases. When he failed to pass the professional responsibility exam, as required by the previous order, he was suspended. In 1998, he was again disciplined for failing to meet the conditions of the 1996 probation, for practicing law while suspended and for misconduct in several client matters.
Last year, he was disciplined again for abandoning a client matter, which resulted in the dismissal of the case.
"This is [Fair's] fifth disciplinary matter," wrote Judge Robert M. Talcott. "He continues to exhibit an inability or unwillingness to uphold his professional obligations. In addition, he failed to participate in this proceeding, and therefore has not provided the court with any explanation for his blatant disobedience of the Supreme Court's order."
JAMES BAKER MacDONALD , 65, of Fullerton was disbarred Feb. 16, 2002, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that MacDonald did not comply with rule 955, as required by a 2000 disciplinary order.
He was disciplined for his actions in two cases, including improper business transactions with a client, failing to promptly deliver client papers, refund unearned fees or cooperate with a bar investigation, commingling funds, conflict of interest and committing an act of moral turpitude.
STEPHEN ROBERT FLUHARTY , 49, of Glendale was disbarred Feb. 28, 2002, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Fluharty failed to comply with rule 955, as ordered in a 2001 discipline.
In addition to that order, issued because Fluharty did not meet the probation conditions attached to a 1996 discipline order, he was given a stayed suspension and placed on four years of probation for misconduct in three client matters. He failed to promptly respond to status inquiries, promptly return client property, perform legal services competently, maintain client funds in trust, or report sanctions to the bar, and he improperly withdrew from employment.
GREGORY CHARLES HORN , 54, of Calabasas was disbarred Feb. 28, 2002, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
Horn failed to comply with rule 955, as ordered in a 2001 discipline. The order, issued in a default proceeding, was the result of Horn's misconduct in four client matters, including failure to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees, return client files and respond to client inquiries.
Horn also was disciplined in 1998 for failing to deposit client funds in a trust account and promptly pay client funds in connection with one client matter.
CLIFFORD A. IMBRO , 52, of San Diego was disbarred March 13, 2002, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
Imbro has been suspended since 1995 as a result of his failure to make restitution ordered at that time. He was disciplined for failing to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients or maintain client funds in a trust account, and for gross negligence in handling trust funds, misappropriation, issuing checks against insufficient funds and sharing fees with a non-lawyer.
As required by that order, Imbro submitted an affidavit stating he had notified his clients, opposing counsel and other pertinent parties of his suspension from practice.
In fact, he did not notify a couple who were seeking permanent resident status for the wife, paying Imbro $960 in advance fees and costs. Six months later, when he had not filed the petition, Imbro had the client file it herself. Imbro was listed as attorney of record and did not withdraw from representation as he should have. He also sent a letter to his clients on his letterhead without ever notifying them he was suspended, nor did he inform the INS that he was not eligible to practice.
While suspended, Imbro also placed an ad, or had someone else place an ad, in a San Diego magazine advertising his availability as an attorney and immigration law specialist.
Also while suspended, he sent a letter to a bank attorney asking that she not contact his client without his consent, and he offered a legal opinion to another client.
State Bar Court Judge Madge Watai found that Imbro practiced law while suspended, failed to obey a court order and committed acts of moral turpitude. He also failed to comply with probation conditions attached to the 1995 discipline; he failed to submit three quarterly reports and submitted others that stated under penalty of perjury that he was not practicing law during his suspension.
Although Imbro said his actions were mistakes, Watai rejected that characterization, writing, "Respondent's misconduct is more than 'mistakes.' He blatantly continued the operation of his law office despite the order of the Supreme Court." In recommending disbarment, Watai also said she was troubled by Imbro's disregard of the court's order and "the acts of deceit surrounding that disobedience."
ROBERT MICHAEL NUSBAUM , 39, of Lancaster was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 60-day actual suspension, and was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Dec. 29, 2001.
Nusbaum stipulated to misconduct in six cases.
A client paid him $2,300 in advance fees to negotiate a payment plan, reinstate his driver's license and prevent his wages from being garnished. Nusbaum did no work on the case, did not communicate with his client or subsequent counsel, did not refund unearned fees and did not respond to a State Bar investigator.
Nusbaum failed to perform legal services in a personal injury case and two bankruptcy cases.
In one of the bankruptcy matters, Nusbaum was retained to file a chapter 13 petition in order to prevent his client from losing his house to foreclosure. The chapter 13 petition was filed, but later converted to a chapter 7 because the client was unable to comply with a payment plan. A week before a hearing, the mortgage company sought relief from a stay that had been ordered; Nusbaum failed to respond or appear at the hearing, and the motion was granted.
The day of the hearing, the client paid Nusbaum an additional $1,000 to convert the chapter 7 back to a chapter 13. Nusbaum never told him about the mortgage company's motion and did not respond to the client's phone calls when he began to receive documents from the mortgage company. Nusbaum also did not file the motion to convert back to chapter 13, after the mortgage company's motion for relief was granted. The client's home was sold at foreclosure.
Another client paid Nusbaum $2,063 to handle a family law matter and terminated his services three days later, requesting a refund. He didn't return her phone calls or refund the money.
Another client seeking a divorce paid Nusbaum $1,400, but he never responded to her frequent, sometimes daily, phone calls.
In mitigation, he has serious family problems for which he has sought counseling. He has no record of discipline and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.
DOUGLAS YOUNG PETERS , 46, of Beverly Hills was suspended for 60 days, stayed, placed on five years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Dec. 29, 2001.
Peters stipulated to misconduct in two matters, both involving criminal convictions. In 2000, he was arrested and charged with public intoxication and battery and later was convicted of one count of battery.
The previous year, he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and brandishing a weapon, and pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace and trespass. In both cases, he was prohibited from owning dangerous weapons and from using threats or violence against another.
In mitigation, he has no prior record of discipline, no clients were harmed and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.
JENNIFER C. PETERS , 34, of Encino was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on 18 months of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Dec. 29, 2001.
Peters represented a couple in their bankruptcy proceeding, filing a chapter 7 petition. However, she did not file debtor's schedules with the petition and was notified by the court to do so. Peters then prepared and signed her clients' names to two documents which they had not reviewed.
When the court learned of her actions, it sanctioned Peters $500. Peters stipulated that she misled the court.
Peters also did not respond to nine telephone calls from the clients.
In mitigation, Peters says the clients authorized her to sign the documents in question and that her staff tried to have them come to her office to sign them. The clients say they did not authorize Peters to sign anything. At a hearing with creditors, the clients stated under oath that the information in the documents was correct.
Peters has no prior record of discipline, received a pro bono award in 1996 and has revised her office procedures to avoid future misconduct.
RUTH E. PRICE , 61, of San Diego was suspended for 12 months, stayed, placed on 24 months of probation and was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Dec. 29, 2001.
Price stipulated to misconduct in four consolidated matters.
Price represented her husband as conservator of an estate in 1991. In 1994, the law changed to prohibit compensation for a spouse or business partner of a conservator who provides legal services for the conservator unless the court approves.
In 1994, Price's husband was removed as conservator after the court found him incompetent. Price represented him in the proceedings.
When the husband filed a final accounting of the estate, he claimed fees for himself and $13,000 in attorney fees for Price. The court ruled she could not claim any fees due to her continuing business relationship with her husband and because the court had not approved her right to compensation, as required by law.
After appeal, the court awarded Price the fees she earned prior to 1994 and released remaining funds to a third party who had filed a claim seeking partial satisfaction of an earlier judgment he won against Price's husband.
Price asserted that her lien preceded that of the other party, but the probate court did not believe her and found that it was part of a sophisticated effort to preclude the other party's lawful attempt to collect funds that were due him.
Price filed a second appeal "without good cause and for purposes of delaying" her husband's debt to the other party, according to the stipulation. The appellate court rejected her arguments. The probate court also found that a retainer agreement between Price and her husband that she had submitted as part of her appeal was falsified.
Price stipulated that she pursued an appeal that was not legal or just, committed an act of moral turpitude by submitting to the court a falsified document, and she failed to cooperate with a bar investigation.
In a marital dissolution for which the client paid Price $1,785 as advanced fees, Price never filed the dissolution papers and did little or no work on the case. She did not refund unearned fees or return the client's phone calls.
In two other matters, she appeared in court while not entitled to practice. In one of the cases, she did not respond to her client's written or telephonic requests for status updates.
In mitigation, Price practiced for 20 years without any discipline record, and in 1998 she was diagnosed with neurotic depression, subsequent to treatment for breast cancer.
LARRY WAYNE SMITH , 47, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Dec. 29, 2001.
Smith stipulated to misconduct in three consolidated matters.
Smith filed a chapter 11 bankruptcy petition and told the court he had already been paid $5,000 for legal services he performed prior to the filing. The court granted his petition to sell his clients' property and ordered that after certain expenses were paid, the remainder of the proceeds from the sale were to be held by Smith in a client trust account. Smith received more than $184,000.
Over the next 16 months, he disbursed money to his clients and more than $57,000 to himself.
After that time, he petitioned the court for permission to pay some creditors and dismiss the case. He told the court he was holding the $184,000 to pay creditors and said he was entitled to some $48,000 in fees. He did not tell the court about the payments already made to the clients and to himself.
Two months later, he told the court he had paid creditors almost $81,000 and the court dismissed the case. In fact, Smith had not paid the creditors.
He then disbursed more money to his clients, gave nearly $7,000 to the bankruptcy trustee and others, and took the remaining $73,000 for fees for himself. He eventually paid the clients' creditors about $77,000.
Smith stipulated that he made misrepresentations to the court and wilfully disobeyed a court order.
In two other cases, Smith stipulated that he commingled funds by depositing in his client trust account the operating funds for a company he owned. He also issued checks against his trust account to pay the business' expenses, including some against insufficient funds.
He told a State Bar investigator that he had an arrangement with a third party where as much as 49 percent of his company's stock would be transferred to that party if certain conditions were met. He chose to treat the company's funds like those belonging to a client.
In mitigation, Smith has no prior record of discipline, and he paid his clients' creditors and attended the bar's client trust accounting course.
JOEL MARKUS BASTA , 55, of Coronado was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on four years of probation with a two-year actual suspension and was ordered to make restitution, prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Jan. 10, 2002.
Basta stipulated to four counts of misconduct in a personal injury case, which he was handling on a contingency fee basis.
He settled the matter for $7,501 and deposited the settlement check in a non-trust account without notifying the client. He took his fee of $2,500 and was required to maintain the remainder in trust. Four months later, when the client asked Basta if he had received the settlement, he said he would check and call her the next day. He did not.
Three months later, when the client called again, he admitted he had received the settlement funds and spent them. He could not repay the money because a check from another client, provided to Basta so he could pay that client's bills, had bounced. He had already paid the bills, causing the balance being held for the personal injury client to drop.
Over a seven-month period, Basta paid his client about $4,000 of the $5,000.67 he had misappropriated. He also told the client he would pay her medical bills, but did not do so.
Basta stipulated that he failed to deposit client funds in a trust account, promptly notify the client of receipt of client funds or cooperate with the bar's investigation, and he committed an act of moral turpitude by misappropriating client funds.
Basta has a record of five prior disciplines, including a 1998 stayed suspension for failing to comply with a 1993 probation modification order. In 1992, he was disciplined for failing to perform competently, return unearned fees or keep a client informed, for having a pecuniary interest adverse to his client and for improperly withdrawing from representation. He also was disciplined twice in 1986.
In mitigation, he made restitution to the client.
DAVID LANSING CHAPMAN , 63, of San Marino The probation of DAVID LANSING CHAPMAN [#60783], 63, of San Marino was revoked, the previous stay of suspension lifted, and he was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual six-month suspension, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. Credit toward the actual suspension will be given for a period of involuntary inactive enrollment which began Aug. 9, 2001. The order took effect Jan.10, 2002.
Chapman failed to comply with probation conditions attached to a 2000 disciplinary order. He failed to submit four quarterly probation reports or to attend six hours of MCLE courses in ethics or law office management, nor did he provide proof of passage of the MPRE.
He did complete ethics school, paid $896 toward the cost of the disciplinary proceeding and earned two of the six required hours of MCLE credit.
The 2000 discipline was issued for Chapman's failure to comply with conditions attached to a 1998 public reproval, which was imposed for failing to perform legal services competently, return client files or return client phone calls.
In mitigation, less than a month after the 2000 discipline order was filed, Chapman suffered three fractures to an ankle and broke his leg, injuries that required four surgeries. Each operation required him to be confined to bed for six weeks and heavily medicated and his activities were very limited.
FRANK M. JODZIO , 58, of San Diego was suspended for 90 days, stayed, placed on one year of probation with a 30-day actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Jan. 10, 2002.
Jodzio settled a personal injury case and was required to maintain a certain balance in his client trust account while he tried to negotiate reduced doctor bills for the client. He stipulated that through carelessness or gross negligence, he allowed the balance in the trust account to fall below the required amount over a one-year period.
Jodzio was privately reproved in 1993 for failing to perform legal services competently and not responding to client inquiries.
In mitigation, his client was not harmed, Jodzio demonstrated remorse and he had emotional or physical problems at the time of the misconduct.
KURT A. KISSINGER , 48, of Newport Beach was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 75-day suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Jan. 10, 2002.
Kissinger stipulated to 15 counts of misconduct in 10 consolidated cases.
Four of the cases were the result of commingling personal and client funds in his trust account. Numerous checks were returned due to insufficient funds, and the account was used to pay business and personal expenses.
Four counts were the result of Kissinger's actions in a case where he represented a client in a claim against her landlord to recover property. Although he filed a complaint, he then failed to appear at three hearings and the case was dismissed. He never informed his client.
When the client learned of the dismissal, she hired a new attorney, who asked for the file and for a substitution of attorney form. Kissinger did not respond, so the new attorney filed a motion with the court to remove Kissinger as the attorney, to set aside the dismissal and to seek sanctions. Kissinger responded within several days.
He also did not account for the $1,732 in advance fees and costs.
In the other matters, Kissinger admitted to failing to pay client funds promptly, maintain client funds in a trust account, obey a court order, perform with competence or communicate with a client. He misappropriated nearly $3,000 from one client, did not promptly pay a court-ordered $1,000 sanction and did not pay a small claims judgment a client won against him.
In mitigation, Kissinger has no record of prior discipline. He filed for bankruptcy three times, lost his home to foreclosure, his law partnership dissolved, he was going through a bitter custody battle with his ex-wife, and he suffered a back injury. In order to establish a new client base, he operated three offices but did not adequately supervise his employees, one of whom accepted cases without Kissinger's knowledge.
He has resolved his trust accounting problems and now operates only one office.
RAYMOND LEE TURCHIN , 60, of Glendale was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on one year of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Jan. 10, 2002.
Turchin represented a client in a medical malpractice case on a contingency fee basis and settled with one defendant for $7,000. Without his client's knowledge, he signed her name to the settlement agreement and release. He also did not make the doctor's office aware that he signed his client's name. He and his client dispute whether he was authorized to sign her name.
He deposited the check in his client trust account without notifying the client and then wrote five checks to physicians, using up the client's share of the settlement. He never explained to the client that she would receive nothing.
Turchin stipulated that he failed to keep a client informed about developments in her case and he failed to provide legal services competently.
Turchin negotiated a $310,000 settlement in another medical malpractice case and prepared a disbursement sheet indicating he had paid about $82,000 in litigation costs. However, he did not keep adequate records and stipulated that he overstated the amount paid to third parties and thereby failed to render appropriate accounts to a client.
The settlement check was not deposited in his client trust account, but Turchin did deposit $5,000 of personal funds in the trust account. He stipulated that he commingled funds.
Turchin was privately reproved in 1993 for failing to perform competently and return a client's file. In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation.
NORMAN ALTER WESSEL , 49, of Kailua, Kona, Hawaii was suspended for two years, stayed, actually suspended for six 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 Jan. 10, 2002.
Wessel was suspended for six months by the Supreme Court of Hawaii as the result of mishandling a foreclosure action. He never filed the complaint and did not return his client's or his client's new lawyer's phone calls.
The State Bar Court determined that his acts in Hawaii would have constituted the following misconduct had they been committed in California: failure to perform legal services competently, respond to status inquiries or cooperate with a bar investigation and improperly withdrawing from employment.
In a second matter, he represented a client in a suspended driver's license case, and requested a $250 retainer. When Wessel did not return several phone calls, the client consulted a new lawyer and requested a refund of the retainer.
The California bar court found that Wessel's conduct, had it occurred in California, would have included failure to perform competently, respond to reasonable status inquiries, return unearned fees, provide an accounting and cooperate with a bar investigation.
In mitigation, Wessel has no record of discipline in California.
PAUL HOWARD CURTIS , 57, of Vista was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Jan. 11, 2002.
Curtis stipulated to misconduct in four consolidated matters.
The first involved claims for federal workers' compensation and for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. Curtis did not respond to his client's numerous phone calls and letters and took no action on the workers' comp claim. When the social security benefits claim was denied, the client asked Curtis to seek a reconsideration. About a month later, Curtis sent the client forms for his doctor to complete. Because the client did not wish to return to his doctor, Curtis said he would provide a referral to another physician, but he never did so.
The client handled the reconsideration form himself. When he hired a new lawyer, Curtis did not turn over his file.
Curtis represented another client in a deportation matter and sought a continuance the day he was hired. He did not appear at the hearing, but did appear at a subsequent hearing, telling the judge he planned to file a motion to terminate proceedings. When Curtis sought an extension of that deadline, it was granted, but he then failed to appear again.
The client was ordered deported.
Curtis substituted in to another workers' compensation matter, but when the client refused to have a new medical exam because the doctor was located too far from his residence, Curtis did no further work. He withdrew from representation without informing his client.
He did not respond to numerous phone calls over a nine-month period.
In another case, Curtis represented a man convicted of spousal abuse who faced possible deportation. He made one appearance and was ordered by the court to file all motions in the matter by a certain date. He received a continuance but eventually submitted an incomplete package of exhibits.
At another appearance, the court found that the client could be removed from the U.S. and ordered Curtis to submit any additional documents, including his client's fingerprints, evidence of public assistance received by his family, and evidence that the state court had lifted the restraining order so that the client could live with his wife. Curtis did not submit any documents.
He asked for another continuance because he planned to be out of the country on vacation when the next hearing was scheduled. The court denied the request because Curtis did not disclose the trip at the time the hearing was set. Curtis did not tell his client he had sought a continuance or that his request had been denied. He did not appear at the hearing on his client's removal proceedings and the court ordered that the man be removed from the U.S.
After the client hired a new lawyer, the removal proceedings were canceled.
Curtis stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, or release client property when requested, and he withdrew from representation without protecting his client's interests and wilfully disobeyed a court order.
In mitigation, Curtis cared for his mother for two years after she suffered complications following heart surgery. He also cooperated with the bar's investigation.
WILLIAM JOSEPH KESATIE , 40, of Thousand Oaks was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on four years of probation with an actual one-year suspension, and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Jan. 11, 2002.
Two clients hired Kasatie to represent them in a civil suit. Although he responded to interrogatories, he provided only partial responses to discovery. He failed to appear at three hearings, a default judgment was entered against his clients and they also were sanctioned. At no time did Kasatie tell his clients about the hearings or the outcome of the case.
Each time the clients called, Kasatie told them their matter was progressing well. When they learned the truth, they hired a new lawyer who asked that the file be returned. Kasatie did not respond.
His conduct was similar in two other matters where clients hired him to recover money owed them. He didn't pursue either matter, failed to return client phone calls and e-mails, and did not return their files when they asked.
Kasatie represented a company, its president and a company legal secretary in an SEC investigation of, among other things, conspiracy to sell securities through fraud. At one point, the court issued a preliminary injunction, ordered assets frozen and prohibited the destruction of documents. Kasatie did not tell the legal secretary about the orders and she was charged in an amended complaint with violating the injunction.
Kasatie held discussions about the case with an attorney the legal secretary wished to hire. He agreed to either request a continuance or to file a timely opposition on the legal secretary's behalf, but he did neither and summary judgment was entered against all defendants. Although the legal secretary maintained she was duped by the other defendants, Kasatie never told her he had a conflict of interest by representing all the defendants in the case.
He did not respond to her many phone calls or give her file to the new lawyer.
In another matter, he was hired to collect money owed by Cheerleaders, Inc., to his client and to file an invasion of privacy claim against the National Inquirer. Although he filed a complaint in the Cheerleaders matter, he did not file an amended complaint after the court sustained a demurrer by defendants. The case was dismissed. Although Kasatie prepared a complaint against the National Inquirer, he never filed it.
Kasatie did not meet with his client or return his phone calls.
He also did not respond to discovery motions or appear at a hearing in an attorney malpractice case, nor did he tell his clients they had been ordered to provide discovery responses and had been sanctioned by the court.
Kasatie stipulated in the six cases against him that he failed to perform legal services competently six times, keep clients informed about developments in their cases seven times, release client papers four times, refund unearned fees twice, account for one client's funds or cooperate with five bar investigations. He also withdrew from employment without protecting his clients' rights, represented clients with adverse interests, and committed an act of moral turpitude by misrepresenting the status of one client's case.
In mitigation, Kasatie has no record of prior discipline, he was suffering from emotional or physical difficulties and had financial problems at the time of the misconduct, and he cooperated with the bar's investigation and demonstrated remorse.
STEVEN WAYLAN BLALOCK , 49, of El Segundo was suspended for four years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual four-year suspension and until he proves his rehabilitation, and was ordered to make restitution to 13 parties, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Jan. 16, 2002.
Blalock stipulated to misconduct in 38 consolidated immigration cases. His actions included failing to perform legal services for eight clients, return three client files, refund unearned fees to six clients or communicate with clients, and 10 instances of failing to cooperate with the bar's investigation. He also committed three acts of moral turpitude by misrepresenting the status of his clients' cases.
Two cases are illustrative of Blalock's activities.
A client employed Blalock to help him obtain permanent residency status, paying him $1,000 in advance fees and $350 in costs. When the client learned he had to travel outside the U.S. he asked Blalock to obtain an Advance Parole Authorization, something Blalock said would take two weeks. He asked the client to provide two photos, various documents and $100.
The client purchased a non-refundable round-trip ticket to Amsterdam. When he did not receive the advance parole, he contacted Blalock and was twice assured the application had been sent and it would be received before the client's trip. Later, Blalock said he had received the document and shipped it to the client, to whom he provided a FedEx tracking number. When the client discovered the tracking number was not valid, he called Blalock, who said he'd sent the package to the wrong address. FedEx told the client no package had ever been shipped.
After more stories about wrong addresses and undeliverable packages, the client said he would travel from San Jose to Blalock's Los Angeles office to retrieve the advance parole. Blalock asked the client for two more photos so he could apply for advance parole. The client postponed his flight for one week. Again, Blalock provided false FedEx tracking numbers. He had never applied for the advance parole and never sent any packages to the client.
As a result of Blalock's actions, the client incurred losses of $1,333 for airline tickets to Amsterdam and $188 for air fare to Los Angeles. His career also was damaged because he was unable to attend a trade show in Amsterdam where two of his products were introduced.
In another matter, a client hired Blalock to petition the INS for residency status through a labor certification, paying $3,500. In March 1992, on Blalock's advice, the man and his family returned to the United Arab Emirates, where he worked as a journalist. Over the next four years, the client called Blalock for updates; he provided vague answers but assured the client everything was in order.
In 1996, the client returned to the U.S. and asked Blalock to file an application for political asylum and for a work permit. Several months later, Blalock's employees gave the client an "A-number" which identified his petition for asylum. They also said he had an appointment scheduled with the INS, but when he appeared for the meeting, he learned no appointment had been made. Blalock said the meeting had been postponed.
When the client showed up for the later appointment, he learned no asylum application had been filed and no appointment had been scheduled. Blalock also never filed the application for a work permit.
Blalock also was disciplined in 1992 for committing an act of moral turpitude.
He submitted a statement in mitigation which attributed his misconduct to a nervous breakdown, suffered as a result of his wife's health problems, being forced to care for the couple's three children, their ultimate divorce and his use of alcohol and drugs. His law partnership broke up and he had serious financial problems. He receives psychological therapy.
WILLIAM ROMAN GARDNER , 47, of Pacifica was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on six months of probation. The order took effect Jan. 16, 2002.
Gardner represented a client on a contingency basis in a wrongful death action. He missed a hearing, did not properly serve some of the defendants and served them after the deadline imposed by the court. He later failed to appear at an order to show cause hearing and the case against two defendants was dismissed. He did not notify his client.
When his client could not locate him, she notified the court that Gardner had abandoned his law office and asked for a continuance. Gardner did not appear for the scheduled trial or for two other hearings.
He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently or keep a client informed of developments in a case, and he withdrew from employment without protecting his client's interests.
Gardner also was suspended last year for failing to perform legal services competently and in 2000 for failing to perform and for unauthorized practice.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation and demonstrated remorse. At the time of his misconduct, he suffered extreme physical disabilities related to an arthritic hip.
JOHN ROBERT PERRY , 49, of Carlsbad was suspended for 60 months, stayed, placed on 60 months of probation with an actual 60-month suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation, make restitution, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Jan. 16, 2002.
Perry took a personal injury case on behalf of a couple and their four children on a contingency fee basis. He settled their claims without notifying the family and without seeking court approval for settling the claims of minor children.
He received six insurance drafts which were deposited in his client trust account. No one in the family endorsed the checks, which bore a California
driver's license number not belonging to any of the clients. Perry allowed the balance in the trust account to fall below the required amount several times. No one in the family ever received any insurance money.
Perry stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, maintain client funds in a trust account or keep clients reasonably informed, and he misappropriated client funds and committed an act of moral turpitude by causing his client's name to be signed as endorsement of a check.
He also was disciplined in 1998 for failing to perform competently, return client files, refund unearned fees or properly maintain his client trust account and committing acts of moral turpitude.
JOSEPH E. SHERIDAN , 52, of Long Beach was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 120-day actual suspension and was ordered to make restitution, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Jan. 16, 2002.
Sheridan was retained to apply to the INS for permanent resident visas for a client's fiancee and daughter. After marrying his fiancee in China, the client returned to the U.S., gave Sheridan various documents as requested, and paid him $720 to prepare immigrant visa petitions.
Sheridan filed the petitions in December 1999.
During the next two months, the client repeatedly requested copies of the petitions, to no avail. When Sheridan followed up on the petitions, he learned the INS could not find them so he submitted a second set. The client terminated the representation, and although Sheridan felt he completed the work and earned the fee, he agreed to refund $500 to his client.
The client demanded the full fee unless Sheridan could provide copies of the immigrant petitions. He could not provide proof of filing with the INS, so the client hired a new attorney to file new petitions.
In the second immigration matter, Sheridan completed the work but cancelled and rescheduled many appointments with his clients and also did not return their phone calls. They eventually hired a new lawyer.
Sheridan stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, did not communicate with clients and did not cooperate with the bar's investigation.
Sheridan also was disciplined in 1994 and 1998 for failure to perform competently, communicate with clients or cooperate with a bar investigation.
In mitigation, he had emotional or physical difficulties at the time of his misconduct, as well as family problems.
RICARDO ANTHONY TORRES II , 37, of Alhambra was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension and until he proves his rehabilitation, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Jan. 16, 2002.
Torres stipulated in two matters that he misused his client trust account by depositing attorney fees in it and by writing checks against it for personal expenses. He also did not cooperate with the bar's investigation of his actions.
In a third matter, he wrote checks against insufficient funds in his trust account, committing acts of moral turpitude.
In mitigation, he has no record of prior discipline, no clients were harmed and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.
BRUCE STEVEN WEINER , 50, of Cerritos was suspended for 30 months, stayed, placed on 24 months of probation with an actual 14-month suspension and until he proves his rehabilitation, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. The actual suspension shall be consecutive to a two-month actual suspension which began Nov. 22, 2001. The order took effect Jan. 16, 2002.
In 1999, Weiner was suspended for failing to pass the MPRE, as ordered in a 1998 discipline. He practiced law while suspended by representing a client in a property dispute, accepting a $1,000 fee. He signed a substitution of counsel form, although he never filed it, and prepared documents which he told his client to file.
The client told Weiner she was dissatisfied with the quality of his work and demanded a refund of the fee; he did not return any money to her.
He stipulated that he practiced law while suspended, collected an illegal fee, failed to refund an unearned fee and did not cooperate with the bar's investigation.
In two other matters, he did not comply with conditions attached to the 1999 probation: he failed to file quarterly probation reports, complete six hours of continuing education or comply with rule 955 by the required deadline.
He also issued a check against insufficient funds in his client trust account.
The underlying 1999 discipline was the result of two counts of unauthorized practice, failure to cooperate with a bar investigation and failure to comply with probation conditions. He also was disciplined in 1998 for failing to return client property and charging an unconscionable fee.
BRUCE CLINTON HILL , 59, of Woodland Hills The probation of BRUCE CLINTON HILL [#43427], 59, of Woodland Hills was revoked, the previous stay of suspension was lifted and he was actually suspended for two years and until he proves his rehabilitation. Credit toward the actual suspension shall be given for a period of involuntary inactive enrollment which began Aug. 27, 2001. He also was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect Dec. 27, 2001.
Hill violated the terms of a 1999 discipline by failing to file two quarterly probation reports or proof that he completed ethics school.
The underlying discipline was the result of failing to perform legal services competently and making misrepresentations which he knew were false.
JEFFREY BRENT LUGASH , 61, of Van Nuys The probation of JEFFREY BRENT LUGASH [#41458], 61, of Van Nuys was revoked, he was actually suspended for six months and was ordered to comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. Credit toward the actual suspension shall be given for the period of involuntary inactive enrollment which began Aug. 19, 2001. The order took effect Dec. 27, 2001.
Lugash was disciplined in 2000, but failed to comply with probation conditions. He did not submit three quarterly probation reports on time and did not update his address with the bar's membership records department.
The underlying discipline was issued because Lugash did not comply with probation conditions attached to a public reproval. The reproval also was issued for a failure to comply with probation conditions.
Lugash did not participate in the disciplinary proceedings.
WALTER DAVID CHANNELS , 55, of Huntington Beach was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Dec. 29, 2001.
Channels stipulated to misconduct in two matters.
In the first, he withdrew from representation in the case of a client who owed him thousands of dollars in fees from a previous matter. According to Channels, the new case was to be limited to filing an answer and pursuing a strategy of extending litigation in an attempt to settle the matter.
He has maintained continuously that his client was aware that the case would proceed by way of default because there was no viable defense. It was for that reason that he discontinued his representation.
Prior to doing so, however, Channels filed an answer, signed a joint case management statement and filed a motion to continue the trial. He failed to appear at two hearings and the court entered a judgment by default against his client.
Channels never requested permission to withdraw from representation and did not file a substitution of attorney.
In the second matter, he practiced law while suspended by representing a criminal defendant, appearing in court telephonically. Channels said he was attempting to have the matter continued until after his suspension ended, but he never informed the court that he was suspended.
The suspension was the result of not complying with probation conditions attached to a 1996 discipline which was issued for failure to perform legal services competently or communicate with a client. Channels also was privately reproved in 1992.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation.
NEWLAND CHENOWETH SHEPARD , 46, of Long Beach 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 Dec. 29, 2001.
Shepard stipulated that he did not notify his client that he received settlement funds on her behalf, nor did he pay her medical providers or give the client her share of the settlement proceeds.
He represented the client in a personal injury case resulting from an automobile accident. The insurer issued a check for $5,000 for medical bills; she endorsed the check to Shepard and instructed him to pay her doctors.
Shepard deposited $3,500 in his trust account and gave $1,500 to the client. Although he paid $798 for ambulance services, he did not make any more medical payments. The client was forced to make the payments herself to ward off collection efforts.
Shepard later received two more checks totalling $12,500 without notifying his client. Five months after receiving the first check, he went to his client's home and asked that she endorse the check. It was rejected by the bank, however, as stale dated. He never asked the insurance company to issue a new check, but he did pay the client $4,000 from a source other than his trust account.
The second check also grew old and had to be reissued. Shepard did not pay the client her share of the proceeds for eight months.
When the client called Shepard because she was being pursued by collection agencies, he ignored the calls until she went to his home accompanied by the police. The next day, Shepard gave her her share of the funds.
Shepard had another discipline case around the same time, which was shortly before he took a sabbatical as the result of burnout and depression for which he sought medical treatment. He had no record of prior discipline.
STEPHEN MARK MOSKOWITZ , 53, of Castro Valley was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Jan. 10, 2002.
Moskowitz stipulated to misconduct in five consolidated matters.
In the first, he signed a $10,000 fee agreement to prepare an opinion dealing with the taxability of funds his clients received in settlement of a lawsuit. The fee agreement stated that the $10,000 was a non-refundable "true retainer" for availability of services, but also constituted payment for Moskowitz' work, charged against his hourly rate.
When the IRS notified the couple that the settlement funds were taxable, Moskowitz demanded and received another $10,000 to challenge the ruling. The clients later fired Moskowitz, before he had earned the fee. He did not refund the unearned fee, and the clients sued him.
In another matter in which Moskowitz charged three clients advance fees, he did not disclose those fees to the bankruptcy court, a violation of bankruptcy court rules. He says that he acted on the advice of an attorney he regularly worked with who represented himself as a bankruptcy specialist.
Moskowitz did not promptly refund advance fees in two other matters and failed to respond to another client's status inquiries.
In mitigation, Moskowitz has no prior record of discipline, he has an extensive record of pro bono work and he cooperated with the bar's investigation. He also relied on the advice of his attorneys concerning the refunds.
KHUSHWANT SINGH , 53, of Orange was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual two-month suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Jan. 10, 2002.
The executor of an estate, Singh was ordered by the court to retain $20,000 for closing expenses and potential tax liabilities and to provide an accounting to the estate's beneficiary. He allowed the balance in his trust account to fall below the required amount at least 25 times.
He also did not return his client's phone calls, did not make appropriate payments to the IRS, did not disburse funds to his client and did not cooperate with a State Bar investigation.
In mitigation, Singh has no prior record of discipline, his client was not harmed and he demonstrated remorse.