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.
ALBERT KOJO AMANQUAH [#153339], 46, of Los Angeles was disbarred May 5, 2002, and was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.
The State Bar Court found that Amanquah failed to meet a requirement of a 2000 discipline that he comply with rule 955 by notifying his clients and all other pertinent parties of his suspension from practice and submit an affidavit to that effect to the Supreme Court.
Failure to comply with rule 955 is grounds for disbarment.
The underlying discipline was the result of a failure to meet probation conditions attached to a 1997 discipline.
In that matter, Amanquah stipulated that he took possession of his clients' personal injury files from another attorney and settled their claims without their knowledge or consent. He also allowed his employees to simulate clients' signatures on settlement checks without their knowledge and to falsely notarize their signatures.
CHRISTOPHER MARTIN DOLAN [#76254], 50, of San Francisco was disbarred May 5, 2002, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
Dolan did not meet the requirement of a 2001 disciplinary order that he comply with rule 955.
He was suspended from practice in that proceeding as the result of failing to comply with probation conditions attached to a 1998 discipline in which he stipulated to acts of moral turpitude in one client matter.
He fabricated a document, falsified the signature of opposing counsel and misrepresented the status of the case to his client. He also did not cooperate with the bar's investigation.
MORGAN M. LeBEAU [#125830], 43, of San Diego was suspended for three years, stayed, actually suspended for two years and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension and until she proves her rehabilitation, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Feb. 28, 2002.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that LeBeau failed to deposit the funds of two clients in her trust account and she did not cooperate with a bar investigation.
LeBeau received a check for $29,999 for a client and deposited it in her client trust account. Prior to paying the client the $18,000 to which he was entitled, LeBeau withdrew $12,000 in cash and wrote four checks totaling more than $2,600, including one for her rent. About a month later, she wrote a check to her client for $18,000 and a second check; both bounced.
She deposited two checks for two other clients and wrote a series of checks against insufficient funds before depositing a $15,000 check for a fourth client. Before distributing any part of that settlement, LeBeau withdrew $8,250 from the trust account.
The bar court found misconduct in relation to two of the clients and found that LeBeau committed acts of moral turpitude in handling two clients' settlement funds.
Although the evidence showed that LeBeau issued several checks against insufficient funds, she was charged with only one instance. Instead, the court used the evidence as an aggravating factor.
In mitigation, LeBeau had no prior record of discipline.
THOMAS O. HURST [#37525], 67, of Los Gatos -The previously ordered probation of Hurst was extended for one year and he was ordered to comply with additional probation conditions. The order took effect March 3, 2002.
Hurst stipulated that he failed to comply with probation conditions attached to a 2000 discipline order by not filing two quarterly probation reports.
The underlying discipline was the result of failing to perform legal services competently, provide an accounting, return unearned fees and notify his client of significant developments.
He was experiencing severe family problems at the time of the misconduct.
DOUGLAS E. McCANN [#119928], 44, of Marina del Rey was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect March 3, 2002.
McCann represented a client who pleaded guilty to a criminal charge and told McCann he wished to appeal his sentence. The sentence was enhanced due to a prior conviction, but the client disputed the enhancement finding.
The client's father sent McCann three separate payments totaling $2,000 as payment of legal fees for filing an appeal for his son. When McCann filed the appeal, it was rejected as not timely. The court subsequently rejected an application to file a late notice of appeal. McCann also did not return numerous phone calls from the client's father.
McCann stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently or communicate with a client.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation and he was experiencing personal problems because of his divorce.
HOWARD LOWELL RASCH [#48517], 61, of La Quinta was suspended for 18 months, stayed, and placed on two years of probation. The order took effect March 3, 2002.
Rasch accepted a $1,000 fee to handle a dental malpractice claim. He never deposited the check in his client trust account and when the client terminated his services and sought a refund of unused costs, he promised to repay $582.47.
During the next two months, the balance in his trust account fell below the required amount.
Several months later, Rasch opened a second trust account with a $600 balance and refunded the money to the client from that account.
Rasch stipulated that he failed to deposit and maintain client funds in a client trust account, commingled his funds with a client's and failed to refund a client's money promptly.
Rasch was privately reproved in 1989 and disciplined again in 1997 for failing to deposit client funds in a trust account and failing to promptly pay out client funds.
In mitigation, Rasch's wife was disabled at the time of the misconduct, Rasch was diagnosed with diabetes, and their daughter was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He cooperated with the bar's investigation.
JOSEPH TRENK [#101459], 47, of Van Nuys 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 make restitution. The order took effect March 3, 2002.
Trenk stipulated to misconduct in five consolidated matters, including failing to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees, keep a client reasonably informed about developments in his case, and comply with probation conditions. He also practiced law while not entitled, disobeyed court orders, and withdrew from employment without protecting his client's interests.
In one matter, a client hired Trenk to file a chapter 13 bankruptcy for him and his wife. Although Trenk filed the petition, it was dismissed because the client had not made pre-confirmation payments. Trenk had not notified him of the need to do so.
Trenk then re-filed the petition, but did not file a bankruptcy plan or other schedules within 15 days, as required, so the petition was dismissed and the court barred him from filing another petition for 180 days.
The client hired another attorney and sought a refund of his fee.
Trenk did not refund any money.
He failed to file the bankruptcy petition for another client, who demanded a refund of his advance $2,770 fee. He never repaid the fee.
On behalf of another client who paid Trenk $1,000, he filed a lawsuit against the client's tenants for unpaid rent and property damage. The tenant won a motion to compel responses to interrogatories and for monetary sanctions, which were awarded in the amount of $936.
Trenk did not tell his client about the sanctions, and the tenant won another motion for more sanctions. Trenk did not inform the client about the second sanction.
In another case, a client paid Trenk an advance fee of $1,785 to file a civil complaint. He appeared at the first status conference, but the defendants did not; at the second status conference, the defendants appeared but Trenk did not.
Trenk had changed his mailing address and did not receive a notice of another hearing, and when he did not appear, he did not receive the notice that the case had been dismissed.
The client learned about the dismissal by going to the courthouse. He sent Trenk a certified letter demanding a refund of the advance fee.
Trenk did not reply to the letter or refund the fee.
Trenk did not pay sanctions or appear at a hearing in another matter, and the judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest due to his failure to obey court orders.
Trenk also practiced law while he was suspended for non-payment of bar dues, and failed to comply with probation conditions attached to a 2000 discipline.
That discipline was issued because Trenk did not comply with conditions attached to a 1997 public reproval, ordered for failing to perform legal services competently, return a client file or cooperate with the bar's investigation.
He also was disciplined in 1998 for failing to communicate with a client, perform legal services competently in three matters, respond to client inquiries or comply with a court order.
In mitigation, Trenk suffered from severe financial stress at the time of the misconduct and he also had family problems.
JAMES AUSTIN BIRT [#156283], 58, of Sacramento was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a one-year actual suspension and until he makes restitution, 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 March 13, 2002.
Birt stipulated to misconduct in 10 consolidated cases.
In one matter, he filed a complaint against the U.S. Air Force and Placer County as the result of his client's arrest. The case was ultimately dismissed because Birt failed to prosecute the case by repeatedly failing to oppose the defendant's motion to dismiss. An appeal also was dismissed for failure to comply with court rules.
Birt's client, who had paid a $2,000 advance fee, did not learn the status of his case for nearly two years, and he demanded a return of his files and a refund when he learned the case was dismissed. Birt filed a motion to withdraw as attorney of record, but failed to set the matter for hearing. The court ultimately ordered the case closed.
Birt's client sued him in small claims court and was awarded $3,390. Birt has paid $2,150 of that amount.
In another matter, Birt was retained by a client to appeal a Social Security claim denial and paid him more than $7,000 in advance fees. He had 60 days to file a civil action but did not do so. The client sued Birt in small claims court and received a judgment which Birt paid.
In two matters involving the Office of Workers' Compensation, Birt collected an advance fee of $3,000 without obtaining the required prior approval of the Secretary of Labor, did not deposit the money in his trust account and misappropriated $1,000 from each client.
In other cases, he commingled funds, wrote bad checks and used the client trust account for personal purposes.
Birt also did not inform one client about the terms of a settlement offer, which expired without the client's knowledge, and in another case, when the client complained to the State Bar about Birt's conduct, he charged her $100 to review the complaint and $60 for a phone call to the bar seeking an extension of time to reply to the complaint.
Birt also was convicted in 1998 of carrying a loaded firearm in public and carrying a concealed weapon without a license in a car. He was acquitted of two other counts and the court declared a mistrial on two additional counts.
Birt had been arrested in El Dorado County after the passenger in his car told police Birt had a gun. Officers found a loaded .25 caliber semi-automatic handgun and three bottles of wine, one opened and about one-quarter full, in his car.
In mitigation, Birt had no prior record of discipline.
GLENN EDWARD TAYLOR [#114388], 47, of Chino Hills was suspended for 30 days, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect March 13, 2002.
Taylor stipulated that he failed to maintain client funds in a trust account.
He handled a personal injury claim for a client who incurred charges of $2,319 for medical treatment. A $1,000 settlement went directly to the medical clinic.
Taylor negotiated a $4,500 settlement through a website called SettleOnline. com, and had his client sign a final statement indicating that the medical center had agreed to reduce its bill by $519, leaving a balance of $800.
After deducting his fee, Taylor was required to keep a balance in his trust account of at least $2,625. However, he allowed the balance to dip below that amount at least seven times during a three-week period. In addition, the medical clinic denied it had reduced its bill, so the client paid the remainder from the settlement funds.
Taylor was privately reproved in 2001 for failure to perform legal services competently or communicate with clients. In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation.
WILLIAM MARTIN WITTKE [#68053], 62, of La Mesa was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on two years of probation. The order took effect March 13, 2002.
Wittke stipulated to two counts of failing to comply with probation conditions attached to a 1998 discipline: he did not file a quarterly probation report or complete 20 hours of continuing education.
The 1998 discipline was the result of misconduct including failure to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees, communicate with a client or cooperate with the bar's investigation. It also resulted from a failure to comply with probation conditions attached to a 1996 order.
Underlying the 1996 order was a failure to perform legal services competently, return client files, pay court-ordered sanctions, communicate with a client or cooperate with the bar's investigation.
In mitigation, Wittke cooperated with the bar's investigation and he had severe financial problems at the time of the misconduct.
JUSTIN R. DAHLZ [#139783], 66, of South San Francisco was suspended for four years, stayed, and until he proves his rehabilitation, placed on four years of probation with a one-year actual suspension and was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect March 15, 2002.
Dahlz sought review of a hearing judge's findings and recommendation for discipline. The review department upheld most of the findings and increased the recommended discipline because of his "serious aggravation in lying to the opposing party . . . and to the State Bar investigator and the State Bar Court in the presentation of testimony and exhibits."
In 1989, Dahlz substituted as attorney of record in a workers' compensation claim by a Pacific Bell employee. For almost a year, he did virtually nothing on the case. When a company claims manager told Dahlz that Pacific Bell planned to petition to dismiss the case in 1991, he said his client fully intended to pursue the matter, even though he had not talked to the client.
He also said he was collecting data and that he would contact the claims manager within two weeks. He never did.
Despite Dahlz's claims that he could not contact his client, the client said she did not move or change her phone number. Dahlz did not speak to her again until 1996.
In 1993, another claims manager contacted Dahlz and said the company was moving to have the case dismissed. He did not respond.
Finally, in 1996, when a status conference was scheduled, Dahlz contacted his client and told her he did not "want to be bothered" with her case. He then told the claims manager his client did not intend to pursue her claim and that he would not attend the status conference.
He did not sign a confirmation letter to that effect and the bar court concluded that his client never indicated she didn't want to pursue her case.
In addition, Dahlz put an entry into a telephone log reflecting such a conversation. The court concluded the entry was fabricated.
When the client learned a trial date had been set, she sent a certified letter to Dahlz stating that he needed to file the necessary papers to remove himself as her lawyer and to send the file to her. Dahlz did not communicate further with the client, did not withdraw as her attorney of record and did not give her the file. He made no trial preparations.
The client and the opposing attorney appeared at the trial and reached a settlement. Dahlz arrived after the hearing, telling the judge he got lost on the way to court. The bar court rejected Dahlz' testimony that he went to the hearing to protect his client's interests, that he did not know whether he was still her attorney of record and that he did not remember what time it was when he arrived in court and spoke to the judge.
The review judge found that Dahlz failed to perform legal services competently or respond to his client's status inquiries, and that he improperly withdrew from employment and committed an act of moral turpitude when he told the opposing counsel his client did not want to pursue her claim.
The judge also found that Dahlz made misrepresentations to a bar investigator and gave false testimony to the bar court.
Dahlz also was disciplined in 1996 for mishandling trust funds for two clients.
The review court gave him slight mitigating credit for pro bono work.
JOHN INGRAHAM MEEKER [#95878], 53, of Sacramento was extended for three years. The order took effect March 24, 2002.
Meeker filed three quarterly probation reports late.
He was on probation as the result of a 2000 disciplinary order imposed because he failed to comply with probation conditions attached to a 1998 discipline. That order was issued because Meeker entered into a business transaction with a client without protecting the client's interests.
Originally given a public reproval in 1989 for failing to deliver client papers, perform competently or return an unearned fee, Meeker was suspended in 1991 for abandoning a client and failing to communicate with a client. When he failed to comply with probation conditions, he was disciplined again in 1993.
In mitigation, he had emotional and/or physical difficulties at the time of his misconduct and he demonstrated remorse.
ANDREW DAVID STEINBERG [#106373], 46, of Calabasas was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on four years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect March 24, 2002.
Steinberg stipulated to 16 counts of misconduct in six consolidated cases. He also failed to take steps to protect the interests of 10 more clients whose lawsuits were dismissed as a result of his actions.
He failed to perform competently on behalf of four clients, respond to client inquiries five times, cooperate with a bar investigation four times, or maintain a current membership address, and he improperly withdrew from employment.
Three personal injury cases were dismissed when Steinberg did not appear at hearings or comply with court orders. He did not respond to his clients' letters and phone messages nor did he inform them about the dismissals.
Other clients hired another attorney to represent them when Steinberg did not respond to their inquiries about the status of their personal injury matter. When the case settled, the new attorney needed Steinberg to endorse the settlement draft. He did not respond so the other lawyer filed a motion for an order to determine that Steinberg had no claim to any of the settlement money. He did not respond to the fee motion.
In mitigation, Steinberg cooperated with the bar's investigation, he offered testimony about his good character and he had emotional and/or physical problems at the time of the misconduct.
GEORGE ALEXANDER BAKER [#146479], 42, of Modesto was suspended for two years and until he proves his rehabilitation and was placed on four years of probation. He was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect March 24, 2002.
Baker failed to abide by the terms of a 2000 discipline order requiring him to comply with rule 955. He was disciplined for failing to obey a court order and for not complying with probation conditions attached to a 1997 discipline.
That order was issued as a result of Baker's failure to perform legal services competently, improperly withdrawing from representation, and not cooperating with the bar's investigation.
In mitigation, he was suffering from a major depressive disorder at the time and currently receives psychological treatment.
EDWARD LOUIS ESPOSITO [#166089], 54, of Glendale was suspended for three months, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect March 24, 2002.
A woman who was in the midst of a divorce and had moved with her children to Tahiti without her husband's consent hired Esposito to represent her in the child custody matter. She paid a $3,000 advance fee.
Other than appearing at one hearing and preparing a declaration for his client, Esposito did no work on the case, instead assigning the matter to his law clerk. However, he billed the clerk's work at $200 per hour.
The court ordered a psychological evaluation, gave the husband temporary custody and ordered that the children's passports be surrendered. The client returned to Tahiti without her children. Esposito did not respond to eight telefaxes from the client over five months.
At the end of that time, the client learned that no order had ever been signed by the judge and no court-appointed counselor had ever been retained. When Esposito's clerk sent a substitution of attorney form to the client, she refused to sign it. Esposito sought a continuance of a hearing, but did not tell the client, who traveled from Tahiti for a hearing that was continued.
Esposito blamed his law clerk for not responding to the client and said the clerk claimed the client knew the hearing was continued.
He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, respond to his client's status inquiries, or to take reasonable steps to avoid prejudice to his client.
He has no record of prior discipline, cooperated with the bar's investigation and refunded $2,500 to the client.
VICTOR STEPHEN MARTINEZ [#90504], 48, of Oxnard was suspended for two years, stayed, actually suspended for nine months and until he makes restitution and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect April 3, 2002.
The State Bar Court found that Martinez committed acts of misconduct in two client matters and he violated the terms of an earlier disciplinary probation. The misconduct included failure to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, return unearned fees, provide an accounting or cooperate with a bar investigation, and improper withdrawal from employment.
One client paid Martinez $1,500 to represent her in a marital dissolution in August 1997. He did no further work after April 1998, and the case remains unresolved. Martinez did not return numerous phone calls or respond to a letter asking for a refund of unearned fees.
In a personal injury matter, either Martinez or the opposing counsel failed to appear at various hearings and the case eventually was dismissed with prejudice. Martinez did not inform his client, did not return her numerous phone calls and never told her he was withdrawing from employment.
He also did not comply with probation conditions attached to a 1997 discipline — he filed several reports late, including quarterly probation reports, proof of completion of MCLE courses in substance abuse, proof of attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and ethics school, or proof that he took the MPRE and complied with probation conditions in a criminal matter. He did not submit any proof that he obtained an alcoholism evaluation and treatment.
He had been convicted of misdemeanor DUI and hit and run in 1996.
THOMAS MICHAEL WRIGHT [#147832], 55, of San Clemente was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension, and was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect April 3, 2002.
Wright stipulated to misconduct in four consolidated matters.
In the first, his client told him to put his divorce action on hold while he tried to reconcile with his wife. Wright had sent an invoice indicating the client had a credit balance of $2,453.50 from the original $3,800 fee he paid. When the client cancelled the dissolution proceeding and asked for a final accounting and refund of unearned fees, Wright did not provide either.
Wright borrowed $10,000 from a client for whom he collected $1,750 from a debtor in a collection case. He did not advise the client that she could seek independent counsel about the terms of the loan and never obtained her written consent.
The terms of the loan were unfair and unreasonable, because it was unsecured, according to the stipulation. He has repaid only $1,000 of the loan.
Wright believed the loan was proper because seven months had elapsed since the time he represented the client.
Wright also failed to refund unearned fees or account for client funds for a client he represented in a dispute with her former boyfriend. She paid Wright $2,500 to obtain a restraining order and to file a legal action to resolve disputes over their jointly owned real and personal property.
He did not respond to a letter from the boyfriend's lawyer and did not return his client's phone call. The client fired him and sought a refund of unearned fees and an accounting of her money. Wright did not provide either.
He also repeatedly issued checks against insufficient funds in his client trust account.
In mitigation, Wright has no record of discipline, he had serious financial problems and no clients were harmed as a result of the NSF checks.
WALTER PERCY WILLIAMS II [#146569], 42, of Riverside was suspended for two years, stayed, actually suspended for one year and until he makes restitution and the 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 April 3, 2002.
In a default hearing, the State Bar Court found that Williams did not pay a client settlement funds to which he was entitled, and he failed to communicate with that client or cooperate with the bar's investigation.
Williams took over the case in question from his deceased father. The client, who was incarcerated in state prison, was entitled to a $3,000 settlement from a personal injury action. Williams did not pay him or return his repeated phone calls.
The court found that he also did not pay a second client settlement funds in another personal injury case he took over for his father.
Williams did not return any of the client's phone calls and she was unable to send him a letter because he moved without providing a forwarding address.
CHET WILLIAMS [#160015], 44, of Los Angeles was suspended for three years, stayed, actually suspended for two years and until he makes restitution, the bar court grants a motion to terminate the suspension and he proves his rehabilitation, and he was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 3, 2002.
In a default proceeding, the bar court found that Williams committed multiple acts of misconduct, including failing to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees, release client files, inform a client of significant events or cooperate with a bar investigation, and he improperly withdrew from employment and committed an act of moral turpitude.
Williams was hired to handle the criminal appeal of a client whose aunt paid $17,000 in advance fees. He did not return four phone calls from the client's mother, who eventually
learned Williams had left the law firm where he worked when he was retained. Williams returned $1,000 of the fee to the mother.
He filed a motion with the Ninth Circuit to vacate the briefing schedule and hold the appeal in abeyance. The court lost the papers and never ruled on the motion, and Williams made no effort to insure that the motion was received and acted upon.
He did not file the opening brief on time, nor did he file any other motions on his client's behalf.
When the client's mother tracked Williams down at his home in Washington, D.C., he told her he had filed an opening brief and agreed to mail a copy to the mother. He also gave her a Los Angeles post office box as his official address. He never communicated again with the mother and spoke only briefly to his client. No brief was ever filed.
The client, who was incarcerated in Beaumont, Texas, wrote to the court inquiring about the status of his appeal and complaining that Williams had not communicated with him. Williams did not communicate with the inmate for the next two years.
Eventually the court concluded that Williams had not prosecuted the appeal and gave the client the opportunity to hire a new lawyer. The client asked for a refund, which Williams did not provide.
He also did not provide the new lawyer with the inmate's file, despite his promises to do so, nor did he respond to a State Bar investigator's inquiries.
Williams has been disciplined twice before, in 1998 for failing to provide a written disclosure of possible adverse consequences of his representation in a real estate matter and for failing to release the client's file, and in 2000 for failing to comply with probation conditions attached to the 1998 order.
ROLANDO MAGDAY LUIS [#139574], 55, of Norwalk was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual two-year suspension and until he proves his rehabilitation, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 3, 2002.
Luis stipulated that he engaged in a conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, an act of moral turpitude, and entered into an agreement to split fees with a non-lawyer.
Luis was approached by the non-lawyer, Tony Geluz, with a purported traffic accident case he had taken from another lawyer. Using the fictitious name Don Cash, Geluz had been negotiating the claim with an insurance company.
He proposed to Luis that he would work up the case, utilize Luis' expertise and client trust account to settle the case, and that they would divide the resulting fee, with 90 percent going to Geluz and 10 percent to Luis.
Geluz also indicated the injured couple had been referred to a doctor who would provide an inflated bill for purposes of settlement. Luis agreed to the terms Geluz proposed.
Geluz settled the matter for $14,500, gave two endorsed checks to Luis, who deposited them in his trust account and then turned the funds, less his 10 percent, over to Geluz. No payments were made to any doctors and Luis never prepared any accounting of the settlement.
The clients eventually complained to the bar that their doctors had not been paid and that Luis never gave them their file.
Luis made misrepresentations to a bar investigator about the case, committing another act of moral turpitude.
In mitigation, he later cooperated with the bar's investigation.
PETE HARNED [#119217], 43, of Sacramento was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect April 3, 2002.
Harned stipulated to misconduct in two matters.
He was on probation in 1998 for a drunk driving conviction and was arrested again on a DUI charge to which he pleaded no contest.
In the second matter, he used his client trust account for personal purposes and wrote 43 checks against insufficient funds.
In mitigation, Harned has no record of prior discipline, he demonstrated remorse and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.
DUANE R. FOLKE [#137341], 45, of Los Angeles was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension and until he proves his rehabilitation, and was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect April 3, 2002.
Folke stipulated to misconduct in three matters, including failing to refund unearned fees, respond to client inquiries, perform with competence and maintain client funds in a trust account.
Folke was hired to represent the defendant in a capital appeal matter; the client's mother paid Folke $6,000 as an advance fee. In a fee agreement, the defendant agreed to pay Folke $101,000 and in a subsequent fee agreement, he and his father agreed to pay Folke a total of $200,000.
The defendant and his father understood Folke would seek appointment as counsel by the Supreme Court monitor and once he was appointed, their money would be reimbursed. An attorney must be appointed to a Supreme Court panel in order to receive money from the state for representing a defendant on death row.
Folke was not appointed to any panel to handle death penalty appeals.
The client wrote four letters to Folke, to which he did not respond, and then terminated his representation.
The client's mother demanded a refund of the $6,000 and hired a lawyer to help obtain the refund. She took Folke to fee arbitration, where he submitted a billing statement that included six hours of viewing an instructional videotape, two hours spent applying to the Supreme Court monitor and 80 hours reviewing trial transcripts.
The arbitrator found the value of his services was zero and awarded the client's mother $6,000.
Her attorney filed a petition with the municipal court, which entered judgment against Folke of $6,000 plus $2,065 in attorney's fees. He paid $2,000 of the award.
In another case, Folke represented a client in an employment discrimination case which ultimately was dismissed for failure to prosecute.
He did not respond to any of his client's numerous phone calls. One letter was returned as undeliverable and the client eventually discovered that Folke's phone was disconnected.
In addition, the balance in his client trust account was a negative amount for more than two years and he wrote checks against insufficient funds.
In mitigation, Folke has no prior record of discipline.
MARK MADISON O'BRIEN [#48420], 59, of Monrovia was suspended for 90 days, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect April 3, 2002.
O'Brien stipulated that he entered into a business transaction with a client and knowingly acquired a pecuniary interest adverse to the client.
When a client asked O'Brien for advice on how to invest $10,000, he referred her to a business which he said would be willing to accept a loan. O'Brien was a shareholder in another business which was the general partner of the first organization.
The client loaned the $10,000 to the business and later invested another $10,000 for her daughter. The business defaulted on both loans, neither of which was secured.
The client denied O'Brien's contention that he advised her he had a financial interest in the business. He also did not tell her to seek independent legal advice about the terms of the loan.
O'Brien has no record of prior discipline and he acted in good faith.
RONALD WHITE [#85723], 47, of Carson was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 3, 2002.
White accepted between $1,900 and $2,000 in fees from a client he represented as a public defender. The work he performed was no different from what he would have done had the client not given him the money.
In addition, he provided the client with a letter stating she had done community service by working for recovering drug addicts. He knew she had not done any such work.
White pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor of accepting unauthorized money. Providing the fabricated letter and leading the client to think she was receiving special services amounted to moral turpitude.
In mitigation, White repaid the client and completed the terms of his misdemeanor probation, leading to a dismissal of his case. He had no record of prior discipline, he was under severe financial stress at the time and he presented evidence of his good character.
MERLE NORMAN SCHNEIDEWIND [#58242], 56, of El Cajon was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on one year of probation with an actual 30-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect April 5, 2002.
Schneidewind represented one of several defendants in a San Diego lawsuit. The other defendants were represented by an attorney who shared office space with Schneidewind. The case settled and after attorneys fees were paid, the remainder of the settlement -$49,778- went into Schneidewind's trust account when the other lawyer closed his practice.
Two clients from the San Diego lawsuit then hired Schneidewind to represent them in a dispute with the IRS arising out of the case. He was to be compensated from the funds in the trust account.
The clients later decided not to pursue the IRS matter and asked Schneidewind to refund all unearned fees. He sent two cashier's checks totaling $20,000 to one client and did not pay the other for three months.
He refused to pay the remaining $19,778 in unearned fees to the second client, who filed suit to obtain the fees.
When the case ultimately was resolved, Schniedewind paid the second client $22,000.
He stipulated that he failed to promptly refund unearned fees, respond to client inquiries or render an accounting to a client. He also twice told the client he would refund fees within a week, making misrepresentations that amounted to moral turpitude.
In mitigation, Schneidewind had no record of discipline in 27 years of practice, he cooperated with the bar's investigation, he submitted evidence of his good character and he had a good faith belief that there was a fee dispute with respect to the funds.
STEPHEN M. HOGG [#53765], 58, of Simi Valley 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 April 5, 2002.
A client Hogg represented in federal district court filed a motion with the court of appeals for appointment of appellate counsel. The court filed an order that Hogg must continue his representation until relieved by the court, had a duty to ascertain whether the client wanted to appeal and if so, was to file a notice of appeal, and it noted that the client had filed two appeals on his own and therefore Hogg may have failed to comply with a court rule requiring him to either file the notice of appeal or move to withdraw.
Hogg also was ordered to explain in writing why he had not complied with court rules.
The client wrote a letter dismissing Hogg as his counsel. Hogg did not, however, comply with the court's orders and did not respond to three subsequent orders and was sanctioned $1,000, which he did not pay.
He did not promptly provide his client's file to two subsequent lawyers.
Hogg did not pay the filing fee and docket fee when he filed a notice of appeal for another client in federal court. The court sent him a schedule for filing various motions and paying various fees, but five months later entered a notice of default because Hogg had not filed an opening brief.
When the court issued a notice to show cause why he should not be sanctioned for failing to comply with court rules and orders, Hogg responded four months later that he had been engaged in a lengthy trial, said his client did not want to pursue the appeal and that he believed a request to abandon the appeal had been filed.
The court imposed sanctions of $500 and when he did not pay, Hogg was suspended from practice in the court of appeals.
He stipulated that he disobeyed court orders, improperly withdrew from employment, and failed to perform legal services competently, release client files and respond to client inquiries.
Hogg was privately reproved in 2000 for failing to deposit client funds in a trust account or refund unearned fees.
In mitigation, he was under severe financial stress at the time of the misconduct and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.
JAMES A. SCHROPP [#157475], 36, of Severna Park, Md. was suspended for four years, stayed, placed on four years of probation with an actual two-year suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 5, 2002.
Schropp represented a client in a civil action and when it was dismissed, he agreed to file an appeal. Nearly 11 months after filing the notice of appeal, he had not filed an opening brief and the court dismissed the case.
Schropp represented the same client in a separate personal injury claim, which he settled for $95,000, depositing a check for that amount in his client trust account. He made six payouts to the client totaling $36,000 and paid himself about $27,000 for fees and costs.
However, he allowed the balance in his trust account to fall below the required amount repeatedly and did not pay the client's medical providers for more than a year.
He stipulated that he misappropriated the client's settlement proceeds as a result of gross negligence. He also admitted that he failed to perform legal services competently, keep a client reasonably informed of developments in a case, properly maintain client funds, pay out client funds or cooperate with the bar's investigation.
Schropp has no record of prior discipline, he cooperated with the bar's investigation and was under severe financial stress at the time.
TRACY LYNN WILLIAMS [#161265], 38, of Costa Mesa was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual one-year suspension and was ordered to prove her rehabilitation and comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 5, 2002.
Williams stipulated to misconduct in seven consolidated matters.
In a divorce case, she filed various declarations and orders and appeared at a hearing, but she did not prepare other filings, failed to appear at two other hearings and was sanctioned $500 by the court. She did not return about 50 phone calls or a half dozen pages from her client.
In a personal injury matter, she declined two settlement offers for $7,500 without notifying her client, and she stopped doing any work on probate and eviction cases she was handling for another client. She did not provide that client's file to her new attorney.
Williams filed a bankruptcy petition for another client but did not include the required schedules, statements or other legal documents.
The court notified Williams that the petition would be dismissed if the required documents were not filed by a certain date. She did not appear at two meetings of creditors or inform her client about the meetings, nor did she return her client's numerous phone calls. The case was dismissed.
When Williams failed to file a complaint on behalf of her client in a personal injury and workers' compensation matter, the client filed a malpractice suit against her. She did not provide the client's file to her attorneys or answer the complaint, and the court entered a default in the malpractice case.
She stopped working on another workers' comp matter as well.
For about three months, Williams provided all necessary legal services in relation to an estate matter and told her client she would represent her with all tax-related matters arising from the estate.
For four subsequent years, the client was notified federal and state taxes had not been paid. Williams also borrowed $10,000 from the client and did not repay the loan when the client sought a return of the money.
Williams stipulated that she failed to perform legal services competently, respond to client inquiries, inform her client of a settlement offer, promptly release client files, provide a client with a written disclosure statement regarding a loan and advise the client to seek independent counsel or cooperate with the bar's investigation. She also improperly withdrew from employment.
In mitigation, Williams was suffering from emotional or physical difficulties at the time of the misconduct, and she cooperated with the bar's investigation.
RICHARD ALAN KERNODLE [#112513], 52, of Martinez -The probation of Kernodle was extended for six months, effective April 5, 2002.
Kernodle did not submit evidence that he made restitution to two clients or submit a law office management plan on time, as required by a 2001 disciplinary order. The discipline was the result of failing to perform legal services competently or promptly refund unearned fees.
In mitigation, he had knee surgery and was unable to work for a period of time, and at the same time he was required to make restitution, he had to pay an arbitration award. He has now complied with his probation requirements, including making full restitution.
DONALD MARTIN WANLAND JR. [#122462], 44, of Sacramento was suspended for 30 days and placed on five years of probation. The order took effect April 5, 2002.
Wanland represented a doctor and his wife in a lawsuit filed against them after a dispute arose regarding loans from a financial institution. The dispute was resolved and Wanland kept the files.
When the couple later filed bankruptcy, Wanland refused to provide the files to their attorney.
The bankruptcy trustee filed a complaint against Wanland and the court ordered him to turn over the files within two days and pay the trustee damages of more than $12,000. Because Wanland didn't comply with the court's order, he was held in contempt and ordered to pay $7,191 in sanctions (the amount of the trustee's attorney's fees) and $100 a day until he delivered the file.
About three months later, Wanland allowed the trustee to copy the file, at the trustee's expense.
In the meantime, the appeal moved along and the court eventually awarded the trustee more than $12,000, which Wanland did not pay. The trustee also obtained a writ on Wanland's bank account at Wells Fargo for $13,699.12, representing the $7,191 sanction plus the $100 a day sanction plus interest. Wells Fargo issued a cashier's check for the amount of the writ, and Wanland has not repaid the bank.
Wanland stipulated that he violated orders of the bankruptcy court and failed to pay sanctions or report them to the bar.
In mitigation, Wanland has no prior record of discipline.
G. BRUCE SPENCE [#139100], 49, of Ukiah was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 90-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 5, 2002.
Spence's client won a judgment against two parties, but neither Spence nor the client took steps to have the ruling entered as a judgment or to collect the debt. One of the two parties executed a trust in which she placed all her assets and she named her grandson as trustee. When she died, the grandson attempted to establish the validity of the trust, but the petition was dismissed following litigation brought by Spence.
When Spence submitted a proposed judgment to the original lawsuit, it contained language indicating he was entitled to fees, when in fact he had obtained no such award. He obtained the trial judge's signature without giving proper notice to the opposing side and without telling the judge the ruling did not include an award of fees.
He also incorrectly stated in an abstract of judgment that two liens, totaling more than $32,000, had been approved. In addition, Spence filed incorrect lien documents and creditor's claims that he was owed some $14,000 in attorney's fees from the trust He sent a demand letter to the trust's attorney for $21,562, threatening to challenge the validity of the trust unless he was paid.
The demand far exceeded the amount his client was originally awarded, it exceeded Spence's share of the award, it was based on incorrect papers and it contained a threat to make the litigation "one of the most hotly contested estate cases" in Mendocino County's history if the trust did not comply with his demand.
Spence then obtained a writ of execution listing him, not his client, as the judgment creditor. In fact, the client, not Spence, was entitled to the bulk of the judgment.
When he was relieved as counsel, Spence filed memoranda of costs claiming he was entitled to $21,573.75 in attorney's fees, $5,737.30 for document preparation, and $3,215.78 for out-of-pocket costs. He took this action without the client's new lawyer's knowledge or consent and the claims were incorrect.
When the trust did not pay him anything, Spence filed suit objecting to the petition to establish the validity of the trust. The suit was dismissed because Spence had no standing as a creditor. He then sued the trustee, incorrectly stating that he had a personal legal interest in the original judgment against the trust. That suit also was dismissed.
Spence stipulated to misleading the court and seven counts of engaging in unjust litigation.
He has satisfied all judgments arising against him and made payments in excess of $20,000. He has no prior record of discipline.
MICHAEL T. MORRISSEY [#62195], 53, of San Jose was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 60-day suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and take and pass the MPRE. The order took effect April 17, 2002.
Morrissey stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently and improperly withdrew from representation in a wrongful termination and age discrimination claim. He represented his client on a contingency basis but had no fee agreement.
Although he filed a complaint, he did not appear at a case management conference, did not serve the defendants, did not appear at an order to show cause hearing or file an opposition to dismissing the case.
He did not return his client's many phone calls or answer a certified letter.
The client drove from her home in southern California to Santa Clara, where the claim was filed, to look at her file. She went to Morrissey's office, and was told to call later in the day, but he did not respond.
He also did not respond to another letter from her or to requests by a new attorney to obtain information about the case. Morrissey never told the client her case was dismissed.
Morrissey was disciplined in 2001 for violating probation conditions attached to a 1998 suspension, issued for failing to perform legal services competently, return client files, refund unearned fees, or deposit client funds in a trust account and maintain proper records.
In mitigation, Morrissey contends he was unaware of the hearings or his
client's attempts to contact him because his staff was concealing his mail and other documents. He has taken steps to insure that this does not happen again.
ALFRED ABRAHAM LEVITT [#113453], 43, of Citrus Heights was suspended for two years, stayed, actually suspended for one year and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the actual suspension. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. He also was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 17, 2002.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Levitt did not comply with probation conditions attached to a 2000 discipline by not filing two quarterly probation reports. The underlying discipline was the result of the unauthorized practice of law and driving with a suspended license.
ELEANOR LEON GUERRERO PRESTON [#129138], 59, of Redlands -The August 2000 probation imposed on Preston was extended for six months, effective April 17, 2002.
Preston was suspended in 2000 but failed to file a quarterly report on time or to submit a law office management plan.
In the underlying matter, Preston stipulated to three counts of misconduct in three client matters, including failing to promptly pay a client's medical providers, mishandling her client trust account and misappropriating client funds.
Preston also was disciplined in 1993 and 1994.
GEORGE A. CREQUE [#115580], 47, of Willow Springs was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 60-day actual suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and comply with conditions of probation, if any, imposed by the State Bar Court as a condition for termination of his actual suspension. The order took effect April 17, 2002.
Creque stipulated that he had practiced law while suspended due to his failure to take and pass the MPRE exam as required by the Supreme Court in a February 1998 discipline order.
He appeared in court on behalf of a client in a criminal matter, holding himself out to be entitled to practice law when, in fact, his license had been suspended and he was not an active member of the State Bar.
In mitigation, the court considered that Creque and his family had been harassed by Creque's former lover of six years for approximately nine months, and has, since October 2000, experienced cluster migraine headaches and a ruptured hernia without the benefit of health insurance, causing him personal stress which affected his law practice.
The court also considered that Creque was having teeth pulled in Mexico in September 1999 and did not receive the court's order suspending him.
IRA DAVID HAZELKORN [#75607], 54, of Newport Beach was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on probation for one year and also was ordered to take and pass the MPRE. The order took effect April 17, 2002.
Hazelkorn was convicted of misdemeanor battery after getting into an altercation with another customer at a Staples office supply store in Santa Ana over who was entitled to be next in line. He swore at the other customer and both claimed to have been shoved by the other.
When Hazelkorn swore at the woman again in the parking lot, the two returned to the store and the police were summoned.
The bar court determined that Hazelkorn's actions did not involve moral turpitude but they did warrant discipline.
He has been disciplined in four previous cases.
In mitigation, Hazelkorn cooperated with the investigation and showed evidence of good character via testimony of other attorneys, a list of published articles and opinions and a record of public service.