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.
JAMES J. BRAZE [#75911], 57, of San Francisco was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on one year of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect June 7, 2003.
Braze stipulated to three counts of misconduct.
He and his partner were retained to represent a client in an appellate matter in 1994.
In 1999, the client became delusional (she had stopped taking medication for paranoid schizophrenia) and told Braze that she no longer wanted to pursue the appeal. The client disappeared.
Several months later, Braze and his partner filed a notice of appeal. During a conversation with the client a few months later, the partner said the client was delusional.
Two months after that, Braze filed a motion seeking an extension to file the appellate brief and marked a box on the form indicating the client was aware of the request. In fact, she was not.
Braze filed another motion for extension, again checking the box indicating the client was aware of his actions. Both petitions also stated that opposing counsel could not be reached.
Opposing counsel filed a motion to dismiss the appeal and deny any time extension. The motion to extend time was denied.
Braze’s partner attempted an ex-parte communication with the court revealing that the client was suffering from a schizophrenic episode and could not assist in filing the appeal. The appeal was dismissed two weeks later. The court imposed sanctions in the amount of $2,400 against Braze.
Braze stipulated that he misled the court by making false statements, failed to perform legal services competently by not insuring that his staff had attempted to reach opposing counsel, and failed to report sanctions to the State Bar.
In mitigation, he has no record of discipline in 25 years of practice, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and he had a good faith belief that if he disclosed his client’s medical condition to the court it could be prejudicial to her case.
ARTHUR HERBERT COMSTOCK JR. [#176579], 53, of Los Angeles was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual two-and-a-half year suspension, and he was ordered to make restitution, prove his rehabilitation and comply with rule 955. The order took effect June 7, 2003.
Comstock stipulated to misconduct in three matters.
In the first, he and another attorney were retained in a divorce proceeding; the client paid a $5,000 advance. He and the other lawyer did some work before the other lawyer withdrew from the case. Comstock stayed on until he was terminated a few weeks later.
The client asked for an accounting and a refund, but Comstock provided neither.
The client obtained a small claims judgment for $5,000 plus $26 in costs. Comstock did not pay and the client was awarded sanctions of $500. Comstock has not paid the sanctions.
In the second matter, a woman hired Comstock and paid him $2,200 to file bankruptcy on her behalf and to file a civil suit against some financial institutions involving a second mortgage on her property. Comstock filed a Chapter 7 petition, but did not include supporting schedules and the court filed a notice of dismissal. He filed the supporting schedule, but failed to appear at a trustees meeting.
He took no action in the civil case.
Comstock did not return his client’s file so she filed a small claims action against him and won a judgment of $2,200 plus interest. He has not paid the judgment.
In the third case, Comstock and another lawyer were paid $3,000 to represent a county administrator of an estate in civil matters, including a legal malpractice case. The first motion they filed was denied because Comstock failed to appear at a hearing.
Several months later, Comstock and the other lawyer received $12,000 in fees from the county. Comstock failed to appear at a status conference and a motion to compel discovery was granted. He also was sanctioned $548, failed to appear at another status conference and a default judgment was entered against the public administrator in the amount of $291,535. He did not notify the county about the judgment and was removed from the case.
Comstock won a motion to vacate the default, contingent on his payment to the plaintiff of $3,675 in sanctions.
Despite a settlement agreement regarding attorney’s fees under which he agreed to pay $3,300 to the public administrator, Comstock defaulted and paid no part of the judgment.
He stipulated to failing to perform legal services competently, communicate with a client, refund unearned fees, pay court-ordered sanctions or return client files, and he committed an act of moral turpitude.
Comstock was privately reproved in 2001.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation.
STANLEY NICHOLS [#44310], 72, of San Bernardino was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a six-month actual suspension and was ordered to make restitution, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect June 7, 2003.
Nichols stipulated to five counts of misconduct in a real estate matter. He performed no work on the case, did not return his client’s phone calls or respond to her request for a refund of her $750 fee, improperly withdrew from employment and did not cooperate with the bar’s investigation.
Nichols was disbarred in 1977, reinstated in 1985 and disciplined in 1999 for misconduct in three matters — failing to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, return client files or maintain complete records of client funds.
STEPHEN I. BLANCHFILL [#132884], 45, of Santa Fe Springs was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The probation shall be consecutive to a probation imposed in 2001. The order took effect June 7, 2003.
Blanchfill stipulated that he repeatedly failed to perform legal services competently for a client who hired him to handle a variety of legal actions following the client’s dismissal from a grocery company. Although Blanchfill filed one petition, it failed to name the grocery company. He filed an amended petition three months later, but the statute of limitations had expired and the case was dismissed.
Blanchfill also filed a federal lawsuit charging unlawful discharge and breach of duty against the grocery company, the client’s former union and another defendant. That case was dismissed against two defendants when it was seriously weakened by new information, and the cause of action against the third defendant was based solely on state grounds.
Eventually, Blanchfill and his client stopped speaking to one another, relying on Blanchfill’s paralegal to relay messages. Blanchfill filed another complaint against the grocery company, but his check for filing fees bounced. He never provided a new check and the complaint was voided.
The client fired Blanchfill and handled the case on his own.
In mitigation, Blanchfill was part of a legal services plan that gave him 100-200 cases, overwhelming him. In addition, the clients paid reduced rates, so Blanchfill was unable to hire support staff. He was unable to properly oversee his cases. He now has a smaller, more manageable caseload.
Blanchfill was disciplined in 2001 for misconduct in seven cases, resulting from the overwhelming number of cases he carried.
ROCKY VICTOR ORTEGA [#112580], 55 , of San Francisco was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on one year of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect June 7, 2003.
Ortega did not comply with the conditions of a pubic reproval imposed in 2001 by not filing probation reports on time.
The reproval was issued for Ortega’s failure to promptly pay out client funds or communicate with clients.
In mitigation, he acted in good faith and no clients were harmed.
WILLIAM PATRICK PATTERSON [#99088], 50, of San Diego was suspended for one year, stayed, actually suspended for 60 days and until he makes restitution and the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE. If the actual suspension exceeds 90 days, he must comply with rule 955; if it exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect June 8, 2003.
In a default proceeding, the bar court found that Patterson failed to perform competently and return unearned fees. He was hired to file a lawsuit against his client’s former husband and another individual for breach of contract and fraud claims arising from money she loaned to the ex-husband and later invested with the other person.
The client paid Patterson $1,000 and agreed to a contingency fee as well.
Patterson drafted a complaint but never filed it or did any further work. When the State Bar intervened, he agreed to repay $500 of the advance fee, but he never did so.
Patterson was disciplined twice previously. In 1995, he was privately reproved for failing to perform competently, return unearned fees or communicate with a client. He was subsequently publicly reproved for failing to comply with the terms of the private reproval.
CAREY BRENT SCOTT [#91813], 60, of San Clemente was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 60-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect June 13, 2003.
The State Bar Court’s review department upheld a hearing judge’s recommended discipline based on his finding that Scott filed a frivolous lawsuit in bad faith and for a corrupt motive.
Scott filed four related lawsuits; after each action was resolved unfavorably, he filed the next. The hearing judge found that his actions in the first three suits did not warrant discipline but he “crossed the line” in filing the final suit.
State Bar prosecutors sought review, asserting that Scott should be disciplined for filing the first three suits. Scott also sought review, arguing he did nothing wrong. The review department upheld the hearing judge’s original findings for the most part.
The case originated with Scott’s representation of a client injured in an industrial accident. A union official became concerned that Scott was not properly representing the client, and he urged the client to talk to another firm, Silver, McWilliams, Stolpman, Mandel & Katzman of Long Beach. Although the client consulted with the other firm, he continued to be represented by Scott.
The case settled for $5.2 million and Scott received $1.6 million in legal fees.
Before the settlement, Scott sued the other firm (lawsuit #1) for intentional interference with contract, for allegedly interfering with his retainer agreement and for defamation for allegedly making false statements to the client about Scott.
Scott said he filed the suit to put a stop to the firm’s practices, to get the attention of the defendants, to recover damages and to teach the defendants a lesson. After a six-day trial, the court granted a judgment of nonsuit in favor of the defendants and awarded sanctions against Scott of $218,299 for filing a frivolous lawsuit in bad faith.
After the sanctions were awarded but before the written order was signed, Scott moved to disqualify the trial judge, James R. Ross, arguing that he was biased.
He unsuccessfully appealed the judgment and sanctions before filing a federal action (lawsuit #2) charging that the judge, two Silver attorneys and defense counsel in the first lawsuit violated his civil rights. The case was dismissed.
Scott then filed a third lawsuit alleging that the judge and various attorneys in lawsuit #1 concealed material facts and won the judgment and sanctions by fraud. A bench trial was held and the case was dismissed.
One week later, Scott filed lawsuit #4, alleging civil rights violations and defamation by the judge and fraudulent billing by defense counsel in lawsuit #1. The factual allegations were virtually identical to the allegations in lawsuits #2 and #3. The court ruled against Scott.
The defendants recovered about $130,000 of the sanctions amount; the remainder apparently was discharged as a result of Scott’s bankruptcy.
The hearing judge ruled, and the review department agreed, that by filing the fourth lawsuit, Scott raised claims that already had been litigated and/or were not meritorious, and by filing a frivolous action intentionally or with gross negligence, he committed an act of moral turpitude.
KATHLEEN ANN WOODS [#157482], 44, of San Diego was suspended for one year, stayed, and was actually suspended for six months and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate her suspension. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, she must prove her rehabilitation. The order took effect June 21, 2003.
In a default proceeding, the bar court found that Woods mishandled her client trust account and failed to cooperate with the bar’s investigation.
She deposited more than $5,900 of personal funds in her client trust account, improperly commingling funds, and she wrote at least nine checks against the account to pay personal expenses.
When the bar opened an investigation, she did not provide a written response to two letters of inquiry.
Woods was suspended in 2002 for mishandling her trust account, commingling entrusted and personal funds and using the account for personal purposes.
KOOROS J. KHAVARIAN [#171550], 38, of Valley Village was suspended for two years, stayed, actually suspended for one year 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 June 22, 2003.
In a default proceeding, the bar court found that Khavarian misled a judge and disobeyed court orders in a criminal case in which he represented the defendant. While the jury was deliberating, the judge discussed with Khavarian and the prosecutor their ability to come to court within a half-hour of a verdict.
Although Khavarian assured the judge he was available and could be in court quickly, when the verdict was returned the next day, he took three hours to get there. Questioned by the judge, he falsely said he was in another trial to which he had to return shortly.
When the judge checked, the judge in the other trial said it was set to begin a week later.
The judge in the criminal trial sanctioned Khavarian $1,000, but Khavarian did not appear at a hearing for proof of sanctions. He then failed to appear at a contempt hearing, and the judge set bail at $10,000.
Khavarian has been disciplined twice. In 2001, he was suspended for failing to perform legal services competently, communicate with a client or, when his employment ended, take steps to avoid prejudice to a client. He also committed an act of moral turpitude by misrepresenting the status of his client’s case to her and concealing the true status to avoid a negligence claim.
Earlier this year, his probation was revoked in the previous matter.
KEVIN M. KNEBEL [#189165], 46, of Monrovia was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on one year of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect June 22, 2003.
Knebel stipulated to misconduct in two matters; in both cases he failed to perform legal services competently, shared fees with a non-lawyer, improperly withdrew from employment and received fees from someone other than the client.
In both matters, the clients hired an immigration consultant and paid him to hire a lawyer. The consultant paid Knebel an appearance fee of $150 in both instances. After making the initial appearance, he failed to appear at subsequent hearings or do any more work.
One client was ordered to leave the country and the other learned about the dismissal of her case only after she hired a new lawyer.
In mitigation, Knebel cooperated with the bar’s investigation.
DUDLEY RANDALL KERR [#167402], 41, of West Hollywood was suspended for one year, stayed, actually suspended for 90 days and until he returns his client’s files, 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 June 22, 2003.
In a default matter, the bar court found that Kerr committed nine acts of misconduct in two client matters.
In an age discrimination case, Kerr filed a complaint but did not participate in mediation, as ordered by the court. The case settled for $9,000, Kerr filed a request for dismissal and told the clients that if the defendant did not pay the settlement, he would pursue an action for them.
Kerr did not return the clients’ phone calls and refused to make an appointment with them. When they finally went to his office, he refused to give them their documents.
When the bar contacted the defendant in the case, the company said it had been unsuccessful in attempting to contact the clients. It wrote two settlement checks immediately.
Kerr did not cooperate with the bar’s investigation.
In an employment discrimination case in which his client informed Kerr a lawsuit had to be filed by Oct. 26, 2001, he did not return more than 20 phone calls from the client inquiring about the status of the case. After the deadline, the client and a friend went to Kerr’s office and were told by his paralegal that a complaint had been filed and documents would be sent to her. Kerr never provided her file.
In December, the client learned the case was never filed. Kerr did not return numerous phone calls and when the client went to his office, she discovered he had moved.
The bar court found that Kerr failed to perform legal services competently, return client files, communicate with a client or cooperate with the bar’s investigation, and he impro-perly withdrew from representation.
DAVID ALLEN HUGHES [#201264], 53, of Fairfield was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on five years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect June 22, 2003.
Hughes pleaded no contest in 2001 to driving under the influence with two priors.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and has received treatment for chemical dependency.
GLENN W. CHAROS [#115506], 47, of Escondido was suspended for 15 months, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE. The order took effect June 22, 2003.
Charos stipulated to misconduct in three matters.
Charos represented a client in several legal matters, including a divorce, child custody and property damage issues. The client also had another attorney, but neither the client nor the other attorney could reach Charos.
In the second case, a property dispute which Charos settled for $2,500, the other party signed a promissory note for that amount. He paid Charos’ client $1,800 and defaulted on the balance, so the client asked Charos to pursue collection.
When he did nothing, the client complained to the San Diego County Bar Association; Charos then agreed to do the necessary work to recover the money still owed his client. He did not communicate further with the client.
In a personal injury matter, Charos filed a complaint, but nearly two years later, the court ordered him to show cause why he had failed to file any documents necessary to bring the matter to trial. Charos did not appear at two hearings and the case was dismissed.
Charos did not promptly move to vacate the dismissal. By 2001, when the client inquired about the case, his letter was returned as undeliverable.
Charos stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients or cooperate with the bar’s investigation and he improperly withdrew from representation without taking steps to protect his client’s interests.
In mitigation, he has taken remedial steps to reform his office procedures, his clients were not harmed, he pursued the divorce case until his client’s wife disappeared, and he completed the property dispute case. The client insisted on recovering the money he was owed eight years after the case ended.