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Caution! More than 200,000 attorneys are eligible to practice law in California. Many attorneys share the same names. All discipline reports are taken from State Bar Court documents and should be read carefully for names, ages, addresses and bar numbers. Read the Discipline Key for an explanation of the different levels of disciplinary action. Use Attorney Search to check an attorney's official bar membership record.

DISBARMENTS

SUSPENSION/PROBATION

DISBARMENTS

BERNABE HERNANDEZ [#110671], 52, of Santa Rosa was disbarred Dec. 15, 2007, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

The State Bar Court found that Hernandez committed seven acts of misconduct in one client matter, including failing to perform legal services competently, respond to client status inquiries, keep a client informed about developments in his case, release the client’s file or render accounts of client funds, and he committed an act of moral turpitude and accepted compensation from someone other than his client without obtaining the client’s permission.

Hernandez was hired by the grandfather and uncle of a criminal defendant; they paid him $6,000, but Hernandez did not get the defendant’s written consent allowing him to accept fees from his relatives. Hernandez was supposed to communicate with the grandfather.

According to the bar court’s findings, Hernandez was cooperative and responsive to requests for information for the first six to seven months of his representation, but he then failed to respond to more than 100 phone calls or numerous faxes and letters. The grandfather followed Hernandez from courtroom to courtroom in the Sonoma County courthouse in an effort to speak with him. Hernandez repeatedly promised to have a family meeting and on one occasion told the grandfather that his client instructed him to provide no information to the family.

He did not contact any witnesses, provide his client with any discovery or in-vestigate his client’s claims about wounds sustained by the victim in the case.

The client was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and attempted voluntary manslaughter, both felonies.

Hernandez said he would appeal the verdict, but he never did. He did not respond to the grandfather’s requests about the status of the case, an accounting for fees or a return of the file. When he returned the file nearly two years later, it was incomplete.

Hernandez also was disciplined in 2007 for misconduct in nine matters that included failure to communicate with clients, perform competently, refund unearned fees, return a client file or promptly deliver property to a client. He also improperly withdrew from representation.

In the matter that led to his disbarment, bar court Judge Richard Platel concluded that Hernandez “cannot be trusted and is a liability to the legal profession and to the public.” He said Hernandez’ misconduct suggests he is “capable of future wrongdoing” and raises concerns about “his ability or willingness to comply with his ethical responsibilities.”


DAVID ERIC BROCKWAY [#75442], 60, of Marina del Rey was disbarred Dec. 30, 2007, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Brockway failed to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court (since renumbered as rule 9.20). He did not submit to the court an affidavit attesting that he notified his clients, opposing counsel and other interested parties of his suspension from practice.

In the underlying discipline, Brockway committed 14 acts of misconduct in four client matters. He had accepted several thousand dollars in fees from Asian immigrants who had pressing legal problems and then failed to perform any work. The bar court found that Brockway failed to perform legal services competently, render an accounting, promptly return unearned fees, communicate with clients or release client files, and he improperly withdrew from employment. The court also rejected virtually all of his explanations for his misconduct as not credible.

Failure to comply with rule 955 is grounds for disbarment.


JAMES FRANCIS-JUDE GOODFELLOW [#133082], 47, of San Francisco was disbarred Dec. 30, 2007, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20.

Goodfellow failed to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court, since renumbered as rule 9.20, as ordered in a 2007 discipline. He did not submit to the State Bar Court an affidavit attesting that he notified his clients, opposing counsel and other interested parties of his suspension from practice. Failure to comply with rule 955 is grounds for disbarment.

The discipline was imposed after convictions for possession of a controlled substance.


JOHN FRANKLIN WATKINS [#44678], 67, of Glendora was summarily disbarred Dec. 30, 2007, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20.

Watkins was convicted in 2003 of one count each of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit stalking and perjury by declaration. The perjury conviction meets the criteria for summary disbarment: it is a felony and it involves moral turpitude.


MICHAEL E. MANNING [#149757], 46, of Covina was disbarred Dec. 30, 2007, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Manning failed to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court, since renumbered as rule 9.20. He did not submit to the State Bar Court an affidavit attesting that he notified his clients, opposing counsel and other interested parties of his suspension from practice. Failure to comply with rule 955 is grounds for disbarment.

Manning has a prior record of discipline. He stipulated in 2003 that while handling an estate, he failed to respond to client inquiries, perform legal services competently or render an accounting to a client. When he failed to comply with probation conditions, his probation was revoked in 2005. At the same time, he was disciplined for continued misconduct in the estate case that led to the 2003 discipline. After stipulating to misconduct, he filed a petition but failed to appear in court.

He practiced law while suspended and was disciplined again in 2006. Probation was revoked again for his failure to submit five quarterly probation reports.

In recommending Manning’s disbarment, Bar Court Judge Richard Honn said Manning did not comprehend the duty of an officer of the court and he “demonstrated his contemptuous attitude toward disciplinary proceedings.”


SUSPENSION/PROBATION

DAVID M. ROBINSON [#175913], 40, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 75-day suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Dec. 15, 2007.

Robinson stipulated to misconduct in three matters.

He substituted into a wrongful termination case in which a $75,000 settlement offer had been made by the employer to Robinson’s client. The offer had remained open for 21 days and the client’s former lawyer had made a counter offer that was rejected.

The client asked Robinson to find out what happened to the $75,000 and to have the offer reinstated. Although Robinson asked the previous lawyer for the file, he never obtained it or otherwise followed up on the case. It was abated on the court’s docket and was never resolved.

Robinson stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently and withdrew from employment without protecting his client’s interests.

In a second matter, he was hired to recoup two pieces of property improperly foreclosed on by a bail bond company. Funds received by the client — $113,814 — were deposited in a joint trust account opened by Robinson. The client was interested in investing some of her money and Robinson suggested she lend $50,000 to a music promoter. She received a promissory note and an interest in state of the art musical recording equipment that was worth more than 20 times the invested sum. The club failed, defaulted on the note and became insolvent. The client is receiving monthly interest payments but has not collected the principal.

Robinson stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently by recommending a high-risk loan secured only by depreciating equipment.

He also violated probation conditions attached to a 2006 discipline that required him to submit quarterly probation and CPA reports. He failed to file several reports on time.

In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation, his marriage ended, his partnership dissolved and a prospective new partner died suddenly, leaving his business disorganized.

The 2006 discipline was imposed after Robinson stipulated that he failed to properly administer his client trust account or promptly pay out client fees.


MARK STEWART AXUP [#112876], 50, of Sacramento 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 Dec. 15, 2007.

Axup stipulated to two counts of misconduct in a personal injury case that he took on after the court entered a default on a cross complaint against his client. The client hired Axup to set aside the default judgment and to represent him in the original civil lawsuit. He paid a $3,000 advance fee.

Axup appeared at two hearings but his request for a continuance of the case management conference was denied because he did not notify opposing counsel. Axup then failed to appear at the conference. The court issued a judgment of more than $250,000 in favor of the opposing party. Axup next filed a motion to set aside the default but asked for and received continuances for more than a year.

Ultimately, the court took the matter off its calendar and Axup never got a final ruling on his motion.

He stipulated that he repeatedly failed to perform legal services competently or keep his client informed of developments in his case.

Axup was publicly reproved in 1996 for issuing checks against insufficient funds in his client trust account.

In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation.


TIMOTHY G. DALLINGER [#50357], 61, of Sherman Oaks was suspended for four years, stayed, placed on five 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 9.20. The order took effect Dec. 28, 2007.

Dallinger successfully completed the State Bar’s Alternative Discipline Program for lawyers with addiction or mental health issues. In 2002, he was charged with numerous counts of misconduct in eight matters, including misappropriation of client funds, commingling, issuing checks against insufficient funds and other trust account violations.

He admitted to misappropriating more than $220,000 from six clients.

In one matter, for instance, he settled an insurance claim for $125,000 and deposited the settlement check in his trust account. Because the client already had paid about $140,000 in legal fees, Dallinger agreed to give him the entire settlement. However, he misappropriated the money.

When the IRS said the client owed more than $148,000, Dallinger wrote a check for $125,662, representing the settlement funds plus interest, against his general business account. It bounced.

In another matter, he misappropriated more than $35,000 from a client who provided the money to post a bond for an appeal.

Although such misconduct is grounds for disbarment, the bar court found that Dallinger’s mental health issues were responsible for his misconduct. In addition, he had no record of discipline in many years of practice and he made substantial restitution.

As a result, the court recommended a discipline “less than that warranted by the standards in this matter.”


JAN WILLEM VERSTEEG [#89684], 77, of Huntington Beach was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect Dec. 30, 2007.

Versteeg stipulated to misconduct in two matters.

In a probate matter in which Versteeg eventually withdrew as counsel as a result of a deteriorating relationship with his client, he eventually filed a libel suit against the client. He attached numerous exhibits to the complaint, including copies of confidential written correspondence between himself and the client and other documents containing confidential information, including the client’s Social Security number, credit card number and bank account information. Many of the exhibits were not relevant to the case.

Versteeg stipulated that he failed to maintain the confidences and preserve the secrets of his client.

In the second matter, he was hired to review a family trust to determine if his client, the trustee, could sell a home that was the trust asset. Versteeg advised the client he could not do so unless the homeowner’s son agreed to its sale. When the client tried to sell the property anyway, the son filed suit. Versteeg tried for several months to resolve the conflict by corresponding and meeting with the son.

The client fired Versteeg, who wrote him a letter stating that he was prepared to oversee the sale of the property and to order a title search for the benefit of the son. He later wrote to his ex-client demanding that he sign and notarize a quitclaim deed on the property or else he “will be obligated to inform (the son) of your illegal activity, in which I am an innocent bystander.”

The son sued Versteeg’s ex-client for fraud and Versteeg made one appearance and indicated he would appear for the settlement conference. He effectively accepted employment by the son without his former client’s written consent and he obtained confidential information material to his representation of the son.

Versteeg stipulated that he accepted employment adverse to a former client.

Versteeg was disciplined in 1998 for failing to perform legal services competently, charging and collecting an illegal fee and two counts of failing to abide by the laws of the state.

In mitigation, he has provided pro bono services to seniors at a senior center for the last 15 years.


WILLIAM ALAN SOBEL [#114147], 63, of Calabasas was suspended for 18 months, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Dec. 30, 2007.

Sobel stipulated that he failed to report a court-ordered sanction of $1,000 to the State Bar and he twice failed to perform legal services competently.

In a personal injury matter, he distributed the $9,000 settlement without adequately ascertaining what each lienholder was owed. His client was subject to threat of collection and credit damage. It took Sobel more than five years to resolve the lien payment.

In another matter that settled, the court dismissed the action for lack of prosecution and sanctioned Sobel when he did not show up for an order to show cause hearing. He did not report the sanction to the bar.

Neither Sobel nor the opposing attorney appeared at a status conference in another personal injury case. Sobel also did not appear at a subsequent order to show cause hearing and the case was dismissed. Although he prepared and served on opposing counsel a motion to set aside the dismissal, it was not filed because Sobel’s client had hired a new lawyer, who refiled the case.

Sobel has been disciplined twice: in 2004 for failing to communicate significant developments to clients and in 1997 for failing to supervise an employee who solicited a client or inform a client of significant developments and for seeking to settle a claim with a client without giving him an opportunity to seek independent legal advice.

In mitigation, Sobel, who had a volume practice, has reduced the size of his caseload from 1,000 to 160. He has an improved calendar system and has made other changes to improve his office management.


THOMAS M. WITTE [#107542], 53, of Fair Oaks was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for one year. The order took effect Dec. 30, 2007.

Witte represented the plaintiff in a suit filed against her for breach of contract; he was also retained to file a counter claim for elder abuse. He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently because he did not respond to discovery on time, appear at a mandatory settlement conference, file an adequate MSC statement or provide the name of an expert witness. He also filed a complaint in violation of the code of civil procedure. As a result of Witte’s conduct, sanctions were imposed against him and his client.


HARRY TOM MILLER [#104709], 73, of San Francisco was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension and he was ordered to take the MPRE. If the actual suspension exceeds 90 days, he must comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect Dec. 30, 2007.

On behalf of his client, Miller sued two individuals in a debt collection action. The defendants’ attorney asked Miller to dismiss the suit, claiming it was brought improperly for several reasons. Although he eventually did dismiss the action, he continued to pursue interrogatories against one of the defendants.

The defendants filed a federal class action suit against Miller and his client for violating collection laws. Miller defaulted. He stipulated that he failed to maintain actions that are legal.

He worked for the client, a debt collection agency, on a contract basis, signing legal pleadings and documents without being familiar with the files or being fully versed in collection law. The agency’s non-legal staff decided which cases warranted litigation and prepared the pleadings that Miller signed at the rate of $25 per hour. By doing so, he stipulated that he aided his client in the unauthorized practice of law.

In mitigation, Miller has no discipline record since his 1982 admission to the bar.


GREGORY JOHN KHOUGAZ [#107530], 51, of Los Angeles Probation was revoked, the stay of suspension was lifted and he was actually suspended for one year and ordered to comply with rule 9.20. Credit was given for a period of involuntary inactive enrollment that began Oct. 7, 2007. The order took effect Dec. 30, 2007.

Khougaz did not comply with terms of a discipline imposed in 2006. He did not submit one quarterly report and submitted two others late and he failed to contact his probation monitor. The underlying probation also was imposed for Khougaz’ failure to submit probation reports, as required by a 2004 public reproval imposed for failing to perform legal services competently or communicate with a client.


ANTHONY I. LOPEZ [#149788], 50, of Aliso Viejo was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a six-month actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect Dec. 30, 2007.

Lopez stipulated to four counts of misconduct in two matters.

He owned Lawyers Group LLP and employed a non-lawyer who signed demand letters in a personal injury case, creating the impression that she was a member of the State Bar, entitled to practice law. Lopez failed to supervise the employee adequately.

In a second personal injury case, a second non-lawyer employee acted in the same manner, without adequate supervision by Lopez. Because he was closing his office, Lopez planned to transfer the case to the law firm of Gibson and Hughes, but he did not make clear that he would no longer be involved.

His employees were hired by a new law group, Consumers Law Group, in the same offices, and the same employee continued to work on the case, agreeing to settle it for $44,000 without the client’s authorization. He signed a claims release, deposited the settlement draft in a client trust account and disbursed the funds.

He wrote a check against the trust account for more than $15,000 for payment of fees to Lawyers Group, which had been closed, as well as a check for fees to Gibson and Hughes and checks to the client and her doctors.

Almost a year later, Lopez learned that the client was complaining about medical liens that had not been paid. She believed Lawyers Group was still handling her matter; Gibson and Hughes also believed Lawyers Group was active in the case because it was holding and distributing funds from the lawsuit. Lopez eventually paid the client’s expenses, using some funds from his trust account that did not belong to the client. He did not intend to misapply funds.

Lopez stipulated that he misused his client trust account, failed to perform legal services competently and assisted in the unauthorized practice of law.

In mitigation, he demonstrated remorse.

He was disciplined in 1996, following a conviction for sexual battery.


THOMAS DELL LININGER [#145957], 43, of Fair Oaks was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year, comply with rule 9.20 and prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Dec. 30, 2007.

Lininger stipulated to two counts of misconduct. He allowed a non-lawyer paralegal to staff one of his two offices, signing up clients, conducting interviews and obtaining client signatures on fee agreements. He also dealt with insurance companies, prepared demand letters, signed Lininger’s name to medical liens, negotiated settlement agreements and prepared distribution statements.

In addition to paying the paralegal a salary, Lininger paid him half the net profits earned from cases he handled. He fired the paralegal after learning he was directing prospective clients to his son.

Lininger stipulated that he aided and abetted the paralegal in the unauthorized practice of law and he improperly shared legal fees with a non-lawyer.

In mitigation, he has no prior discipline record and no clients were harmed.


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