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LAURENCE D. STRICK [#75097], 58, of Los Angeles was disbarred April 11, 2009, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
The State Bar Court found that Strick committed five counts of misconduct, including failing to maintain client funds in a trust account, account for client funds or pay client funds promptly; he represented adverse client interests without obtaining the clients’ consent and he committed an act of moral turpitude by misappropriating funds.
Strick represented a driver and her passenger in a personal injury matter; he knew both were injured and seeking medical treatment, but did not provide them with notice of their possible adverse interests. He received settlement checks of $7,500 and $8,500 that he deposited in a client trust account he opened at the time. The account never held funds from any other clients.
The bar court found that Strick did not maintain a balance large enough to pay one client’s medical bills, although he withheld the money from the settlement funds, he did not advise the client that he did not pay her medical bills and gave her an inaccurate accounting of the disposition of her funds, he did not promptly pay the doctors and he misappropriated $3,090 in client funds.
Although Strick testified that he paid a negotiated settlement to one doctor on behalf of one client, the doctor testified that the payment was made to settle both clients’ bills. He told another doctor who examined the clients that the case had been dropped and hung up on him.
Strick gave one client a check for $3,000 and told her he was withholding money to pay her doctors. However, she was soon contacted by Blue Cross and then a collection agency concerning an unpaid medical bill.
In mitigation, Strick spent a great deal of time with his daughter, who has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and lives in a different part of the state. He also was the primary care giver for his mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The personal injury case occurred at the time he was under intense stress.
However, in recommending Strick’s disbarment, Judge Richard Platel said his misconduct involved bad faith, dishonesty, concealment, overreaching or other violations, insisted he had paid medical liens when he had not and his delay in paying his client’s medical bills resulted in collection efforts. In addition, Strick also has been disciplined three times previously.
ERICA MIHAE KIM [#158929], 45, of Marina del Rey was summarily disbarred April 17, 2009, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20.
She pleaded guilty in 2007 to two counts of money laundering and two counts of making false statements to a financial institution.
Both crimes are felonies that involve moral turpitude and therefore meet the requirements for summary disbarment.
ROGER ALAN STRONG [#106390], 55, of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam was disbarred April 17, 2009, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20.
The State Bar Court found that Strong failed to comply with probation conditions attached to a 2006 disciplinary order — more than a year late, he filed with the court an affidavit stating that he notified his clients, opposing counsel or other pertinent parties of his suspension from practice. Failure to comply with rule 9.20 is grounds for disbarment.
In the underlying discipline, the bar court found that Strong failed to maintain client funds in trust or notify a client of his receipt of funds, and he committed acts of moral turpitude by misappropriating client funds, making misrepresentations to the insurance company and signing his client’s name to a check.
In recommending his disbarment, Judge Richard A. Platel wrote, Strong “has demonstrated an unwillingness to comply with the professional obligations and rules of court imposed on California attorneys although he has been given the opportunity to do so.”
ARMAND J. PASANO [#145928], 48, of Montebello was disbarred May 3, 2009, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20.
The State Bar Court found that Pasano committed 32 counts of misconduct in 16 client matters, including failure to perform client services, refund unearned fees, pay client funds, communicate, release files, obey a court order or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.
In recommending Pasano’s disbarment, Judge Richard Platel said his “professional malfeasance demonstrates a pattern of misconduct during a 14-year period … A year after he was admitted to the practice of law, (Pasano) began his misconduct in 1991 and continued a course of misconduct until 2005 involving 16 client matters.”
In 1992, he was publicly reproved following convictions for driving under the influence and operating a vehicle with a license plate not issued to the vehicle. The following year, he was suspended after a DUI conviction.
The bar court found that, among other things, Pasano’S actions resulted in the dismissal of clients’ cases and collection efforts against them by doctors whose bills were not paid. His failure to pay client funds, maintain funds in a trust account and pay medical providers for one to six years “are tantamount to misappropriation,” Platel said.
The majority of cases were personal injury claims that Pasano settled. He often did not pay his clients’ doctors, and frequently did not account for client money.
In one matter, for instance, he represented a Los Angeles police officer who was injured in an automobile accident. In a court-ordered non-binding arbitration hearing, the arbitrator ruled against Pasano’s client. Pasano had 30 days to reject the award and ask for a trial, but he did not do so. He did not appear at a hearing or notify his client of any further developments in her case. The court ordered a judgment against Pasano’s client. The client could not get any information from Pasano until she hired a consumer advocate to help determine the status of her case.
Pasano settled another personal injury claim for $13,500, but did not pay the client’s medical bills. As a result, the client filed a small claims action and was awarded almost $3,000.
In another matter, he failed to pay three court-ordered sanctions, and in yet another, he did not take any steps to collect settlement money or start a new action after his minor client turned 18.
Although Pasano argued that he suffered from severe emotional difficulties, a protracted and acrimonious divorce proceeding that led to stress and excessive consumption of alcohol, the court said it was clear he drank heavily prior to the recent misconduct. In addition, it lessened any mitigation because of an ongoing custody dispute with the mother of his children, including a recent guilty plea to a misdemeanor battery of the woman.
SUSAN JANE CHAPKIS [#112401], 59, of Eugene, Ore. 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, 2009.
Chapkis stipulated to 15 counts of misconduct in four family law cases. She failed to perform legal services competently, take steps to avoid prejudice to her clients, account for client funds, refund unearned fees or keep clients informed of developments in their cases, and she did not report sanctions to the State Bar.
In the first matter, the parties agreed to a stipulated settlement and although Chapkis filed the agreement with the court, she never filed the formal judgment. There was no further contact between Chapkis and her client, who had to hire a new lawyer to complete the divorce.
Another client hired Chapkis to obtain an increase in child support, modified visitation and a transfer of the case to a different county. Two issues were resolved, but the opposing attorney’s efforts to meet and confer with Chapkis about visitation issues were unsuccessful. The other party filed an order to show cause, which Chapkis’ client learned about inadvertently. He could not contact Chapkis, whose office was abandoned and the telephone disconnected.
Chapkis sold her practice to another lawyer but the client’s case had not been turned over to the new attorney.
The client located Chapkis in Oregon and she signed a substitution of attorney form. However, she did not refund his advance fee or provide his file.
Another client hired Chapkis to handle her divorce and a criminal matter. She resolved the criminal case but the client could not reach Chapkis in the divorce and learned her phone was disconnected. She did not appear for three hearings, was relieved as counsel and sanctioned by the court.
Although she was living out of state, Chapkis requested that the court vacate its orders, denied she had not spoken to her client and claimed the client had her new phone number. She never filed the motion to vacate the $1,000 sanction and did not pay it.
In the final matter, Chapkis represented a woman in a divorce, working on the case for 18 months. Eventually, however, the client had trouble contacting her and she missed a hearing. When Chapkis did not respond to numerous requests from the client for, among other things, billing statements and copies of various documents, and she missed another hearing, the client hired a new lawyer.
In mitigation, Chapkis had numerous health problems stemming from two automobile accidents, one in which she and her son were hit by a drunk driver and the second which rendered her disabled. Her husband lost his job, a grandchild died and another was hospitalized in intensive care for seven months. The stipulation Chapkis reached with the bar indicates her circumstances were so dire that the discipline imposed on her should be tempered. She practiced for 24 years without any discipline.
LISA M. RUSSELL [#182496], 46, of San Diego was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 18-month suspension and until she makes restitution to three clients, and she was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect April 3, 2009.
Russell stipulated to seven counts of misconduct in seven matters, six resulting from family law cases. She missed court hearings, did not account for clients’ fees or keep clients up to date on the status of their cases, return files or refund unearned fees, and she abandoned clients without taking steps to protect their interests. She also did not report sanctions to the State Bar or cooperate with the bar’s investigation and she mishandled her client trust account, commingling personal and client funds and writing checks against insufficient funds. She misrepresented the cause and nature of irregularities in her trust account, committing acts of moral turpitude.
One client, who was seeking a divorce, was on active duty in the Navy. Russell never became his attorney of record despite two court appearances. Although the client signed and returned several documents needed to finalize his divorce, Russell’s office claimed she never received them.
When the client and his representative learned from the court that Russell was not recognized as his attorney, they called her 75 times and wrote a letter and 25 e-mails, complaining about the lack of communication and her performance. She didn’t respond or refund the advanced fees.
In mitigation, Russell has no record of discipline since her 1996 admission to the bar, she cooperated with the bar in reaching a stipulation and she suffered severe emotional difficulties due to depression, her divorce and her mother’s illness.
TAMAR OUZOUNIAN [#225308], 34, of Woodland Hills was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension, and was ordered to prove her rehabilitation, take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect April 11, 2009.
Ouzounian stipulated to eight counts of misconduct in three divorce matters.
In the first, a client paid advance fees and costs totaling $2,320. When she returned documents that Ouzounian had provided for her to sign, the documents were returned as unclaimed. The client complained about a lack of communication; she visited Ouzounian’s office once but found the door locked. She fired Ouzounian and asked for a refund, but the balance in Ouzounian’s trust account had fallen below the required amount.
Ouzounian called the client, saying she was having family problems but still wanted to represent her. The client fired her again, but Ouzounian did not respond. Nine months later, she refunded the fees, after a third request from the client.
In the second matter, she was retained to represent a woman in a post-judgment dissolution matter and appeared at a hearing. Ouzounian forwarded a copy of the court’s findings to the client for review, but never contacted the opposing counsel, who submitted the order. Ouzounian never informed the client. However, when the opposing counsel filed a motion to correct the amount of child support Ouzounian’s client owed her ex-husband, the client submitted some proposed corrections. Ouzounian never took any action and when fired by the client, she did not sign a substitution of attorney form.
In the third matter, although Ouzounian filed a request seeking modification of an existing child support order, she did nothing further and the client was unable to contact her, despite 13 phone calls and visits to the lawyer’s office. The client hired a new lawyer, but Ouzounian did not sign the substitution form or provide the file. She also missed a hearing.
She refunded the client’s money about 14 months later.
Ouzounian stipulated that she failed to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, return a client file, refund unearned fees or maintain client funds in trust and she did not take steps to properly withdraw from representation.
In mitigation, Ouzounian was providing for both her father, who had suffered a stroke, a friend who had a difficult pregnancy, and her mother, who also was ill.
SEAN TABIBIAN [#207447], 38, of Los Angeles 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 11, 2009.
Tabibian stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently while representing a minor who was charged with murder. He had a fee agreement with the child’s grandmother that called for a fee of $25,000; $10,000 was due immediately and the remainder was due “ASAP.”
The day he was hired, the grandmother paid $10,000 and told him her grandson’s arraignment was the following day. Tabibian did not appear because he had not received the full fee. The hearing was continued for three days, and although Tabibian went to the courthouse, he intentionally did not appear, again because the grandmother had not paid the full fee.
Tabibian met with the alternate defense counsel who represented the defendant at both hearings and received the police report and other information. He met the client once. The grandmother fired him.
According to the stipulation, Tabibian “intentionally did not provide
… the pre-trial services” for which the grandmother had contracted. Twenty months after he was fired, he refunded $8,000.
W. IAIN ELDER LEVEI [#152175], 46, of Aberdeenshire, Scotland was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 12-month actual suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect April 11, 2009.
Levei was suspended for six months by the Oregon State Bar for commingling personal and client funds. He maintained personal funds in his trust account to avoid creditors. Levei stipulated that his misuse of his client trust account also involved moral turpitude.
He was suspended for a year in California in 2008 after Oregon imposed a one-year suspension for six counts of misconduct, including dishonesty, ignoring the ruling of a tribunal, conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and continuing employment after a conflict of interest arose.
CHRISTINE A. GRAY [#154209], 52, of Deltona, Fla. was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and repay a loan obtained from a client. The order took effect April 11, 2009.
Gray stipulated to two counts of misconduct.
She represented a client without charge in a variety of legal matters until 2005, when the client filed for divorce. At that time, she loaned Gray $26,000 to buy a car. The client’s name was on the car’s title. However, Gray did not put the terms of the loan in writing or provide the client the opportunity to seek independent legal advice.
She has been repaying the loan through monthly payments.
Gray represented both her friend and the friend’s husband in the divorce proceedings, for which she was paid $25,000. She could not produce written consent to the dual representation and stipulated that she represented clients whose interests potentially conflicted.
Gray has no prior discipline record, cooperated with the bar’s investigation and viewed the client primarily as a friend, allowing herself to become careless in documenting key events in her dealings with the client.
DANIEL SCOTT GLASER [#172056], 40, of Pasadena was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension and until he makes restitution, and he was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect April 11, 2009.
Glaser failed to comply with probation conditions attached to a 2006 suspension. He did not file five quarterly probation reports and filed one late, and he failed to make restitution payments to the Client Security Fund or an individual, as ordered. In the underlying matter, Glaser stipulated to five acts of misconduct: he failed to comply with court orders or report sanctions and he committed acts of moral turpitude by making misrepresentations to a court and to opposing counsel.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and submitted letters attesting to his good character, although the court gave the letters little weight.
GERALDINE DARROW [#84548], 65, of Long Beach 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 April 11, 2009.
Darrow filed a civil complaint on behalf of a client who was attempting to recover unpaid overtime from her employer. Although she appeared for a case management conference, Darrow subsequently failed to appear for another hearing. She later filed a declaration in which she told the court she missed the hearing because of a calendaring error. Although she did not appear at a later hearing, another attorney went in her place.
She appeared telephonically at a case management conference but was warned that if she didn’t appear at a scheduled order to show cause hearing, the case would be dismissed. In fact, Darrow did not appear and the case was dismissed. She did not tell her client or respond to her many phone calls.
Darrow stipulated that she failed to perform legal services competently, inform her client of significant developments in her case or respond to the client’s status inquiries. The client lost the opportunity to pursue her case.
In mitigation, Darrow had no discipline record since her 1978 admission to the bar.
SCOTT A. MATTINGLY [#164479], 45, of Newport Beach was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a 60-day actual suspension and he was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect April 17, 2009.
Mattingly, president of Consumers’ Law Group, stipulated to five counts of misconduct in four matters, all stemming from vehicular accidents.
In two matters, clients entered into contingency fee agreements with Consumers’ Law Group to handle their personal injury cases. In the first, Mattingly stipulated that he failed to adequately supervise his staff, who settled a claim for $28,000. The client received $13,000 and the Fresno school district was reimbursed for medical costs advanced for the client.
However, Mattingly did not personally update the status of the settlement and was not aware his staff had deposited the settlement check but had not notified the client or promptly disbursed the funds.
In the second matter, the client called Mattingly’s office several times over two months in an effort to get information about money that had been withheld to pay medical liens. Mattingly stipulated that he failed to communicate with his client.
In the third matter, Mattingly represented a man and his minor son. He advised the father that it was in his son’s best interest to settle for $6,000. However, he was required to obtain court approval of the settlement. For more than one year, Mattingly failed to take any action to confirm the settlement for the minor client and stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently.
Mattingly represented three individuals injured in the same accident in the final matter, but did not obtain a written waiver regarding a potential conflict of interest from the clients.
In mitigation, he had no prior discipline record and none of the clients was harmed.
JOHN ROYALL READ III [#51388], 68, of Ventura was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on probation for four years with an actual two-year suspension and he was ordered to take the MPRE, comply with rule 9.20 and prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect April 14, 2009, with the exception of the actual suspension, which was delayed until May 4. Read submitted his resignation.
He stipulated to misconduct in two matters.
After admitting to misconduct in 2002 but before a suspension took effect, Read was hired to represent a company in a contract dispute. He filed a lawsuit and other papers. As part of the suspension, Read was required to notify his clients, opposing counsel, the court and other interested parties, that he was not entitled to practice. He never did so and the contract dispute wound its way through various legal proceedings.
He also filed an affidavit with the State Bar Court declaring under penalty of perjury that he had notified the pertinent parties of his suspension.
At one point, another lawyer substituted in to the case without the knowledge of Read’s client.
Read filed a quarterly probation report attesting that he was conducting his legal life properly; in fact he remained attorney of record in the contract dispute and had not advised the court of his ineligibility to practice. After the actual suspension ended, Read reinstated himself as the attorney in the contract dispute, again without his client’s knowledge.
Read stipulated that he failed to comply with the Supreme Court’s disciplinary order and he committed acts of moral turpitude by submitting false declarations to the State Bar and by substituting in and out of a case without his client’s knowledge.
In the second matter, Read stipulated that he commingled personal funds in his client trust account. He repeatedly used the account to pay personal expenses.
Read has a record of four prior disciplines, beginning in 1982, that resulted in suspensions and probation. His offenses include unauthorized practice of law, improper business transaction with a client, commingling funds and failing to perform legal services competently.
In mitigation, Read has severe personal problems, including alcoholism and depression.
YANA K. GERSHFELD [#201998], 36, of Tarzana 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 April 17, 2009.
Gershfeld moved her office in 2004, notifying the post office and her clients, courts and opposing counsel of her new address. She maintains she also notified the State Bar, but never followed up. Her 2006 membership fee statements were returned as undeliverable and Gershfeld did not pay her bar dues. She was suspended, but was unaware of the status change. As a result, she practiced law while suspended.
As soon as she learned of her suspension (during a court hearing), she changed her address, paid the fee and penalties and was reinstated.
She stipulated that she failed to keep her address current with the State Bar and practiced law while suspended.
In mitigation, she has no prior discipline record, was out of state frequently due to two deaths in her family and the illness of her father, and she was on maternity leave. These factors caused her to overlook her bar membership requirements.
GEORGE H. DUNLAP JR. [#138896], 48, of Soquel was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual two-year suspension and he was ordered to take the MPRE, comply with rule 9.20 and prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect April 17, 2009.
The State Bar Court found that Dunlap, a former deputy district attorney in both San Joaquin and Santa Cruz counties, committed four acts of misconduct, including acts of moral turpitude and failing to report that a two-count felony indictment was filed against him. Judge Lucy Armendariz rejected the State Bar’s request that Dunlap be disbarred. She expressed concern, however, that Dunlap’s “excessive consumption of alcohol” could “spill over into (his) professional practice and adversely affect (his) representation of clients and (his) practice of law.”
Dunlap’s first brush with the law occurred in 1995 when the truck in which he was a passenger was stopped by police because it was weaving from side to side. Dunlap’s then-wife was driving. An officer described Dunlap, who identified himself as a deputy DA, as “highly intoxicated and highly agitated at being stopped.” He was suspended from work for five days for misusing his identification, interfering with a patrol officer’s investigation and compromising the relationship between his office and the California Highway Patrol.
The bar court found that his conduct violated a requirement that he uphold the law.
In the second matter, Dunlap involved himself in insurance fraud and hit and run driving charges filed against his girlfriend by his office. He represented his office in a hearing and made a recommendation that his office had not approved. Armendariz did not believe Dunlap’s explanation that he believed his statements were true. She found that Dunlap committed an act of moral turpitude by telling the court he was authorized to handle the case and by falsely representing the DA’s position.
In another matter, the court found that Dunlap committed an act of moral turpitude by lying to a police officer, blaming a non-existent individual for an accident he caused while driving drunk. Dunlap claimed he does not recall seeing the officer at the scene of the accident.
As a result of that accident, Dunlap was charged with driving under the influence and causing bodily injury to another driver. He did not report the charges to the bar.
Dunlap was terminated for cause in 2002 by the San Joaquin DA and resigned as a Santa Cruz County prosecutor last year.
Dunlap’s “exceptional legal abilities and dedication to public service” were considered as mitigation.
ALAN PETER DOVE [#168582], 57, of San Diego was suspended for one year, stayed, actually suspended for 90 days and until he satisfied a judgment against him and the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension, and he was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect May 3, 2009.
In a default proceeding, the bar court found that Dove committed five acts of misconduct in two matters.
The first was a child visitation matter for a grandmother who paid Dove a $1,000 deposit and agreed to an hourly fee of $195. The client fired Dove when she didn’t hear from him for two months and she sought a refund of $800. Getting no response, she filed a small claims action; Dove did not appear and the client was awarded $800 plus $60 in costs.
The bar court found that he failed to perform legal services competently, keep a client informed of developments in her case or refund unearned fees.
In the second matter, an attorney who was a former employee sued Dove in small claims court for $3,750 in fees, plus $22 in costs. A few days after the claim was filed, Dove sent the woman a letter warning that he would file a complaint against her with the State Bar, alleging she abandoned clients whose cases were being worked on at the time she said Dove owed her fees. “It is your choice,” Dove wrote.
The bar court found that he threatened to pursue disciplinary charges to obtain an advantage in a civil dispute. He also did not cooperate with the bar’s investigation.
Dove practiced for 12 years without any discipline.
JOHN W. EVANS [#92161], 62, of Walnut Creek was suspended for three years, stayed, actually suspended for two years and until the State Bar Court terminates the suspension and he proves his rehabilitation, and he was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect May 3, 2009.
In a default proceeding, the bar court determined that Evans did not comply with the terms of a probation imposed in 2006. He did not file six quarterly probation reports on time and when they were submitted, they did not comply with the requirements. He subsequently did not file three more reports or attend ethics school.
Evans was privately reproved in 2002 for trust account violations and subsequently failed to comply with probation conditions. In the underlying matter, he also failed to communicate, perform legal services competently, provide the client file to a new attorney or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.
DONALD EUGENE ROY [#96043], 63, of Alturas was suspended for one year, stayed, actually suspended for 180 days and until he makes restitution and the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension, and he was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect May 3, 2009.
In a default proceeding, the bar court found that Roy practiced law while suspended, collected an illegal fee and committed an act of moral turpitude.
While suspended for nonpayment of bar dues, he represented four clients in criminal and family law matters. He appeared in court in all four matters and in one case, when asked by the judge if he had paid his bar dues, falsely stated that he had.
Prior to the failure to pay bar dues, Roy had no record of discipline in 26 years of practice.
BRION L. ST. JAMES [#181977], 50, 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 May 3, 2009.
St. James stipulated that he did not comply with probation conditions attached to a 2006 public reproval imposed for pursuing a frivolous appeal and failing to report court-ordered sanctions to the State Bar. He violated his probation by filing five quarterly probation reports late and failing to submit proof that he passed the MPRE.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and he had severe personal problems at the time of the misconduct.
CYNTHIA B. SILVERSTEIN [#111294], 53, of San Francisco was suspended for three years, stayed, actually suspended for 90 days and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension, and she was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, she must prove her rehabilitation. The order took effect May 3, 2009.
In a default proceeding, the bar court found that Silverstein failed to properly administer a trust for about seven years and did not obey a court order for more than five years. By not complying with the Probate Code, she failed to support California law. She also failed to maintain respect due the courts.
As trustee of a trust, Silverstein was required to make monthly payments to a beneficiary, adjusted for increases in the cost of living. For a little more than a year, she did so sporadically, and for three years, she made no payments at all.
She was removed as trustee and ordered to pay the beneficiary about $20,000 from the trust, including $17,900 she kept in a money market account. She did not distribute the money market funds for more than five years, only after the beneficiary hired another lawyer to force the distribution.
The other lawyer received a court order requiring Silverstein to account for her administration of the trust. She did not do so, failed to appear at an order to show cause hearing and then evaded service of a writ by the sheriff. The beneficiary incurred costs of more than $19,500 to enforce his rights under the trust.
The parties eventually reached an agreement regarding distribution of the trust’s assets that required Silverstein to pay the beneficiary $17,900 from the money market, plus interest, attorney’s fees and costs. She paid him more than $46,000.
The bar court also found that Silverstein did not keep her address current with the State Bar.
STEVEN PAUL NIETO [#80474], 58, of Whittier 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 May 9, 2009.
Nieto stipulated that he committed misconduct while representing three people who sustained injuries in an automobile accident. The three had potentially conflicting interests.
Nieto settled the matter and received three different settlement checks. However, he did not respond to between 15 and 20 phone calls from one client about the status of the case.
He stipulated that he failed to communicate with clients or obtain his clients’ written consent to represent each in the same matter.
Nieto was disciplined in 2002 for misconduct in two matters, including failing to perform legal services competently, communicate with a client, refund an unearned fee, return client property or pay out client funds.
CHRISTOPHER JAMES O’KEEFE [#165197], 51, of San Diego Probation was revoked and he was suspended for two years and until he proves his rehabilitation. He was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect May 29, 2009.
O’Keefe was suspended in 2006 but he did not file two quarterly probation reports and filed two others late, and he did not file three medical reports and filed one late.
The underlying misconduct included client abandonment and failure to refund unearned fees or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.
O’Keefe also was suspended and placed on probation in 2005 for mishandling his client trust account and failing to cooperate with the bar’s investigation. His probation in that matter was revoked as well.
GLORIA MARGARET GONG [#163418], 56, of Bakersfield Probation was revoked, she was suspended for one year with credit for a period of involuntary inactive enrollment that began Sept. 8, 2008, she was placed on two years of probation and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect May 29, 2009.
Gong was disciplined for failing to provide competent legal services and for improperly withdrawing from employment. She did not submit one quarterly probation report or contact the Office of Probation within the required 30 days or schedule a meeting with her probation deputy.
She did not participate in the revocation proceeding.
CHRISTINE LOUISE GARCIA [#209701], 35, of San Francisco Probation was revoked and she was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on two years of probation. The order took effect May 29, 2009.
After stipulating to misconduct in three matters, Garcia was suspended for 120 days, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to make restitution.
It was her failure to make full restitution that led to the probation revocation. She owed her client $3,500 but paid only $700.
In the underlying proceeding, Garcia admitted she failed to perform legal services competently, keep a client informed of developments in his case, mishandled her client trust account and maintained an unjust action by filing a lawsuit — and continuing to prosecute it — without investigating whether there was a legal basis for the case.
In mitigation, she cooperated with the bar’s investigation and despite financial difficulties, she still made some payments. Once able, she paid off the balance of the outstanding restitution in one lump sum, satisfying her restitution requirement ahead of schedule.
PAUL F. FEGEN [#31680], 75, of Beverly Hills Probation was revoked, the previous stay of suspension was lifted and he was suspended for six months and until he makes restitution. If the suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. He also was ordered to comply with rule 9.20. He receives credit for a period of inactive enrollment that began Oct. 6, 2008. The order took effect June 3, 2009.
Fegen failed to submit three quarterly reports on time, complete six hours of MCLE courses or make restitution to a former client.
In the underlying matter, Fegen stipulated in 2006 that he failed to perform legal services competently, keep a client informed of significant developments, or take steps to avoid prejudice to his client and he held himself out as practicing or entitled to practice law when suspended.
In 2005, he was suspended and placed on probation after stipulating that he failed to perform legal services competently, keep a client informed of significant developments or take steps to protect his client’s interests when he was terminated. He also committed acts of moral turpitude.
Fegen argued that his noncompliance with probation resulted from confusion about its terms.