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SCOTT LAFORCE GRADY [#153760], 46, of Sherman Oaks was disbarred July 10, 2009, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Grady violated probation conditions attached to earlier disciplinary orders.
He has three prior disciplines, starting in 2003 with a suspension and probation for misconduct that included failing to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, pay court-ordered sanctions, return client files or deposit funds in a trust account.
His probation was revoked a year later when he did not comply with its requirements. The same year, Grady was disciplined again for failing to pay sanctions and for not submitting to the court an affidavit stating that he notified his clients, courts and other interested parties of his suspension.
In 2006, he was suspended again for the same reasons and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation.
In recommending his disbarment, Judge Richard Honn wrote that Grady “has repeatedly demonstrated an unwillingness to comply with the professional obligations imposed on California attorneys and has repeatedly failed to comply with orders of the Supreme Court … He has twice failed to timely file his compliance affidavit as required by rule 955 and has now twice failed to comply with conditions attached to a disciplinary probation.”
The judge said Grady’s failure to comply with probation conditions made his disbarment necessary “to protect the public.”
ANDREW BELLO BOSQUE [#164656], 63, of Milpitas was disbarred July 16, 2009, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Bosque committed 13 acts of misconduct in five matters, including failing to perform services competently, communicate, return client files, refund unearned fees, render an accounting or promptly pay client funds and he charged an unconscionable fee and misappropriated at least $19,252 in client funds, committing acts of moral turpitude.
In the first matter, he represented a client who believed he had been overcharged when he bought a van. Bosque filed a lawsuit that was eventually dismissed in the defendant’s favor. The client hired Bosque to appeal, but the appeal was dismissed because it wasn’t filed on time. A subsequent petition to the California Supreme Court was denied. Bosque never told the client the true reason the appeal was dismissed.
He charged and collected $49,715 for his work, an amount far in excess of the amount in dispute, including $2,500 after the appeal was dismissed. The bar court concluded that more than $20,000 of the total was “exorbitant and wholly disproportionate to the services performed, so as to shock the conscience.”
In the second matter, he represented a woman who was trustee of her deceased husband’s trust. Bosque was to prepare a tax return for the estate, but did not do so. A lawyer for two of the beneficiaries both wrote to Bosque and called him about the tax return, but Bosque did not respond. As a result, one of the beneficiaries threatened to have Bosque’s client removed as trustee.
The client fired Bosque, but he did not refund her advance $8,500 fee, provide an accounting or return the client file, despite requests from a new lawyer.
A third client complained to the State Bar after paying Bosque $5,500 for legal representation but receiving no accounting until after a bar inquiry — 15 months later.
The bar court also found that Bosque misappropriated $19,251 from 13 clients.
In 2000, Bosque was suspended and placed on probation after he stipulated to collecting an unconscionable fee and failing to promptly disburse client funds.
In recommending Bosque’s disbarment, Judge Lucy Armendariz wrote that he “flagrantly breached his fiduciary duties to his clients by misappropriating over $19,000 from 13 clients, charging a client an unconscionable fee of $20,170, and failing to return an $8,500 advanced unearned fee.”
JOHN WILLIAM JOHANSON [#82001], 56, of Henderson, Nev. was disbarred July 16, 2009, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Johanson failed to comply with conditions attached to a 2006 probation: he did not contact the probation office within 30 days, submit five quarterly reports on time, furnish evidence of psychological treatment, as required, or attend ethics school. He also has a record of three prior disciplines.
In 1998, he was placed on probation for failing to perform legal services competently, withdraw funds belonging to him at the earliest reasonable time, misappropriating client funds, making misrepresentations to his client and a doctor, and practicing law in another jurisdiction without authorization. In that matter, he had obtained approval from the Nevada bar of his advertising, which stated that he was licensed only in California and would handle only California matters.
In 2006, he was suspended and placed on probation for failing to promptly release a client’s file or deposit client funds into a client trust account, and he violated a court order.
In a 2008 default matter, he was again suspended and placed on probation for failing to communicate with his client or keep his address current with the bar.
GEORGE J. PAUKERT [#183124], 58, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on one year of probation with an actual 30-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE. The order took effect May 9, 2009.
Paukert stipulated to three acts of misconduct stemming from the actions of his law office manager, Dae Won Kim. Throughout 2004, Paukert traveled frequently to Canada to care for his dying father and later to handle the father’s estate after his death. He did not have in place any procedures to ensure that his client trust account was handled properly or to alert him of any unauthorized activities.
During Paukert’s absence, five checks were written against insufficient funds in his trust account, totaling about $19,000 and 14 checks were cashed at a local liquor store and then refused by Paukert’s bank. When Paukert discovered the losses, he did not report Kim to law enforcement, nor did he resolve the issue with the liquor store.
The liquor store representative sued Paukert and filed a complaint with the State Bar. Paukert said he was negotiating with the liquor store and the complaint would be withdrawn if he could reach a satisfactory financial settlement. Eventually, the store owner withdrew his bar complaint and dismissed Paukert from his civil suit as a condition of the settlement.
Paukert stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently by not properly supervising an employee, he failed to properly maintain his client trust account, and he improperly entered into an agreement with the liquor store owner to withdraw his complaint in order to settle a civil matter.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation, his father died and Paukert was involved with settling his estate at the time of the misconduct, and he demonstrated his good character.
THOMAS H. RAVATT [#67228], 67, of Montebello was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual six-month suspension and he was ordered to take the MPRE, comply with rule 9.20 and prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect May 9, 2009.
The State Bar Court found that Ravatt failed to perform legal services competently in a conservatorship matter.
He was hired by the daughter of an individual who lived in Nevada and already was subject to a guardianship there. All funds belonging to the man were held in a blocked account.
After the man moved to San Jose, the daughter, represented by Ravatt, was appointed his conservator and Ravatt asked the Nevada attorney to transfer the father’s assets to the California conservatorship. However, the conservatorship was never finalized.
The court had appointed Robert Kern, a probate volunteer panel attorney, as counsel for the father. Three years later, Ravatt and his co-counsel asked Kern to approve the order appointing a probate conservator as to form and content. Kern refused, questioning the need for a conservatorship at that time. The daughter hired a new lawyer, who obtained Kern’s approval of the form but continued to question the need for a conservator at the time.
The father died the following year.
Ravatt testified at his trial before the bar court that he agreed with Kern that the father’s interests were protected in Nevada and there was no need for a conservatorship in California. However, he never conveyed his thinking to his client and never contacted Kern. His failure to do so was the basis for the bar court’s finding that he did not perform legal services competently. Ravatt took almost no action in the conservatorship for at least two years.
Ravatt “then compounded this error by doing almost nothing in the matter until … a few years later,” wrote Judge Richard Platel. His “failure to contact Kern, or file a pleading with the court requesting that the letters be granted, led to a long period of inactivity that could have, and should have, been avoided.”
He has two prior discipline records. He received a stayed suspension and probation in 2002 after stipulating to misconduct in five matters, including failing to respond to client inquiries and perform legal services competently. In 2003, he was suspended and placed on probation for failing to properly maintain his client trust account or pay client funds promptly.
Although the State Bar sought Ravatt’s disbarment, Platel said the nature and extent of all his misconduct do not warrant such a harsh punishment.
MICHAEL PHILIP RICHTER [#54408], 67, of San Diego was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual one-year suspension and he was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20 and make restitution. The order took effect May 9, 2009.
Richter stipulated to misconduct in three matters.
In the first matter, he was hired to obtain a visa and a status adjustment for an immigrant facing deportation. However, he did not file the required documents on time and the court ordered the client’s removal.
A new lawyer filed a motion to reopen the case based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Richter admitted he “screwed up the case” and said he would provide a full refund of fees within two weeks. The court ultimately terminated the removal proceedings.
In the second matter, Richter represented a client to correct the status of a criminal conviction. The client had been convicted of possession of a controlled substance in 1978 with an agreement that the conviction would be reduced to a misdemeanor if he successfully completed probation.
Although the client did so, he learned in 2006 that the conviction had not been commuted. He hired Richter — for $1,350 in fees and costs — to set aside the conviction. Richter never filed the required petition and did not return a new lawyer’s numerous phone calls or a letter. Another lawyer succeeded in having the charges dismissed.
Richter did not respond to a State Bar investigator’s inquiries.
In the third matter, Richter was hired by the conservator of her father’s estate because a woman listed as the father’s daughter was on the death certificate. The woman allegedly had no such relationship with the father.
The man’s adopted daughter wished to have the other woman removed from the death certificate and to have the trustee investigated. She paid Richter $2,000.
Richter said he could not help with the trust issue and said the death certificate issue would take some time.
After more than a year, the client fired Richter because no work had been done. He did not return her file or refund the advance fee.
He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees, return client files or cooperate with the bar’s investigation and he took no steps to protect his client’s interests when he abandoned their cases.
Richter was publicly reproved in 2000 for failing to comply with the conditions of an agreement in lieu of discipline and the following year he was suspended and placed on probation after stipulating that he failed to perform legal services competently, respond to client inquiries or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.
EARL F. TRITT III [#141754], 54, of San Diego was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a five-month actual suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect May 9, 2009.
Following his fourth drunk driving conviction, Tritt was accepted into the State Bar’s alternative discipline program for lawyers with substance abuse or mental health issues. He successfully completed the program and participated in the Lawyer Assistance Program.
He stipulated that he was convicted in 2004 of driving with a blood alcohol content of more than .08 percent.
DANIEL J. GOULDING [#120561], 51, of El Cajon was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect May 9, 2009.
While one of two partners at Withers & Goulding in San Diego, Goulding represented two trusts worth more than $16 million that held the assets of James Hervey Johnson, a noted atheist who died in 1988. Both Goulding and Withers provided legal advice and represented the trusts and trustees from 1997 to 2000, collecting more than $2.9 million in fees. Goulding did more work than his partner on the account.
In 2000, the California Attorney General charged both lawyers with collecting excessive fees. The trustees were charged with mismanaging the trusts.
In a 2004 settlement, Goulding agreed to refund $330,000 of the $480,000 Withers & Goulding had collected in unearned fees. He ultimately completed the restitution.
He stipulated that he failed to promptly refund unearned fees.
In mitigation, Goulding had no prior discipline record, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and he took steps to address the harm suffered by his clients.
RUSSELL H. TAKASUGI [#118792], 55, of Simi Valley Probation was revoked and he was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on two years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension. If the suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation; if it exceeds 90 days, he must comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect June 3, 2009, but the suspension did not begin until June 22.
He filed four quarterly reports late and did not complete continuing education in law office management and/or attorney client relations on time.
In the underlying matter, Takasugi stipulated that he failed to cooperate with a bar investigation. He did not respond to inquiries from two State Bar investigators about allegations of misconduct, although after disciplinary charges were filed, he provided the relevant documentation and information.
He also was privately reproved in 1996, and in 2001 he received a public reproval.
GLENN R. WILSON [#183727], 50, of Fresno was revoked and he was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on 18 months of probation with a 30-day actual suspension. The order took effect June 3, 2009.
Wilson did not comply with the terms of a 2008 probation — he did not meet with his probation officer, file a probation report on time or make restitution on time. He did attend ethics school, took the MPRE and filed a quarterly report on time.
The underlying discipline was imposed after Wilson stipulated to five counts of misconduct in two matters, including practicing in a jurisdiction where he was not admitted, disobeying court orders, failing to account for client funds, refund unearned fees or perform legal services competently.