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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.

DISBARMENTS

SUSPENSION/PROBATION

STEVEN ELLIOT MACHAT [#77255], 49, of Los Angeles was placed on three years of probation with an actual two-year suspension and until he proves his rehablitation and makes restitution, and was ordered to comply with the MPRE and rule 955. The order took effect May 5, 2002.

Machat stipulated that he failed to properly maintain client funds in a trust account. He received a $65,000 publishing advance from BMG Music Publishing which was to be used to promote a group called Funkdoobiest. He issued himself a check and wrote a check to the group's manager, who was entitled to receive 20 percent of anything they received in which he provided business and management services.

At that point, Machat was required to keep $52,000 in trust. However, the balance fell to $3 and remained there for almost five months.

The entertainers eventually terminated the services of Machat and their business manager, but when they were unable to get their money, they sued, alleging breach of contract and fiduciary duties, conversion and malpractice. Machat agreed to settle by paying the entertainers $35,000, but did not do so.

Machat says he delegated management of his trust account, including keeping client ledgers and reconciling his bank statements, to his accountant.

In a second matter, Machat served as a music consultant and performed some legal services for Capcom Co. Ltd., creator of the highly popular video game, "Street Fighter." When a movie and soundtrack of "Street Fighter" were produced, Machat advised and represented the company concerning royalty payments, licensing, accounting rights, administration of music copyrights and registrations with various performing rights societies.

He also assisted the company in the creation of soundtracks for three animated children's cartoons, negotiating and receiving royalty payments for the music associated with the cartoons.

Although he received royalty payments, he did not promptly advise Capcom of his receipt of the money nor did he forward the royalties to the company. Through his accountant, he deposited the funds into three bank accounts which he owned or controlled without Capcom's consent. Over a 16-month period, Machat deposited nine royalty checks totaling more than $152,000 in the accounts, but only informed the company about a payment of about $9,000.

When the company learned about the payments, it fired Machat and demanded that he turn over the royalty payments and account for all monies he had received on its behalf. He claimed he was owed the money for services provided. He provided no accounting and Capcom has not received any money.

Machat stipulated that he failed to maintain client funds in trust, notify a client of the receipt of funds, or maintain proper records of funds, and he committed acts of moral turpitude.

In mitigation, Machat has no record of discipline in nearly 25 years of practice.


LAURINDA LEE (aka LAURINDA LOCKERBY) [#117725], 47, of Murrieta was suspended for two years, stayed, actually suspended for 18 months and until she makes restitution and 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, she must prove her rehabilitation. The order took effect May 5, 2002.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Lee committed multiple acts of misconduct in two client matters, including moral turpitude and failure to deposit client funds in her trust account, respond to client inquiries, render accounts of client funds or cooperate with the bar's investigation.

In the first matter, she was retained to create an estate plan for a client, who paid $9,000 for fees and costs. Not all the money was placed in Lee's client trust account, however. Lee did not return numerous phone calls from the client, who demanded a refund of her fees.

In the second matter, Lee wrote checks against insufficient funds in her trust account. Lee also was disciplined in 2001 for failing to perform legal services competently, respond to client inquiries, refund unearned fees or cooperate with a bar investigation.


MICHAEL VINCENT JOHNSON [#100957], 52, of Victorville was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual nine-month suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and comply with rule 955. The order took effect May 5, 2002.

Johnson did not comply with a 2000 order that he comply with rule 955. He filed an affidavit with the Supreme Court almost one year late attesting that he had notified his clients and other pertinent parties of his suspension.

He was disciplined for failing to pay court-ordered sanctions and for failing to comply with probation conditions attached to a 1998 disciplinary order. In that matter, Johnson failed to perform legal services competently, communicate with a client or cooperate with the bar's investigation, and he withdrew from representation without protecting his client's interests.

In mitigation, Johnson suffered from extreme financial stress due to circumstances beyond his control, suffered from extreme depression and filed for bankruptcy.


BEHZAD DAVID HERAVI [#185496], 46, of Reseda was suspended for four years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual two and a half year suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and take the MPRE. Credit toward the actual suspension shall be given for the period of interim suspension which began Dec. 6, 2000. The order took effect May 5, 2002.

Heravi pleaded guilty to stealing government property in a health care fraud scheme in 1999. He and his brothers operated two orthopedic supply companies, one of which was a Medi-Cal provider that was able to directly bill the State of California for products and services provided to beneficiaries of the program.

According to a stipulation Heravi reached with the bar, he and his brothers concocted a scheme to submit false billings to the Medi-Cal program. Heravi personally received $841,568 in stolen Medi-Cal funds.

As part of a plea agreement, he provided testimony about another individual involved in the fraud and was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor — stealing government property not exceeding $1,000 — and was sentenced to probation. He forfeited the $841,568. He stipulated that he committed acts of moral turpitude.

In mitigation, Heravi says he was the only defendant permitted to plead to a misdemeanor and sentenced to straight probation and he cooperated extensively with prosecutors. The U.S. Attorney said he was the least culpable of the defendants and was involved marginally.


JOHN FORREST FRANKLIN II [#100737], 48, of Reseda - Franklin's probation was revoked, the previous stay of execution was lifted. He was actually suspended for nine months and was ordered to attend ethics school and comply with rule 955. Credit shall be given for the period involuntary inactive enrollment which began Dec. 14, 2001. The order took effect May 5, 2002.

Franklin did not comply with probation conditions attached to a 2000 probation, which was ordered because he failed to comply with the conditions of a 1998 public reproval. The reproval was issued for failing to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees, maintain records of client funds, communicate with a client or cooperate with the bar's investigation.


MERISSA COLEMAN [#160046], 42, of San Jose was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual six-month suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. Credit shall be given for a period of interim suspension which began Nov. 9, 2001. The order took effect May 5, 2002.

Coleman pleaded guilty to resisting arrest in 2000, one count of a 10-count indictment, and was sentenced to 120 days in jail with credit for time served, and five years of probation.

The arrest stemmed from a domestic dispute. Police officers found Coleman in her car and she refused their request that she get out of the car, instead striking an officer. When placed in a patrol car, Coleman kicked out the rear window.

In mitigation, Coleman has no record of discipline, she cooperated with the bar's investigation, she had been a victim of domestic violence and she had not been taking her medication to regulate her moods.


JILL ANNE CAHILL [#168130], 42, of Oakland was suspended for one year, stayed, actually suspended for 60 days and until she 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, she must comply with rule 955, and if it exceeds two years, she must prove her rehabilitation. The order took effect May 5, 2002.

In a default proceeding, the bar court found that Cahill failed to perform legal services competently, respond to her client's inquiries, refund unearned fees or cooperate with the bar's investigation, and she committed acts of moral turpitude by making misrepresentations to her client's mother.

She was hired by a criminal defendant's mother to represent her son against charges of possession of a controlled substance. The mother paid Cahill $1,500. Cahill did not appear at several hearings or return the client's or his mother's numerous phone calls. Bench warrants were issued against both the defendant and Cahill, who told the mother at one point that she was working with the court to have a warrant recalled and that she was looking for a diversion program for the defendant. Neither assertion was true.

The defendant eventually pleaded guilty on the advice of a public defender.

The mother fired Cahill and sought a refund of her fee. When no refund was forthcoming, she went to fee arbitration and was awarded $2,575. Cahill did not appear at the hearing.


GRAHAM EDWARD BERRY [#128503], 51, of Los Angeles was suspended for 18 months, stayed, placed on 18 months of probation with a nine-month actual suspension, and was ordered to make restitution, take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect May 11, 2002.

Berry stipulated to six counts of misconduct.

The first stemmed from a levy on his bank account by a party attempting to collect upon a $27,470 judgment. Under penalty of perjury, Berry filed a declaration stating that the account should be exempt because it contained attorney client trust funds. He also presented documentation that he had deposited $5,200 from one client, $500 from another and $250 from a third into the account.

In a civil action in which he filed an original and three amended complaints, the court found that he violated federal law prohibiting unreasonable and vexatious litigation because none of the complaints stated a basis for the defendant's liability. Berry was sanctioned more than $28,000 but has yet to comply with the court order.

He also was sanctioned in a bankruptcy matter for conflict of interest and failing to disclose the conflict, and was ordered to pay $8,000. He also failed to comply with that order.

A suit against the Church of Scientology was dismissed with prejudice after the defendants filed an "anti-SLAPP" action, contending it was brought to chill the right to freedom of speech. Berry was ordered to pay attorney's fees of $3,000 and costs of $23, but did not do so.

Another SLAPP action against him was granted by the court, which found that every cause of action arose from acts taken under the right to freedom of speech. Berry was sanctioned $12,500, but did not comply with the court order.

He stipulated to failing to deposit and maintain client funds in a trust account, representing clients with conflicting interests, and four counts of disobeying a court order.

In mitigation, Berry has no record of prior discipline and contends that he acted in good faith by being available to provide representation against the Church of Scientology since 1991. He cooperated with the bar's investigation.


ROBERT THOMAS BURNS [#149060], 52, of Los Angeles was suspended for three years, stayed, actually suspended for two years and until he makes restitution and the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect May 11, 2002.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Burns committed six acts of misconduct in an armed robbery case in which he represented a defendant who paid him $13,000. After his client was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison, Burns told him there were problems with some eyewitnesses who claimed they were pressured by the district attorney into making identifications they were unsure of. Burns said he would file a notice of appeal.

The client's brother found one of the witnesses, brought her to Burns' office for an interview and paid $1,000 toward the $5,000 filing fee for the appeal. Despite promises that the appeal would be filed, and eventually saying the appeal was filed, in fact it never was. Burns did not respond to three letters from the client, who eventually filed a habeas corpus petition on his own. It was denied, and the court told the client he needed to submit a declaration from Burns that the client had tried to appeal on a timely basis. Burns did not respond to the client's request for a declaration, although the court did allow the client to file a belated notice of appeal.

He did not refund any of the $1,000 fee for the appeal.

The court found that Burns failed to perform legal services competently, respond to client inquiries, return a client file, refund unearned fees or cooperate with the bar's investigation, and he committed acts of moral turpitude.

Burns has been disciplined twice previously, in 1998 for failing to perform legal services competently or communicate with a client and improperly withdrawing from employment, and in 1996 for failing to comply with conditions attached to an earlier agreement in lieu of discipline. In the underlying matter, he failed to perform competently or return a client's file and he improperly withdrew from employment.


STEVEN PAUL COLEMAN [#196142], 50, of San Bernardino was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 75-day suspension and was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE. The order took effect May 11, 2002.

Coleman stipulated to misconduct in nine consolidated cases, including failing to perform legal services competently, provide a client's file, refund unearned fees, maintain client funds in trust or pay client funds as requested, communicate with a client or cooperate with the bar's investigation.

In a landlord-tenant dispute, for example, although Coleman reached a settlement with the opposing party, he never took any steps to finalize it and did not return numerous phone calls from his client or a new attorney.

Coleman received a settlement check for $4,000 in a personal injury case, but did not pay one of the medical providers or his client's former attorney. He also allowed the balance in his client trust account to fall below the required amount. When the client began to receive collection notices from the medical provider, she called Coleman, who told her the bill had been paid. In fact, he never paid it.

In another matter, Coleman represented a criminal defendant in one matter and represented the same person and his wife in a separate guardianship matter. Coleman failed to file any pleadings in either case, but did appear at a hearing on the guardianship issue.

He did not respond to five letters seeking updates on the cases, documents verifying the work he had performed and a refund of unearned fees.

In mitigation, Coleman cooperated with the bar's investigation.


WAYNE ANTHONY JAMES [#95271], 48, of Richmond was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 80-day suspension, and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and take the MPRE. The order took effect May 11, 2002.

James, a deputy public defender in Contra Costa County, practiced law for several years while suspended for not paying his bar dues.

In mitigation, he suffered from chronic depression and severe financial stress, presented evidence of his good character and cooperated with the bar's investigation. He also was demoted as a result of his misconduct, resulting in a significant pay cut.


DAVID LEE SAMUELSON [#96060], 49, of Mountain View was suspended for 90 days, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect May 11, 2002.

Samuelson stipulated to misconduct in four consolidated matters.

He never filed the final judgment in a marital dissolution and his client had to hire another attorney, and in another divorce case, he obtained his client's adopted son's signature on a deed relinquishing his claim to an interest in her home, but never recorded the deed. It cannot be located. In both matters, Samuelson did not return his clients' phone calls.

He did not actively participate in another divorce case in which the valuation of the couple's home and the division of proceeds from its sale were of utmost importance. As a result, the division of property was delayed.

He did not take any action on a modification of support matter after an initial court appearance.

Samuelson stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently or respond to client inquiries in all four matters.

In mitigation, he has no record of prior discipline and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.


GARY ALAN SMITH [#78234], 57, of Fresno was suspended for 18 months, stayed, actually suspended for four months and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect May 11, 2002.

In a default proceeding the bar court found that Smith wrote at least 17 checks against insufficient funds in his client trust account and wrote checks for personal and business expenses against the trust account.

Smith was disciplined last year for failing to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, return client files or refund unearned fees and for improperly withdrawing from employment.


VALERIE SUE WEISS [#126500], 42, of Los Angeles was suspended for six months, stayed and placed on 18 months of probation with a 30-day actual suspension. The order took effect May 11, 2002.

Weiss stipulated to misconduct in three consolidated matters.

In 1995, she began legal proceedings against a mortgage company, but the court determined the issues had already been decided in previous litigation. Weiss stipulated that she failed to maintain a just or legal action.

In an unlawful detainer action in which she was the defendant, Weiss brought a third party claim on behalf of her law practice. Three separate courts denied her motions to stay the eviction. When a judge denied Weiss' request for 30 days to vacate the hearing, she characterized his actions as "an abomination" and stated she had "no respect for what is going on here." She stipulated that she failed to maintain respect due to the courts.

In the third case, Weiss did not respond to a bar investigator's letter.

She was disciplined in 1999 for failing to return client files twice, deposit client funds in a trust account or maintain the respect due to courts, and for presenting an unwarranted claim in litigation.

In mitigation, Weiss says she suffered financial hardship, was in two serious car accidents, and her brother, with whom she lived and was very close, committed suicide. No clients were harmed and she demonstrated remorse.


TED TADASHI YAMAMOTO [#56248], 65, of Los Angeles was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on five years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect May 12, 2002.

Yamamoto stipulated to misconduct in three matters.

As a result of cancer surgery and subsequent treatments, Yamamoto turned over a personal injury case to his paralegal, who settled it and received a check for $8,500 without notifying the clients. No one in Yamamoto's office turned the clients' numerous phone calls and they were forced to hire a new attorney. The staff also did not respond to the new lawyer's inquiries.

At one point, the paralegal wrote a check to a medical provider against insufficient funds. It was resubmitted and honored, and the paralegal paid the remainder of the bill with funds in the trust account which belonged to other clients.

The paralegal settled other cases without Yamamoto's knowledge and deposited insurance drafts received on behalf of clients. However, he allowed the balance in the client trust account to repeatedly drop below the required level and bounced numerous checks. He also issued payroll checks against the trust account.

Another personal injury case was dismissed when no one appeared at two hearings, but the client was not informed. Although Yamamoto filed a motion to set aside the dismissal after the deadline, it was denied. The client learned the status of her case through an independent inquiry.

Yamamoto stipulated that he failed to adequately supervise an employee, perform legal services competently, maintain client funds in a trust account, properly administer a trust account or maintain complete records of client funds.

Yamamoto was privately reproved in 1989 and was disciplined in 1995 for failing to perform legal services competently, return client files or keep records of client funds.

In mitigation, he had family problems and emotional or physical difficulties and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.


JILL MORTON aka JILL SHIPOUNOFF [#135107], 56, of Oakland was suspended for three years, stayed, actually suspended for two years and until she proves her rehabilitation and was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect May 12, 2002.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Morton practiced law while suspended. She has not been entitled to practice since 1997 when she was suspended for failing to pay bar dues. Morton handled an unlawful detainer matter in 1998. Her actions constituted moral turpitude, for she misrepresented her status to the court.

Morton also did not cooperate with the bar's investigation.

Morton was disciplined in 1996 as the result of a conviction for possession of LSD and in 1997 for failing to comply with probation conditions.


J. SAL MUNOZ [#134410], 51, of Temecula was suspended for 30 days, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect May 12, 2002.

Munoz, who was a city councilman for Temecula, was convicted of soliciting a loan from an individual who had business before the council and then advocating to protect the individual's interests.

The council had voted to acquire land owned by the individual by eminent domain and appraised the land at $1.2 million about a year after the city began to consider it for a public park. The land owner had the parcel appraised at $2 million.

Munoz then became mayor of Temecula and while the issue was before the city council he approached the land owner and requested a $10,000 loan. Although the owner declined, he arranged a loan between his brother and Munoz.

In a closed session, Munoz strongly urged the council to acquire the land for $1.6 million, even though property values had fluctuated substantially during the eminent domain proceedings. At the time of the public vote, he abstained because his relationship with the land owner had the appearance of a conflict of interest.

In mitigation, Munoz was embroiled in a bitter divorce at the time that was characterized by financial disputes and a controversy over mortgage payments his wife had failed to make. The loan was to save his home from foreclosure and was completely paid off. Munoz has no prior record of discipline, no clients were harmed, he presented testimony about his good character and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.


ROBIN JOHN HOFF [#144396], 57, of Tustin was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on probation for one year and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect May 12, 2002.

Hoff did not file an answer to a complaint against his client in a civil case, despite his repeated assurances that he would do so. He also did not cooperate with plaintiff's counsel in providing statements to the court as requested, did not respond to discovery after his client provided the necessary information and did not file a motion for relief from default despite assurances that he would do so.

Hoff also did not respond to his client's numerous inquiries about the status of the lawsuit. He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently or communicate with his client.

In mitigation, Hoff has no record of prior discipline and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.


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