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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

DISBARMENTS

EDWARD STUART LEVINSON [#61886], 55, of Oakland was disbarred March 27, 2004, and was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Levinson failed to comply with rule 955, as required by a 2003 disciplinary order. He did not submit to the Supreme Court an affidavit stating that he notified all clients, opposing attorneys and other pertinent parties of his suspension.

Failure to comply with rule 955 is grounds for disbarment.

In the underlying discipline, Levinson was suspended for abandoning two clients.


REZA PANAH [#179557], 36, of Beverly Hills was disbarred March 27, 2004, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Panah did not comply with rule 955, as ordered by an interim suspension imposed in 2002 following a conviction for grand theft. Panah was separately convicted of grand theft in another matter the same day.

In addition, he was convicted of trespass.


SUSPENSION/PROBATION

PETER J. LONGANBACH [#48988], 59, of Pinehurst, N.C. was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual two-year suspension and until he proves his rehabilitation, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. Credit will be given for an interim suspension that began Jan. 7, 2002. The order took effect March 3, 2004.

Longanbach, a former deputy district attorney in San Diego County, was convicted of grant theft in 2001 after admitting he worked on private matters during work hours and used the DA’s fax, copy machine and telephones for personal purposes.

In mitigation, Longanbach had no prior discipline record, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and he presented evidence of his good character.


RONALD WILLIAM FITZGERALD [#80041], 54, of Diamond Bar was suspended for two years, stayed, actually suspended for six months and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect March 4, 2004.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Fitzgerald practiced law while suspended. He was employed to handle a bankruptcy and filed a Chapter 7 petition on his clients’ behalf.

The bankruptcy trustee filed a motion to determine whether the compensation Fitzgerald received was excessive and noted that, in addition to not being entitled to practice, Fitzgerald did not appear to have adequately provided services for preparing the petition.

He court agreed Fitzgerald had charged and received an excessive fee and dismissed the bankruptcy petition. Fitzgerald did not refund the fee.

The bar court also found that he committed an act of moral turpitude, disobeyed a court order and failed to cooperate with the bar’s investigation or keep his address up-do-date in bar records.

Fitzgerald also was disciplined in 1983.


ANDREW J. SPERLING [#189965], 45, of San Diego was suspended for two years, stayed, actually suspended for two years and until he makes restitution, the bar court grants a motion to terminate the suspension and he proves his rehabilitation, and he was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect March 4, 2004.

In three consolidated default matters, the bar court found that Sperling improperly withdrew from employment and failed to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, maintain client funds, return a client file, return $10,000 in unearned fees, cooperate with the bar’s investigation or keep his address current with the bar.

In one case, he represented a client in a real estate matter for which the client paid $7,500 in advance fees. He did not deposit the funds in a client trust account and did not respond to any of his client’s phone calls. He ignored her demand for a refund, and the client’s letter was returned, marked “Attempted — Not Known.”

In an employment contract matter, a client paid an advance fee of $1,500 and another $1,000 after Sperling filed her petition. He did not appear at an early case management conference and, as a result of that and his failure to pursue the case, it was dismissed.

For eight months, the client called Sperling weekly but he did not return any calls. After a year, the client demanded a refund of $2,500, but got no response.

When the client hired a new lawyer, Sperling did not respond to a substitution of attorney request, nor did he return his client’s file. Sperling eventually provided an accounting of his services, claiming to have done work valued at $2,171; he also said the client gave him only $1,000. Both statements were false, according to bar court Judge Richard Honn.

The judge found in the third case that Sperling wrote a check against insufficient funds in his client trust account.


ROBERT SPELGER [#160114], 40, of Venice Beach was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 120-day actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect March 4, 2004.

The State Bar Court found that Spelger failed to inform his client of significant developments or perform legal services competently.

Spelger never informed his client that a trial date was scheduled in his case and neither Spelger or anyone representing the client appeared. The case was dismissed, but the client was never informed.

Spelger filed a motion for reconsideration and tried to set aside the dismissal. The motions, which the client didn’t know about, were denied. Spelger then appealed without notifying the client. Various documents, including an opening brief, were filed, but the appeal was dismissed.

The client knew nothing until he was served with a sheriff’s levy for more than $25,000. The client had to appear at a judgment debtor examination and his company’s bank account was garnished $1,434. Since that was insufficient, the company entered into a payment plan that required payments of $750 per month.

The client filed a negligence action against Spelger, who agreed to repay $12,000. The client had to spend $9,500 in attorney fees to handle the negligence case and his business suffered financially.

The bar court gave Spelger limited mitigation for having no record of discipline in six and a half years of practice.


DANIEL M. DAVIS [#65589], 55, 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 March 4, 2004.

Davis stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently or respond to his client’s reasonable status requests. He was hired in 1994 to probate a will and, in particular, to determine the succession to real property left to the decedent’s heirs. After numerous phone calls from his client for more than a year, Davis finally prepared the necessary petition. Although it was executed by all the heirs, Davis never filed it.

In June 2001, Davis indicated he planned to file the papers and request a hearing, but he didn’t do so. For another six months, the client called Davis on several occasions, but he did not respond. In February 2002, after being contacted by the State Bar, Davis called his client. He filed the petition in January 2003.

Davis continues to represent the client and agreed to waive all compensation.

Davis has been disciplined twice previously — he was publicly reproved in 1991 and again in 1995 for misconduct that included failing to communicate, return a client file or refund unearned fees.

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


TERRENCE L. BUTLER [#113383], 56, of Beverly Hills 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 March 4, 2004.

Butler stipulated that he failed to properly maintain client funds in a trust account and entered into a business transaction with a client without advising the client to seek independent legal counsel.

Butler received $1 million in settlement funds in the personal injury case. He deposited the money in his trust account and disbursed $354,000 to his client, paid about $9,000 to the client’s doctor and paid off a workers’ comp lien of $175,000. He allowed the balance to fall below the required amount but later distributed the remainder of the settlement properly.

Butler also borrowed $75,000 from his client without putting the terms of the transaction in writing, advising the client to seek advice from another attorney or obtaining the client’s written consent to the terms of the transaction. At the time of the loan, all settlement proceeds had been distributed and Butler did not believe the business transaction requirements applied. He repaid the loan with $7,500 in interest.

In mitigation, Butler has no record of discipline, he is a member of professional organizations and performs extensive public service for burn organizations, including handling about a dozen burn cases free of charge.


NORMA S. BERNEMAN [#161950], 57, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on one year 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 955. The order took effect March 4, 2004.

Berneman stipulated that she misappropriated client funds, failed to maintain client funds in her trust account and committed two acts of moral turpitude, including signing someone else’s name on a check.

An individual executed a trust agreement, naming herself as trustee and Berneman as successor trustee. Another woman was a beneficiary of the trustee’s life insurance policy. When the trustee died, Berneman made a claim to receive the proceeds of the life insurance policy.

There is a dispute over whether Berneman informed the beneficiary of the existence of the policy, whether she told the woman she was a beneficiary and whether Berneman was authorized to make a claim on the other woman’s behalf for the proceeds of the policy. Berneman concedes that she did not have authority to endorse the $5,025 check payable to the beneficiary, although she did so without taking adequate steps to locate her.

The beneficiary eventually learned about the life insurance policy from a bank and hired a lawyer to follow up her claim. When that attorney learned that Berneman had received the settlement, she repaid the money plus interest.

In mitigation, Berneman has no prior record of discipline.


PEDRO BONILLA-SALCIDO [#127587], 58, of El Centro was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on one year of probation. The order took effect March 4, 2004.

Bonilla-Salcido stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently.

He was paid $1,500 to represent a client in a removal proceeding in immigration court in Phoenix, but later told the client that unless she could win on the facts of her case, she would be deported. Bonilla-Salcido subsequently was unable to contact the client.

He and the client failed to appear at a hearing and the client was ordered removed from the U.S.

The next year, the client returned to Bonilla-Salcido’s office and paid $1,000 to try to reopen the case. She said she could provide facts constituting exceptional circumstances that would explain her failure to appear at the hearing. Again, she did not communicate further with Bonilla-Salcido, who did not pursue the case. The client eventually hired another lawyer.

Bonilla-Salcido refunded $1,300.

He also was disciplined in 2002 for failing to provide competent legal services or deposit client funds in a trust account.


JOHN JEFFREY CRUTCHFIELD [#81729], 50, of Long Beach was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 60-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect March 11, 2004.

Crutchfield stipulated that he practiced law while suspended for failing to pay bar dues or comply with MCLE requirements. He was hired as a part-time non-attorney to perform paralegal and clerical work, but in a letter to his employer’s client, he gave legal opinions and made legal analyses of the client’s case.

In mitigation, he has no prior record of discipline.


MICHAEL EVANS HEER [#76738], 51, of Stockton was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect March 11, 2004.

Heer did not comply with probation conditions attached to a 2002 discipline order. He did not file quarterly probation reports, mental health reports or proof of attendance at ethics school or completion of the MPRE.

The reproval was the result of Heer’s failure to withdraw from a case because of a mental or physical condition.


JAMES STEVEN DAVIS [#112906], 50, of Rancho Cucamonga was suspended for four years, stayed, placed on four years of probation with an actual two-year suspension and until he makes restitution and proves his rehabilitation, and he was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect March 19, 2004.

Davis appealed the findings and discipline recommendation of a State Bar Court hearing judge, but the review department upheld both. The review department described the case as “an unfortunate example of an attorney who disregarded his ethical duties in the course of representing a corporate client.” It found that Davis misappropriated nearly $30,000 and failed to account for the proceeds of an insurance settlement or to maintain client funds in trust.

Davis, a bankruptcy, insolvency and corporate lawyer, had denied guilt.

He was hired in 1996 by the president and chief operating officer of TRC, a company specializing in cleaning contaminated soil. TRC was a joint venture corporation comprised of two 50 percent shareholders: the company president and a corporation that was a wholly owned subsidiary of Union Oil. The president sat on the board of directors with three other people who were Unocal employees.

TRC was unable to operate at a profit or repay its loans and the corporate shareholder decided to dissolve the company. Although the president initially proceeded with the dissolution efforts, he later stopped cooperating. He then met with Davis, who recommended bankruptcy.

The president followed that advice without notifying the board of directors and signed a fee agreement that required a $20,000 deposit against future legal fees. He gave Davis two personal checks, one for $5,000 that Davis cashed and the other for $15,000 that Davis held, knowing it was insufficiently funded. The company president said he would pay the legal fees from an anticipated insurance settlement.

Davis said his rationale for proceeding without the knowledge of the other directors was that they were “hopelessly conflicted” because they were employees of Unocal, which was both a creditor and debtor of TRC.

When the directors learned about the bankruptcy filing, they suspended the president and revoked his authority to act for TRC. Their attorney warned Davis to stop acting on TRC’s behalf and asked him to dismiss the bankruptcy. Davis responded by warning he would seek an injunction to “stop all unlawful interference” with the bankruptcy, and he threatened to file a federal RICO action against the directors and others.

A couple of days later, the TRC president received an insurance settlement check for $79,875 that he signed and gave to Davis, who deposited it into his client trust account. He also returned the uncashed $15,000 check to his client and gave him $50,000 of the settlement.

When the company learned about the settlement money five weeks later, its attorneys demanded an accounting and sought a return of the money to TRC. Davis ignored the requests and threatened to sue a TRC board member.

The bankruptcy petition was dismissed one month after it was filed and the court sanctioned Davis and his client $5,000, finding that the petition was frivolous. TRC was dissolved, but Davis continued to incur legal fees on its behalf and bill the corporation for two more years.

The review department upheld hearing Judge Michael Marcus’ findings that Davis improperly disbursed the insurance proceeds to himself as attorney fees, failing to account for the money to the TRC board, and committed acts of moral turpitude by misappropriating $29,875 in proceeds that he kept as fees.

Marcus said Davis “acted with unabashed hubris in assuming that he was the appointed guardian of TRC’s best interests,” and accused him of failing to consider or protect the company’s interests.

In mitigation, Davis practiced for 12 years without any record of discipline, he presented witnesses to his good character and engaged in extensive community service.


SIAMAK E. NEHORAY [#147168], 44, of Van Nuys was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect March 20, 2004.

Nehoray stipulated to two counts of misconduct involving his client trust account.

He substituted in to an auto accident case, but there was no written fee agreement. When the case settled, Nehoray received a $1,000 settlement check, but placed it in his client’s file rather than depositing it in his client trust account. More than two years later, he asked the insurer to reissue the check because it had expired. He deposited the new check in his trust account.

After the client terminated Nehoray’s services and hired a new attorney, Nehoray took the settlement funds from his trust account and deposited it into his general account. The client disputed the way the money was distributed and in order to resolve the dispute, Nehoray withdrew $1,000 in personal funds, deposited the money in his trust account and wrote a check to the client.

He stipulated that he commingled funds and failed to deposit client funds in his trust account.

In mitigation, Nehoray has no prior record of discipline.


BETTYE JEWEL BARNARD [#65129], 57, of Inglewood was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on three years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension. The order took effect March 20, 2004.

Barnard stipulated to misconduct in two cases.

In a divorce case, she filed the petition on her client’s behalf but never served her client’s husband. The case was continued twice before being taken off calendar. The client spent $300 to have her husband served, but Barnard never filed the proof of service with the court.

She later received a copy of an abstract of judgment recorded against the client’s husband, but she never returned the client’s phone calls or letters. Barnard claims she told the client she was not well and that another attorney who had been helping with the case had been diagnosed with cancer. Barnard did not respond to more messages and letters, and the client hired a new lawyer to complete the divorce.

Barnard stipulated that she failed to perform legal services competently, respond to a client’s reasonable status inquiries or refund unearned fees, and she improperly withdrew from employment.

In the second matter, Barnard was hired to clear title to a property. The client signed a retainer agreement for $10,000 and paid $5,000. Several months later, the client refused to pay the balance, complaining that Barnard was too slow. Barnard, however, says she met with the client to confer about legal and factual research and to review drafts of a petition and complaint she had prepared.

The client asked for a refund. Without providing an accounting, Barnard said she had done “quite a bit of work” on the case, and she never refunded any of the advance fee.

She stipulated that she failed to provide an accounting or refund an unearned fee.

Barnard was disciplined last year for failing to perform competently and for abandoning a client. In mitigation, she had emotional or physical difficulties at the time of the misconduct.


ARTHUR CHARLES KRALOWEC [#53916], 69, of Porterville 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 March 20, 2004.

The State Bar Court found that Kralowec improperly withdrew from employment, failed to communicate or perform competently, and committed acts of moral turpitude. In her ruling, Judge JoAnn Remke said the case “exemplifies an outrageous waste of judicial resources, involving extremely difficult parties but not difficult issues and thousands of pages of documentary evidence that spanned 27 years, from 1976 to now.”

Kralowec was the fourth of his client’s five attorneys in a construction case that at one time was worth $818. By the time it ended, the contractor was 82 years old, retired and uninterested in collecting the $818 he was owed, one of the judges had retired and another was publicly censured, the contractor’s original attorney had retired and his second attorney had died.

The fight was over a wall that ran along the client’s property; it was cracked and vibrated so the client refused to pay the balance of what was owed. The contractor sued him in 1976 and first won $2,618; in a second trial he won $818. By the time the client appealed, he was on his third attorney; he hired Kralowec in 1988 to represent him in contract and fraud actions.

Kralowec estimated it would cost $30,000 to try the case, an amount that exceeded any likely recovery. The client was determined to take the case to a jury. By 1988, Kralowec and his client were feuding, the client believed he was the victim of a widespread conspiracy and was intent on suing lots of defendants and the judge sent the case to arbitration. Kralowec repeatedly urged the client to find a new lawyer, but his efforts to withdraw were rebuffed.

He met with the client without charge at least 10 times and believed he had adequately withdrawn from representation. However, he never filed a substitution of attorney or petitioned the court to be relieved. From 1991 to 1993, the client wrote to him at least 20 times asking him to pursue the case; Kralowec never responded and testified he did not want to reopen their relationship.

The client’s fifth attorney managed to have the case removed from arbitration and set for trial, but it was dismissed for failure to prosecute.

The client sued Kralowec for malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract and was awarded compensatory and punitive damages totaling more than $93,000. An appellate court found that Kralowec acted with malice in breaching his fiduciary duty, and Remke found that malice involves moral turpitude. She also found that he improperly withdrew from representation, and as a result performed incompetently, and he did not respond to his client’s numerous inquiries.

Remke acknowledged that Kralowec was unable to control his client, but said he had an obligation to manage the case effectively or withdraw. “Rather than resolving their differences, (Kralowec) became so frustrated that he abandoned his client to the client’s detriment,” Remke said.

She chided the State Bar for being “extremely uncooperative” with Kralowec and causing undue delays. Also in mitigation, there has been no subsequent misconduct in more than 10 years, and Kralowec acted in good faith; he did not file a motion to withdraw because he believed he was protecting his client’s best interests.

Kralowec has been privately reproved twice, in 1980 and 1994. Remke said their “weight in aggravation is nominal.” She rejected the client’s claim that he was harmed financially. “On the contrary,” Remke wrote, “he benefited financially at the expense of respondent.”


ANTHONY JOHN TURNER [#139355], 48, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect March 20, 2004.

Turner stipulated that he allowed his client trust account to fall to a negative balance and he commingled funds in the account.

He was publicly reproved in 2002 for similar misconduct.

In mitigation, he has had serious family problems and his clients were not harmed by the mismanagement of the trust account.


FRANK LEONARD SMITH [#60022], 57, of High Springs, Fla. Probation was revoked, the stay of suspension lifted and he was actually suspended for one year and ordered to comply with rule 955. Credit will be given for an interim suspension that began Dec. 22, 2003. The order took effect March 27, 2004.

Smith did not comply with probation conditions attached to a 2002 discipline order — he did not file two quarterly probation reports, submit to drug testing, comply with the Florida Lawyers Assistance Program requirements, provide a doctor’s report assessing his substance abuse and/or mental health conditions, or keep his phone number current in State Bar records.

The underlying discipline was the result of a trust accounting violation in Florida, and he also was privately reproved in 1994.


DENNIS DUANE ZIEGLER [#195050], 34, of Beverly Hills Probation was revoked, the stay of suspension was lifted and he was actually suspended for four years with credit for a period of inactive involuntary enrollment that began Dec. 26, 2003. The order took effect March 27, 2004.

Ziegler did not comply with probation conditions attached to a 2002 stipulation in which he admitted to misconduct in seven consolidated cases. He did not submit quarterly probation reports, proof of attendance at Narcotics Anonymous meetings, monthly lab reports or quarterly financial reports regarding the possession of client funds.

The underlying discipline involved client trust violations, failure to keep a client abreast of developments in a case, making misrepresentations to a client, misappropriating client funds, failing to notify a client of the receipt of funds or account for those funds, and a conviction for possession of a controlled substance.


GABRIEL SCOTT GANOR [#189905], 35, of Venice Probation was revoked, his previous stay of suspension was lifted and he was actually suspended for six months and ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect March 27, 2004.

Ganor stipulated that he did not comply with the terms of probation imposed in 2001 — he did not submit seven quarterly reports, attend ethics school or provide evidence of monthly medical treatment.

He pleaded no contest to bringing drugs into a jail. While visiting a client who was incarcerated in the men’s central jail in Los Angeles, Ganor gave the inmate three envelopes that included, among other things, marijuana cigarettes and methamphetamine.

In mitigation, Ganor mistakenly believed he no longer had to comply with probation conditions while he awaited a new disciplinary order based on a stipulation he reached with the bar stemming from his interim suspension. He acted in good faith and the proceedings were delayed by an oversight by the State Bar.


ROBERT EMIL RELAT [#125467], 55, of Salinas Probation was revoked, the stay of suspension was lifted and he was actually suspended for 18 months. Credit will be given for a period of involuntary inactive enrollment that began Oct. 3, 2003. The order took effect March 27, 2004.

Relat violated the probation requirements of a 2002 discipline by failing to file three quarterly reports on time, report his compliance with psychological/psychiatric conditions, or attend ethics school or client trust accounting school.

The underlying misconduct involved four client matters, commingling his trust account with personal expenses, acts of moral turpitude, failure to perform competently, client abandonment and misappropriation.


ELLEN CASTRELLON [#128823], 56, of Chula Vista was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on four years of probation with an actual two-year suspension and until she proves her rehabilitation, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect March 27, 2004.

Castrellon stipulated to 22 counts of misconduct in 10 consolidated matters, including failing to perform legal services competently, keep clients informed about their cases or advise a client to seek independent legal advice, and she willfully disobeyed a court order, abandoned a client, and while acting as an attorney for a party, she sought an agreement that her professional misconduct would not be reported.

In one matter, she purchased a client’s Mercedes while representing him in a divorce. She did not advise the client to seek the advice of another lawyer before entering into an agreement with her.

In an Orange County case involving a contested estate in Ohio, she represented the defendants. She filed an answer to the complaint and a cross-complaint, but did not respond to discovery. When the Ohio plaintiff and his attorney arrived at Castrellon’s Costa Mesa office for a deposition, she informed them she would not take the deposition that day. Her clients later were ordered to pay more than $2,100 in out-of-pocket expenses to the plaintiff as a result of the cancelled deposition.

Castrellon later received notice that her clients were to be deposed in Ohio, but she never notified them and they did not appear. The clients also were sanctioned in Orange County for failure to respond to discovery, and Castrellon was sanctioned $1,960, but she never paid.

Castrellon met with her clients and offered to pay their travel expenses to rescheduled depositions if they would not file a complaint against her with the State Bar.

In another matter, Castrellon won a default judgment of $40,649 plus interest for her clients. The court ordered her to prepare the judgment and notice, but she did no further work on the case and stopped answering her clients’ phone calls. As a result of Castrellon’s failure to file the final judgment, her clients were unable to collect about $9,000 in interest.

In mitigation, Castrellon has no prior record of discipline and during the period of misconduct. She was caring for her severely ill husband and, as a result, suffered extreme emotional stress and depression.


JACK A. WHITLEY [#75200], 57, of Austin, Texas was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and take the MPRE. The order took effect April 11, 2004.

Whitley, who practiced in Santa Cruz County, pleaded no contest to possession of marijuana for sale. He was arrested at his home, where sheriff’s deputies confiscated 95 growing marijuana plants. Whitley said he was growing the plants for people who had medical marijuana prescriptions, and he produced 10 such prescriptions. He also had a prescription for his own back pain, although it was expired.

He told the officers he had been growing marijuana since passage of a Santa Cruz ordinance permitting such activity.

After Whitley’s plea, the court suspended a 36-month sentence and ordered him to serve three days in county jail.

In mitigation, Whitley has no record of discipline in 26 years of practice, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and complied with his criminal probation.


ROBERT E. HOLZINGER [#200278], 33, of Burbank was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a six-month actual suspension and until he proves his rehabilitation, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 11, 2004.

Holzinger stipulated to 11 counts of misconduct in seven consolidated cases.

He was employed to handle an unlawful detainer matter, an unpaid wages claim and a defamation lawsuit by a client who paid a $1,500 retainer fee and agreed to pay a 50 percent contingency fee. Holzinger took care of the unlawful detainer, but didn’t file the defamation lawsuit and did not appear at a hearing on the wages claim. The client had the claim reopened and represented himself at a subsequent hearing.

Holzinger did not return about 15 phone calls from the client.

He advertised that attorneys in his office had more than 20 years of experience, when in fact he had no employees and he was only three years out of law school. A client who hired him on the basis of the advertising was convicted and sentenced to 55 years in prison.

Holzinger also practiced law while suspended for failing to comply with MCLE requirements, wrote 67 checks against his client trust account for personal expenses and failed to appear at a client’s criminal probation revocation hearing.

In mitigation, Holzinger received numerous cases as a result of his advertising, but he was unable to handle them because he was frequently in court and had limited staff support. He believes the lack of oversight led to client dissatisfaction and ethical problems. He temporarily stopped advertising, manages his office personally and interviews each potential client before accepting a case.


ROBERT F. CLARKE [#79881], 54, of Phoenix was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 18-month suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE, comply with rule 955 and prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect April 11, 2004.

Clarke was suspended in Arizona in 2002 for misappropriating $27,500 in client trust funds, failing to maintain proper client trust account records, issuing checks against insufficient funds and underpaying clients, and commingling personal and client funds. He also committed acts of moral turpitude.

The misconduct, had it occurred in California, would have warranted discipline.

Clarke’s troubles were the result of his failure to keep proper records of his trust account. As a result, he overpaid fees to himself, underpaid four clients and bounced checks. He also used the account to pay personal and office expenses while waiting for settlement funds to come in.

In mitigation, he has no record of discipline, he immediately made restitution and no clients were harmed. He has taken steps to improve his accounting procedures.


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