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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

W. THOMAS NOTHERN [#82542], 60, of Sherman Oaks was disbarred July 23, 2004, and was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.

Nothern did not comply with an earlier rule 955 order; he did not submit to the Supreme Court an affidavit stating that he notified all clients and other pertinent parties of his suspension. Failure to comply with rule 955 is grounds for disbarment.

In a 2003 default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Nothern practiced law while suspended, sought to mislead a judge and his clients about his eligibility to practice, and failed to maintain a current address with the bar or cooperate with the bar's investigation.

Nothern first was suspended Sept. 10, 1999, for failing to pay his 1999 bar dues and has remained suspended ever since. In 2001, he appeared in Sacramento Superior Court on behalf of two defendants in an unlawful detainer action.


STEVEN L. WEISENBERG [#167838], 38, of San Diego was disbarred July 23, 2004, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Weisenberg committed two acts of moral turpitude and failed to cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

He was hired to petition for conservatorship of his clients’ relative. He filed a petition for authority to sell real property on behalf of his clients but, before the hearing was held, signed a document that represented the court had ruled.

He faxed the document to a title company, purporting to give his clients authority to sell their relative’s property. The document appeared to be a court order and bore the judge’s stamp. The title company cleared title for the sale of the property.

Weisenberg then asked the court to take the matter off calendar and the property was sold. Weisenberg’s clients received the proceeds from the sale.

In recommending his disbarment, Judge Richard A. Honn wrote that Weisenberg “engaged in an elaborate and highly deceptive scheme in an effort to obtain for his clients the results they desired, and in doing so, he committed a serious act of fraud.”


SUSPENSION/PROBATION

HUGH E. COMISKY JR. [#52292], 61, of Redding was suspended for one year, stayed and placed on two years of probation. The order took effect June 18, 2004.

Comisky stipulated that he did not meet the probationary requirements of a 2000 private reproval imposed following his conviction in Nevada of driving under the influence and possession of a firearm while under the influence. He did not take the MPRE.

In mitigation, Comisky says he missed the registration deadline for the MPRE due to a calendaring error. He then underwent cardiovascular surgery and was ordered by his doctor to avoid stress —- including taking the MPRE. He took and passed the exam in 2003. He cooperated with the bar’s investigation and acted in good faith.


JOSEPH FEDOROWSKY [#133200], 53, of Marina del Rey was suspended for six months, 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 June 18, 2004.

Fedorowsky stipulated that he breached his fiduciary duty to an associate of his client by using some of the associate’s money for legal fees owed by the client.

He represented a defendant in a charitable trust matter that involved ownership and publication rights to the Hare Krishna movement’s spiritual texts. The texts originally were placed in a California charitable trust – the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust Inc. (BBTI) – by the founder of the movement. Fedorowsky represented an individual who claimed to be a trustee of the original trust.
To help with legal fees, the client’s associate and disciple entered into an investment contract with Fedorowsky providing him $100,000 to manage and invest. Under the investment contract, a specified portion of any profit earned by the investment would be used as partial payment of Fedorowsky’s legal fees.
Fedorowsky managed the money properly, with one exception, and he pursued the litigation diligently. However, the investment did not generate as much income as Fedorowsky and the investor had hoped, and the litigation became increasingly expensive.

As the case progressed, Fedorowsky understood both the client and the discipline/investor wanted him to continue his representation and he says they assured him additional funds would be made available. Based on those assurances, the client’s understanding the Fedorowsky needed at least partial payment of his fee, Fedorowsky came to understand that the investor had, in essence, altered their agreement in a way that allowed him to apply the $100,000 toward his fee. According to the stipulation, he had “a good faith, but unreasonable, belief that he was entitled to apply [the] $100,000 to the payment of his legal fees without written or express authorization.”
He settled the matter favorably, winning among other things payment of $350,000 for legal fees. $300,000 of that was received and transferred to a trust managed by Fedorowsky, the disciple who provided the $100,000 and others. Fedorowsky contends he was owed $600,000 in fees, but offered to take less because he considered his clients to be friends.

Over time, acrimony arose among the parties and Fedorowsky received nothing. The disciple demanded the return of the $100,000 which Fedorowsky refused, believing that reimbursement should have been obtained from the settlement trust. Fedorowsky sued his former client, the disciple and several others for his fees and was awarded more than $300,000 by an arbitration panel. At the time of the stipulation, he was still owed $92,000.

He stipulated that by taking the $100,000 and applying it to his client’s legal bill without the investor’s express authorization, he breached his fiduciary duty.

In mitigation, Fedorowsky had no record of discipline and he cooperated with the bar’s investigation.


JOSEPH MARIOTT HARTLEY [#97610], 51, of Santa Monica probation was revoked, the stay of suspension was lifted and he was actually suspended for one year and was ordered to comply with rule 955. Credit shall be given for a period of involuntary inactive enrollment that began Feb. 7, 2004. The order took effect June 18, 2004.

Hartley was disciplined in 2002 for failing to comply with a court order or keep the client informed of significant developments in the case, seeking to mislead a judge and committing an act of moral turpitude. He did not comply with probation conditions: he failed to submit two quarterly probation reports, review the probation with his monitor, or submit proof of attendance at ethics school, completion of 10 hours of approved MCLE classes or evidence of monthly medical treatment.


MARVIN LEVY [#101042], 51, of Studio City was suspended for 18 months, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect June 18, 2004.

Levy stipulated to misconduct in two matters.

A civil complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court was dismissed when the lawyer failed to file proof of service. Levy then associated in to the matter and won a motion to set aside the dismissal. He advised the court he planned to file an amended complaint, but he never did and also did not appear at a status conference. The case was again dismissed and the court then denied Levy’s attempt to have the dismissal reversed.

He told the client 10 months later that the case was dismissed because a new federal law prevented it from being litigated. The client fired him and unsuccessfully sought the return of his documents.

Levy stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, inform a client of significant developments or release a client’s file.

In the second matter, he represented a client in a civil business dispute. The court dismissed the case when Levy said the parties agreed to binding arbitration. For more than a year, he repeatedly promised his client he would schedule a hearing, but he eventually told another lawyer he did not have time to handle the case. He provided the file to the other lawyer, who declined to take over the case. She arranged at least four meetings with Levy to return the file, but he did not keep any of the appointments. Another lawyer also tried unsuccessfully to return the file to Levy.

After the client complained to the State Bar, Levy tried to schedule an arbitration with opposing counsel, who refused. He then told his client opposing counsel refused to proceed and that he had filed a complaint on the client’s behalf. He did not do so.

Levy agreed to meet his client to provide various documents she demanded, but instead he offered her a check for $11,000 without explanation. He told her not to worry about legal fees and that he was still working on the case. He eventually filed a complaint in superior court.

Levy stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, keep a client informed about developments in her case or respond to client inquiries.

In mitigation, he has no prior record of discipline, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and he had family problems at the time.


JEFFREY A. NELSON [#74834], 52, of Davis was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a six-month actual suspension and until he makes restitution, and he was ordered to take the MPRE. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect June 18, 2004.

Nelson stipulated to misconduct in two cases.

Nelson’s law firm represented a client in a conditional use permit matter and Nelson assumed full responsibility for the case. The client gave him $5,000 for advance fees, but he deposited the money into his personal account without informing any partners or staff at the law firm. He also did not note his receipt of funds in the client’s file.

He stipulated that he did not deposit client funds in a trust account and committed an act of moral turpitude.

In the second matter, his firm was retained to represent a client in a living trust litigation matter, and Nelson assumed responsibility for the case. Although the client was prepared to give a deposition and prepared answers to special interrogatories from the opposing party, Nelson never scheduled a deposition or provided the responses. He did not tell the client about a subsequent order to compel production of documents or that sanctions were ordered. A settlement conference was cancelled and a default judgment was entered against the client, who continued to wonder when he would be deposed.

The court ordered damages on the default judgment of $857,472 and a lien was placed on the client’s property. Nelson said he knew nothing about the judgment and told the client to relax because he would have it set aside.

Several months later, Nelson left his law firm and never returned.

The firm obtained an order setting aside the default, sanctioning Nelson instead of the client, ordering Nelson to pay more than $4,400 in fees and a $1,000 penalty to opposing counsel.

Nelson stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, respond to client inquiries or keep a client informed of developments in his case, and he committed acts of moral turpitude and failed to take steps to protect his client.

In mitigation, Nelson had no prior record of discipline and he had emotional or physical problems at the time of the misconduct.


MARIANNE ELIZABETH SHADDUCK [#145961], 42, of Cranberry Township, Pa. was suspended for 18 months, stayed, and was placed on two years of probation with an actual 60-day suspension. The order took effect June 18, 2004.

Shadduck did not comply with rule 955, as required by a 2003 discipline order. She did not submit to the Supreme Court an affidavit stating that she notified her clients and other interested parties of her suspension from practice.

She was suspended for three acts of misconduct, including failing to respond to her client’s inquiries or keep her address current with the State Bar, and she improperly withdrew from representation.

In mitigation, no clients were harmed and she cooperated with the bar’s investigation.


ELLA S. CHATTERJEE [#149923], 52, of Christiansted Saint Croix, Virgin Islands was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a six-month actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The actual suspension is concurrent with an earlier suspension. The order took effect June 18, 2004.

Chatterjee failed to comply with rule 955, as ordered in a 2002 discipline, by not filing a declaration of compliance with the Supreme Court.

In mitigation, she was suffering from clinical depression and her medication led to confusion about whether she had fulfilled the filing requirements. No clients were harmed, she cooperated with the bar’s investigation and she demonstrated remorse.

The original discipline was imposed for Chatterjee’s failure to pay client funds promptly, respond to client inquiries or cooperate with the bar’s investigation, and for commingling personal and client funds, improperly withdrawing from representation and writing checks against insufficient funds.


LAWRENCE ALAN HEISLER [#110657], 54, of San Luis Obispo 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 July 10, 2004.

In a default matter, the State Bar Court found that Heisler failed to return a client file or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

He represented a client in a fee dispute with the client’s former attorney, and after providing an accounting of his work, he billed the client for a balance of $600. The client terminated his services and asked that his file be returned, but Heisler did not respond.

In mitigation, he has no record of discipline in 19 years of practice.


ALBERT MIKLOS KUN [#55820], 65, of San Francisco was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 30-day actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect July 10, 2004.

Kun stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, keep a client informed of developments in her case or refund an unearned fee, and he committed acts of moral turpitude.

He was hired to file and pursue an appeal from a judgment in his client’s divorce and agreed to a $2,000 fee, which the client paid up front. Although he filed the notice of appeal, he did not file a docketing statement and the case was dismissed. A month later, Kun filed a motion to reinstate the appeal, falsely stating his client was traveling abroad as the reason he had not filed a docketing statement. The motion was denied.

During several conversations with his client, Kun told her the appeal was still pending and even advised her she could travel abroad without affecting the appeal. The client was overseas for three months, and Kun continued to tell her the appeal was pending.

The client learned about the dismissal by going to court herself and demanded a refund of her fee. Kun refunded $1,753 18 months after he was terminated, but the bar court found that he did not earn any portion of the fee.

Kun was given a private reproval in 2002 for failing to return client files or phone calls and for improperly withdrawing from employment.

There was no mitigation.


STEVEN LANCE MAZZA [#101076], 47, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect July 10, 2004.

The State Bar Court’s review department upheld a hearing judge’s recommended discipline, as well as two findings of misconduct, and dismissed one count. Mazza had sought review, arguing that the entire case against him be dismissed, but at the very least that the recommended discipline be reduced to a private reproval.

Mazza was arrested twice in 1997 and charged with 40 felonies, including capping and money laundering. His files were seized. Although all charges were dismissed, most of his files and ledgers were not returned for more than two years, and some were not returned for more than three years. As a result, the disbursement of settlement funds to clients was delayed.

The review department found that in a personal injury case, Mazza did not provide an accounting to his client. After reconstructing his files, he found a check he had written earlier attached to the front of the file, but he did not give the money to the client for six months.

In a second matter, he charged his client, who was a homeless drug abuser, a 70 percent contingency fee in his slip-and-fall case. Mazza won a $70,000 settlement, but gave his client only $6,000. Saying the amount given to the client was “grossly unfair and shocks the conscience,” the court found that he charged an unconscionable fee.

The seizure of Mazza’s files was given substantial mitigating weight. In addition, Mazza’s 9-year-old son was killed in an automobile accident.


RICHARD SONG [#187674], 35, of Carson City was suspended for 60 days, stayed, placed on one year of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect July 10, 2004.

Song stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently in a personal injury case in which he represented the plaintiff. He secured a settlement offer of $500 for bodily injuries as well as $186 for damage to the client’s car, and recommended the client accept the offer.

The client did not respond to Song’s letters or authorize him to settle his case, but Song accepted the settlement offer. According to the stipulation, he had a good faith, but unreasonable belief that he was acting in his client’s best interest.

He also filed a dismissal of the case, executed a release of all claims and delivered the release to the defendant’s insurance company without notifying the company or the defendant that the client had not authorized his actions.

Song stipulated that his actions constituted gross negligence.

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


MICHAEL BERNARD TAGGART [#123638], 49, of La Mesa was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years 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 July 10, 2004.

Taggart stipulated that he failed to maintain client funds in trust and disobeyed a court order.

Acting as trustee for a trust, Taggart was responsible for assets in excess of $100,000. Just prior to being named trustee, he received a $25,000 check payable to his firm and its client that he deposited in his trust account. He later received two more checks totaling more than $75,000 that he put in the trust account.

Taggart did not provide an accounting for the trust, so its attorney obtained a court order that he do so. He subsequently did not file an accounting, as ordered by the court six times. At the time he stipulated to misconduct with the bar, he had provided a partial accounting but could not account for all the trust’s funds.

In mitigation, Taggart has no prior record of discipline.


TIMOTHY TODD THOMPSON [#150147], 42, of Santa Barbara 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 July 10, 2004.

Thompson stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently and improperly treated his trust account as a personal or general office account.

He represented a plaintiff in a personal injury matter arising from an automobile accident. The client had already received a settlement check for $1,179.

About a year after he was hired, Thompson told the client he felt he didn’t have a good case and offered him $3,500 to lay the matter to rest. After obtaining the insurer’s promise that the defendants would not pursue costs, Thompson filed a request for dismissal and gave his client $3,500 from his trust account.

In mitigation, he has no record of discipline, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and he acted in good faith. The client was uncooperative during discovery, his injuries did not originate from the accident, and he insisted on pursuing the case even though Thompson advised him it was weak.


JEREMIAH FLORES VALDEZ [#177675], 43, of Los Angeles was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a 60-day actual suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect July 20, 2004.

Valdez stipulated to misconduct in four matters, including practicing while suspended, failing to supervise his employees or comply with probation conditions.

He was suspended for more than two months in 2002 for not complying with MCLE requirements, but made a settlement demand on behalf of his clients during that time.

In a separate matter, he wrote two checks, totaling more than $8,000, against insufficient funds in his client trust account. He did not insure that his employee deposited funds in the account to cover the checks.

Valdez stipulated to misconduct in 2002 but did not comply with probation conditions. He did not submit three quarterly probation reports, a law office management plan or certificates from an accountant. The discipline was the result of his failure to perform legal services competently and mishandling client funds.

Valdez closed his San Francisco law office in 2002 and instructed his clients not to deposit or withdraw any funds from his client trust account. They also were told to return any checks that might come in to the issuer with instructions to issue a new check to new counsel. However, the employees continued to use the account and they did not return several settlement checks as instructed. As a result, one check for a client was written against insufficient funds.

In mitigation, Valdez had family problems at the time.


JOHN M. HARRISON [#144964], 51, of Newport Beach was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within a year. The order took effect July 10, 2004.

Harrison did not comply with probation conditions attached to a 2001 public reproval. He filed four probation reports late, failed to file several CPA reports and has not submitted proof that he passed the MPRE.

The reproval was imposed for Harrison’s failure to perform legal services competently, deposit client funds in a trust account or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

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


MANVINDER GILL [#194519], 44, of Burbank was suspended for 90 days, stayed, placed on one year of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect July 10, 2004.

Gill stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently in a personal injury case arising out of an automobile accident. When the father and daughter clients hired Gill, they dealt with his paralegal, who instructed the father to get an estimate for repairing his car, but advised him to wait on the repairs.

Gill received a check to cover property damage that he gave to the paralegal with instructions to deliver the check to the father. The check was cashed at a check cashing service and purported to be endorsed by the father.

When the client contacted the office, the paralegal told him the matter was ongoing.

Gill received a settlement offer in the personal injury case and instructed the paralegal to obtain the clients’ signatures on the claims release. The paralegal signed the releases himself. Gill issued two checks to the clients and instructed the paralegal to give them the checks. Instead, they were cashed at a check cashing service and bore signatures purporting to be the clients’.

Gill never obtained the clients’ authorization to settle their case. The car was never repaired and neither client endorsed settlement checks or received any funds.

In mitigation, Gill has no record of discipline.


LAWRENCE RICHARD FRANK [#147857], 54, of Hermosa Beach was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual 18-month suspension and was ordered to make restitution, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect July 10, 2004.

In June 2000, Frank and William Thomas opened a personal injury practice, although Frank had little or no prior experience in the field. The client trust account was maintained in Frank’s name, but Thomas controlled that account and the office’s general checking account.

Thomas handled all the cases that came into the office until they settled, when Frank would take over. The men agreed that Thomas would pay Frank $1,000 a month. During the period the office operated, no lawsuits were filed on behalf of clients.

Thomas resigned from the bar in July 2000 without telling Frank. Frank knew, however, that his partner had some trouble with the bar that involved client funds.

In August 2000, Frank gave Thomas his signature stamp, enabling Thomas to sign documents bearing Frank’s signature. Thomas represented clients and settled two cases using Frank’s name.

In the first, Thomas settled a case for $19,500, signed a lien in favor of the client’s doctor and a claim release form that bore the client’s purported signature. He never informed the client about the settlement. According to the stipulation, Frank endorsed the settlement check, Thomas signed the client’s name and Frank deposited the money in his trust account. The lawyers later transferred $10,000 to the office general account, and Thomas used $1,000 of that money to pay a debt to Frank. Thomas later withdrew the rest of the money and neither the client nor her doctor was ever paid, according to the stipulation.

In a second matter, Thomas settled the personal injury cases of a couple without their authorization and received $15,500 that was deposited in the client trust account. Frank never notified the clients about the settlement and more than $10,000 of their money was misappropriated.

In a third personal injury case, Frank received a settlement check for $7,000; he did not tell the client either that he settled the case or received funds on his behalf. Frank’s signature was stamped on the back of the check and the client’s signature also was placed there. The same day, $6,500 was withdrawn from the trust account and deposited into the office general account. Several months later, Frank gave the client $1,300, but he still owes him more than $2,600.

Frank stipulated to 12 counts of misconduct in the three cases: misappropriation of client funds, committing acts of moral turpitude, lending his name to be used by a non-attorney, forming a law partnership with a non-lawyer, and failing to maintain client funds in trust or notify a client of his receipt of funds.

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


DAWN MARIE DUNBAR [#209792], 31, of Tujunga was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a one-year actual suspension and until she proves her rehabilitation, and was ordered to comply with rule 955 and take the MPRE. Credit will be given for a period of interim suspension that began July 6, 2003. The order took effect July 10, 2004.

Dunbar was convicted last year of bringing drugs into jail, a felony that involves moral turpitude, and unauthorized communication with an inmate, a misdemeanor. She was arrested after a sheriff’s deputy saw her pass a pack of cigarettes to her client in a Riverside County courtroom. The package contained two baggies of marijuana.

At the conclusion of Dunbar’s 36-month probation, she will be allowed to withdraw her guilty plea to the drug charge and it will be dismissed, on condition she completes the terms of probation.

She stipulated that she committed an act of moral turpitude.

In mitigation, she has no prior record of discipline, she cooperated with the bar’s investigation and took steps to demonstrate remorse by pleading guilty and informing the bar about her conviction.


KENNETH MARTIN CHRISTISON [#52281], 62, of Petaluma was suspended for five years, stayed, and was placed on five years of probation with a 75-day actual suspension. The order took effect July 10, 2004.

Christison did not comply with probation conditions attached to a 2001 discipline: he did not file a quarterly report, provide proof that he passed the MPRE or attended ethics school or trust accounting school, and he did not keep his phone number current in bar records.

The discipline was imposed after Christison committed three acts of misconduct — writing checks against insufficient funds, commingling personal and trust funds and failing to cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

He also was disciplined in 1993 for misconduct committed from 1986 through 1988 — commingling personal and client funds and writing bad checks and for failing to pay court-ordered sanctions.

In mitigation, no clients were harmed by the probation violations and he cooperated with the bar’s investigation.


BARRY JAY POST [#72286], 52, of Brentwood was extended for three years and he was ordered to make restitution. The order took effect July 10, 2004.

Post was disciplined in 1999 and was ordered, among other things, to make restitution to seven parties. As of last March, he still owed more than $23,000.


JON DAVID RAILSBACK [#64853], 57, of Fullerton was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on two years of probation with an actual 60-day suspension. The order took effect July 10, 2004.

Railsback stipulated to misconduct in four consolidated cases. Three involved his unauthorized practice of law while suspended from practice in 2001. The fourth was imposed for his failure to comply with probation conditions attached to that discipline. He did not attend ethics school or make restitution to a client.

The underlying discipline was imposed for practicing while Railsback was suspended for non-payment of child support obligations. In addition, he stipulated that he committed an act of moral turpitude, improperly withdrew from employment and took an unconscionable fee.


BERNARD WILLIAM MINSKY [#20587], 83, of Encino probation was revoked, the stay of suspension was lifted and he was actually suspended for one year and ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect July 10, 2004.

Minsky was suspended and placed on probation in 2002, but did not comply with probation conditions. He did not file two written quarterly reports or submit proof that he attended ethics school.

Minsky entered into an agreement in lieu of discipline in 1997 and, as part of the agreement, he was to complete probate of an estate. He did not do so and a new attorney completed the probate.

At the time, Minsky had no record of discipline in more than 50 years of practice.


SELWYN J. MONARCH [#31025], 73, of Sherman Oaks was suspended for 30 days, stayed, placed on one year of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect July 10, 2004.

Monarch stipulated that he failed to keep clients apprised of developments in three lawsuits he filed on their behalf.

Monarch and a non-lawyer owned and operated a business called MP Realty Services, a company that audited adjustable interest rate loans for homeowners-borrowers. MP sent form letters to borrowers who had taken out home loans with lending institutions that included Fidelity Federal Bank and Downey Savings and Loan Association.

In the form letter, MP offered to audit borrowers’ loan documents to determine if they were due a refund for overcharges. A number of borrowers signed an agreement authorizing MP to act as their agent and to hire an attorney, if necessary, to pursue claims against lenders.

MP ultimately filed three breach of contract lawsuits, two against Fidelity and one against Downey, after the banks declined to settle claims for refunds.

Judgment was granted against the borrowers in all three cases, and without their knowledge or authorization, MP filed appeals. The appeals failed and final judgments totaling $178,000 were entered against the borrowers.

Monarch did not inform the borrowers about the judgments.

He was publicly reproved in 1995.


DONALD ROY HARTUNIAN [#164873], 42, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, 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 July 10, 2004.

Hartunian performed legal work for three different clients while he was suspended from practice for non-compliance with MCLE requirements in 2001. He also charged illegal fees in two of the matters.


JOHN F. HENNING III [#188416], 34, of San Francisco was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on probation for 18 months with an actual 60-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect July 10, 2004.

Henning pleaded no contest to two counts of misdemeanor battery after getting into an altercation with a rabbi and a member of his congregation. Henning hit both men, leaving one with injuries that were treated at the scene. He broke the rabbi’s glasses.

He was sentenced to three years probation and a work program, was ordered to undergo anger management counseling and to make restitution, and was placed under a no contact order.

Henning also was privately reproved in 2002 following a battery conviction in Santa Cruz County.

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


GARY KAUFFMAN [#71436], 55, of San Rafael was suspended for 18 months, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 60-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect July 10, 2004.

Kauffman stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently.

From 1979 to 1981, Kauffman essentially turned over control of his criminal defense practice to his non-attorney staff, who accepted new clients and opened client files on their own, and negotiated and settled cases without any contact with Kauffman. At the time, Kauffman was abusing drugs and alcohol and usually was intoxicated the entire day.

In 1981, he was arrested in an insurance fraud sting operation and charged with several counts of grand theft and insurance fraud. Kauffman discovered that for two years, his staff was part of what became known as the Revere insurance fraud enterprise, using his name and office to submit and settle a large number of fraudulent personal injury claims that were masterminded by Ronald Revere, a chiropractor. Kauffman received only small amounts of settlement funds as his fee.

Following his arrest, he closed his office and ended his relationship with his employees.

In 1984, two insurance companies filed suit in federal court against members of the Revere enterprise and Kauffman. Kauffman was acquitted of the criminal charges in 1991 after a lengthy trial. Although he offered himself for deposition or other discovery in the civil case, the court ruled that was not an option.

The civil case went to trial in 1994 and ended in1997 with a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, including a finding that the defendants, including Kauffman, conspired to and defrauded the insurance companies. The ruling was upheld on appeal.

Kauffman stipulated that by abdicating control of his legal practice to non-attorneys whom he failed to supervise and by allowing them to commit insurance fraud in his name for two years, he aided and abetted the unauthorized practice of law. His conduct amounted to moral turpitude.

In mitigation, Kauffman entered two licensed residential treatment programs and has been sober since 1986. He volunteers his time providing assistance to attorneys trying to become sober. He has been a criminal defense attorney in San Rafael since 1983. There has been no similar misconduct in the intervening years and he satisfied the civil judgment. A wide range of character witnesses testified on Kauffman’s behalf before the bar.


MONICA MALEK-YONAN [#125987], 43, of Verdugo City was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual 18-month suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect July 10, 2004.

The State Bar Court review department reversed a hearing judge’s recommendation that Malek-Yonan be disbarred. It upheld the earlier findings that Malek-Yonan committed serious misconduct through “gross inattention” to safeguarding client funds.

Malek-Yonan was initially charged with 25 counts of misconduct, but 19 were dismissed. She ultimately was found to have committed five acts of misconduct. A sole practitioner, she handled primarily personal injury cases from two offices — her home office in Glendale and another office in Orange County.

Between 1997 and 1999, she handled about 500 files, representing between 1,800 and 1,900 individuals. She had a half dozen employees in her Orange County office and authorized her bookkeeper to sign checks using a rubber stamp of her signature. She did not know how much money was in the general business account and did not review the bank statements from her client trust account, or reconcile her account or compare settlement checks with deposits.

Malek-Yonan eventually realized her employees were embezzling settlement funds and after finding more than 200 bogus checks in her records, put the amount of missing money at $1.7 million. She filed for bankruptcy, sued three former employees, and repaid the clients who had not received any money. She was named a defendant in 185 small claims actions filed by medical providers; the cases were resolved through bankruptcy, either by payments or dismissals.

The review department upheld the hearing judge’s finding that Malek-Yonan failed to perform legal services competently by abrogating her responsibility to manage her office and her trust account, and that her actions involved moral turpitude by breaching her fiduciary duty to safeguard client funds.

In one particular matter, Malek-Yonan wrote to an individual who was hired by lienholders to collect money from her, stating that his clients were under criminal investigation and threatening to make his conduct part of that investigation if he attempted to damage her credit or garnish her wages. The hearing judge found, and the review department agreed, that Malek-Yonan threatened to present criminal charges to obtain an advantage in a civil dispute.

In mitigation, Malek-Yonan had no prior record of discipline, she provided evidence of her good character and she did pro bono work.


STEPHEN E. LAWTON [#25705], 79, of Congress, Ariz. probation was revoked, the previous stay of suspension was lifted and he was suspended for 90 days and was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect July 10, 2004.

Lawton did not comply with probation conditions attached to a 2003 discipline by not submitting four quarterly probation reports. Lawton stipulated that he willfully disobeyed a court order by not refunding $7,500 in unearned fees to a client.

In mitigation, his wife was diagnosed with lung cancer and died about a year later.


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