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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

DAVID L. DePASQUALE [#122608], 47, of Helena, Mont. was disbarred Oct. 3, 2004, and was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.

DePasquale failed to comply with rule 955, as ordered in a 2003 discipline, by not submitting to the Supreme Court an affidavit stating that he notified his clients and other pertinent parties of his suspension from practice.

He originally was publicly reproved for failing to return $13,000 in unearned fees to a client. He did not comply with probation conditions attached to the reproval, which led to an actual suspension in 2003.

In recommending DePasquale’s disbarment, State Bar Court Judge Pat McElroy said he “has demonstrated an unwillingness to comply with the professional obligations and rules of court imposed on California attorneys although he has been given opportunities to do so.”


SUSPENSION/PROBATION

EARL WAYNE HUSTED III [#99019], 51, of Valley Center was suspended for 16 months, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 25, 2004.

Husted stipulated to misconduct in five consolidated matters.

He was hired to administer a family trust by a 92-year-old man who was unable to care for himself. The client’s son was authorized to act on his father’s behalf. Husted did not return numerous telephone calls over a four-month period, nor did he respond to a letter. He finally completed administration of the trust seven months later.

In another matter, Husted was to handle the affairs of a client for whom he had prepared a revocable trust. When the client died, Husted told the trust manager he needed $250 to file a notice of death with the director of health services and to begin additional work. The manager sent the money and the required documents and Husted did some work, but did not return the manager’s phone calls for several months.

His office eventually sent to the trust manager a creditor’s claim for more than $310,000; the health services department required the manager to submit an application for hardship waiver within 60 days. The manager asked Husted to help him complete the application, but he did not return the phone call. When the manager sent a registered letter seeking a status update, it was returned as undeliverable.

The trust manager hired a new lawyer. After the new lawyer took over, Husted sent an affidavit of death and asked the trust manager to sign it. The new lawyer advised Husted that she had already prepared an affidavit and that he should not charge the manager for his work. Husted responded that he would issue a $250 credit to the trust manager.

He stipulated that he failed to respond to a client’s status inquiries or perform legal services competently.

Husted also stipulated to commingling personal and client funds in his client trust account and to failing to respond to a bar investigator’s inquiries about five cases.

In mitigation, Husted had no prior record of discipline and he faced personal problems that included the death of his infant daughter seven hours after her birth, a divorce after 22 years of marriage, and an accident that resulted in him taking Vicodin for a month.


JOHN OWEN MEYERS III [#57799], 57, of San Diego was suspended for three years, stayed, and was placed on probation for three years with an actual two-year suspension and until he proves his rehabilitation. He was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Sept. 25, 2004.

Meyers stipulated that he failed to comply with probation conditions imposed in a 2003 stipulation. He filed a rule 955 affidavit that did not conform to the requirements. He did not declare whether he notified all parties of his suspension, returned client files or refunded unearned fees.

Meyers has three prior records of discipline. The underlying discipline was imposed for failing to perform legal services competently. He also was disciplined in 2001 and 1997 for misconduct that included failing to deposit client funds in a trust account, promptly pay out client funds, perform legal services competently or communicate with a client and for committing acts of moral turpitude.


JOHN PERRIN SUMNER [#94556], 51, of San Diego was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on 18 months of probation with an actual 45-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 25, 2004.

Sumner, a registered member of the patent bar, stipulated to misconduct in four cases.

In the first, his client, an inventor, put together a joint venture partnership to develop and market two medical inventions. Sumner drafted a “development agreement” that granted him a 5 percent equity interest in the joint venture. The equity share was intended to compensate him in lieu of an attorney fee. His duties included filing new patents for the two inventions.

He did not advise his client to seek independent counsel about the agreement.

Sumner filed an application for the first patent but the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) notified him it was incomplete and gave him a deadline to fix the filing. He did not meet the deadline and the PTO deemed the application abandoned.

Without telling the client what happened, he asked the client to sign a power of attorney and an “inventor’s declaration;” both were necessary to revive the patent application. His attempt to revive the application was dismissed because he did not pay the filing fee.

When the client inquired about the application, Sumner told him it would be ready in two to three months, but that the original claims would have to be changed because of newly discovered prior art. Sumner did not file the necessary documents.

The application for the second patent also was deemed abandoned because it was incomplete and Sumner never paid the filing fee. He never informed his client.

He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, keep a client informed about developments in his case or advise his client to seek independent legal counsel before entering into a business agreement with his lawyer and he committed acts of moral turpitude.

Sumner did not advance another client’s patent application for seven years. When he finally filed the application, he could not pay the filing fees.

In the other two cases, he practiced law after being involuntarily enrolled as an inactive member.

In mitigation, Sumner has no prior record of discipline.


VICTOR JOSEPH WAHL [#78472], 54, of Boulder Creek was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on probation for two years and was ordered to take the MPRE and prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Sept. 25, 2004.

Wahl was hired by a couple to represent them in a juvenile dependency hearing, which was continued at his request. He then was involuntarily enrolled as an inactive bar member but did not inform the clients.

He requested another continuance by phone, but the couple represented themselves at the hearing.

On both occasions, the clients took time off work to attend the hearings.

Wahl stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently or keep his clients informed of significant developments in their case.

He was publicly reproved in 2000 for failing to return client files, communicate with a client or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

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


ROSALINDA LAGUNA HANAU [#163573], 39, of Chula Vista was suspended for five years, stayed, and actually suspended for two years and until she makes restitution, proves her rehabilitation and the State Bar Court terminates the suspension. She was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Sept. 25, 2004.

In a default proceeding, the bar court found that Hanau committed 15 acts of misconduct in four divorce cases, including failing to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, refund unearned fees, update her membership records or cooperate with the bar’s investigation, and she improperly withdrew from employment and committed an act of moral turpitude.

In the first case, she was retained to represent a client in a divorce and in preparing a will. She did not return the client’s numerous phone calls, but when they met by chance, she explained that she lost the client’s phone number. Although they later met, Hanau did not prepare the will. She stood up the client for another appointment.

When the client visited the courthouse, she discovered that no marital dissolution petition had been filed and she fired Hanau and asked for a refund of her fee. Hanau did not return any money.

Another client also hired Hanau to handle a marital dissolution and paid $1,500 in advance. Hanau filed the petition that day, but when the client and his wife tried to reconcile, he instructed Hanau to stop working on his divorce. He later told her to proceed.

She told the client that the dissolution paperwork was completed, when in fact she filed no additional documents with the court.

Hanau did not respond to the client’s phone calls and moved her office without notifying him. The client was forced to hire a new lawyer.

She did no work on another case, and in the last matter, after filing a dissolution petition, Hanau tried unsuccessfully to file a request for entry of default on her client’s behalf. The court rejected the filing because Hanau failed to file proper documents or serve her client’s husband. The client hired another lawyer.

The bar court gave slight mitigating weight to Hanau’s absence of discipline in eight years of practice.


SCOTT L. GRADY [#153760], 41, of Sherman Oaks Probation was revoked, his stay of suspension was lifted and he was actually suspended for one year and until he proves his rehabilitation. He also was ordered to make restitution. The order took effect Sept. 25, 2004.

Grady violated probation imposed in a 2003 order for misconduct in three matters. Among other things, he failed to perform legal services competently, keep a client informed of significant developments, release client papers, maintain the respect due to the courts or cooperate with the bar’s investigation. He also withdrew from employment without taking steps to avoid prejudice to his client and commingled funds by using his client trust account to pay the rent for his office.


CAROLE A. BELL [#122753], 58, of San Francisco was suspended for two years, stayed, actually suspended for 30 days and until the bar court grants a motion to terminate the actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE. If the actual suspension exceeds 90 days, she must comply with rule 955; if it exceeds two years, she must prove her rehabilitation. The order took effect Sept. 25, 2004.

In a default proceeding, the bar court found that Bell committed three acts of misconduct. She held herself out as entitled to practice while suspended for non-payment of bar dues and non-compliance with MCLE requirements. Bell identified herself as an attorney in magazine  articles, on a Web site and as a speaker at a meeting.

She also did not cooperate with the bar’s investigation or keep her membership records current.

In mitigation, she had no record of discipline in 17 years of practice.


GLEN EDWARD TAYLOR [#114388], 49, of Chino Hills Probation was revoked, the previous stay of suspension was lifted and he was actually suspended for 30 days. The order took effect Sept. 25, 2004.

In a default proceeding, the bar court found that Taylor failed to comply with probation conditions attached to a 2002 discipline order. He did not provide evidence that he completed 10 hours of MCLE courses or submit two quarterly probation reports or statements that he did not possess any client funds.

Taylor had stipulated to a probation extension in 2003 after he failed to attend trust accounting school or complete 10 hours of MCLE courses as part of his probation in a matter that resulted from his failure to maintain client funds in trust.


RAY I. BATARSE [#196693], 35, of Los Alamitos 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 Sept. 25, 2004.

Batarse stipulated to misconduct in three matters. In a medical malpractice case, the defendant offered to settle for $100,000, but Batarse’s client demanded a jury trial. He informed her that if she lost, she would be liable for $15,000 in costs. The client sent Batarse a letter explaining her refusal to settle, but he did not respond.

He did not file a lawsuit, but did not inform his client in writing. He claims he informed the client orally and that he did not file suit because he could not secure a medical opinion that the defendant engaged in wrongdoing.

He did not respond to his client’s inquiries about the case or return her files.

In a breach of contract and discrimination case, Batarse submitted a one-page form letter of complaint to a housing agency on behalf of his client, but he named the wrong person as the party who harassed his client. Although the client notified Batarse of the error, he did not respond or correct the mistake. He did not file a civil complaint or respond to the client’s repeated phone calls.

The client sent a certified letter firing Batarse and demanding a return of his file and a refund of the advance $2,500 fee. Batarse refused to accept the letter from the post office, although he received it by e-mail.

A third client hired Batarse as his second lawyer in a wrongful termination lawsuit, paying him a $10,000 fee. The day he was hired, Batarse told the client the statute of limitations was approaching and he needed two weeks to prepare the complaint. He also gave the client a waiver form to sign.

For four months, the client tried unsuccessfully to contact Batarse, leaving numerous phone messages. Nearly six months later, he went to Batarse’s office and learned the complaint was never filed. He asked for a refund of his money and Batarse gave him $9,000.

Batarse stipulated that he failed to respond to client inquiries, return client files, perform legal services competently or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.


JOHN GILLESPIE HARTNETT [#49505], 62, of Ventura was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual six-month suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE within one year, make restitution and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Sept. 25, 2004.

Hartnett stipulated to misconduct in three consolidated matters.

In the first, he submitted a statement to the court that incorrectly stated that a bar prosecutor was facing charges of prosecutorial misconduct in federal court. Hartnett did not prepare or read the statement before signing it and stipulated that he did not make a reasonable inquiry into evidentiary support of a statement.

In another matter, he took over a workers’ compensation appeal and claim for Social Security benefits from another attorney who had received $3,750 from the client. Hartnett sent three forms and asked the client to pay him legal fees of $708. He should have known the fees would be paid from any benefits awarded to the client and that the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board would determine the reasonableness of the fee.

When the client learned that both fees should not have been paid, she sought a refund of the total amount — $4,458 — from Hartnett. Receiving no response, she complained to the State Bar. Hartnett sent her $200 and a promissory note promising future payments totaling $508, which he said would discharge him from all liability. The client rejected the promissory note and proposed an alternative but she never received a response, or any additional money, from Hartnett.

In a third matter, Hartnett made two court appearances on behalf of a client whose lawyer was suspended from practice. However, the client was unaware of the appearances and did not know the status of the original attorney. He stipulated that he appeared in court without authority.

Hartnett also did not cooperate with the bar’s investigation of one of the matters.

He was disciplined in 2001 after pleading guilty to four counts of disobeying a protective order and one count each of misdemeanor assault and battery.


WILLIAM ALAN SOBEL [#114147], 60, of Calabasas 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 Sept. 25, 2004.

Sobel stipulated to misconduct in five consolidated cases. Since 2000, he has operated a high volume personal injury practice and is paid by contingency fee. For about 18 months, he represented clients whose claims had difficult liability issues as well as limited potential for recovery. His practice reduced the time needed to adequately communicate with his clients and when he informed them of settlement results, he did not make certain they understood how much would go toward attorney fees, medical liens and costs.

The matters in question settled for between $500 and $3,240, and the clients received very little money — $25 in one case.

Sobel stipulated that he failed to communicate significant developments to clients.

He also was disciplined in 1997 for misconduct in two personal injury matters. In mitigation, he acted in good faith and he agreed to represent the clients knowing their claims would likely lead to limited recovery.


WILLIAM C. SNEED JR. [#173576], 54, of Sacramento was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 3, 2004.

Sneed stipulated that in a divorce case, he failed to perform legal services competently, keep a client informed about developments in his case, inform the bar about the imposition of judicial sanctions or cooperate with the bar’s investigation, and he disobeyed a court order and failed to take steps to protect his client’s interests when his employment ended.

Sneed did not file a response to his client’s wife’s petition for dissolution and did not return her lawyer’s many phone calls or provide requested financial information. The court entered a default against Sneed’s client, but Sneed did not try to have the judgment set aside and did not communicate with his client.

Several months later, Sneed fell ill and closed his law office without notifying the client. He also did not tell him that a judgment of more than $40,000 had been awarded against him.

The opposing counsel later sought compensation from Sneed for the time he wasted trying to communicate with him, and won sanctions of $3,000. Although he made three required monthly payments, he then stopped paying. As a result, the opposing attorney won a judgment of $2,338 against Sneed, but he did not pay.

Sneed was privately reproved in 2001 and, as a probation condition, was required to behave ethically. His actions in the divorce case were a probation violation. The reproval was imposed as a result of Sneed’s failure to communicate with a client, perform legal services competently and cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

In mitigation, he suffered physical difficulties at the time of the misconduct. [#173576], 54, of Sacramento was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 3, 2004.

Sneed stipulated that in a divorce case, he failed to perform legal services competently, keep a client informed about developments in his case, inform the bar about the imposition of judicial sanctions or cooperate with the bar’s investigation, and he disobeyed a court order and failed to take steps to protect his client’s interests when his employment ended.

Sneed did not file a response to his client’s wife’s petition for dissolution and did not return her lawyer’s many phone calls or provide requested financial information. The court entered a default against Sneed’s client, but Sneed did not try to have the judgment set aside and did not communicate with his client.

Several months later, Sneed fell ill and closed his law office without notifying the client. He also did not tell him that a judgment of more than $40,000 had been awarded against him.

The opposing counsel later sought compensation from Sneed for the time he wasted trying to communicate with him, and won sanctions of $3,000. Although he made three required monthly payments, he then stopped paying. As a result, the opposing attorney won a judgment of $2,338 against Sneed, but he did not pay.

Sneed was privately reproved in 2001 and, as a probation condition, was required to behave ethically. His actions in the divorce case were a probation violation. The reproval was imposed as a result of Sneed’s failure to communicate with a client, perform legal services competently and cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

In mitigation, he suffered physical difficulties at the time of the misconduct.


GARY MICHAEL DIAMOND [#155028], 48, of Rocklin was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a six-month actual suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Oct. 3, 2004.

Diamond stipulated to misconduct in 10 matters in which he represented criminal defendants, for the most part in habeas corpus proceedings. In virtually every case, he did not communicate with his clients or earn the advance fees he received, and only refunded some of the money or returned files after the clients complained to the bar. In several matters, relatives of the incarcerated individuals paid their fees, without a written agreement.

In several cases, after writs were denied by lower courts, Diamond said he would file writs in appellate court or federal court and did not do so.

One client, for instance, was represented at a Board of Prison Terms hearing by state-appointed counsel, although he believed Diamond would be representing him. His parole was denied and he asked Diamond to file an appeal; he never did, yet sent a bill for $2,275.

Another client sent Diamond 13 letters and his mother called 23 times to obtain a status update of his habeas writ without receiving a response. Diamond eventually filed writs in both federal and state courts.

Diamond wrote to one incarcerated individual in 1998, offering to file writs starting with the California Court of Appeal through the U.S. Supreme Court for $3,000. The inmate hired him to file writs in all state and federal courts and his mother paid Diamond $500.

Diamond later indicated the writ was prepared but he needed the balance of the fee, so the man’s sister gave him $2,500.

When the Court of Appeal denied the writ in September 1999, Diamond said he would file with the Supreme Court in two to three weeks. The appeal was not filed until May 2001 and was denied the following October. A month later, Diamond asked the client for $1,500 to go to federal court; the client refused to pay because the original agreement covered all appeals. He then wrote Diamond seven letters, but he never responded. He ultimately returned the inmate’s file in 2003 and refunded $6,500 to the inmate’s sister.

Diamond stipulated to 23 acts of misconduct in the 10 cases.

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


JOSEPH BEHAR [#36761], 79, of Woodland Hills 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 Oct. 3, 2004.

Behar stipulated that he aided a non-lawyer to engage in the unauthorized practice of law.

Behar moved from southern to northern California in 1998 and opened a personal injury office in San Bruno for a short time. When he closed the office due to illness, an acquaintance began using his name to handle at least two personal injury cases. Without Behar’s knowledge, the friend created law office letterhead and impersonated Behar, speaking with clients and insurance carriers from his home phone.

In one matter, he settled the property damage portion of a claim and misappropriated the entire amount.

In a second matter, the non-lawyer visited an injured man in the hospital and signed him up as a client, using Behar’s name. The client never heard from him again, later moved to Oregon and hired an attorney to handle his personal injury case. However, the non-lawyer settled the case for $35,000 and misappropriated the money.

The client’s new lawyer notified Behar of the developments in the case, and although Behar suspected his acquaintance was using his name, he did not tell the other lawyer or take formal steps to stop the non-lawyer. He spoke to the non-lawyer and told him to stop using his name.

The insurance company in the first case also contacted Behar when that client hired a new lawyer, but Behar told the company he no longer represented the client and asserted a lien on the case. At no time did he tell the company that he had never handled the case or that the non-lawyer might have been practicing law. Behar claims his secretary misunderstood his instructions; he did not pursue any lien.

In mitigation, he made restitution to the first client and the second client’s lawyer was able to negotiate a new settlement of $100,000.


PAUL H. CURTIS [#183457], 60, of Temecula was revoked, the previous stay of suspension was lifted and he was actually suspended for three years and ordered to comply with rule 955. Credit will be given for a period of involuntary inactive enrollment that began June 10, 2004. The order took effect Oct. 3, 2004.

Curtis violated the terms of a 2003 probation by failing to submit two quarterly reports, keep his bar membership records updated or file a rule 955 affidavit.

The discipline was imposed for failing to provide competent legal services, respond to a client’s status inquiries or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

Curtis also was disciplined in 2002 for failing to provide competent legal services, communicate with a client or pay court-ordered sanctions, and for improperly withdrawing from representation.


WAYNE A. HAGENDORF [#151026], 39, of Newport Beach was suspended for five months, stayed, placed on one year of probation with a 60-day actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within nine months. The order took effect Oct. 10, 2004.

Hagendorf was disciplined in Nevada for violating rules in a case in which he represented himself against his landlord. He was evicted from his office and, during the course of a lawsuit against the building owner, he learned that title to the building was in the name of a California limited partnership, an entity that did not actually exist.

Hagendorf then filed documents establishing a limited partnership under the same name and claimed ownership of the building. He sent letters to all tenants instructing them to send their rent to him. He misled the district court about where the defendant could be found, knowing that the defendant was represented by counsel.

Hagendorf admitted to several rule violations, including candor toward the court, truthfulness in statements to others, conduct involving dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

His actions in Nevada would warrant the imposition of discipline in California.

In mitigation, he has no record of discipline and he made restitution totaling $25,000 to the building owner.


CAROL R. GULLA [#164437], 50, of Big Bear Lake was suspended for one year, stayed, actually suspended for 90 days and until the bar court grants a motion to terminate the suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, she must prove her rehabilitation. The order took effect Oct. 10, 2004.

In a default proceeding, the bar court found that Gulla failed to comply with conditions of a 2003 public reproval. She failed to submit a law office management plan or two quarterly probation reports.

The reproval was issued due to Gulla’s failure to perform legal services competently, return the client’s file or refund unearned fees, and for improperly withdrawing from employment.


RICHARD DISTEFANO [#39584], 63, of Monterey Park was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 18-month suspension and until he proves his rehabilitation, and was ordered to take the MPRE. Credit will be given for a period of interim suspension that began Nov. 27, 2003. The order took effect Oct. 10, 2004.

Distefano was convicted of felony hit- and-run and misdemeanor assault in 2003 following an accident with his Cadillac. According to the stipulation, he fled the scene of the accident, leaving an injured person on the pavement. He did not call 911 and did not call police after retreating to a place safe from the victim, who he said had a knife. He did not report the accident to the DMV, as required, or to his insurance company and denied involvement when questioned by a police officer who investigated the incident months later.

Distefano stipulated that his conduct involved moral turpitude.

He was disbarred in 1975 and reinstated in 1993.


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