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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

GLENN EDWARD REED [#85272], 60, of Mt. Vernon, Wash. was disbarred Oct. 23, 2004, and was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.

Reed was disbarred in Washington in 2003 for misconduct involving one client and his trust account. In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court in California determined that his conduct warranted discipline in this state.

He settled a personal injury matter for $3,500, but used the money for his own purposes and did not give any settlement funds to the client or pay his medical bills. He misrepresented to the client that he had not received final medical bills and ultimately stopped responding to the client’s inquiries.

In another matter, he opened an IOLTA account with a balance of $10, wrote a check to an individual for $4,500 but stopped payment the same day. He delivered the check to the individual with the intent to defraud him and did not make payment for 20 days. Reed also wrote at least 15 bad checks against the account.

He wrote checks after the account was closed for amounts over the price of the goods purchased at two grocery stores. He has not repaid the money.

The State Bar Court concluded that Reed commingled funds and committed acts of moral turpitude.


ALLISON P. PERRINE [#181987], 40, of Westminster was summarily disbarred Oct. 23, 2004, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

Perrine was convicted in 2001 of one count of passing a worthless check, a felony involving moral turpitude. As such, the conviction meets the criteria for summary disbarment.

Perrine had filed a motion to withdraw her plea in superior court and asked the bar court to abate the disciplinary proceedings until her conviction was final. However, seven months passed without a status report, and Perrine did not respond to an invitation from the court to brief her issue.

The superior court denied her motion to withdraw her plea.

Perrine also was placed on interim suspension in 2002 following a conviction for assault and inflicting injury on an elderly adult.


JAMES ERIC BERTZ [#160165], 44, of Bullhead City, Ariz. was disbarred Oct. 30, 2004, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

Bertz was disbarred in 2003 in Arizona and the California State Bar Court determined in a default proceeding that his misconduct warranted discipline here. It found he committed more than 50 violations in 20 separate matters.

In 11 matters, he failed to communicate with his clients or provide legal services competently; in seven matters, he completely abandoned his clients. The bar court found that his misconduct amounted to habitual disregard of his clients’ interests.

In one typical case, Bertz was hired to represent a client in a civil case, but did no work and did not return his client’s phone calls over an 11-month period. The client asked Bertz to return his files so he could hire another lawyer, but Bertz ignored the request until after the Arizona bar contacted him.

In another matter, an arbitrator ruled in favor of Bertz’ client, and ordered Bertz to submit a proposed award with supporting documentation for attorney fees and costs. The client tried unsuccessfully to contact Bertz and when he went to Bertz’ office, he found it closed down. Bertz never submitted the proposed award.


JULIANNE KATE COCHRANE [#143971], 55, of Brea was disbarred Nov. 6, 2004, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court determined that Cochrane committed 39 acts of misconduct in nine matters.

In a personal injury case, Cochrane received a settlement check in March 2001 and was instructed by her client to pay her medical bills. By October, Cochrane had paid no bills and had not responded to four letters from her client. She also wrote herself a check for almost $4,000 from her client trust account.

Cochrane told the client she would not pay any bills until there was a determination whether the uninsured motorist coverage would pay the bills, and said she had asked the insurance company to contact her.

Almost a year went by without any news from Cochrane and the client paid her own medical bills. She received no settlement money.

In a contingency fee breach of contract case, Cochrane did not respond to numerous phone calls or four faxes, so the client fired her and asked that his file be returned and that the unused portion of the money he advanced for costs be returned. Cochrane did not send his file or refund the money.

The same client’s son retained Cochrane to handle a marriage annulment, and she asked his father to sign a retainer agreement indicating he had his son’s power of attorney to execute the fee agreement. The father signed the agreement and paid Cochrane $500. After she filed an annulment petition, she did no further work and abandoned her client. The father gave her another $600 without knowing she had stopped work on the case.

Several months later, the client advised Cochrane he was about to be deployed, needed to get his affairs in order and asked her to finalize the annulment. The father hired another attorney, paying him $1,000, but the new lawyer was unable to get the client’s file from Cochrane. The JAG Corps also could not get the file from her.

In another divorce case, Cochrane did not respond to the opposing side’s settlement offer, but after several months signed a stipulation for the release of community property funds without telling her client. After four months, the client hired a new lawyer, who was unable to obtain the file but was able to obtain about $10,000 in community funds.

Cochrane abandoned four other clients.

In total, the court found she failed to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees, communicate with clients, return their files or cooperate with the bar’s investigation, and she improperly withdrew from representation. Cochrane was disciplined for similar misconduct in 2003.

In recommending Cochrane’s disbarment, Judge Richard A. Honn wrote that her case “is devoid of any mitigation and offers no justification for a discipline short of disbarment. The court has no reason to believe (Cochrane) could or would conform her behavior to the ethical rules.”


ANTONIA G. SMITH [#97304], 57, of Cathedral City was disbarred Nov. 11, 2004, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

In a default proceeding, the bar court found that Smith committed six counts of professional misconduct, including improperly acquiring interests adverse to a client and acts of moral turpitude.

In 1991, Smith represented a married couple in estate planning services, and after the husband died, she handled the wife’s bank account and paid her bills. The wife was 91 years old and placed such trust in Smith that she signed checks without questioning their purpose and sometimes signed blank checks.

Smith had the woman sign an application for an asset management account with a brokerage house, under which Smith and the client were joint tenants with rights of survivorship. The arrangement gave Smith ownership of assets in the account as well as exclusive ownership to any assets upon the client’s death.

Smith deposited checks totaling $73,000 in the account, but never disclosed the account to the client, or told her that it would be used for speculative stock trading or that Smith had the right to spend the entire amount and to receive the balance when the client died.

Smith made 119 stock trade transactions and 23 cash withdrawals, leaving a balance of just under $80. She then had the client deposit more money, bringing the balance to $58,871, and again made stock trades and took cash withdrawals, leaving a balance of $8.78.

Another check for $35,000 was deposited; Smith wrote three checks to herself, leaving a balance of $10.

She misappropriated a total of $83,827.89.


MICHAEL PAUL FEDYNYSHYN [#123566], 46, of San Diego was disbarred Nov. 11, 2004, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

Fedynyshyn 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 his clients, opposing counsel and all pertinent parties of his suspension from practice. Failure to comply with rule 955 is grounds for disbarment.

The underlying discipline was imposed for failing to comply with probation conditions attached to two earlier disciplines.

Fedynyshyn was privately reproved in 1997 for failing to refund unearned fees, respond to client requests for information or cooperate with the bar’s investigation, and for representing a party with an interest adverse to a former client. Two years later, he was publicly reproved for not complying with probation conditions, and in 2001 he was suspended because he still had not met the requirements of probation. Fedynyshyn was suspended again in 2003 for violating probation requirements.


JAMES M. CULLITON [#118949], 58, of Santa Clarita was summarily disbarred Nov. 27, 2004, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

After a jury trial in 2000, Culliton was convicted of making false statements on a medical form submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration. He was placed on an interim suspension that was terminated when the appellate court granted a rehearing; he was returned to interim suspension when the court affirmed Culliton’s conviction.

By committing a felony that involved moral turpitude, Culliton became eligible for summary disbarment.


ROBERT HORACE BESWICK [#85941], 55, of Beverly Hills was summarily disbarred Nov. 27, 2004, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

Beswick was convicted in 2003 of knowingly making false statements to federal agents, a felony that involved moral turpitude.


SUSPENSION/PROBATION

DENNIS VANCE MILNER [#113464], 46, of Dublin Probation was revoked, the stay of suspension lifted, and he was actually suspended for 30 days, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to make restitution. The order took effect Oct. 10, 2004.

Milner was disciplined in 2003 but failed to make the required restitution of $2,000.

The discipline was imposed for failure to comply with conditions attached to an agreement in lieu of discipline Milner reached with the bar in 2001. At the same time, he stipulated that he failed to respond to requests for information.


DIANA WEINERT [#112953], 47, of St. Joseph, Ill. Probation was extended for three years, effective Oct. 13, 2004.

Weinert was disciplined last year but did not submit on time one quarterly probation report or a report from a certified public accountant and she did not keep her membership records with the bar current.

The discipline was imposed as a result of a 2001 discipline in Arizona. Weinert mishandled two trust accounts by commingling personal and client funds and she failed to maintain client records. She also did not cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

In mitigation, she was remorseful about her actions.


ANTHONY S. LOWENSTEIN [#201269], 34, of Burlingame was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Oct. 13, 2004.

Lowenstein threatened a client who did not pay his legal fees. He sent the client a note that stated, “I will make your life so miserable, you will regret screwing me as you did.” He later left a voicemail on the client’s phone, warning he would “send his people after you” and advising the client to “hide if I were you.”

Lowenstein stipulated that he used oppressive means to collect a fee and breached his duty of fidelity to a client, an act that involved moral turpitude.

In mitigation, Lowenstein was having serious marital problems at the time that eventually led to a divorce.


CARRYE WASHINGTON MORGENSTERN [#194377], 59, of Ontario was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on two years of probation. The order took effect Oct. 13, 2004.

Morgenstern stipulated to misconduct in three cases, all for failing to maintain clients’ advances for costs and expenses in her client trust account and writing checks against insufficient funds in the account. She wrote at least 13 bad checks.

In mitigation, most of Morgenstern’s clients are aliens who are trying to become documented with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The misconduct occurred at the end of a period to register for late amnesty, so Morgenstern wrote checks to appropriate government agencies without waiting for the deposits to clear. She has instituted corrective measures in her office procedures and cooperated with the bar’s investigation.

She also was disciplined in 2002 for representing clients with whom she had a conflict of interest and for misleading the court.


ROBERT E. RELAT [#125467], 56, of Salinas was suspended for two years, stayed, and actually suspended for one year and until he makes restitution and the bar court grants a motion to terminate the suspension. The order took effect Oct. 13, 2004.

In a default matter, the State Bar Court found that Relat failed to perform legal services competently or return unearned fees in an immigration case. Although the client paid him $5,000, he did no work. His representation ended when he was suspended for misconduct that included commingling his trust account with personal expenses, acts of moral turpitude, failure to perform competently, client abandonment and misappropriation.

His probation was revoked last year because he failed to comply with its requirements.


PHYLLIS N. VOISENAT-RAFTER [#159095], 42, of Oakland Probation was revoked and reinstated Oct. 13, 2004.

Voisenat-Rafter was disciplined in 2002 but did not comply with probation conditions: she failed to submit timely quarterly probation reports, reports about her possession of client funds, or proof of restitution to two parties.

She had stipulated that she improperly withdrew from employment and failed to refund an unearned fee or deposit client funds in a client trust account.

In mitigation, Voisenat-Rafter had severe physical or emotional difficulties at the time.


JENNIFER L. WALKER [#159885], 42, of Fort Bragg was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on probation for two years with a 90-day actual suspension and was ordered to pass the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Oct. 13, 2004.

Walker stipulated to misconduct in eight consolidated cases.

She commingled personal and client funds in her client trust account and wrote checks for personal and business expenses against the account.

In two matters, she did not perform legal services competently. She never filed a motion to modify spousal support in two cases, although she twice told one client that hearings were scheduled. She did not refund a $1,000 advance fee to one client.

In a marital dissolution, Walker did not claim a certified letter from a client who requested copies of all papers filed with the court and an accounting of the $1,185 in advance attorney’s fees. She stipulated that she failed to provide an accounting of client funds.

In another matter, Walker was hired to file a motion to terminate parental rights and to oppose an effort to modify a custody arrangement. The client later hired another lawyer who tried to obtain the file, but Walker did not provide the documents for more than two months. She also did not refund the client’s $3,000 advance fee, paid by his parents, and never obtained her client’s written consent to accept fees from someone other than him.

In mitigation, Walker has no record of discipline, she cooperated with the bar’s investigation and made restitution, and she suffered emotional difficulties at the time of the misconduct.


JEANNE PARSONS STENGER [#117713], 66, of Temecula 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 Oct. 13, 2004.

Stenger stipulated that she did not comply with the probation conditions of a private reproval: she did not take the MPRE or complete six hours of MCLE and she improperly filed a single quarterly probation report.

The reproval was imposed for improperly entering into a business transaction with a client and for disobeying a court order. Stenger also was privately reproved in 1997.


LAURENCE RING [#75619], 63, of Beverly Hills was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year.

Ring was convicted in 2001 of misdemeanor hit and run causing injury.

He was disciplined in 1993 for representing adverse interests and for failing to perform legal services competently, promptly pay out client funds or communicate with a client.

In mitigation, Ring underwent a psychiatric/addiction medicine evaluation, but the physician concluded he does not have a drinking problem or any other psychiatric diagnosis.


PAUL ALAN SCHELLY [#54505], 62, of Huntington Park was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a 60-day actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 13, 2004.

Schelly stipulated that he failed to comply with probation conditions attached to a 2002 discipline: he did not file three quarterly probation reports on time or submit proof that he completed four hours of MCLE courses in law office management or six hours in legal ethics.

In the underlying discipline, he stipulated to misconduct in two matters. He issued a check against insufficient funds in his client trust account and, in the second matter, he did not return his client’s phone calls, deposit client funds in his trust account, refund or account for the unearned fee, or perform legal services competently, and he improperly withdrew from employment and misappropriated client funds.

Schelly also was privately reproved in 2001.


CHARLES CARTER SIMON [#86470], 63, of Glendale was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 30-day actual suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 13, 2004.

Simon stipulated that he failed to maintain client funds in his trust account or promptly pay out client funds.

He turned over responsibility for maintaining his trust account to the woman who was his trusted secretary for 10 years. She also was responsible for negotiating medical liens.

In one matter, the balance in his trust account fell below what Simon was required to maintain and the client received collection notices from two medical offices. Simon forwarded the client’s inquiries to his secretary, but he did not follow up on the distribution of settlement funds.

He stipulated that he misappropriated client funds by failing to adequately supervise his secretary.

In mitigation, Simon has no prior record of discipline and he demonstrated remorse for his conduct.


EMEKA G. ONWUALU [#161868], 53, of Inglewood 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 Oct. 23, 2004.

Onwualu stipulated to misconduct in four consolidated cases.

In a real property action in which Onwualu filed a complaint against six defendants, he did not respond to one party’s motion to compel arbitration, appear at hearings or oppose another party’s demurrer and motion to strike. Judgment was entered against his client for costs amounting to more than $6,000.

In a second case, Onwualu was hired to try to recover $13,441 his clients paid to the city of Los Angeles for nuisance abatement charges. Although he had doubts about the merits of the claim, he filed a complaint to guard against expiration of the statute of limitations. He didn’t serve the complaint. The matter was dismissed when Onwualu failed to appear at a hearing, but he later filed a motion to vacate the dismissal. That motion was denied because the defendant was never served in the 11 months the case was pending.

Onwualu stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently in both matters.

In mitigation, he has no prior record of discipline.


JAMES FRIEND JORDAN [#74606], 54, of Encino 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. 23, 2004.

Jordan stipulated to misconduct in two matters.

In a personal injury case, his client’s insurance company began a series of payments for reimbursement of medical expenses. Jordan received a total of $10,170, and although he paid two medical bills, he did not pay two others until a demand was sent by the State Bar.

In a second matter, another lawyer filed a personal injury suit but asked Jordan to help negotiate a settlement. Jordan negotiated and received a $73,000 settlement, and his client’s former lawyer was holding almost $5,000 to pay a medical bill. Although he disbursed most of the money and negotiated a settlement of two medical bills, three bills were paid eight to 12 months late and he still owes more than $1,700 to his client.

Jordan stipulated that he failed to promptly pay out client funds in both matters.

He previously was publicly reproved in 1992 for failing to pay client funds and improperly withdrawing from a case.


BARRY ALAN SISSELMAN [#72685], 54, of Van Nuys was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with a 30-month actual suspension and was ordered to make restitution, prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Oct. 23, 2004.

Sisselman stipulated to misconduct in four matters.

One client paid him $10,000 in advance to represent him in bankruptcy litigation and appeared at two status conferences, assuring the client that nothing important had occurred and promising to begin work on the case. The client fired Sisselman, who then completed a substitution of attorney form as well as several documents. However, he did not provide an accounting of his fee or a refund.

The client submitted the matter to fee arbitration and was awarded $5,000. Sisselman paid the award.

In a second bankruptcy matter, Sisselman contacted his client’s creditors, most of whom had agreed to settle their debts upon receipt of approximately one-half of the money the client owed them. When the bankruptcy was discharged, the client gave Sisselman $36,000 to pay the creditors, and although he made one partial payment, he did not pay any other creditor and the balance in his client trust account fell below the required amount.

Sisselman promised to repay the client and delivered a note secured by a deed of trust on his home. However, he did not repay the client.

The third matter involved Sisselman’s effort to recover a client’s deceased husband’s life insurance, work for which he was to receive a 33.3 percent contingency fee. He received a settlement draft for $59,910, but did not deposit it in his client trust account and did not notify the client of his receipt of funds. The client asked Sisselman several times about the status of her claim, and each time he told her he was working on it.

Seven months after receiving the insurance settlement, Sisselman informed the client he’d received her money. He said her share was $50,000, and that he would pay in $1,000 monthly installments for 50 months. He did so, although for almost three years the money was not kept in his trust account.

In the last matter, Sisselman was hired to try to set aside a default judgment in a bankruptcy case. Three months after paying an advance $4,000 fee, the client expressed concern that Sisselman had not done any work. About a month later, he filed a motion to permit the case to be reopened. The court granted the motion and gave Sisselman 30 days to file the motion to set aside the dismissal; he never did so.

He did not respond to three letters from the client demanding a copy of the motion, and he ignored a fourth letter demanding a refund. In a subsequent telephone conversation, Sisselman promised to file the motion. When he did not do so, the court closed the bankruptcy case. The client sued him, seeking damages of $17,000. Sisselman never refunded any money.

He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees, maintain client funds in a client trust account, promptly notify a client of his receipt of funds, provide an accounting of funds or communicate with a client. He also committed acts of moral turpitude by misappropriating funds from two clients and required a client to sign an agreement not to sue him.

In mitigation, Sisselman has no prior record of discipline, and he had family problems at the time of the misconduct.


NORBERTO F. REYES III [#158569], 45, of Anaheim 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 Oct. 23, 2004.

Reyes stipulated to misconduct in two matters. In the first, he commingled personal and client funds in his trust account and issued checks against insufficient funds in the account.

In a personal injury case, he deposited two checks totaling $16,000 in his client trust account, but allowed the balance to fall below the required amount. A check he wrote to reimburse the insurance company for medical payments was returned because the trust account was closed. In that matter, he stipulated to two counts of failing to maintain client funds in a client trust account.

Reyes was privately reproved in 1996 for failing to return client phone calls.

In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and demonstrated remorse for his wrongdoing.


MELVIN WAYNE WHITE [#106785], 53, of Salem, Va. 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 Oct. 23, 2004.

White stipulated that he did not meet probation conditions imposed in a 2002 private reproval: he did not take the MPRE on time or file five quarterly probation reports.

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


ALFRED NASH VILLALOBOS [#194000], 39, of Chatsworth was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on one year of probation with an actual 30-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 23, 2004.

Villalobos stipulated that he failed to maintain client funds in a trust account, communicate with a client, or promptly pay out client funds.

He settled a personal injury case for $14,500 and issued a check to his client for $5,000. The client was notified that Villalobos placed a stop payment order on the check. He did not give the client the money owed to her for more than two years, and he did not pay her doctor bills for two years.

In mitigation, Villalobos claimed he waited to have several claims clarified before disbursing the settlement funds. He also cooperated with the bar’s investigation.


STEPHEN BRIAN BALLAS [#85888], 50, of Redondo Beach 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 Oct. 30, 2004.

Ballas stipulated that he entered into an improper business transaction with a client.

He represented a married couple for estate planning, tax and business incorporation legal work, and he served as trustee for a family trust and the couple’s two individual irrevocable insurance trusts.

In 2002, Ballas, in his capacity as trustee, requested a loan of $24,302 from the wife’s insurance policy and a loan of $30,000 from the husband’s policy. He did not disclose in writing the terms of the loans or advise the clients to seek independent counsel. The clients never consented in writing to the terms of the loans.

The money was wired to his client trust account. He repaid the loans a short time later.

Ballas has no prior record of discipline, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation, he acted in good faith and he presented evidence of his good character.


RANDY E. BENDEL [#130569], 43, of Woodland Hills was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a six-month actual suspension and was ordered to make restitution, prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Oct. 30, 2004.

The State Bar Court found that Bendel disobeyed court orders, misled judges, filed unjustified actions as well as lawsuits without cause and for the purpose of harassment. He represented a client in her divorce, but in the words of Judge Richard A. Honn, “this simple dissolution case rather quickly was transformed into many cases. Like the Hydra of Greek mythology that grew new heads when its old ones were cut off, (Bendel’s) attempts to resolve one problem only resulted in others arising in its place.”

Honn held Bendel responsible for “transforming this case into the monster it became.”

Over time, Honn said, the cases went before three court commissioners and at least 25 judges.

Although Bendel’s client and her husband led a luxurious lifestyle while married, Bendel noted that the husband’s income declined dramatically once the dissolution was filed. He tried to find assets and income he felt the husband was hiding.

Four lawsuits, including the dissolution, a fraudulent transfer case and a bank indemnity case, were deemed related by the court. In addition, Bendel filed an abuse of process case and a motion in a bankruptcy case.

Throughout the litigation, he felt that he and his client were not receiving fair hearings, and he filed several peremptory challenges against judges and  attempted to remove opposing counsel at least six times. As a result of his actions, Bendel and his client were jointly sanctioned 13 times for a total of $21,652.

In mitigation, Bendel has no prior record of discipline, he performed pro bono work and he presented testimony as to his good character. “His motives were honorable,” wrote Honn. “His tactics to accomplish that goal were not.”


HAO-NHIEN Q. VU [#177529], 40, of Westminster was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 30-day actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within a year and to prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Oct. 30, 2004.

Vu stipulated to misconduct in two matters, including failing to perform legal services competently and the unauthorized practice of law.

Vu represented two clients in a patent infringement case, but failed to handle the case properly. He failed to inform one client about discovery, scheduled depositions without informing the clients and then failed to show up, entered into a consent order without telling the clients and failed to inform one client about critical pre-trial deadlines. He also did not respond to his clients’ inquiries, and they were forced to hire a new lawyer.

Vu was sanctioned $5,000 as a result of his conduct, but his check was written against insufficient funds.

His failure to perform left his clients facing severe monetary and evidentiary sanctions.

In the second matter, Vu filed two notices with a court while he was suspended for failing to pay his bar dues.

In mitigation, he has no prior record of discipline.


ELIZABETH TORRES [#201677], 31, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to pass the MPRE. The order took effect Oct. 30, 2004.

Torres stipulated that she failed to return a client file when requested.

She represented a couple in a real estate dispute, but after doing some work decided to refer the case to a real estate lawyer due to its complexity. She did not provide part of the file to the clients for seven months and said the remainder of the file was lost when she moved offices.


GRAYLING M. WILLIAMS [#135709], 46, of Stockton was suspended for 90 days, stayed, placed on one year of suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 30, 2004.

Williams and another attorney employed a suspended lawyer as a paralegal but did not inform the State Bar, as required, until they terminated the individual. They also did not respond to a request from the county Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) to verify the man’s wages.

The firm later hired the same man, and again did not inform the bar. They also did not respond to a new request from the county for a wage verification.

The DCSS filed an order to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed. Neither Williams nor his law partner responded and neither appeared for the hearing. Both were sanctioned $1,000 but did not report the sanction to the bar.

Williams stipulated that he failed to notify the State Bar that he employed a suspended attorney or that he had been sanctioned.

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


CHERYL A. BROWN [#151634], 54, of San Jose was suspended for one year, stayed, actually suspended for 30 days and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, she must prove her rehabilitation. The order took effect Nov. 6, 2004.

In a default matter, the State Bar Court found that Brown failed to perform legal services competently, communicate with a client, return client files or maintain a current address with the bar and she withdrew from employment without court approval.

The misconduct occurred in a divorce case in which Brown represented the husband. After filing a motion for preliminary disclosure, the matter was continued and eventually taken off calendar because no one appeared at the hearing. The client tried in vain to contact Brown and finally hired a new attorney.

The new lawyer also tried unsuccessfully to contact Brown in an effort to obtain the file and to have Brown sign a substitution of attorney form.


ROBERT HUSTON III [#45366], 60, of Newport Beach was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Nov. 6, 2004.

Huston stipulated to four counts of misconduct in a case in which he was retained to identify and recover the assets belonging to his client’s deceased father and to probate the estate. The client paid $4,000 in advance fees, although Huston needed court approval to collect fees in a probate case.

He did not file a probate petition and failed to collect the man’s assets. When the client hired a new lawyer, the client asked for an accounting of the $4,000 fee, but he did not respond until after the State Bar got involved.

He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees or provide an accounting of the fees, and he collected an illegal fee.

In mitigation, Huston has no prior record of discipline.


DAVID GERARD MENDEZ [#99953], 48, of San Francisco was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on one year of probation with a 30-day actual suspension. The order took effect Nov. 6, 2004.

Mendez stipulated to misconduct in two cases.

He represented a landlord who was trying to evict tenants from his rental property. Although there was no written fee agreement, Mendez sent his client a bill for $5,875.50, and asked him to pay $7,500 if he wished Mendez to continue working on the case. The client signed a fee agreement and gave Mendez a check for $7,500.

The same day, Mendez said he needed an additional $7,500 to proceed with the case, which the client paid. The client left the country for several months and when he returned, he paid the tenants to leave his property.

He sought a refund and an accounting of his fees, but Mendez did not act for nearly a year. He stipulated that he failed to promptly refund unearned fees or provide an accounting of client funds.

The second matter also was an eviction case in which Mendez represented the landlord. Mendez contends that he served an eviction notice on the tenants, that they complied and he therefore concluded there was no further work to be done. He also said he referred the client to another lawyer for a second opinion.

He stipulated that he did not respond in writing to his client’s inquiries about the case.

Mendez has been disciplined twice previously. In 1984, he was suspended for making misrepresentations to police and the courts, committing acts of moral turpitude, and in 2004, he received a stayed suspension for failing to maintain client funds in a trust account, provide an accounting of client funds or cooperate with a bar investigation.


SCOTT L. GRADY [#153760], 42, of Sherman Oaks was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual one-year suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Nov. 11, 2004.

Grady did not comply with rule 955, as required by a 2003 disciplinary order. He did not submit to the Supreme Court an affidavit stating that he had notified his clients, the courts and other pertinent parties of his suspension from practice.

In the underlying discipline, Grady stipulated to several counts of misconduct in three matters, including failing 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 law firm.


JERALD SCOTT BENNETT [#123450], 46, of Lake Elsinore was suspended for two years, stayed, actually suspended for one year and until he makes restitution, 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 Nov. 11, 2004.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Bennett committed 12 acts of misconduct in two cases, including failing to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, promptly release client papers, refund unearned fees or cooperate with the bar’s investigation. He also represented potentially adverse interests without their informed consent and committed an act of moral turpitude.

In the first, he represented a married couple’s interests in a revocable trust created by the husband’s deceased mother and in an unlawful detainer action filed against them by the husband’s sister. The property in question was the couple’s house; its title was held in the trust. The couple agreed to pay $10,000 as advance fees, but Bennett accepted a promissory note secured by the husband’s insurance settlement from an unrelated matter.

At the same time, the husband’s younger brother hired Bennett to represent him in purchasing the couple’s house. He paid Bennett $5,000 as advanced fees and he paid the $10,000 fee his brother owed.

Bennett was representing potentially conflicting interests, but did not inform the clients or obtain their written consent. He failed to appear at a hearing and the husband’s sister was appointed executor of the trust.

Because Bennett did not file an answer on the wife’s behalf in the unlawful detainer matter, default was entered against her. Bennett did not inform her, took no action to set aside the ruling, and the wife was prevented from presenting a defense at the subsequent trial. At the conclusion of the trial, Bennett was ordered to file briefs, but did not do so. Judgment was entered against the married couple in the amount of $4,083, plus $193 in costs. Bennett did not inform the clients and did not return their phone calls. They were served with eviction papers and eventually their house was sold by the trust.

A week later, they fired Bennett and asked for a refund and the return of their file. They obtained the file only after intervention by the State Bar. Two refund checks were returned due to insufficient funds, and two were honored by the bank.

In a probate matter, Bennett told his client he had sent letters to a bank and an insurance company when he had not, nor did he perform any work involving beneficiary designations. The client fired Bennett and asked for a refund of the $2,000 advance fee, which he never provided. He also did not provide an accounting of the advance fees or return documents related to the case.


ZAKEYA LEONA BROOKINS [#212900], 52, of Marietta, Ga. was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension and was ordered to make restitution, take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Nov. 20, 2004.

Brookins stipulated to misconduct in six consolidated cases.

In three matters, she allowed her employee to retain clients on her behalf, often without her knowledge. She was rarely in the office to supervise the employee, and as a result, failed to perform legal services competently.

She substituted in to a wrongful death matter on behalf of the plaintiff, but did not oppose the defendants’ motion for summary judgment or appear at a hearing, and summary judgment was granted. Brookins did not inform her client, who learned about it several months later when reviewing the court file.

A woman who had identity theft problems hired Brookins to help resolve them, but she failed to substitute in to a pending criminal case or to take any steps to set aside a bench warrant for the client’s arrest. Brookins failed to appear at eight hearings. She did not refund any portion of a $4,000 advance fee.

In a divorce case, Brookins filed an answer to the petition for dissolution but did no further work. She did not release the file to a new attorney and although the client won a small claims judgment of $3,000, the client received no money.

In mitigation, Brookins cooperated with the bar’s investigation and demonstrated remorse for her misconduct.


TERRENCE WILLARD ANDREWS [#87772], 61, of Richmond 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 Nov. 20, 2004.

Andrews stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently in a civil lawsuit for collection of an alleged debt. His client, the defendant, said the debt had been paid and Andrews believed the statute of limitations had run. After discussions with the opposing attorney, the matter was scheduled for trial. Andrews made no effort to resolve the matter, prepare a defense or respond to opposing counsel’s request to discuss settlement. The other lawyer left 10 phone messages for Andrews, who returned only one call.

The client did not get word of the trial until 11 p.m. the night before it was to begin, when she left Andrews a message that she could not attend. Andrews did not appear, but told the client he was at the courthouse and promised to handle the matter. The final judgment against his client amounted to more than $5,400. The client only learned of the default when she contacted the court clerk.

Shortly after the client fired him, Andrews told her how she could set aside the default judgment and offered to provide a declaration.

Andrews was disciplined in 1990 after pleading guilty to filing a false income tax return.

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


PATRICK J. GRANNAN [#115693], 46, of Newport Beach was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Nov. 20, 2004.

Grannan stipulated to misconduct in four consolidated matters.

In the first, he substituted into a civil case, but did not respond to a cross-complaint filed by the opposing party. Although he was notified that his failure to respond would result in a default, he did not respond and the client’s default was entered.

The client hired a new lawyer, but Grannan never provided the files and stipulated that he lost them.

In the second case, Grannan represented a client in an arbitration on a contingency basis. He failed to appear at two telephonic hearings, and although he appeared at one pre-hearing conference, he did not appear at the second. He indicated he was ill but did not send a replacement. He also did not comply with discovery requests.

After the opposition’s motion to dismiss was denied, Grannan failed to appear at another hearing.

He failed to appear for trial in a medical malpractice case, in which the court entered judgment against Grannan’s client for $100,000 in general damages and $27,300 in special damages.

Grannan did not prosecute a binding arbitration in another medical malpractice case on his client’s behalf.

He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently in all four cases and failed to return client files in one matter.

Grannan has no prior record of discipline.


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