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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

PADAM KUMAR KHANNA [#85229], 70, of Berkeley was disbarred July 21, 2006, and ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.

The State Bar Court found that Khanna committed multiple acts of misconduct related to his efforts to induce his clients to invest in a sham corporation.

He represented a married couple who are Indian immigrants and speak limited English. The husband is a gas station attendant with a second job at a car rental company and his wife worked at a fast food restaurant. Without a fee agreement, Khanna represented the wife in three matters and the husband in two matters.

Although the clients testified they paid for his services, Khanna claimed they owed him money, a contention the bar court rejected.

According to the court, Khanna was a founder and president of Amerindia Foods Limited (AFL), a company supposedly located in India whose purpose was to manufacture mango juice and manage a large tomato farm. He also set up an entity called Khanna Foods USA that he claimed was not a company but a business name for him to use to receive royalty payments from AFL for technology related to developing hybrid tomato seeds.

Khanna induced his clients to invest in AFL with instructions to give him checks for less than $10,000 to avoid scrutiny by tax officials. They gave him a total of $31,000 for which Khanna promised the imminent issuance of stock certificates.

The clients received nothing and Khanna used the money to pay personal bills.

When they hired a new lawyer, Khanna denied he had received investment funds from the couple, accused the husband of harassing and threatening him and said they owed him $19,000 in legal fees. When the State Bar investigated, he denied that the return of files had been requested.

Judge Pat McElroy rejected Khanna’s explanations about his clients’ investments, finding his contentions “absolutely unbelievable and unreasonable.” She also said she did not believe AFL even existed.

She found that Khanna entered into a business transaction with a client, misappropriated client funds, failed to return client files or account for their money, made misrepresentations to the State Bar and failed to cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

In recommending Khanna’s disbarment, McElroy wrote that his case “involves a seasoned attorney who had created a web of deceptions to seduce his unsophisticated clients to invest $31,000 in a sham corporation and who insists on these same fraudulent and contrived misrepresentations before this court. His acts of moral turpitude and dishonesty shock the conscience of the legal profession, pose a danger to the public and degrade the highest professional standards for attorneys.”


DAVID B. WEINTRAUB [#152571], 54, of Los Angeles was disbarred July 27, 2006, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

The State Bar Court found that Weintraub committed three acts of misconduct in a personal injury case that he settled for $22,000 — he failed to pay client funds promptly or maintain client funds in a trust account and he misappropriated more than $12,000, committing an act of moral turpitude.

When the case settled, in January 2002, Weintraub offered a partial disbursement to his client, who preferred to wait until there was a final resolution with the medical providers. The client believed the final distribution would take place in about a week.

In April, May and July, the client asked that the money be disbursed. After he complained to the State Bar in October, he approved a proposed disbursement and received a check for $7,449.

Weintraub did not pay the medical providers until the following April and May, after he negotiated a reduction of their bills. In June, he sent more money to his client.

During the intervening months, he allowed the balance in his trust account to fall below the required amount on several occasions and misappropriated at least $12,738 of client funds.

In recommending Weintraub’s disbarment, Judge Richard A. Platel noted that he was late for three court sessions and demonstrated a “cavalier attitude” toward his client, testifying that he had received a “windfall” because Weintraub was able to add $500 to his final disbursement.

Weintraub practiced for 11 years without discipline.


REGINA D. STEELE [#141596], 51, of San Diego was disbarred Aug. 5, 2006, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

Steele did not meet the requirements of a 2005 disciplinary order that she comply with rule 955 by notifying her clients and other pertinent parties of her suspension and that she file an affidavit with the Supreme Court. Failure to comply with rule 955 is grounds for disbarment.

The underlying discipline was imposed for Steele’s failure to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees or maintain records of client funds, and she improperly withdrew from representation.

Steele did not participate in the proceedings and her default was entered.


JOSEPH CHARLES RAINERI [#136192], 46, of Los Gatos was disbarred Aug. 11, 2006, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Raineri committed 17 acts of misconduct in five client matters, including failing to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, promptly release client papers or notify a client of receipt of funds, and he improperly withdrew from representation and committed multiple acts of moral turpitude.

In a personal injury case, Raineri did not appear at two case management conferences and the matter was dismissed. He did not inform his clients or take any action to set aside the dismissal.

When the client later visited Raineri, he told her he was relocating and planned to operate a winery. However, he said he would continue to represent her interests. As a result, the client retained him to handle another action involving a different accident. Raineri did no work on either case.

In a case involving dissolution of a partnership and breach of contract, Raineri did not attend four hearings and after filing a counterclaim on his client’s behalf, did no further work. A new attorney substituted in after the court found Raineri had abandoned the case.

He represented the defendants in a civil matter, but did not inform them that their depositions were scheduled, did not respond to a motion to compel their appearance, file a case management conference statement or appear at a hearing. He did not keep his clients abreast of any developments in their case, including the fact that sanctions were imposed against them. The clients were forced to hire a new attorney.

In a personal injury case, Raineri received a $10,000 settlement check for his client, forged the client’s signature and deposited the money in his client trust account. He did not tell the client he had received the funds. Raineri used $6,700 of the money for his own purposes.

The client hired another attorney who requested distribution of the settlement. When Raineri ignored the request, the client sued him. Raineri sent him a cashier’s check for $10,000 as well as a copy of a letter purportedly sent earlier that showed his efforts to deliver the money to the client. The court found that the letter was part of an effort to mislead the client into thinking Raineri had tried to send the settlement proceeds months earlier.

In the final case, Raineri substituted into a matter that he settled for $25,000 in exchange for a release of all claims against his client. No portion of the check was ever paid to the other party or used to satisfy the settlement. Over a two-month period, Raineri caused the full amount to be withdrawn from his client trust account and he did not appear at two court hearings. As a result, the court struck his client’s answer and entered his default.

Eventually, on Raineri’s motion, the court set aside the default, vacated the judgment and awarded $3,500 in attorney fees to the other party. When Raineri tried to file a motion to enforce the settlement, the check for the filing fee was returned as unpaid.

The case went to mediation, where it settled for $35,000 plus more than $3,500 in attorney fees and costs owed to opposing counsel.

The bar court found that Raineri failed to perform legal services competently, maintain client funds in trust, communicate with clients, release client files or notify clients of his receipt of funds. It also found that he committed acts of moral turpitude, improperly withdrew from representation and misappropriated client money.

Raineri also was disciplined in 2006 for 10 acts of misconduct in three client matters.


RUDOLF CORONA JR. [#60868], 58, of Del Mar was disbarred Aug. 17, 2006, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

Corona did not comply with a previous rule 955 order; he did not submit to the Supreme Court an affidavit stating that he notified his clients and other pertinent parties of his 2005 suspension from practice.

He was placed on interim suspension in 2005 for felony possession of a controlled substance.

Because Corona’s default was entered, there was no mitigation. However, the court noted that prior to his misconduct, he practiced for 31 years without any discipline.


SUSPENSION/PROBATION

WAYNE WINROW [#153632], 55, of Emeryville was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 120-day suspension and was ordered to make restitution, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect July 27, 2006.

Winrow was accepted into the State Bar Court’s alternative discipline program (ADP) and the Lawyer Assistance Program after he stipulated to misconduct in three cases in 2005. As part of the ADP, attorneys who face discipline charges receive a lesser discipline contingent on successful completion of the bar’s program for lawyers with chemical dependency or mental health issues. If they do not complete the program, they receive a more severe discipline.

Winrow was terminated from the assistance program due to non-compliance with its requirements, according to the bar court. He also did not comply with restitution obligations.

The underlying misconduct involved his failure to pursue an appeal for his client, respond to her inquiries or refund advance fees. In a second matter, he failed to appear at three court-ordered status conferences and was removed by the court from the case. Summary judgment was entered against his client. He did not return his client’s many phone calls in a third matter, and returned $1,300 in unearned fees only after the State Bar intervened. Winrow also was disciplined in 2001.

In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and refunded unearned fees and he suffers from psychological problems.


ALAN SCHUCHMAN [#82722], 59, of Los Angeles was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual two-year suspension, and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect July 27, 2006.

The State Bar Court review department increased a hearing judge’s discipline recommendation but rejected bar prosecutors’ effort to have Schuchman disbarred. The hearing judge found that he misappropriated more than $100,000 from a client and failed to inform the client of significant developments in his case.

At the time of the misconduct, Schuchman had serious tax problems and was unable to meet his personal and business expenses because his three children, and his ex-wife, had severe medical problems.

Schuchman represented the plaintiff in a personal injury case involving multiple defendants. After a while, the client disappeared and Schuchman was notified by a deputy sheriff that the man was in custody, arrested for carjacking and kidnapping. The sheriff said he would attempt to get a letter to the client that Schuchman had sent earlier.

Schuchman settled claims against three defendants for $215,000 and dismissed the case against the others. The client was not present at two mediations and was unaware of the settlements. Schuchman deposited the settlement funds in his trust account, took his fee and determined that the client was owed $107,569.15.

Under his fee agreement, Schuchman said if the client did not contact him within 30 days, he was authorized to settle the case, deposit funds and keep them in the trust account and pay liens and fees. He said he also had authority to endorse and sign documents on his client’s behalf. He did not communicate with his client for a year.

The account balance fell below the required amount and was closed. Schuchman stipulated that he used the money for his own purposes.

Several months later he learned his client was incarcerated at Pelican Bay, where Schuchman visited him and informed him of the settlement. The client asked that a check for $100,000 be sent to his sister; Schuchman says he sent the check when he received a letter of authorization four months later. He sent her an additional $20,000 several months later.

In mitigation, in addition to the severe family and financial problems Schuch-man faced, he lost his home to foreclosure, he volunteered for five years at his temple’s food pantry, and he presented seven character witnesses who “presented an extraordinary demonstration of good character.”


ELIZABETH A. GUITTARD, aka ELIZABETH A. BARRANCO [#115421], 46, of San Diego was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on four years of probation with a one-year actual suspension and was ordered to make restitution, take the MPRE, comply with rule 955 and prove her rehabilitation. The order took effect July 27, 2006.

Guittard stipulated to misconduct in 15 matters, most involving incarcerated clients who hired her to investigate the merits of filing habeas corpus petitions for them or to actually file the petitions. She admitted she did not perform legal services competently, take steps to protect her clients’ interests, communicate with her clients, refund unearned fees or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

One client’s mother gave Guittard $29,000 for fees, but she did not file a petition. In another matter, she and her co-counsel filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, but the judge removed her from the case after the client complained.

Guittard received $35,000 from another client whom she represented in the state appeal of her conviction. After the conviction was affirmed, the client instructed Guittard to file petitions for review and rehearing. She did not file a petition for review, believing there were no meritorious grounds to do so, but she didn’t inform her client.

Guittard represented an incarcerated client both to evaluate his pending civil suit against a prison’s correctional staff and to file a petition for writ of habeas corpus in connection with his criminal case. The client paid her $50 a month from his inmate trust account. At one point, the client sought permission from the warden to withdraw $6,000 from his account because Guittard said she could not proceed with his civil case due to lack of funds.

When she deposited the money in her trust account, it had a negative balance. She used it for personal and business expenses. Guittard also unilaterally decided that she was entitled to the full amount as fees and withdrew the money without her client’s permission.

She did not resolve the client’s civil dispute and determined there were no grounds to seek further review of his conviction, but she didn’t inform her client.

Guittard was evicted from her home, where she maintained her office, but did not notify her clients of her whereabouts.

She also did not attend ethics school, a violation of probation conditions attached to a 2001 private reproval, and she wrote checks against insufficient funds in her client trust account and used the account to pay personal expenses.

In mitigation, Guittard had severe financial and emotional problems, including the death of her father, an abusive ex-husband, bankruptcy, foreclosure, a child custody battle and three major surgeries.


STEVEN FRANK McNICHOLS, aka STEVEN EVERETT McNICHOLS [#151934], 67, of San Francisco was suspended for one year, stayed, and was placed on two years of probation with a 30-day actual suspension. The order took effect Aug. 11, 2006.

McNichols was ordered to comply with rule 955 as part of a 2005 disciplinary order, but he stipulated that he complied two months late.

The underlying discipline was imposed as a result of McNichols’ failure to comply with the conditions of a 2001 suspension. That discipline resulted from his failure to communicate with clients or promptly pay client funds.

In mitigation, he was suffering from bipolar disorder and did not properly focus his attention on the disciplinary requirements. He cooperated with the bar’s investigation.


ROBERT B. NESIN [#119368], 53, of Stockton was suspended for two years, stayed, actually suspended for 60 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 90 days, he must comply with rule 955; if it exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Aug. 11, 2006.

In a default proceeding, the bar court found that Nesin failed to perform legal services competently or communicate with clients, and that his actions involved moral turpitude.

He received a $7,500 settlement check on behalf of his client in a personal injury case, but never cashed the check or told his client about it. The check expired. Soon after he received the check, his client’s previous attorney inquired about the case and requested payment of a $2,072 lien for professional services. Nesin did not respond to two letters or pay the lien. He also never returned any of his client’s phone calls or disbursed any money to him.

Another client retained Nesin to file a breach of contract case. He never filed the case, but told his client he had. The client learned the truth when she went to the courthouse. Nesin also told a bar investigator he filed the case. He later reimbursed the client for his fee plus $1,000.

Although Nesin’s default was entered, the court considered his 20 years of practice without discipline as a mitigating circumstance.


BRUCE LEWIS BRIGGS [#196750], 64, of Santa Ana was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to make restitution, take the MPRE and prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Aug. 17, 2006.

Briggs stipulated to misconduct in four cases.

One client hired him to handle both an expungement of a criminal conviction and to negotiate a settlement in a bail forfeiture matter. After paying Briggs $6,000, the client heard nothing and requested both a refund and the return of her file. Briggs did not respond, and the client hired new lawyers.

In a second matter, a client paid Briggs a $5,000 advance fee to defend her in an employment matter. He appeared on her behalf and the case was decided in her favor. When she sought a refund of unearned fees, Briggs agreed to do so but never did. When the State Bar asked for an accounting, he said he owed the client $1,640 but had not refunded it at the time of the stipulation.

Another client hired Briggs to file a petition to withdraw a guilty plea in a criminal matter and request a new trial. She paid a $4,000 advance fee. When she contacted the court five months later, she learned nothing had been filed. Several months later, the client met with Briggs to sign some documents and asked that additional documents be forwarded to her. Briggs did not send the other paperwork and did not return the client’s phone calls. He never filed anything on his client’s behalf.

In the fourth matter, Briggs’ client hired him to seek a pardon of a criminal conviction or to have the conviction expunged and paid a $3,000 advance fee. Briggs did not return the client’s many phone calls and did not provide any paperwork on the matter.

Briggs stipulated to three charges of failing to perform legal services competently, two charges each of failing to respond to clients’ reasonable status inquiries, refund unearned fees and render an accounting of client funds, and he did not promptly return one client’s file.

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


CARLETON SAUNER MILLS [#84854], 55, of Santa Ana was suspended for one year, stayed, actually suspended for 30 days and until he makes restitution and was ordered to take the MPRE. If the actual suspension exceeds 90 days, he must comply with rule 955; if it exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Aug. 17, 2006.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Mills withdrew from employment without protecting his client’s interests and he failed to cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

A client hired Mills to handle her bankruptcy matter, paying him $1,500 in advance fees. He did no work on the case and did not refund her fee.

Although Mills did not participate in the disciplinary case, the bar court considered his 25 years of discipline-free practice as mitigation.


GAROLD LEE NEELY [#189557], 55, of Stockton was suspended for one year, stayed, actually suspended for 60 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 90 days, he must comply with rule 955; if it exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Aug. 17, 2006.

In a default case, the bar court found that Neely engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and committed an act of moral turpitude. He was on inactive status for more than a year for failing to comply with MCLE requirements and for part of a year for not paying bar dues.

During that time, he appeared in court on behalf of three clients in two matters and provided legal advice to the clients. While inactive, he also was arrested with one of the clients who was allegedly trying to retrieve her belongings from her husband’s residence. He had advised the woman that she was legally entitled to do so, despite a court order giving the husband possession of the house.

At the time of the arrest, Neely told police that he was acting as the woman’s lawyer and that he was licensed to practice law in California. Under further questioning, he admitted he was not licensed at the time.


JOHN ROBIN RACINE [#74930], 58, of Santa Ana was suspended for one year stayed, placed on one year of probation and was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Aug. 24, 2006.

Racine stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently or communicate with his client in a family case. Although he filed some papers on his client’s behalf, she was not eligible for certain benefits without a qualified domestic relations order.

Racine was hired to effect such an order but never did.

In mitigation, he had health problems, agreed to make restitution and cooperated with the bar’s investigation.


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