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Caution! More than 200,000 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

ANN LONERGAN SMITH [#94331], 79, of Sherman Oaks was disbarred May 13, 2007, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20.

Smith stipulated to misconduct in 2002 but failed to comply with probation conditions: she did not make restitution payments to the U.S. bankruptcy court, despite a time extension. The State Bar Court found that she disobeyed a court order.

Smith was disciplined three times previously.

In 2002, in the matter that led to the disbarment, she stipulated that she did not perform competently for her clients, violated bankruptcy court orders and did not report sanctions. She was disbarred from practicing before the bankruptcy court.

The following year, she was disciplined after the bar court found that she did not maintain two personal injury clients’ funds in her client trust account and she commingled personal funds in the account.

In 2005, Smith was again disciplined after she stipulated that she repeatedly issued checks against insufficient funds in her client trust account to pay personal and business expenses.

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

In recommending disbarment, Judge Richard A. Honn said her previous misconduct, which occurred over a five-year period, suggests “that she is capable of future wrongdoing and raise(s) concerns about her ability or willingness to comply with her ethical responsibilities to the public and to the State Bar.” He added that earlier disciplines have neither deterred Smith from committing more misconduct nor rehabilitated her.


ANTHONY I. FURR [#61204], 69, of Sacramento was disbarred May 11, 2007, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Furr was convicted of four felonies in 2000: conspiring to dissuade a witness, offering to bribe a witness, conspiring to obstruct justice and dissuading a witness from testifying for gain. The State Bar Court also found that he failed to comply with rule 955 (now renumbered as rule 9.20) by not submitting to the court an affidavit stating that he notified his clients, relevant courts and opposing parties of his suspension.

Furr served more than a year in state prison after his conviction.

He represented Charles Trautwein, who was accused of rape in 1994. Furr’s investigator, Monica Glazebrook, hired the victim to work as a salesperson in her new company, befriended her and suggested that the woman sue the defendant civilly. She never disclosed that she was actually working for the defendant.

Glazebrook then set up a meeting with herself, Furr and the victim to discuss the possibility of a civil suit. At the meeting, Furr and Glazebrook introduced themselves to one another as if they had never met. Furr told the victim he represented Trautwein in regard to a possible civil settlement but did not disclose that he also was his criminal defense attorney. He presented the victim with a declaration in support of a motion to reduce Trautwein’s bail, explaining that she should sign it so Trautwein could obtain money in his bail account that could be used to give her $16,000 to settle her civil claims.

He also gave the victim a five-page document in which she released all claims for civil damage in exchange for $16,000. The victim signed the release, which also stated that she was not required to testify at a criminal trial.

After receiving half the money, the victim went to a deputy district attorney and gave her the documents Furr had provided, but said the settlement agreement had nothing to do with whether she would testify at trial.

Furr later gave the victim’s boyfriend another $8,000 and suggested that if she did not testify, she could receive more money, an apartment in a gated community and a 10 percent share of Trautwein’s estate. At a meeting with the victim later the same day, Furr said she could receive up to $1 million if she didn’t testify.

When the victim was subpoenaed to testify, she told the prosecutor that the DA’s office was interfering with her negotiations with Furr. She did not, however, disclose the new offer of more money and housing.

The DA secretly taped a settlement conference in the rape case in which Furr claimed he had been unable to reach the victim for two months and sought a continuance of the trial, saying he was no longer Trautwein’s lawyer due to a disagreement between them. He did not disclose his meeting with the rape victim or that he had given her $16,000.

When the victim later cooperated with prosecutors, Glazebrook, who also was charged criminally, told her in a taped phone conversation that Furr and Trautwein were willing to give her another $15,000 and a trip to Cancun.

Furr told the district attorney’s investigator that the victim initiated the possibility of settling the case and that the settlement agreement was legitimate.

He testified that Trautwein believed the rape victim had stolen a watch from him and he hired Glazebrook to help recover it. Furr suggested Glazebrook set up a business and hire the victim as a way of finding the watch. It was while she was working for Glazebrook that the woman said she was interested in suing Trautwein because he had “big bucks,” Furr claimed.

Furr also said he didn’t believe a rape had occurred and he thought Trautwein could lose a substantial amount of money in a civil case. He therefore decided it would be best to try to settle any civil claims and Trautwein authorized him to pay the woman $20,000, Furr said. He denied offering the victim money in exchange for not testifying.

Rather than acknowledging any wrongdoing, McElroy found, Furr said he had done nothing wrong and in fact should be commended for carrying out Trautwein’s wishes and helping a crime victim, whom he said was not harmed because she received $16,000.

“Just as the jury in [Furr’s] criminal case rejected [his] version of the facts, so does this court,” McElroy wrote. “This court finds [his] testimony totally lacking credibility.”


STEVEN JEFFREY RIGGS [#147745], 48, of Irvine was disbarred May 13, 2007, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Riggs committed four acts of misconduct. In addition, three prior disciplines “have not served to rehabilitate (Riggs) or to deter him from further misconduct,” wrote Judge Pat McElroy.

While representing a client in a federal case, he was ordered three times to file an opening brief or a motion for relief from default after missing the original deadline. The court filed a notice of default and eventually appointed a new lawyer.

Riggs performed no services of any value for his client, did not refund any of the advance $5,000 fee and did not notify the client that he was suspended for part of the time he was handling the case.

When the bar attempted to contact Riggs, it was unable to do so because he did not keep his address up to date with bar records.

McElroy found that Riggs failed to refund unearned fees, communicate with a client or maintain a current address with the bar and he committed an act of moral turpitude by misrepresenting to the bar that he had notified his clients of his suspension.

Riggs originally was disciplined with a public reproval in 2001 after he failed to perform legal services competently in four matters before the U.S. Court of Appeal, which disbarred him.

In 2004, he was disciplined again after stipulating that he failed to refund advance fees, return client papers and property, perform legal services competently, cooperate with the bar’s investigation, provide a complete accounting of legal services rendered or comply with probation conditions attached to the public reproval. He did not file a quarterly probation report, attend ethics school, complete the MPRE or complete six hours of MCLE.

When he failed to comply with probation conditions attached to the 2004 suspension, he was suspended again in 2006.


SUSPENSION/PROBATION

MARIA F. ALVAREZ [#1218136], 47, of Long Beach was suspended for 90 days, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect April 28, 2007.

Alvarez and her mother agreed in writing that Alvarez would have authority to sell or transfer a cafe´ owned by her parents upon her mother’s death. The document, however, had no legal effect.

When Alvarez sold the cafe´ after her mother died and later sued the buyers for alleged misappropriation, the suit was dismissed because the court ruled she had no standing to sue in her individual capacity. She then filed the probates for her parents’ estates and was appointed their personal representative.

She filed a second complaint against the buyers that was dismissed because the statute of limitations had run.

The court awarded $70,000 in attorneys’ fees to the buyers, a ruling upheld by the court of appeal, which found that Alvarez lacked standing to prosecute an action on behalf of her parents’ estates because no probate had been filed.

Alvarez stipulated that she failed to perform legal services competently.

In mitigation, she had no previous record of discipline, cooperated with the bar’s investigation and suffered extreme emotional distress when her parents died.


JOHNATHAN ANDREW BORNSTEIN [#196345], 38, of San Rafael JOHNATHAN ANDREW BORNSTEIN [#196345], 38, of San Rafael was suspended for 18 months, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to show his rehabilitation and to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect May 13, 2007.

Bornstein pleaded guilty last year to misdemeanor driving under the influence with two priors. He was sentenced to 120 days in the county jail, declared an habitual traffic offender and his license was suspended for three years.

In mitigation, Bornstein cooperated with the bar investigation, pleaded guilty and has no prior record of discipline.


JOHN THOMAS COATES [#207175], 36, of Long Beach was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect May 13, 2007.

Coates stipulated to three counts of misconduct that resulted from his client’s application for an extension of her work visa. She paid Coates $450 as attorney fees and $185 as advanced costs for filing the application.

For six months, the client attempted to obtain information about the status of her application. Coates did not respond until he received a fax from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that it rejected the application because neither the $750 processing fee nor an application form were included. Although the client provided a check for $750, Coates did not resubmit the application.

Two months later, he told the client the initial check for $185 had been returned as stale. She then provided a new check for that amount, but Coates still did not resubmit the application.

After the client learned the $750 check had not been cashed, Coates promised to send a letter to USCIS to confirm the original application had been filed nine months earlier and to request a receipt for the $750. He never sent the letter, instead assuring the client that both the application and the payment had been submitted.

Hearing nothing further, despite her requests for a receipt and copies of the paperwork, the client hired a new lawyer. Coates did not respond to three letters from the lawyer, but finally met with him and admitted he had not done the work required, refunded the advanced fees and costs and agreed to cooperate in any attempt to reopen the application process. At that point, more than a year had passed since Coates was initially hired and the client did not know the application had not been refiled.

Coates stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently or keep his client informed of developments in her case. He had been publicly reproved in 2005, and his misconduct violated the conditions of the reproval.

In mitigation, Coates cooperated with the bar’s investigation, demonstrated remorse and made restitution to the client.


ROBERT CHANDLER CARR [#154023], 43, of San Diego 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 May 13, 2007.

Carr stipulated that she violated probation conditions attached to a 2005 private reproval imposed for the unauthorized practice of law. She filed two quarterly probation reports late, did not file three reports at all and did not attend ethics school.

In mitigation, Carr cooperated with the bar’s investigation and she had severe family problems.


JUSTIN MATTHEW GINGERY [#204217], 33, of Elk Grove 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, comply with rule 9.20 and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect May 24, 2007.

Gingery stipulated to two counts of misconduct — failing to maintain funds in trust for a client and aiding and abetting the unauthorized practice of law.

Gingery maintained both a business account and a client trust account at the same bank. When he received settlement checks, he deposited them in his trust account, but then typically wrote two checks from that account for each client. The first was payable to the client and represented the client’s share of the settlement. The second was to Gingery’s business account and included both his fees and funds he was holding to pay medical liens.

He then paid medical lienholders with checks from his business account. By doing so, he failed to maintain medical lien funds in his trust account.

Gingery had offices in Sacramento, where he lived, and in Chico, where he employed his father as his senior administrator with limited supervision. He allowed his father to interview new clients, sign medical liens on Gingery’s behalf, negotiate settlements with insurance companies, discuss settlements with clients, deposit settlement fees in his trust account and provide instructions on how to distribute settlement proceeds.

By doing so, the father was practicing law. Several insurance adjusters believed the father was an attorney, and Gingery never advised them otherwise.

Gingery contends that he took the following steps to insure that his father was not acting as an attorney: he spent three to four days a week in the Chico office and later closed it; either he or his partners supervise his father’s work; clients and insurance adjusters are notified the father is not an attorney; negotiations are conducted by lawyers; and all questions from clients, doctors and insurance adjusters are answered by lawyers.

In mitigation, Gingery cooperated with the bar’s investigation. He acted in good faith, believing he was helping his clients.


S. CALLAGHAN BRICKWOOD aka SUSAN CALLAGHAN BRICKWOOD aka SUSAN LYNN BRICKWOOD [#96324], 60, of New York, N.Y. was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on one year of probation with a 90-day actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect May 25, 2007.

Brickwood stipulated to three counts of misconduct in a bankruptcy matter.

In 1987, a client paid a $1,200 fee plus the filing fee for Brickwood to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. He then told Brickwood to postpone the preparation and filing and advised her not to do any further work on the matter.

In 2005, the client’s employee told Brickwood he wanted to go ahead with the bankruptcy and he provided all relevant information and documents as well as a $209 filing fee. Brickwood did not maintain a client trust account.

The client signed the petition and returned it to Brickwood with the understanding she would file it with the bankruptcy court. She never filed the petition.

A few months later, Brickwood informed the client she was closing her office. She said she had filed the petition but the client did not need to hire a new attorney and could appear in pro per. Brickwood moved to New York but did not give the client her new contact information.

After the client complained to the State Bar, Brickwood refunded his fees with interest.

She stipulated that she failed to perform legal services competently or maintain client funds in trust and she improperly withdrew from employment.

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


RICHARD ROGER HURLEY [#183440], 49, of Tustin was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual two-year suspension and until he proves his rehabilitation and makes restitution and he was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect May 25, 2007.

In 2004, Hurley stipulated to 15 counts of misconduct arising from eight consolidated matters, but discipline was stayed when he was accepted into the State Bar Court’s alternative discipline program for lawyers with substance abuse or mental problems. Hurley’s participation in the program ended when he was terminated by the Lawyer Assistance Program for not complying with the terms of his participation agreement.

Most of the cases involved his representation of criminal defendants; he either abandoned them or failed to perform legal services competently. He also failed to return unearned fees in several matters.

In one case, for example, Hurley was hired to represent a man convicted of a criminal offense who was seeking either to withdraw his guilty plea or to seek a modification of his sentence. The client endorsed for deposit in Hurley’s trust account a check for almost $30,000. Hurley agreed to take $2,000 as his fee and to return the rest in three payments. Although he made the payments, he still owed the client more than $2,700, which he misappropriated.

Hurley never filed any motions or took any action to contest his client’s conviction or sentence, nor did he appear at a hearing. The court relieved him as counsel and appointed a public defender.

Hurley admitted that he failed to perform legal services competently, promptly pay client funds or maintain client funds in trust and he misappropriated client funds, committing an act of moral turpitude.

In another criminal matter, Hurley said he would seek to have his client’s warrant cleared and secure her release from custody. However, he never communicated with the client and did no work on the case, admitting that he failed to perform legal services competently or refund unearned fees.

In another matter, he represented a couple who had a noise dispute with a neighbor. Although he filed a lawsuit, Hurley did not respond to discovery requests or notify his clients or opposing counsel of an evaluation conference. He moved his office without telling the clients. They hired a new lawyer, but Hurley did not respond to their demand for a refund of their fee, although he eventually paid a partial refund after a fee arbitrator ruled in favor of the clients.

He failed to perform legal services competently or promptly refund fees and he improperly withdrew from employment.

Although the bar court acknowledged a causal connection between Hurley’s mental health and substance abuse problems and his misconduct, his termination from the discipline diversion program indicates he has not “undergone a meaningful and sustained period of rehabilitation,” said Judge Richard A. Honn.


JOSE JESS ALVAREZ [#65039], 60, of Oakland was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect June 3, 2007.

Alvarez stipulated to five counts of misconduct in two matters.

The first involved a Spanish-speaking client who hired Alvarez to obtain a court order releasing a lien on her house. She signed a fee agreement written in English that was not understandable to her, and Alvarez did not advise her to seek independent legal advice. Among other things, the agreement required the client to engage in mandatory fee arbitration.

She also signed a promissory note securing his fee, requiring her to pay $300 a month and obligating her to pay $5,000 a year later whether or not she wished to terminate Alvarez’ services. The note waived any protest to the fees and was secured by her home.

The client’s consent to both the fee agreement and the promissory note was not informed consent and the terms of the note were not fair. The note also gave Alvarez an interest adverse to his client.

Alvarez did no substantive work for the client, who ultimately hired a paralegal to help her file the necessary documents to remove the lien on her home.

He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently or respond to his client’s inquiries about the status of her case and he improperly withdrew from representation and acquired an interest adverse to his client.

In a divorce matter in which Alvarez represented the husband, he again had his Spanish-speaking client sign a fee agreement and a promissory note whose terms were not explained. The note was for $8,500. The client’s consent was not informed.

After three years, Alvarez had the client sign a substitution of attorney form substituting him out of the case. At the same time, he had the client sign a new promissory note, secured by his home, for $11,000. Alvarez claimed the note was provided in consideration of reducing his legal fee to $11,000. He never filed the substitution of attorney.

He stipulated that he acquired an interest adverse to his client.

In mitigation, Alvarez had no prior discipline record.


GORDON G. BONES [#147679], 53, of Fair Oaks was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect June 3, 2007.

Bones stipulated to two counts of misconduct in handling an estate case.

He was hired by the niece of the estate’s beneficiary and had a responsibility to protect the interest of the estate for the beneficiary. The niece had power of attorney for the care of her uncle’s health and assets.

When she asked for an estimate of the value of the care she provided to her uncle and his deceased sister, Bones said she was entitled to compensation totaling more than $41,000. He did not receive the uncle’s permission to allow his niece to collect any assets from the estate.

Nonetheless, the niece, who controlled the proceeds of the sale of a piece of property that was part of the estate, withdrew $41,000 of that money for herself.

The uncle then gave power of attorney to his daughter. Bones gave her a check for $35,000 and told her attorney he was withholding more than $6,000 “pending a final resolution of all potential issues with respect to this matter,” including the uncle’s capacity to execute a legal document.

The sister filed an action against the niece, demanding the return of about $47,000 plus interest. Bones represented the niece, who agreed to pay the disputed amount. Bones paid $5,000 from his own funds as part of the settlement. He eventually declared that the $6,000-plus he withheld was for payment of his legal fees. As a result, the uncle lost $1,148 plus interest.

Bones stipulated that he breached his fiduciary duties to the estate by allowing the niece to take more than $41,000 and that he represented conflicting interests by representing the niece and the uncle, who both claimed a right to the same funds.

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


JOHN WONGOO RHEE [#114109], 49, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a six-month actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect June 3, 2007.

Rhee stipulated to misconduct in four matters.

Three involved his failure to properly maintain his client trust account: He commingled client and personal funds, issued three checks against insufficient funds and did not respond to a bar investigator’s inquiries about the account.

He represented a client in a federal criminal trial, but when offered plea agreements by the prosecution, did not advise the client of sentencing guidelines that would have meant a longer sentence if the man were convicted. He also did not file any motions to suppress evidence when there was a legal basis to do so. He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently.

Rhee was disciplined in 1995 for failing to perform legal services competently, return a client file or preserve client funds in a trust account.


KATHRYN RAFFEE BUFFINGTON [#82565], 55, of Long Beach was suspended for four years, stayed, placed on four years of probation with an actual one-year suspension and was ordered to prove her rehabilitation and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect June 3, 2007.

Buffington stipulated to two acts of misconduct. She practiced law while suspended for failure to pay her bar dues and she committed an act of moral turpitude by identifying herself as an attorney while suspended.

She was disciplined in 1999 following convictions for driving under the influence, child endangerment and refusing to provide identifying information at the scene of an accident where there was property damage. She was again disciplined in 2006 following another DUI conviction, her third since 1996.


THOMAS RYAN LEE [#61858], 60, of Los Angeles was suspended for five months, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to make restitution. The order took effect June 13, 2007.

Lee violated the conditions of a 2003 private reproval. He filed seven quarterly probation reports late, did not take the MPRE on time and did not make five restitution payments.

The reproval was imposed because Lee acquired an interest adverse to a client.

In mitigation, he provided a lump sum payment towards the total restitution owed his client before stipulating to misconduct.


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