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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

MARGARET E. MONOS [#146871], 33, of Los Angeles was disbarred Oct. 5, 2007, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and make restitution to five clients.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Monos committed 21 acts of misconduct in six client matters that were either marital dissolutions or child support issues. Each client made repeated attempts to obtain information, their case files, unearned fees or accountings from Monos.

One client, for example, called Monos 24 times without getting a response. Other than an invoice for legal fees, Monos did not communicate with him about the case.

Another client reconciled with his wife and was entitled to a refund of advanced fees. Despite numerous phone calls and letters demanding an accounting and a refund, the client never received a response from Monos.

In another case, she never filed the dissolution petition or responded to her client’s inquiries. When he fired her, Monos did not refund unearned fees, account for the fees or return his file.

She did not perform any legal services for a client who hired her to set aside two judgments of paternity and to resolve a child support dispute. Another client called her three or four times a week, but she took no action to resolve his child support arrearages.

Monos had another disciplinary recommendation pending before the Supreme Court stemming from similar misconduct: she essentially abandoned four clients, did not return unearned fees or client files and did not provide accountings. She did not participate in those proceedings.

Judge Richard Platel recommended that Monos be disbarred, noting she had been engaged in misconduct for more than two years, affecting 10 clients. “The serious and unexplained nature of the misconduct, the lack of participation in these proceedings as well as the self-interest underlying (her) actions suggest that she is capable of future wrongdoing and raise concerns about her ability or willingness to comply with her ethical responsibilities,” Platel wrote.


MARIO A. BAUTISTA [#188173], 50, of San Jose was summarily disbarred Oct. 11, 2007, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20.

Bautista did not appear for sentencing after he was convicted in 2005 of five felonies. The failure to appear is a felony that includes as an essential element the intent to “evade the process of court,” resulting in an obstruction of justice. The State Bar Court concluded that the offense is both a felony and it involves moral turpitude and therefore meets the criteria for summary disbarment.

Bautista was convicted of five crimes including sexual penetration of a person under the age of 16 and attempting to dissuade a witness from reporting a crime. Those convictions are on appeal.

When he failed to appear for sentencing, a bench warrant was issued.

Bautista was placed on interim suspension in 2005 and 2006. He also was suspended indefinitely from practice before the federal Board of Immigration Appeals.


JOHN RAYMOND LaBRUCHERIE [#141051], 48, of Ontario was disbarred Oct. 19, 2007, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that LaBrucherie failed to comply with rule 955 (now renumbered as rule 9.20). He did not submit to the bar court an affidavit stating that he notified his clients, opposing counsel and other interested parties of his suspension from practice.

Failure to comply with rule 9.20 is grounds for disbarment.

LaBrucherie was suspended and placed on probation in 2006 after he stipulated to seven counts of misconduct in two client matters. He failed to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients or cooperate with the bar’s investigation, and he made misrepresentations to his clients and improperly withdrew from a case.


CHERYL ANN PODBIELSKI [#134570], 49, of Torrance was disbarred Oct. 28, 2007, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20.

Podbielski failed to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court (since renumbered as rule 9.20) as ordered in 2006. She did not submit to the State Bar Court an affidavit stating that she notified her clients, opposing counsel and other interested parties of her suspension. Failure to comply with the rule is grounds for disbarment.

The discipline was imposed for abandoning a client and failing to return client files, communicate with a client or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.


SUSPENSION/PROBATION

RICHARD ROGER HURLEY [#183440], 49, of Riverside was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on five years of probation and was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE. The order took effect Sept. 9, 2007.

Hurley stipulated to three counts of misconduct in representing a criminal defendant in Orange County. Although he advised his client she did not need to appear for arraignment, Hurley also did not appear and a bench warrant was issued.

He appeared at four subsequent pre-trial hearings but not at a fifth and again a bench warrant was issued for his client, who had returned to her home state of Missouri. Hurley did not tell his client about the arrest warrant and in fact told her there was nothing to worry about.

The client eventually learned about the bench warrant, which disqualified her from sitting for a nursing board examination. Hurley moved to Florida and when the client located him, he assured her he would resolve all outstanding issues, including having the warrant recalled. However, at the time, he was suspended from practice and arranged for another attorney to represent his client. The other attorney resolved the case.

The client sought a refund of her fee, but Hurley did not return her money or account for it.

He stipulated that he failed to provide legal services competently, keep a client informed about developments in her case or refund an unearned fee.

Hurley stipulated to misconduct in 11 matters in 2003 but entered the bar’s alternative discipline program, so the discipline was stayed. He was terminated from the program earlier this year and was suspended for two years and placed on five years of probation for misconduct that included abandoning his clients and failing to perform legal services competently or return unearned fees.

The two disciplines are being served concurrently.


LOUIS GORDON BRUNO [#137898], 56, of Escondido was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 9, 2007.

Bruno stipulated to three counts of misconduct in a lawsuit against an insurance company in which his client sought full reimbursement for damages to his car in an accident. At a pretrial conference, attorneys for the insurer told Bruno that because the company did not insure his client, his claims were barred. Bruno did not tell his client there might be an issue about his standing and that the insurance company planned to file a motion for judgment on the pleadings.

Bruno did not file any opposition and the court entered judgment in favor of the insurance company and ordered Bruno’s client to pay costs. Bruno did not inform his client about the developments, did not attempt to set aside the judgment and performed no further work.

It was not until five months later that Bruno admitted to the client that a judgment had been entered against him, after the client contacted another attorney.

Bruno stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, keep his client informed about developments in his case or respond to the client’s inquiries.

In mitigation, Bruno practiced for 19 years without a discipline record, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and demonstrated remorse, and the client suffered minimal harm.


OWEN T. MASCOTT [#134243], 55, of Pleasant Hill was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on one year of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 16, 2007.

Mascott stipulated to one count of misconduct — he withdrew from representation in a proceeding before a tribunal without obtaining the court’s permission.

He was brought into a lawsuit filed by the president of a company that designs and maintains Web sites. The company sued a client with whom it had a dispute that was referred to a collection agency.

After reviewing the case, Mascott said it would take only 15 minutes to be heard and said he would charge $247 for the representation.

The court ruled in favor of the defendant and ordered Mascott’s client to pay the defendant’s attorney fees. The defendant requested $6,757.50 in fees.

Mascott wrote to his client and said he found the fee demand “extremely overblown.” He also said he felt shortchanged, because he was paid only for an hour-and-a-half of work, and he no longer wanted to represent his client. He told the client he had 18 days to file an opposition to the motion for fees and withdrew from the case.

The client was unable to find a new lawyer because of the short lead time and could not file papers himself because corporations must be represented by a lawyer in California; the client was president of a corporation. The client paid $5,000 in satisfaction of the attorney’s fees.

Mascott failed to seek or receive permission of the court to withdraw as counsel and did not obtain a substitution of counsel. According to the court file, he remains counsel of record to the client.

Mascott was privately reproved in 1994 for making misleading statements to the court.

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


STEVEN R. LISS [#129527], 52, of La Jolla was suspended for one year, stayed, and was placed on two years of probation. The order took effect Sept. 16, 2007.

Liss stipulated that he failed to communicate significant developments to his clients, a couple who were exploring the possibility of adopting a baby. They paid Liss a $450 consulting fee.

A few days later, Liss asked them to execute an employment agreement and send $17,500 in advanced fees, plus $1,000 for costs. However, he made no distinction between anticipated costs to be incurred and the flat fee in lieu of costs that Liss asserted in the agreement.

The clients paid Liss $19,000 in two installments. He agreed to locate a birth mother, match the clients with a child and take the necessary actions to adopt a child. He did not adequately explain that the time estimate of four to six months was conditioned on his expectations of the client or adequately explain what those expectations were. The clients eventually became disappointed with what they perceived as a lack of diligence by Liss and eventually fired him and sought a refund of $18,500.

Liss refused because of a purported “non-refundable” clause in the fee agreement. He offered to refund $200 and to continue to represent the couple. They took the matter to a fee arbitrator, who ruled in their favor. Liss complied with the arbitration award.

Liss was reproved twice in 2004 for failure to perform legal services competently, promptly refund unearned fees or comply with a court order.

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


JEFFREY KIRK RUBENSTEIN [#167192], 43, of Los Angeles was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a 60-day actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and prove his rehabilitation. Credit will be given for a period of inactive enrollment from 2001-03. The order took effect Sept. 16, 2007.

Rubenstein admitted to misconduct in 13 matters: eight counts of failing to perform legal services competently, seven counts of failing to promptly refund unearned fees and a single failure to inform the bar of sanctions imposed against him. The misconduct occurred, for the most part, over 15 months in 2000 and 2001.

At the time, Rubenstein was suffering from substance abuse and mental health problems that were directly responsible for his actions. He was admitted to the State Bar Lawyer Assistance Program in 2002, complying with its requirements, and successfully completed the Alternative Discipline Program. Indeed, State Bar Court Judge Richard Honn described Rubenstein as “an exemplary participant” and added, “based on his dedication to his sobriety and his mental health stability, as well as his dedication to the ADP and the LAP, the court finds it appropriate to reduce the length of time that (Rubenstein) is required to participate in the ADP.”

Rubenstein had no prior discipline record.


KEVIN FRANCIS CHRISTOF [#194684], 46, of Santa Monica was suspended for two years, stayed, actually suspended for 18 months and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension, and he was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Sept. 23, 2007.

In 2006, Christof was suspended for two years by the Arizona Supreme Court for misconduct involving three clients. He bore the burden of establishing that the misconduct would not warrant discipline in California, but he defaulted. The California bar determined that had the misconduct been committed in California, it would have warranted discipline in this state. The State Bar Court found that he failed to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients or refund unearned fees.

In a marital dissolution, Christof did not file a petition and a default was entered against his client. The day before a scheduled hearing, he filed an answer, but he was not allowed to participate in the hearing because of the default. The client hired a new lawyer, who filed a complaint against Christof with the Arizona bar. A motion to vacate the default was denied because the court found the client did not act promptly. The client paid the new lawyer more than $7,000 in fees and costs.

In the second matter, he was hired to handle modification of a child support order. Although he received the relevant documents from his client, he did not notice that she had been personally served with the petition to modify support. He therefore miscalculated the response date required by the court, which determined that Christof’s request for hearing was untimely.

Christof said he explained to the client that her husband made a procedural error, but claimed she became belligerent and blamed him for developments in the case. When she hired a new lawyer, Christof stopped working on the case and sent the client’s $750 retainer to the new attorney.

Christof was ordered to participate in an ethics program and a law office management program but did not do so.

In the third matter, also a child support/custody case, the client made regular payments until Christof stopped returning her phone calls or responding to e-mails. Christof said it was the client who did not respond to his messages, so he closed her file.


SHELDON GILBERT BARDACH [#32057], 70, of Los Angeles Los Angeles was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an 18-month actual suspension and was ordered to make restitution, take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect Sept. 23, 2007.

Bardach stipulated that he did not comply with conditions of a 2005 public reproval by not submitting to the State Bar proof of his attendance at ethics school or restitution to a client. The discipline was imposed for entering into a business transaction with a client without advising the client to seek independent legal advice and for failing to comply with conditions attached to a 2003 private reproval.

The original discipline was imposed for failing to refund unearned fees. In addition, Bardach was suspended in 2006 for failing to perform legal services competently or maintain funds in a client trust account.

In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and he has had severe financial and marital problems.


ROBERT SPENCER DOUGLASS [#50422], 62, of Rancho Santa Fe was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 60-day actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 23, 2007.

Douglass was convicted in 2004 of 123 misdemeanor counts of violating the California Insurance Code.

He operated several Riverside County bail bond agencies and between late 1999 and March 2001, an employee illegally solicited and paid more than $20,000 to 509 county jail inmates for bail bond referrals, in violation of the Insurance Code. Douglass was arrested and an audit showed that he was aware of the unlawful payments.

He was sentenced to 93 days in jail, to be served under house arrest, three years of probation and was ordered to pay $425,000 in civil penalties and costs. He forfeited his bail license, sold his bail corporation and is barred from applying for a bail license in the future.

His convictions did not involve moral turpitude but they warranted discipline.

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


TODD CLARK DAVIS [#186531], 41, of Riverside was suspended for two years, stayed, and actually suspended for 60 days and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension. If the actual suspension exceeds 90 days, he must comply with rule 9.20; if it exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Sept. 23, 2007.

The State Bar Court found that Davis engaged in acts involving moral turpitude in a single client matter and that he failed to cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

A client hired him to obtain a reduction in his child support payments; the matter was urgent because the client’s salary had been greatly reduced. Davis never filed an order to show cause to initiate the proceedings. He lied to the client by saying he was waiting for the court to set a hearing, that the court rejected a first order and he would have to file a second, and that he had sent a copy of various documents the client requested.

Davis finally filed an order to show cause but then sought a continuance so he could give notice to the opposing party. The client fired him.

When a bar investigator asked for a written response to allegations of misconduct, Davis did not respond.

He also was disciplined in April 2007 for four counts of misconduct, including failing to perform legal services competently, communicate with a client, refund unearned fees or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.


MATTHEW JAMES HUNTER [#221631], 33, of Palm Springs was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a five-month actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. Credit will be given for a period of interim suspension that began Aug. 14, 2006. The order took effect Sept. 27, 2007.

Hunter was convicted in 2006 of felony possession of a controlled substance. He was arrested at a hotel after he injected methamphetamine and began to act delusional. He had been arrested the previous year for being under the influence of methamphetamine.

He was accepted into the Lawyer Assistance Program, completed a 60-day residential program at a recovery center and was placed on interim suspension by the bar. He stipulated that his misconduct warranted discipline.

In addition to participating in the LAP, Hunter attends one or two AA meetings daily and is clean and sober.

In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation, was not actively practicing at the time of his arrest and has no prior record of discipline.


ALAN ARTHUR ANJOZIAN [#149774], 42, of Corona del Mar was suspended for 18 months, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 120-day actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect Sept. 27, 2007.

Anjozian stipulated that he entered into a business transaction with a client in which he acquired an interest adverse to the client.

For seven years, he represented a client and the client’s insurance business; his legal services included representing the client in a personal injury matter and assisting the man in running his business. A company owned by Anjozian bought a 50 percent interest in the client’s business, but Anjozian did not disclose all the terms and conditions of the transaction in writing. Among the information Anjozian did not provide was how the business would be managed, the impact of under-capitalization and how he and the cient would resolve a deadlock concerning business decisions.

In mitigation, Anjozian has no prior discipline record.


MICHAEL HENRY MAURICE TODARO [#170248], 62, of Khanh Hoa, Vietnam was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a three-month actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect Oct. 5, 2007.

Todaro stipulated to three counts of misconduct in two client matters.

In the first, he represented a married couple in civil litigation with a contractor. After the client asked for an accounting of his $5,000 fee, Todaro claimed about $30,000 in fees and costs. The client objected, complained to the State Bar and told Todaro he planned to file a small claims action and seek fee arbitration from the local bar association.

The client filed a small claims action that he and Todaro settled. As partial consideration for Todaro’s agreement to forgo suing the client for fees and for continuing to represent him in the civil case, the client agreed to drop his complaint to the bar.

Todaro stipulated that he sought and entered into an agreement to withdraw a disciplinary complaint against him.

In a civil action against an insurance company, Todaro’s client grew dissatisfied with him and fired him, two days after her sister warned Todaro of her plans. Todaro e-mailed an independent insurance adjuster with whom the client previously negotiated her claim and told him the client was “on the warpath,” was “going ballistic” and planned to hire a lawyer to sue him. Todaro knew the insurance adjuster was a potential adverse party in prospective litigation that involved his client.

He later e-mailed the adjuster, further demeaning his client and her motives.

Althought Todaro received two letters terminating him, he continued to try to gather documentation to help negotiate a resolution of her claim. When the client instructed him in a third letter to cease any communication with her and to return her $1,500 fee, Todaro did not refund any money.

He stipulated that he breached his duty of loyalty to his client and failed to account for client funds.

In mitigation, Todaro has no record of discipline in 13 years of practice.


JAMES P. SWANSEEN [#159918], 59, of San Rafael was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a 60-day actual suspension and was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE within one year. If he is actually suspended for more than two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Oct. 5, 2007.

Swanseen stipulated to misconduct in five matters as part of his acceptance into the State Bar’s Alternative Discipline Program for lawyers with mental health or substance abuse problems. Three of the matters involved his use of methamphetamine and a fourth stemmed from a conviction for driving with a suspended license.

In one matter, he represented a client in a criminal case and entered into a fee agreement in which the client’s father transferred title and custody of his van to Swanseen as collateral for a retainer and legal fees. Although Swanseen agreed not to drive the van, he put 7,423 miles on it. While in his possession, the van was damaged. While driving on a suspended license, Swanseen was pulled over and arrested for possession of methamphetamine. He was subsequently convicted.

Swanseen did not advise the client’s father to seek independent legal advice or obtain his written consent to the terms of the transaction. He stipulated that he accepted fees from a non-client and acquired an interest adverse to a client.

In another criminal case, Swanseen failed to appear at several hearings and did not notify the court that his client died. He was sanctioned $1,500 but did not pay in a timely matter. He stipulated that he improperly withdrew from employment without the court’s permission, failed to maintain respect for the court and failed to perform legal services competently.

In mitigation, Swanseen has no prior discipline record, was the sole care provider for his elderly mother, participates in continuing drug treatment and he suffers from severe dental disease, resulting in the loss of his teeth and severe pain.


SUSANNE ANN GRIFFIN [#146972], 60, of Santa Monica was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 5, 2007.

Griffin was the attorney for an inmate at Pelican Bay who asked her to mail a letter from him to another inmate who was housed in a separate section of the prison. Correspondence between inmates housed in different sections is prohibited without approval of the warden.

Griffin placed the letter in a professional envelope, which was given greater privacy protection than regular mail because of the attorney-client privilege. She did not represent the inmate to whom the letter was addressed and it was confiscated by prison officials.

By her actions, Griffin assisted in the violation of California’s Code of Regulations and she failed to support the laws of the state.

Griffin contends that her client is a jailhouse lawyer who provides legal services for other inmates, which she says is permitted by law. She said the letter in question contained legal advice. She also said she was unaware of the regulation in question.

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


KENNETH PETER FERIA [#221685], 37, of Universal City was suspended for 18 months, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 5, 2007.

Feria stipulated to misconduct in three matters.

In the first, he represented a woman in an arbitration with her auto insurance carrier. However, he repeatedly missed hearings, did not make the client available for a medical exam and did not respond to the opposing attorney’s letters and demands or to various motions. The matter was dismissed and Feria took no steps to set aside the dismissal. He also did not return his client’s phone calls; during a one-year period, she left messages two to three times a month.

In the second matter, he filed a civil suit against four defendants who assaulted his client. Although he requested and received two extensions to respond to discovery requests, he did not provide his client’s responses on time. He later e-mailed unverified responses, even when the court ordered that verified responses be submitted.

The case was dismissed when Feria failed to appear at an order to show cause hearing. He also did not return his client’s numerous phone calls.

In an insurance matter stemming from an automobile accident, Feria did not respond to the insurance company’s offer to settle the case. Ten months later, after the insurance company inquired about its offer, Feria accepted without notifying his client. When the company sent various documents to be signed by the client, Feria did not respond. After calling Feria about 20 times over a six-month period and getting no response, the client hired a new lawyer.

In all three matters, Feria stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently or communicate with clients.


PATRICIA L. NELSON [#192095], 43, of Sacramento was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 11, 2007.

Nelson stipulated that she committed an act of moral turpitude by authorizing a mass mailing of a letter that contained false and misleading information about her.

She purchased a marketing package that included a step-by-step guide for lawyers on how to successfully market and obtain clients with tax liens. She then subscribed to a company that used her letterhead and signature on a mass mailing to individuals and entities in its databank that are the subject of state and federal tax liens.

Nelson never reviewed the proposed distribution list to determine its accuracy, or to determine if anyone on the list was represented by counsel or if she might have a conflict with anyone on the list.

In addition, the letter claimed Nelson had significant experience representing clients before the IRS and had obtained successful results. In fact, she had no expertise in tax lien cases and had never represented a client regarding a tax lien issue.

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


PAUL J. MAJORS [#153641], 59, of Mission Viejo was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and make restitution. The order took effect Oct. 11, 2007.

Majors settled a claim by his clients against their child’s school district that included reimbursement of his fees and costs. The clients repeatedly asked Majors to provide an accounting and invoice that they could submit to the district.

Because Majors did not provide the information, the clients hired another attorney, who also was unsuccessful in obtaining an accounting. After a complaint was filed with the State Bar, Majors did not respond to the allegations against him.

He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

In mitigation, Majors has no prior discipline record.


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