California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA - MARCH 2000
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DISCIPLINE

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CAUTION!
More than 169,130 attorneys are eligible to practice law in California. Many attorneys share the same names.

All discipline reports should be read carefully for names, ages, addresses and bar numbers. Attorneys must report address changes within 30 days.

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DISBARMENTS

KEVIN REID RICHARDS [#108590], 46, of Templeton was disbarred Nov. 4, 1999, and was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.

Originally privately reproved in 1995 for failing to communicate with two clients or perform legal services competently, Richards did not comply with conditions of that discipline or a subsequent probation order.

As part of the private reproval, he was required to attend ethics school and take the professional responsibility exam within one year.

When he did neither, he was suspended in 1997 until he complied with those two requirements. He also was ordered to comply with rule 955 by notifying his clients and other pertinent parties of his suspension and to file an affidavit to that effect with the Supreme Court.

His failure to file the affidavit resulted in his disbarment. He did not participate in the proceedings and there was no mitigation.

SUSPENSIONS/PROBATION

STEVEN HAROLD GROSS [#100833], 56, of Agoura Hills 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. 17, 1999.

Gross was convicted in 1998 of conspiracy and capping as a result of a sting operation in Ventura County. Both felonies were reduced at sentencing to misdemeanors.

He was approached on one occasion by the operator of a chiropractic office and an undercover officer posing as the owner of a medical referral business. The chiropractic business planned to pay the phony referral office for workers’ comp and personal injury referrals.

Gross advised that he would pay referral fees, handle any clients sent to him, and suggested a way to avoid a direct connection between him and the referral agency.

Two undercover agents posing as personal injury clients met with Gross, who made an insurance demand. He also agreed to pay the referral agency, and said he expected a settlement of approximately $5,000.

Ultimately, 12 suspects, including four attorneys, five chiropractors, two office managers and one psychologist, were arrested in the sting operation. Indictments were returned against 10 individuals.

In mitigation, Gross practiced for 12 years without any discipline.

The conspiracy charge arose from a single conversation, in which Gross agreed to pay for personal injury referrals. The capping charge was the result of a single referral.

Gross never actually paid for the referral.

Although the charges were reduced to misdemeanors at the time of sentencing, they remain felonies within the meaning of the Business and Professions Code.

NANCY MARIE JONES [#61648], 51, of San Diego was suspended for 30 days, stayed, placed on one year of probation, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 17, 1999.

Jones stipulated to two counts of practicing law while she was suspended for failure to pay dues.

In one of the matters, her client terminated her services, but Jones did not read the letter until nine days after it was received in her office. The day before she read the letter, she sent a complaint on behalf of her client to federal court and it was actually filed three days later.

She wrote to her client and then served the complaint on the opposing parties because she believed it was necessary to protect her client’s rights.

By filing a complaint after her termination, Jones appeared without authority.

In mitigation, Jones’ failure to pay bar dues was a result of financial hardship. During the period of misconduct, she was suffering from personal difficulties resulting from the death of her mother and her father’s heart attack.

OREN JACQUES MARSH [#118015], 41, of Glendale was suspended for four years, stayed, and was placed on five years of probation with an actual 18-month suspension and until he makes restitution and proves rehabilitation. He was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Sept. 17, 1999.

Marsh stipulated to misconduct in 12 consolidated cases.

He settled six personal injury cases without the consent of his clients. He then misrepresented the status of cases and failed to maintain settlement funds in trust. Client signatures were forged on checks; some checks were written against insufficient funds.

A medical malpractice case was dismissed because Marsh was unable to find an expert witness to testify on his client’s behalf. He failed to adequately communicate the problem to his client, although Marsh believed his client had approved the dismissal of the action.

He and a client were sanctioned by the court in another malpractice action. The sanctions never were paid.

The bar court found that Marsh failed to perform legal services competently six times, failed to maintain client funds in trust six times and committed 12 acts of moral turpitude.

Marsh presented extensive mitigation detailing years of hard luck. His office manager, with whom he was close friends, embezzled both client and personal funds. He was out of his office for long periods of time because of a series of debilitating health problems, including shoulder surgery, three serious automobile accidents, and a spider bite which led to a life-threatening bacterial infection. Multiple prescriptions written by multiple doctors led to an addiction to pain killers.

A car was repossessed, his house was foreclosed and Marsh and his wife were forced to declare bankruptcy.

Marsh has overcome his drug problem and repaid all his clients and most of the medical providers who were owed money.

JAMES H. ZANDER [#54870], 52, of Encino was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with a one year actual suspension, and was ordered to pay a $54,754 sanction order, take the MPRE within one year, and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Sept. 17, 1999.

Zander’s law firm was involved in a probate matter from 1981 to 1991. An associate handled the bulk of the case until he left Zander’s firm and substituted into the case in 1982.

Zander disputed an accounting and demanded payment of additional fees. The court found that he had been overpaid and directed him to refund his former associate $1,909 to compensate for the overpayment. Zander appealed the order settling the estate.

In ensuing litigation which lasted for several more years, the Court of Appeal found that Zander continued a frivolous appeal after a stipulated settlement and imposed a sanction of $54,754.70 against him. Part was payable to the administrator’s attorneys and $50,000, payable to the estate’s administrator, was ordered to deter the “species of sham appeal here apparent.”

The State Bar Court found that Zander violated the rules of professional conduct by wrongfully continuing an appeal and by misleading a judge. It also found he committed four acts of moral turpitude.

Zander made misstatements in affidavits supporting two writs, in arguments opposing another attorney’s petition for payment and in an opening statement in an appeal.

Zander appealed the bar court’s discipline recommendation to the review department, alleging 29 points of error by the hearing judge. The review department upheld the hearing judge and actually increased the level of discipline.

In mitigation, Zander suffered from cancer which metastasized in 1991, requiring surgery and chemotherapy, which proved disabling. His income was reduced, making it difficult to pay the sanctions and care for his family.

The review department noted, however, that most of the misconduct occurred prior to his health problems. His misconduct included multiple acts of wrongdoing over a significant time period and caused significant harm to the administration of justice, the court found.

STEPHEN S. KING [#33489], 62, of Santa Monica was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within a year. The order took effect Sept. 24, 1999.

King stipulated to misconduct in three consolidated cases, and two other cases were dismissed.

In the first case, King represented a doctor in a divorce and five other matters. He did not notify the doctor for three months that he had received $15,000 from the sale of his client’s residence. Because King was representing the doctor in other matters, he mistakenly believed he had the authorization to sign the client’s name on the check and deposit it in his client trust account. King then took the $15,000 and applied it toward fees the doctor purportedly owed on the other cases.

King stipulated that he failed to maintain client funds pending their authorized distribution, and he failed to notify a client of the receipt of funds.

King prepared and filed a lawsuit against another client’s former attorney, but he did not file an answer to a summons and complaint or request a time extension. As a result, a default judgment was entered against his client. King stipulated that he acted with gross negligence in failing to perform legal services for his client. In mitigation, he succeeded in getting the default set aside.

In a third matter, he represented a client in a slip and fall claim which settled for $25,000. Because the client’s expenses exceeded the amount of the settlement, King negotiated reduced fees with her medical providers. However, it took him nine months to distribute the settlement proceeds.

In mitigation, King has an extensive background in teaching and lecturing in law schools for 30 years, has been active in professional groups involved with family law, and has served as both an arbitrator and a judge pro tem in the Los Angeles courts.

MARK E. POWERS [#132894], 42, of Santa Maria was suspended for nine months and placed on three years of probation. Credit toward the suspension will be given for the period of interim suspension which began June 9, 1997. The order took effect Sept. 24, 1999.

Powers was convicted in 1997 of assault with a deadly weapon, second degree burglary, possession of cocaine, battery and being under the influence of cocaine. He was found not guilty of battery causing serious bodily harm, but the jury found true special allegations of inflicting great bodily injury on the victim.

An appellate court upheld the felony convictions, and Powers was sentenced to 270 days in custody, 100 hours of community service and probation, with requirements for random drug tests and anger management therapy.

He had assaulted a friend of his former girlfriend, with whom he had a daughter. When the police responded to the fight, they found a packet of cocaine in his pocket, although Powers denied it belonged to him.

The State Bar Court found that his misconduct did not constitute acts of moral turpitude.

Powers was privately reproved in 1994 after pleading no contest to hitting another friend of his then-girlfriend. As part of his 1997 interim suspension for the criminal convictions, he was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court by notifying all clients and other pertinent parties of his suspension and filing an affidavit with the Supreme Court.

He failed to file the required affidavit, but he had no clients at the time. Nonetheless, he was given an additional suspension by the bar.

In mitigation, Powers voluntarily entered substance abuse and anger management programs before being ordered to do so by the court.

He regularly attends church and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, has been sober for three years, and undergoes regular drug testing.

He submitted letters attesting to his good character, is employed as a law clerk, has repaired his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, and has remarried.

DANIEL PATRICK WILLSEY [#143772], 39, of Pasadena was suspended for nine months, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 24, 1999.

Willsey stipulated that he failed to comply with the conditions of a 1997 private reproval. He did not submit three quarterly probation reports or proof of attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Willsey also was privately reproved in 1998.

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

The probation of DAVID A. DOBBS [#130931], 39, of San Francisco is revoked, the previous stay of suspension was lifted and he was suspended for two years and ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect Oct. 15, 1999.

In 1998, Dobbs was given a stayed suspension and three years of probation with conditions, including quarterly probation reports, restitution to a former client and development of a law office management plan.

He failed to comply with those probation requirements.