GREGORY J. ANTONE, [#60451] 51, of Half Moon
Bay was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on probation for
five years with an actual one-year suspension, and was ordered to
comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 26, 2001.
Antone stipulated to 21 counts of misconduct
stemming from four client matters filed in San Mateo County. The
violations included four counts each of failing to perform competent
legal services, disobeying a court order and effectively withdrawing
representation without court permission.
The State Bar dismissed another 11 violations.
In 1996, a San Mateo County Superior Court judge
complained to the State Bar about Antone's representation of several
In a medical malpractice matter, Antone failed to
appear at six case management conferences. He did note that in many
instances he contacted the courtroom clerk prior to the hearings to
say he would not be appearing. He also failed to pay $500 in sanctions
or dismiss the action, and was an hour late to a February 1996
show-cause hearing. The case was dismissed for lack of prosecution,
and Antone made no effort to have the dismissal set aside.
The other cases Antone took on suffered many of
the same problems - he missed six case management conferences in one
and seven in another, failed to pay sanctions, answer discovery
requests and file motions.
He also stipulated to failing to take steps to
avoid prejudice to a client and failing to communicate significant
developments to his clients. He did not respond to the bar's
allegations of misconduct or cooperate in its investigation.
Antone also failed to comply with conditions of a
March 1999 public reproval by failing to attend ethics school and
client trust accounting school. He was disciplined three other times
between 1992 and 1995, receiving probation, a public reproval and a
In mitigation, Antone had a series of illnesses
beginning in 1994, including a heart attack and a diagnosis of
diabetes. He had two deaths in the family, including his father, and
other family members suffered health problems. As a result, he
experienced emotional difficulties and depression which plagued him
during the time of his misconduct.
Antone failed to pay court sanctions due to
financial difficulties. He later discharged the debts by filing for
The probation of STEPHEN R. FLUHARTY,
[#89360], 47, of Glendale was revoked, he was suspended for 90
days and was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect
April 20, 2001.
Fluharty's probation was revoked after he
failed to submit two quarterly reports and two mental health reports
as required by a September 1996 disciplinary action.
Fluharty was the subject of a variety of
complaints in three client matters. In one, Fluharty was employed by a
woman to substitute as her attorney in a medical malpractice action.
He failed to pay the required court fees in an appeal and did not ask
the client for the funds, which resulted in a dismissal of the appeal.
Fluharty said he had advanced costs throughout
the duration of the case, but did not have the funds to pay the appeal
fee. He believed his client did not have the funds to pay the fee and
did not ask her for them.
MARCUS GOMEZ [#89698], 48, of Norwalk was
suspended for six months, stayed, and placed on probation for one year
with a 30-day actual suspension. The order took effect April 20, 2001.
Gomez stipulated to misappropriating $3,600 in
client funds and failing to maintain client funds in a trust account.
In May 1997, he won a $5,700 medical malpractice settlement. In
November of that year, after regular requests for the settlement by
the client, Gomez admitted the money had been misappropriated. Also,
Gomez failed to disburse funds to a medical lienholder, part of the
agreement made with the client.
Between May 1997 and March 1998, the balance in
Gomez' client trust account repeatedly fell below the $4,300 he was
required to maintain after subtracting $1,500 in attorney's fees.
Gomez said he was experiencing economic troubles
during the time of misconduct and that he later paid restitution in
this matter. He has a prior record of discipline, receiving a private
reproval in 1992.
STEVE HOWARD HERTZ [#153971], 45, of Costa
Mesa was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of
probation, and was ordered to make restitution, attend the bar's
trust accounting school within one year and take the MPRE. The order
took effect April 20, 2001.
Hertz stipulated to misconduct in two cases.
In a probate case, Hertz failed over a two-year
period to complete legal matters regarding his client's deceased
father's estate. The client had paid Hertz $11,961 to pay for
funeral costs, debt and other expenses of the estate. At the end of
two years, the client asked Hertz to return the case file and provide
an accounting of the funds. Hertz turned over the file, but did not
provide an accounting.
In a conservatorship case, Hertz was paid a
$2,000 advance fee to represent a client in filing for a
conservatorship of her mother. Hertz moved without telling his client,
left no forwarding address or phone number and did no work on the
He also mishandled his client trust account. He
deposited $1,900 in earned fees into the account, which he later
withdrew, and continued to write checks from the account against
insufficient funds. When he deposited a $5,490 check into the account,
the check bounced, leaving a $1,297.60 negative balance. By
misappropriating the funds, Hertz committed an act of moral turpitude.
He was ordered to pay a total of $5,997 to former
clients and to Wells Fargo Bank, which had covered the insufficient
In mitigation, Hertz cooperated with the bar's
investigation. He also suffered emotional or physical difficulties and
family problems during the time of the stipulated acts.
GUY MANNING [#139071], 40, of Palm Springs
was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of
probation with a one-year actual suspension and was ordered to make
restitution, take the MPRE within one year and submit quarterly
reports. Credit toward the actual suspension was given for a period of
interim suspension that began June 11, 1999. The order took effect
April 26, 2001.
Manning stipulated to misconduct in four cases,
starting with a felony possession of methamphetamine and misdemeanor
driving under the influence of a drug. He also failed to register in a
first time offender DUI program as ordered by the court.
The other three cases involved clients.
In a felony drug matter, Manning failed to appear
with his client at a trial readiness conference. He also did not
promptly refund a portion of a $10,000 advance fee for unearned work.
He failed to appear at his client's arraignment
in a misdemeanor criminal matter, and a $10,000 bench warrant was
issued against the client. A public defender was later assigned to the
client for the rest of the trial. Manning had been undergoing drug
rehabilitation at the Betty Ford Clinic at the time and mistakenly
believed his former partner would handle the case. He also failed to
return $750 in advance fees to the client, who died after demanding a
Another client hired and paid Manning $1,500 to
represent him in a motion to reduce or expunge a felony conviction.
After more than a year, Manning had still not filed a motion and the
client fired him. He sent the client an apology letter, saying that he
would refund the fee with interest after he sold his home. He did not
refund the money.
In mitigation, he has no prior record of
discipline over 12 years of practice and cooperated with the State Bar
investigation. He also suffered from difficulties in his personal
JAMES K. O'BRIEN [#168485], 41, of Beverly
Hills was suspended for one year, stayed, with an actual 90-day
suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply
with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must
prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect April 26, 2001.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court
found that O'Brien failed to comply with the conditions of a 1998
discipline order - he did not take the MPRE, attend ethics school or
trust accounting class within one year. The 1998 order was the result
of misconduct from 1995 to 1997 that included client trust account
violations, failure to promptly pay a client the entire amount of a
property damage settlement and practicing law while suspended for
failing to pay bar dues.
MICHAEL JEFFERY OLIVER [#42102], 62, of
Pleasant Hill was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on
probation for three years with an actual 90-day suspension, and was
ordered to take the MPRE, at least six hours of MCLE classes in office
management and comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 26,
Oliver stipulated to five counts of misconduct
while representing two clients in separate criminal cases - one
client in state court in 1997 and 1998, and the other in state and
federal courts through 1997 and 1998.
At the latter two trials, Oliver did not
competently represent his client several times. After entering a no
contest plea at the state trial, he failed to appear for the
client's sentencing three times. He failed to communicate with this
client for four months.
In the federal matter, Oliver was asked to submit
joint jury instructions. He never did, despite numerous letters of
request from the U.S. attorney. He also did not respond to repeated
requests from a probation officer who wanted to interview the client
for a probation report to the federal court.
Oliver failed to respond to a certified letter
from the assistant federal public defender who asked if he wished to
withdraw from the trial and offered to represent the client. He also
did not appear before the federal court despite an order to show
Oliver's lawyer eventually responded to the
federal order to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed for
contempt of court. He submitted Oliver's resignation from the
federal bar. A physician filed a declaration, stating that Oliver's
failure to represent his client was because of his battle with serious
depression, including two suicide attempts and continued need for
anti- depressant medication. The federal court judge removed Oliver
from the federal bar and ordered him to reimburse the federal public
defender's office for the time spent on his client's case. Oliver,
however, did not resign from the State Bar.
In the other unrelated criminal matter, Oliver
failed repeatedly to return client phone calls or keep the client
informed about developments in the case. The client had been sentenced
to either serve a jail term or apply for home detention. He tried for
seven months to reach Oliver, phoning three or four times a week,
regarding applying to the home detention program. Oliver never
responded. The client also unsuccessfully attempted to reach Oliver at
two addresses. When they finally met, Oliver told the client he was
busy working on other cases but would put the client's case on the
arriving at court, the client discovered that his case was not on the
calendar and a probation officer at the court knew nothing about it.
The client was later arrested for failure to surrender to authorities
by the deadline date.
Oliver represented the man in his probation
revocation; the client was sentenced to four years in state prison.
In mitigation, Oliver attributes his misconduct
to his severe depression, for which he is receiving treatment.
MICHAEL PHILIP RICHTER [#54408], 58, of San
Diego was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on probation
for one year and was ordered to attend at least six hours of MCLE
classes in law office management within one year. The order took
effect April 26, 2001.
Richter stipulated to three counts of misconduct
in two matters.
In a 1998 personal injury matter, Richter failed
to get an endorsement of a $3,000 settlement check, payable to his
client and Kaiser Permanente. He
kept the check in the client's file until April 2000, when
the file was returned to the client. The check had expired and the
client could not cash it. Richter failed to authorize the insurance
company to issue a new check for three more months.
During the time the check was in the file,
Richter told his client he would negotiate with the medical providers
to try to reduce the lien amounts. However, he never contacted any of
Richter failed to perform legal services
competently by not negotiating a new settlement check, obtaining the
endorsement of Kaiser on the settlement check or negotiating with the
medical providers as agreed. He also did not respond to the client's
repeated phone calls and certified letters over seven months.
Richter also failed to respond to the bar's
Richter also received a private reproval last
year for failing to perform legal services competently or return
client phone calls and for improper withdrawal from representation.
LAURIE A. STOFFEL [#130897], 40, of Sacramento
was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on probation for four
years with an actual one-year suspension and was ordered to make
restitution, attend ethics school, take the MPRE within one year and
comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 26, 2001.
In nine matters, Stoffel stipulated to misconduct
including improper withdrawal from client
representation and failure to perform legal services
competently, return client files or refund unearned client fees.
Three matters involved Stoffel's husband, who
worked as a paralegal in her law firm. Former clients mistook him for
an attorney and said he misled them about performing legal services on
their behalf. Although Stoffel said she knew little or nothing of her
husband's activities, the State Bar Court concluded that by failing
to adequately supervise her husband in his communication with clients,
Stoffel failed to perform legal services competently.
In one of the matters, tenants of a shopping mall
say Stoffel's husband approached them and obtained their permission
to renegotiate their leases. Some signed retainer agreements with
Stoffel's law firm. The tenants say the husband unsuccessfully tried
to renegotiate their leases and eventually another lawyer in the firm
was assigned to handle an action on their behalf to resolve the
Although the attorney filed a lawsuit, she quit
before the case was concluded. Stoffel's husband fielded their calls
and assured them the case was moving along and they could expect a
In fact, nothing was being done, written
communications went unanswered and no documentation of the lawsuit was
ever provided. The tenants eventually settled the matter on their own
after being unable to obtain their files.
In four matters, Stoffel did not refund the
balance of unearned fees, twice failed to perform competently and once
improperly withdrew from representation. One client won a small claims
judgment against her.
She filed a divorce action in the wrong county
and agreed to an erroneous court order that the client's child could
not be removed from a county in which she did not reside.
In a child custody matter, Stoffel submitted a
transcript of a taped telephone conversation between her client and
his former wife as an attachment to a motion. The former wife was
unaware the conversation was taped and did not give her permission to
disclose the conversation.
In mitigation, Stoffel has suffered emotional
difficulties, including hospitalizations for psychiatric reasons, and
receives ongoing care from mental health professionals. She fired her
husband from the law firm and is seeking a divorce. In addition, her
7-year-old daughter has been diagnosed with spinal cancer, is
paralyzed and is undergoing chemotherapy. Stoffel has no prior record
of discipline and cooperated with the bar's investigation
GLENN ALAN THOMPSON [#84311], 54, of
Marysville was suspended for 30 days, stayed, placed on one year
of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within a year. The order
took effect April 26, 2001.
While suspended for non-payment of bar dues,
Thompson practiced law by accepting two family law cases. In one
matter, he made several court appearances and filed a variety of
motions and declarations. In the other, he provided legal advice and
representation regarding a pending child custody and visitation
He was suspended from Aug. 12, 1996, to Nov. 3,
In mitigation, no clients were harmed, Thompson
cooperated with the bar's investigation and he has no record of
GUSTAVO ZARATE [#199478], 32, of Los Angeles
was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of
probation with an actual 15-month suspension, and was ordered to take
the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. Credit toward the
actual suspension was given
for the period of interim suspension which began Oct. 11, 1999, so
Zarate returned to active status in January. The order took effect
April 26, 2001.
Zarate was convicted in 1999 of obstructing a
criminal investigation of a health care offense, a federal offense.
He worked as the office manager of a cosmetic
surgery center during law school, before his admission to the bar. He
was convicted of destroying surgery checklists to obstruct the
criminal investigation of a cosmetic surgery insurance fraud ring.
Placed on interim suspension in 1999, Zarate was
ordered to comply with rule 955, but filed the required affidavit six
In mitigation, the plastic surgeon was a father
figure to Zarate, whose own father died when he was young. The surgeon
and his lawyer instructed Zarate to destroy office records, which
Zarate says he did out of loyalty to his mentor.
He has led a life largely devoted to his church
and community service.
LUCIEN RICHARD MUSSO [#73726], 52, of Turlock
was suspended for two years, stayed, actually suspended for two years
and until he makes restitution, the State Bar Court grants a motion to
terminate his suspension and he proves his rehabilitation. He also was
ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took
effect April 27, 2001.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court
found Musso committed misconduct in three separate matters, including
entering into three improper business transactions with clients and
failing to avoid interests adverse to those clients, and committing
other acts of dishonesty.
Musso was retained by a couple to help them
handle the estate of their son. They received $100,000 from an
insurance company in settlement of their son's claim.
Musso asked them to loan him $10,000 to advertise
his invention of valve covers. He said he would repay the loan in six
months at 20 percent interest and executed an unsecured promissory
note in the amount of $11,000. He did not tell the clients to seek
independent counsel, put the terms of the loan in writing or inform
them about his financial condition. Nonetheless, they loaned him
After six months, Musso paid $1,000 in interest
and asked for a six-month extension. He executed another promissory
note for $11,000, again without advising the clients to seek
independent counsel. A month later, the couple faced unexpected
medical bills and asked Musso to pay them $5,000. Despite repeated
promises, he only gave them $1,100 over the next seven months.
At one point, he brought the clients to his
office and showed them a check for $37,000 and said they would receive
half once the check was negotiated, a process he said would take
Eventually the clients were forced to hire
another attorney and had to borrow money from a friend to sue Musso
for repayment of the loan. He still owes them $9,900.
In the second matter, Musso induced another
client, who hired him to prepare a will and an amendment to her trust,
to lend him $40,000. He promised to repay the loan at 12 percent
interest in one year, assuring her he was selling his interest in real
property and would repay her from the proceeds of the sale. He did not
advise the client to seek independent counsel or put the terms of the
loan in writing. Nor did he repay her.
That client also ultimately hired another
attorney and sued Musso, who did not pay any of the loan.
In a third matter, Musso did no work for, or
communicate with, a client who advanced him a $2,500 fee to handle a
civil case. When the matter was settled without his help, the client
demanded a refund. The Stanislaus County Bar Association determined in
a fee arbitration hearing that the client was entitled to a refund,
but Musso never repaid her.
Musso did not respond to a State Bar investigator
looking into all three matters.
STEPHEN LEE ANDERSON [#150860], 35, of Irvine
was suspended for three months, stayed, placed on 18 months of
probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within a year. The order
took effect April 29, 2001.
Anderson was convicted of making a false
statement to a police officer, a misdemeanor, after falsely
identifying himself as a deputy district attorney during a traffic
stop. He had been stopped for making a right turn from a left-turn
lane and produced an identification card and a badge identifying him
as a Los Angeles County deputy DA. In fact, he had left that position
six years earlier.
Although he tried to clarify his status three
times during the conversation, the officer would not let him. Before
charges were filed, Anderson told the police he was no longer a DA.
His actions amounted to an act of moral
In mitigation, Anderson has no record of
discipline, no one was harmed by his action, he demonstrated remorse
and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.
DANIEL MARK CHESTNUT [#152136], 48, of Norwalk
was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of
probation with a six-month actual suspension, and was ordered to take
the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took
effect April 29, 2001.
The State Bar Court's review department upheld
a hearing judge's finding that Chestnut misled judges in both
California and Texas in his client's divorce proceedings.
Chestnut, who represented the wife in the
dissolution, said he went to a rental property owned by the couple and
served divorce papers on the husband. An individual living at the
property said he did not hear or see anyone at the property that day.
When Chestnut saw the husband at a hearing in
Texas, he told his client her husband "looked different."
The bar court had found Chestnut's testimony
not credible and found that he made false statements and committed
acts of moral turpitude. It recommended he be suspended for two years,
stayed, and placed on three years of probation with a nine-month
Chestnut argued that there is no evidence he made
false statements and that even if he did, the alleged
misrepresentations were not relevant to the family law proceedings.
The review department rejected his arguments and found that he made
untrue statements, but reduced the recommended discipline to a
six-month actual suspension.
Chestnut also was disciplined in 1995 for
engaging in misleading acts - he filed a personal injury lawsuit on
his own behalf and did not disclose in response to an interrogatory
that he had received prior medical treatment for chronic knee pain. He
also failed to pay $3,320 in court-ordered discovery sanctions.
In mitigation, Chestnut participated in
extracurricular school activities and the Army Reserve, and his
character witnesses presented an extraordinary demonstration of his
THOMAS M. COX [#122667], 50, of Yucaipa
was placed on two years of probation and suspended for 30 days. The
order took effect April 29, 2001.
Cox stipulated to two counts of misconduct in an
unlawful detainer matter. He misplaced the notice of trial, failed to
appear and judgment was entered against his client. He didn't tell
Cox disputed his client's request for a refund
of unearned fees, so the client sued him and won a small claims
judgment. Cox did not pay the judgment for more than a year, after the
client complained to the State Bar.
Cox was disciplined in 1995 for failing to
perform legal services competently, communicate with a client, return
client files, refund unearned fees, promptly pay out client funds, pay
sanctions or cooperate with a bar investigation.
GENE JEFFREY GOLDSMAN [#76554], 49, of Santa
Ana was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation
for two years with a 30-day actual suspension. He was ordered to pay
restitution, take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955.
The order took effect April 29, 2001.
Goldsman stipulated to failing to reasonably
supervise a paralegal assisting in a 1996 personal injury claim
following a vehicle accident in which four clients were passengers in
the same car. He also stipulated to failing to get written consent
from the clients regarding potential conflicts of interest.
Goldsman learned the defendant's insurance
policy limit was $30,000, which would be shared among the four if the
case was settled. He directed the paralegal to explain this to the
clients and see if they would each agree to receive a proportionate
The paralegal later told Goldsman the clients had
agreed. Goldsman settled the case but did not obtain written consent
to the aggregate settlement. He also learned the paralegal had
misinformed him about the client who was to receive the lowest share
- she had not given consent to the settlement. Goldsman was ordered
to pay $2,625 in restitution to the client.
In mitigation, Goldsman cooperated with the
In a prior disciplinary action, Goldsman was
suspended in 1996 for misconduct in seven consolidated cases, most
involving problems with paying medical liens. He also failed to
perform legal services competently, return client files, respond
promptly to inquiries, disburse settlement funds promptly and comply
with court orders, and he improperly withdrew from employment.
DANA HUGH ANDERSON [#59081], 56, of Fresno
was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on probation for four
years with a one-year actual suspension and credit for an interim
suspension which began May 13, 2000. He also was ordered to take the
MPRE within one year. The order took effect May 5, 2001, but Anderson
returned to active status May 15.
Anderson was convicted of driving under the
influence in April 1999 and had a prior conviction for the same
Anderson stipulated to multiple acts of
misconduct related to the DUI. He struck a raised concrete curb while
turning into an apartment complex, backed up, then drove over the curb
into a flower bed. Anderson continued to try to enter the driveway
even after a police officer stopped behind him in a marked car. He
then tried to walk away and was arrested. He refused to submit to
tests to determine his alcohol level. He was sentenced to five years
of probation for the misdemeanor conviction.
In December 1999, he was convicted on three
counts of driving with a suspended license due to driving under the
influence and two counts of falsifying a handicapped placard.
In the earlier DUI incident, Anderson rear-ended
a Mercedes Benz, causing it to lurch forward and hit the motorcycle in
front of it. He refused testing and was uncooperative. He also was
driving with a suspended license.
Anderson was placed on suspension in 1993 for
commingling his attorney-client trust account in one matter and for
failing to communicate and properly withdraw from employment in
In mitigation, Anderson cooperated with the bar,
agreeing to discipline without requiring a hearing. More than 55
people submitted letters attesting to his good character. Also, his
convictions were related to alcohol problems, and Anderson said he
quit drinking from December 1998 to March 2000, but slipped after a
guilty verdict in a felony case he handled. The next day, he enrolled
himself in a recovery center, completing a 90-day program.
He has performed more than 200 hours of community
service and is active in The Other Bar, a State Bar-related alcoholism
program. He is being subjected to random drug and alcohol tests and
has not tested positive for use.
DAVID GREGORY ROTH [#123893], 45, of Portola
Valley was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on probation
for three years with a 90-day actual suspension, and was ordered to
take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took
effect May 5, 2001.
Roth failed to comply with the terms of his
probation, imposed in February 2000 after he stipulated to misconduct
in handling two criminal matters. He has failed to submit two
quarterly reports and provide proof he was attending meetings to
address his substance abuse problems.
In the first criminal matter, he twice failed to
appear in court with his client and he did not meet with the client or
keep him informed about the status of his case. Roth was removed as
attorney of record at his client's request.
In the second case, he nodded off three times
during a criminal jury trial. A mistrial was declared upon a motion by
his client's co-defendants. Roth underwent a drug test, and although
it was negative, a bailiff noticed several needle marks on his arm.
DEBBIE RUTH DETRIXHE [#102659], 56, of Hermosa
Beach was suspended for four years, stayed, given an actual
two-year suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year,
comply with conditions of probation if any is imposed at the end of
her suspension and comply with rule 955. The order took effect May 6,
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court
found Detrixhe failed to comply with any of the terms of her
probation, including filing quarterly reports and attending required
classes. She had been disciplined in January 1998 for commingling her
personal funds with those in client trust accounts.
CONNIE SUE KRAMER [#100973], 54, of El Monte
was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on probation for two years
with an actual 90-day suspension, and was also ordered to comply with
rule 955. The order took effect May 6, 2001.
After Kramer was disciplined in March 2000, she
failed to file proof of compliance with rule 955 by the court-ordered
April deadline. She forwarded a declaration of compliance that
October, after being contacted by the State Bar's enforcement unit.
Kramer was placed on probation with a six-month
actual suspension after she stipulated to several acts of misconduct.
She failed to perform competent legal services by allowing a paralegal
to work unsupervised in 12 client matters and by
failing to finalize a divorce, confirm a settlement and appear
at trial. She also did not appear at a hearing when no settlement had
been reached and did not file a cross-complaint as promised.
The paralegal was paying Kramer's business
bills, making deposits for her and maintaining her client files.
Kramer, who had closed her law office but maintained a post office box
and handled some work out of the paralegal's office, was neither
regularly checking on the status of her cases nor picking up her mail.
In the 12 client matters in which she was
charged, the paralegal variously entered into settlement negotiations,
signed Kramer's name on legal documents without her knowledge, did
not tell Kramer she had been hired by clients, failed to return
advance fees, made misrepresentations to clients and opposing lawyers
and deposited client funds into his personal account. Several clients
were harmed: A judgment was ordered against a couple, a mother's
visitation rights were negatively affected and a writ of attachment
was issued against another client.
Kramer was disciplined with a public reproval in
1996, but she did not comply with probation conditions - she did not
attend ethics school or take the MPRE.
RICHARD FRANK PINTAL [#152727], 41, of Los
Angeles was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on probation
for two years and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The
order took effect May 6, 2001.
Pintal stipulated he improperly withdrew from
employment and failed to avoid prejudicing a client. Between July 1997
and March 1998, he represented a defendant in a Los Angeles felony
case. During that time, he secured seven continuances of court
hearings. Two different attorneys appeared on Pintal's behalf at two
At one, the attorney was unable to explain why
Pintal could not appear, why he had not filed any motions or announced
he was ready for trial. At the other, the court continued the hearing
again and set an order to show cause why sanctions should not be
No attorneys appeared on behalf of the defendant
at the next hearing. The court imposed $500 in sanctions and ordered
Pintal or an office representative to appear at another date, but
again, no one showed up. Pintal was then relieved as counsel for the
defendant and a public defender was appointed. In Decem-ber 1999,
Pintal paid the sanctions.
In mitigation, Pintal cooperated with the bar's
investigation, showed remorse and presented good character references.
He was ordered to attend two meetings per week to address substance
Pintal has a prior record of discipline for
similar misconduct. In 1996, he failed to appear at a pretrial/trial
setting conference or at a later hearing to show cause why he should
not be discharged as a result of contempt. The court found Pintal
abandoned his client, discharged Pintal as attorney for the client and
imposed sanctions totaling $3,000.
JOSE LUIS RAMOS [#91501], 50, of Los Angeles
was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on probation for five
years with a 42-month actual suspension, and was ordered to pay
$29,000 in restitution, take the MPRE during the actual suspension and
comply with rule 955. The order took effect May 6, 2001.
Ramos stipulated to misappropriating funds,
issuing a check from a closed bank account, and two counts of failing
to deposit funds in a client trust account. In a separate case, he
stipulated to failing to comply with terms of a 1993 probation.
In March 1995, Ramos settled a personal injury
claim for $65,000 without the knowledge, authorization or consent of
his client. He placed the first of two $32,000 settlement checks in
his office's general account rather than in a client trust account.
He cashed the second check, using a portion of it to pay for an
overdraft in the general account.
Ramos informed the client of the settlement five
months later, but said he had not yet received the funds. He offered
to invest them for the client, who said he wanted time to consider
In October, the client instructed Ramos to pay
$25,000 to his sister. Ramos paid the client's sister $5,000, promising to pay the rest within a week. The client
acknowledged receiving a total of $10,000 from Ramos. Another $5,000
check bounced, and the sister found that Ramos' account had been
closed. After that, the client and his sister found Ramos' telephone
was disconnected and they were unable to contact him.
After completing a 1993 suspension, Ramos
violated probation by failing to submit timely quarterly reports and
declarations of non-receipt of client funds, attend ethics school or
submit a law office management plan and proof of completing MCLE
In mitigation, Ramos said the client failed to
keep a record of Ramos' payments and did not maintain contact, which
contributed to the misconduct. The client has since been deported,
which kept Ramos from resolving the matter. He provided evidence of
performing pro bono work. Also, he established that he was suffering
from ill health at the time.