California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 2001
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DISCIPLINE

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CAUTION!

More than 174,500 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.

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DISBARMENTS

JOHN EDWIN NEWMAN [#93191], 50, of Apple Valley was disbarred Sept. 6, 2001, and was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.

His failure to comply with an earlier rule 955 order led the disbarment. He did not file with the Supreme Court an affidavit attesting that he notified his clients and opposing counsel of his suspension from practice.

Newman was placed on interim suspension in 1999, following convictions for six felonies: two counts of murder, two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, one count of causing injury while driving under the influence and one count of causing injury with a blood alcohol level above .08 percent.

HOWARD C. KNADLER [#85063], 50, of Colfax was disbarred Sept. 30, 2001, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Knadler repeatedly practiced law while suspended and his misconduct significantly harmed his clients. He also has three prior disciplines.

Knadler stipulated to an actual suspension in 1998 which was to terminate in February 1999. However, he was late in paying his dues, so was not entitled to practice until March 1999.

Knadler began representing a client in a real estate matter prior to being placed on involuntary inactive enrollment and continued to practice although he was not entitled. He filed a complaint and several other motions and made a court appearance on his client's behalf. When the client fired him and sought a refund and the return of his original documents, Knadler did not respond.

The bar court found he failed to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees or return a client file, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and committed acts of moral turpitude.

In a second matter, he continued to represent a client in a trespass action. When the judge handling the matter learned Knadler was suspended, he ordered Knadler to appear at an order to show cause hearing. The client fired him.

He also continued to represent a defendant in a civil case, appearing in court and making motions. When the judge learned Knadler was suspended, he declared a mistrial.

The bar court found in the two latter cases that Knadler practiced while not entitled and committed acts of moral turpitude.

Knadler was first disciplined in 1998 for writing checks against insufficient funds and using his client trust account to pay personal expenses. When he failed to comply with probation conditions attached to that discipline, he was suspended again. The third discipline also involved writing bad checks and commingling personal and client funds in his trust account.

MALIK ALI MUHAMMAD [#74824], 56, of Oakland was disbarred Sept. 30, 2001, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

In a default proceed, the State Bar Court found that Muhammad committed multiple acts of misconduct in six client matters and one non-client matter. He failed to perform competently, refund unearned fees, communicate with clients or report sanctions, improperly withdrew from representation without protecting his clients' interests, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, charged illegal fees, violated court orders and committed acts of moral turpitude.

He also has a record of six prior disciplines.

In one matter, he promised twice to meet his client at the courthouse for hearings and then failed to show up. He then failed to return his client's files for nine months and, despite a small claims judgment, has not refunded the client's $600 advance fee.

In another matter, Muhammad was retained to write a letter to his client's employer with regard to a dispute between the two. Time was of the essence since the client wanted the letter sent prior to a scheduled arbitration two weeks later. Muhammad never sent the letter.

The day before the arbitration, the client fired Muhammad and demanded a refund of his $300 advance fee. Despite two more letters, the fee was never refunded.

After entering into a written contingency fee contract with another client who paid him $3,000 as an advance fee, Muhammad told the client six months later he would no longer represent her. He said he decided to convert the contract into an hourly rate arrangement and that he was keeping the fee to cover the hours he worked on her matter.

The client obtained a small claims judgment of nearly $3,000, but Muhammad never paid it.

Suspended from practice since 1999, Muhammad accepted a criminal case and made four court appearances on his client's behalf. When he failed to appear at three subsequent hearings, he was sanctioned by the court and fired by his client, who unsuccessfully sought a refund. He also represented another client in a criminal matter while suspended.

A personal injury action, in which Muhammad represented the plaintiffs, was dismissed at his request after he told the court his clients did not want to pursue the matter. In fact, the clients did not know about the request nor did he inform them of the dismissal.

He then did not appear at three status conferences and was sanctioned each time for a total of $300. He did not refund a $2,400 advance fee.

He failed to pay a court-ordered sanction of $4,781 in another case.

In recommending Muhammad's disbarment, State Bar Court Judge Eugene E. Brott cited the seriousness of his misconduct as well as an extensive record of prior discipline, his failure to participate in the proceedings and "his apparent willingness to repeatedly engage in the unauthorized practice of law....This court concludes that [his] disbarment from the practice of law is amply justified."

CRAIG B. STALKER [#41930], 60, of Gold River was disbarred Sept. 30, 2001, and ordered to comply with rule 955.

Stalker did not meet the requirements of a 2000 discipline order, which included a probation condition that he comply with rule 955. He did not submit to the Supreme Court an affidavit that he had notified his clients and other pertinent parties of his suspension.

Stalker was publicly reproved in 1998 for a failure to perform legal services competently, communicate with a client and cooperate with the bar's investigation. His failure to comply with probation conditions attached to the reproval led to the 2000 discipline.

He did not participate in disciplinary proceedings.

SUSPENSIONS/PROBATION

KALIEH RIE HONISH [#176396], 32, of Montebello was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect July 21, 2001.

Honish stipulated to misconduct in two cases, both involving her failure to perform legal services competently and a failure to take steps to protect her clients' interests when they terminated her.

In the first matter, Honish was hired to represent a client who allegedly was misdiagnosed by his physicians. Honish sued a hospital and five doctors for malpractice and loss of consortium.

She did not respond to a request for admissions or to verify the response when it was filed. The court ultimately granted summary judgment for all the defendants.

Honish closed her office without notifying the clients, who hired a new attorney. She did not provide the client file to the new lawyer, who was unable to continue with his representation of the clients.

In a personal injury case, Honish referred her client, a minor, to a physical therapy clinic where he was treated for six months. During the treatment, the client phoned Honish repeatedly but received only two responses. When the client visited Honish at her office, she said she would proceed with the lawsuit when she heard from Medi-Cal. Mean-while, the client was receiving phone calls and collection letters seeking payment of almost $7,000 in medical bills.

The physical therapy clinic also attempted to call Honish to no avail. She closed her office without telling the client and disconnected her phone. One day before the client's 19th birthday, when the statute of limitations was due to expire, Honish's law partner or associate filed a lawsuit, almost three years after Honish had been retained. Four months later, she signed a substitution of attorney form and provided the client's file to a new lawyer.

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

The probation of NUJYA A. STRAWDER [#112402], 43, of Anaheim was revoked, the previous stay of suspension was lifted and she was actually suspended for 60 days and placed on four years of probation. The order took effect July 21, 2001.

Strawder failed to comply with probation conditions attached to a 1998 discipline: she did not file three quarterly probation reports on time or attend ethics school or client trust accounting school.

The discipline was imposed for charging an unconscionable fee, failing to pay court-ordered sanctions, perform legal services competently, deposit client funds in a trust account or communicate with a client, and for committing an act of moral turpitude.

In mitigation, she had serious family, emotional and financial problems stemming from a nasty divorce and child custody dispute and wound up living in her car and various hotels. She also had pneumonia. Her problems made it extremely difficult to meet her probation requirements.

SAM L. STONE [#37716], 63, of Fortuna was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with a 12-month actual suspension, and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and take the MPRE within one year. Credit will be given for the period of interim suspension which began June 22, 2000. The order took effect Aug.19, 2001.

In March 2000, Stone pleaded guilty to his fourth driving under the influence charge in seven years. It also was his fifth alcohol-related conviction and sixth driving-related conviction. He was sentenced to 180 days in a residential recovery program, five years of probation, and a $2,700 fine, and his driver's license was revoked for four years.

Stone received a private reproval with public disclosure in 1993, following alcohol-related driving convictions.

WILLIAM WONG WOO [#98489], 53, of Santa Ana was suspended for 18 months, stayed, actually suspended for 120 days and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Aug. 19, 2001.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Woo practiced law while suspended from practice. In one matter, he filed a substitution of attorney to represent a client in superior court, and in another matter, he filed a complaint and several supporting documents.

The court also found that Woo's actions amounted to moral turpitude.

A 1998 discipline was the result of 14 counts of misconduct in five matters, including failing to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, refund unearned fees, provide accountings of client funds and cooperate with the bar's investigation. Woo also failed to properly withdraw from representation, he did not obtain a client's written consent to a potentially adverse representation, and he committed an act of moral turpitude by failing to disclose a material fact and misrepresentation.

GILBERT M. ARCHULETA JR. [#65066], 62, of Manhattan Beach was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 45-day suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Aug. 25, 2001.

Archuleta was convicted in 1996 of conspiracy, a misdemeanor, for his part in a money laundering scheme which involved making contributions to a candidate in a name other than the name by which the contributor was identified for legal reasons.

Archuleta was an attorney in a Los Angeles law firm which handled high profile political work, including consulting and lobbying. (See following story.) The money laundering scheme, which operated from 1989 to 1992, involved funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars in small campaign checks from a large network of friends, relatives and associates - the named contributors - to various political candidates. Money received from certain corporations, who were the real contributors, was used to pay back the named contributors.

He stipulated that his conduct involved moral turpitude.

In mitigation, he has no record of discipline, he demonstrated remorse and rehabilitation and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.

ARTHUR K. SNYDER [#30600], 69, of Los Angeles was suspended for three 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 prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Aug. 25, 2001.

A former Los Angeles city councilman, Snyder stipulated that he was convicted in 1996 of one count of conspiracy and eight counts of making campaign contributions in a name other than the actual contributor, all misdemeanors. The convictions were the result of Snyder's role in an influence-peddling scheme.

He operated a law firm engaged in high profile political work, including consulting and lobbying. The scheme involved funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars in small campaign checks from a large network of friends, relatives and associates - the named contributors - to various political candidates. Money received from certain corporations, who were the real contributors, was used to pay back the named contributors.

The scheme lasted from 1989 to 1992.

Snyder also was found to have violated several anti-laundering provisions of the Political Reform Act in separate FPPC proceedings.

He stipulated that his conduct involved moral turpitude.

In mitigation, he has no record of discipline, cooperated with the bar's investigation and demonstrated rehabilitation.

CARLOS E. CASTANEDA [#140786], 44, of San Diego was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within a year. The order took effect Aug. 25, 2001.

Castaneda stipulated to misconduct in two matters. He filed a complaint in a civil dispute but did not respond to discovery requests. The court granted a motion to compel discovery and sanctioned Castaneda $600. He did not tell his client about either development.

When Castaneda did not comply with either order, the case was dismissed and he was sanctioned $3,023.

The client hired a new attorney who made three unsuccessful attempts to obtain the file from Castaneda.

He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, provide a client file or keep his client informed about significant developments in his case.

When the client complained to the State Bar, Castaneda did not cooperate with the investigation.

In the second matter, Castaneda stipulated that he did not comply with probation conditions attached to a 1999 public reproval. He did not submit four quarterly probation reports, take the MPRE or attend ethics school. The reproval was issued as a result of his failure to provide competent legal services.

DANIEL MARK CHESTNUT [#152136], 49, of Norwalk was suspended for four years, stayed, and placed on four years of probation with an actual 18-month suspension. The order took effect Aug. 25, 2001.

Chestnut stipulated to nine counts of misconduct in five consolidated cases.

In a divorce matter, Chestnut's client signed a fee agreement which capped his fee at $1,500 and did not set a fee for paralegal work. He later tried to collect costs and attorney's fees totalling more than $13,000, even though the court ordered his client's husband to pay him $2,000 in fees and costs.

In addition, he did not finalize the divorce for more than three years, responded to only one of 12 phone calls from his client and when he was fired, he failed to provide the file to the client's new lawyer.

He handled matters for two clients while he was suspended from practice, did not release another client's papers when he hired a new lawyer, did not respond to four messages from another client and communicated with a represented party.

Chestnut was disciplined twice previously.

DENISE DAVIS MOOREHEAD [#136369], 48, of Oakland was suspended for two years, stayed, actually suspended for one year and until she makes restitution and the State Bar Court grants a motion terminating the suspension, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, she must prove her rehabilitation. The order took effect Aug. 25, 2001.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that in one client matter, Moorehead held herself out as entitled to practice while she was suspended, failed to perform legal services competently, keep the client apprised of developments in his case or return an unearned fee, made a misrepresentation to her client, and did not keep her address current with the State Bar.

Moorehead was suspended in 1999 for failing to pay her bar dues. During the suspension, she accepted representation of a client and a $2,000 fee. She faxed a note to the client about a month later saying she had drafted a complaint, when in fact she had not done so.

A month later, the client demand a statement of his account and asked that the complaint be filed immediately. Moorehead did not respond, and several days later, in a meeting with the client, promised to have the complaint and a letter to opposing counsel ready within two weeks.

When nothing was done and Moorehead did not respond to phone calls, faxes or pages, the client filed a small claims action and won a judgment of $2,000 and $58 in costs. It was never paid.

Moorehead also was suspended last year for failing to perform competently, report judicial sanctions or maintain respect due to the courts, and for violating a court order and advancing facts prejudicial to her client's reputation.

JAMES L. SIMS [#80672], 61, of San Francisco was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 90-day suspension, and was ordered to make restitution, take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Aug. 25, 2001. Sims subsequently resigned Oct. 5.

Sims stipulated to misconduct in two matters.

He represented a client in seeking a marriage dissolution and spousal support. When the client's "husband" denied they were married, the matters were bifurcated; the court found Sims' client had the status of putative spouse and tentatively awarded attorney fees and costs to her.

The court later ordered both parties to provide Income and Expense Declara-tions (IEDs) to one another, but Sims did not do so.

The judge ordered sanctions of $2,000 against Sims and his client, dismissed the client's motion for attorney fees and spousal support and abated a $913 monthly support order after finding that the necessary paperwork was never filed despite several continuances. The court also issued a second order that Sims prepare an IED, but he did not do so. He also never paid the sanctions.

He stipulated that he failed to comply with a court order, report the sanctions to the State Bar or cooperate with the bar's subsequent investigation.

In another matter, Sims represented a client in a third party liability claim arising from an on-the-job injury. He settled the claim for $15,000 and was to withhold $4,000 to pay medical bills. He allowed the balance in his client trust account to fall below $4,000 on two occasions and did not pay the medical bill for five years.

Sims stipulated that he failed to maintain entrusted funds in his client trust account, promptly pay funds as requested by his client, and did not cooperate with a later investigation by the bar.

In mitigation, he has no record of prior discipline.

GARY ALAN SMITH [#78234], 56, of Fresno was suspended for one year, stayed, actually suspended for 60 days and until he makes restitution and the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE. If the suspension exceeds 90 days, he must comply with rule 955; if it exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Aug. 25, 2001.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Smith committed eight acts of misconduct in two client matters and did not keep his address current with the State Bar.

In the first case, he was employed to seek a judgment against his client's former tenants for damage to property. The client finally reached Smith after many phone calls and a letter, and Smith promised to obtain the judgment by a certain date. When the client learned Smith had done nothing on the case, he fired him and asked that his file be returned and his fee refunded. Smith moved from his office and did not notify the client of his new location, nor did he return the file or refund the fee.

In the second matter, Smith did not return at least 20 phone calls from his client or pursue the case.

JOSEPH WALCH [#56192], 61, of Los Angeles was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual 18-month suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Aug. 25, 2001.

Walch stipulated to misconduct in 13 matters, all stemming from his failure to supervise his office. He was the sole proprietor and principal attorney for the Law Offices of Joseph Walch when he says he became seriously ill in 1990 and was frequently prevented from engaging in his day-to-day work. His inability to work lasted until 1996.

Walch delegated the responsibility for running the office to his wife, Susanne Walch, who had been a lawyer only since 1989. Although Joseph Walch claims he adequately trained his wife to handle his practice, he admits he did not supervise her activities. Susanne Walch has resigned from the bar with charges pending.

Joseph Walch's misconduct includes failing to notify clients that he was away from his office, change his letterhead, supervise the office, and audit or verify the accounting of his business bank accounts, client trust accounts, settlement moneys or fees.

As a result of numerous complaints about Walch, the State Bar brought an action in Los Angeles Superior Court to assume jurisdiction over his law practice, which was ordered in 1997. Walch has remained on inactive enrollment since that time.

One example of the misconduct stemmed from a personal injury case which settled for almost $20,000. Susanne Walch deposited the check in the couple's client trust account, but all the funds were subsequently withdrawn over Joseph Walch's signature and the client received nothing. When the account eventually was closed by the bank, it had a negative balance. In addition, the client could not reach Walch, despite repeated phone calls.

Walch stipulated that his reckless and/or grossly negligent conduct in failing to supervise the operations of his office resulted in a failure to maintain client funds, communicate with a client and misappropriation, an act of moral turpitude.

In mitigation, a gastroenterologist said Walch suffers from Crohn's Disease, which has made him unable to work. He was hospitalized several times over the course of the misconduct, has numerous physical ailments and is considered disabled under the provisions of the Social Security Act.

Another physician testified that Walch's illness and the side effects of his many medications made it extremely difficult if not impossible to work.

The probation of JOAN BAUMGARTEN [#108909], 50, of North Palm Springs was revoked, the stay of suspension was lifted and she was actually suspended for two years and until she proves her rehabilitation, and she was ordered to comply with rule 955. Credit toward the actual suspension will be given for a period of involuntary inactive enrollment which began April 20, 2001. The order took effect Sept. 6, 2001.

Baumgarten failed to comply with probation conditions attached to a 2000 discipline. She did not submit three quarterly probation reports, two mental health reports or a law office organization plan.

The discipline was the result of her failure to communicate with clients, perform legal services competently, promptly refund unearned fees or cooperate with the bar's investigation.

Baumgarten also was disciplined in 1997 for misconduct in three cases -  failing to perform legal services competently, pay court-ordered sanctions, return client files or cooperate with the bar's investigation. She did not participate in the most recent proceedings.

KENNETH MARTIN CHRISTISON [#52281], 59, of Novato was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with a six-month actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within a year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Sept. 6, 2001.

The State Bar Court found that Christison committed three acts of misconduct - writing checks against insufficient funds, commingling personal and trust funds and failing to cooperate with the bar's investigation.

Christison tesitified that he does not have a general checking account because he bounced a check several years ago and there are hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax liens against him. He therefore operates on a cash basis or used his client trust account for both business and personal purposes.

His clients often wired fees directly to the trust account, some to be distributed to other clients and some to cover his personal checks. Between September 1998 and February 200, Christison wrote 34 checks totalling nearly $26,260 against insufficient funds on the trust account. He said he often wrote checks assuming funds would be there without verifying whether money had been deposited.

In addition, he wrote at least 20 checks, totaling more than $16,600, for payment of personal debts between September 1998 and February 1999.

There is no showing that any client ever lost any money due to Christison's activities. He said his clients knew about his financial circumstances and that he was using the trust account for personal and business purposes.

In mitigation, Christison has done pro bono work for members of his church and he has been active in scouting and coached several teams.

He was disciplined in 1993 for misconduct committed from 1986 through 1988 - commingling personal and client funds and writing bad checks and for failing to pay court-ordered sanctions.

WILLIAM JOSEPH HAMILTON [#92688], 52, of West Los Angeles was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 18-month suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Sept. 6, 2001.

Hamilton stipulated to misconduct in three cases.

He made six courts appearances in a criminal case while suspended from practice. He also did not comply with the probation conditions attached to the discipline - he failed to file three quarterly reports or three affidavits certifying continued enrollment in the bar's law office management and technology section.

Hamilton also failed to comply with probation conditions attached to another discipline; he did not complete ethics school by the required deadline.

In mitigation, Hamilton was under severe financial stress at the time, he demonstrated remorse and cooperated with the bar's investigation and no clients were harmed by his actions.

PUBLIC REPROVAL

GERALD I. SHAPIRO [#62740], 56, of Fresno (June 20, 2001)

EDUARDO GONZALEZ [#123929], 44, of Oakland (July 8, 2001)

RESIGNATION/CHARGES PENDING

BIANA COLTUN [#105572], 44 of Santa Monica (Aug. 25, 2001)

EUGENE ALBERT HOOSER [#86091], 53, of Oceanside (Sept. 6, 2001)

DOUGLAS MALCOLM MARSHALL [#55880], 54, of Grand Forks, N.D. (Sept. 6, 2001)

JOSE LUIS RAMOS [#91501], 50, of Los Angeles (Sept. 6, 2001)

G. GREGORY WILLIAMS [#109174], 48, of Los Angeles (Sept. 6, 2001)