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

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USLaw.com

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CAUTION!

More than 174,670 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

ROBERT FRANKLIN DODENBIER [#113017], 48, of Manteca was disbarred Oct. 15, 2000, and was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Dodenbier abandoned two clients and did not cooperate with the bar’s investigation, failing even to provide an address where clients, courts or the bar could contact him.

He was hired in 1994 to represent two clients, who were injured in a car accident, in a personal injury matter against the Manteca Police Department. Although only one client signed a fee agreement, both believed they were represented by Dodenbier.

He did not properly serve a notice of claim against either the city of Manteca or the police department, and instead filed a lawsuit which he did not pursue. Despite his assurances that the case would be settled over a four-and-a-half-year period, Dodenbier eventually moved from his office and left no forwarding address.

In a child support and custody matter, Dodenbier did not file an opposition to a motion or an income and expense declaration despite five opportunities to do so. However, he agreed to joint legal custody and a reduction in support payments for his client without consulting her. On one occasion, he did not notify his client of a hearing and because she failed to appear, the court suspended support payments temporarily. Eventually, the court ordered her support reduced to $238 a month; the original motion by her husband was to reduce support to $1,350.

Dodenbier’s client was unaware of any hearings and did not agree to any delays in her matter.

When she hired a new lawyer and learned that Dodenbier had failed to appear at the final hearing, she found his office phone number disconnected. She located him at home, but he said he did not know about the hearing and would provide her with a letter about the case. He provided neither a letter nor the cli-ent’s file when she asked for it. Doden-bier moved to Utah and did not respond to the client’s inquiries there.

The bar court found in both cases that he failed to perform legal services competently or communicate with clients, and he withdrew from representation without protecting his clients’ interests. In the first matter, he did not keep his address current with the bar and in the second, he failed to cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

Dodenbier has been disciplined twice previously — a private reproval in 1997 for similar misconduct involving three clients and a suspension in 1999.

In recommending Dodenbier’s disbarment, Judge Nancy Roberts Lonsdale wrote, “he has clearly lost all interest in his professional obligations and any respect for the disciplinary system whatsoever.”

BRUCE J. FRIEDMAN [#57053], 52, of San Anselmo was disbarred Oct. 5, 2000, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Friedman failed to comply with a 1999 discipline order requiring him to notify all clients and other pertinent parties of his suspension and to submit an affidavit to that effect to the Supreme Court. He did not comply with rule 955. The discipline is Friedman’s fifth.

The underlying discipline was imposed last year as a result of misconduct in two client matters, including failure to perform legal services competently, return a client’s business records, respond to a client’s requests for information or refund unearned fees. He also improperly withdrew from representation.

Friedman was first disciplined with a private reproval in 1995 for practicing law in Wyoming while not entitled to do so. When he did not comply with the conditions attached to the reproval, he was again reproved, with additional conditions. That led to a third set of disciplinary charges, to which Friedman stipulated before the bar court. He was suspended in 1998 for noncompliance with family and child support requirements.

In recommending Friedman’s disbarment, Judge Nancy Roberts Lonsdale said she had “a grave concern that he no longer has any regard whatsoever for his professional obligations.”

THOMAS EDWARD WHITE [#41181], 59, of Twain Harte was disbarred Oct. 5, 2000, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

White failed to comply with two previous 955 orders in 1998 and 1999; he did not submit to the Supreme Court an affidavit attesting that he notified his clients and other pertinent parties of his suspension from practice.

In a default proceeding in the 1998 case, White was found by the State Bar Court to have failed to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, disclose a previous relationship with an adverse party or cooperate with the bar’s investigation, and he improperly withdrew in one matter, filed a declaration containing a statement he knew to be false and violated a court order.

The following year, in another default, the bar court found that White failed to maintain adequate financial records, communicate with clients, disclose an adverse relationship with another client or keep his address current, and he represented potentially conflicting interests without proper disclosure and committed an act of moral turpitude.

ROGER CHARLES CROBARGER [#44124], 62, of Park City, Utah, was summarily disbarred Oct. 15, 2000, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

Crobarger was convicted in 1997 of murder for hire and witness tampering, both felonies involving moral turpitude. The crimes meet the standard for summary disbarment.

JAMES DAVID PITTMAN [#92995], 50, of Huntington Beach was disbarred Oct. 15, 2000, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

Pittman violated a 1999 disciplinary order that he comply with rule 955. He did not submit the required affidavit to the Supreme Court.

Pittman was disciplined twice. In 1995 he was privately reproved for failing to deposit client funds in a client trust account or perform legal services competently. In 1999, the bar court found that he practiced while suspended for nonpayment of bar dues, an act of moral turpitude, and failed to comply with the conditions attached to the private reproval, respond to client inquiries, return unearned fees and costs, keep his address current with the bar, or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

SUSPENSION/PROBATION

ALMA GRACIELA GUERRA [#113353], 44, of Agoura Hills was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on probation for two years and until she makes restitution, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 29, 2000.

Guerra stipulated that she failed to perform legal services competently, or properly maintain client funds, allowed the balance in her client trust account to fall below the required amount, wrote checks against insufficient funds and failed to pay out client funds.

Guerra allowed her paralegal to handle the day-to-day operations of her office at a time when she was suffering from medical problems associated with her pregnancy. The trust account violations were the result of her failure to supervise her employee, who embezzled money from settlement checks she cashed which totalled almost $325,000.

In one matter, as a result of her failure to supervise her non-lawyer employees, a personal injury claim was settled without the client’s knowledge, a settlement check was endorsed, a former client was contacted while represented by counsel, a settlement draft was intercepted without the client’s knowledge and the cli-ent’s file was withheld. Settlement funds were not disbursed because neither Guerra nor the client knew about the settlement, and the client trust account was not properly maintained.

In several other cases, Guerra’s staff obtained settlements without her knowledge, deposited settlement checks, wrote checks to clients and lienholders, some against insufficient funds, and allowed the balance in the trust account to fall below the required amount.

Cases were settled by non-lawyers in Guerra’s office without client consent, the staff forged signatures on checks and made misrepresentations,

In mitigation, Guerra took steps to protect her clients and filed a police report as soon as she learned about her paralegal’s actions. She won a judgment against her paralegal and settled with the bank holding the trust account after suing it for mishandling checks cashed and deposited by her employee. She now reconciles her trust account monthly.

JOHN GERARD HEDDERMAN [#134109], 40, of Westminster was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension and until he makes restitution, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 29, 2000.

Hedderman stipulated to misconduct in four consolidated cases. He failed to perform legal services competently in four cases, refund unearned fees or communicate with clients in two matters, and he failed to pay court-ordered sanctions or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

In one matter, he did not properly serve the opposition, failed to keep an appointment with his client, and did not tell the client the results of two status conferences. The case was dismissed with prejudice for failure to prosecute and bring it to trial within statutory limits.

Hedderman accepted a bankruptcy case in September 1995, telling his client it should be resolved in three to four months. Nine months later, he told the client the matter would go to trial shortly, and gave him a time and place where the hearing was to occur. When the client appeared, the bankruptcy matter was not on the docket and Hedderman did not show up. Hedderman filed the petition about six months later.

It was dismissed due to his failure to file a schedule, statement, plan or motion for extension of time to file required documents.

When the client was subject to a wage garnishment order, he appealed to Hedderman for help. Although Hedderman said he would stop the garnishment, he never took any action to do so.

He did not refund $1,000 in unearned fees.

In a conservatorship matter, he failed to make six court appearances and was sanctioned $750, which he did not pay.

He also failed to take any action in a property transfer matter, did not return his client’s phone calls and did not refund unearned fees.

In mitigation, Hedderman has no prior discipline, suffered from emotional or physical difficulties at the time of the misconduct and presented testimony attesting to his good character.

MORRIS BROWN KEMPER [#152415], 53, of San Jose was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on four years of probation with an actual one-year suspension and was ordered to make restitution, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Sept. 29, 2000.

Kemper stipulated to misconduct in two cases.

He represented a client in a criminal matter, but it was dismissed when he failed to file a motion in a timely manner. He did not refund $3,000 of the $5,000 fee he received in advance of the case.

He settled a second case for a minor for $15,000, depositing the check in his client trust account. Kemper says his agent gave him a disbursement sheet supposedly signed by the client, who said she wanted to be paid in cash because she did not have a bank account.

Kemper also says he gave his agent a cashier’s check, payable to cash in the amount of $11,250, for delivery to the client. The funds were never given to the client.

Kemper stipulated that by failing to supervise an employee, he failed to perform legal services competently or deliver funds to a client, and he misappropriated client funds, an act of moral turpitude.

In mitigation, he has no record of discipline, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and he did not profit financially from his improper disbursement of funds.

FRANKLIN DELANO MOEN [#160537], 52, of Laguna Beach 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. 29, 2000.

Moen represented a client and her minor children in a personal injury matter arising from a car accident. The same client later broke her leg in a department store, and although Moen told her she did not have a strong case, he said she needed to send him a diagram of the accident if she wanted to press the matter. The client never hired Moen to represent her.

The client spoke to a department store representative to make a claim, and was told to sign and return authorization for the store to review her medical reports. A couple of weeks later, the store reminded the client to send the authorization and said the statute of limitations would expire about a month later.

The day the statute was to expire, the client, wanting Moen to represent her, faxed him the letter from the company and a diagram of the accident. He was out of the office and returned too late to file a claim.

Believing it might appear he was negligent, Moen panicked and asked the client whether she would accept a settlement of $750 if the store would agree. She accepted and Moen wrote her a check, which she negotiated. Moen knew no settlement had been reached and the check was not from the store. His actions amounted to moral turpitude.

When the client contacted the store a couple of months later and learned they had not paid any settlement, Moen called her to discuss the matter. She refused to discuss it with him. Moen continued to represent her in the car accident, obtained a settlement and waived his fee.

In mitigation, Moen has no record of discipline, his client was not harmed and he cooperated with the bar’s investigation.

MURRY STURNER [#42395], 64, of Beverly Hills was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 18-month suspension, and was ordered to make restitution, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Sept. 29, 2000.

Sturner stipulated to misconduct in four consolidated matters.

In 1996, Sturner wrote himself three checks totaling $14,700 against his client trust account, knowing that he was not entitled to do so, that the balance was below what he owed to five clients and their doctors, and that writing the checks would increase the shortage in his trust account.

Without his knowledge, his wife, who managed the office, engaged in a check kiting scheme, cycling about $100,000 per month between the client trust account, the general office account and her personal bank account. Trust account funds accounted for only a small percentage of the money, but the scheme caused about a six-month delay in clients receiving any funds they were owed.

When the bar investigated, Sturner said the insolvency was caused by checks written to him against insufficient funds — information provided by his wife which he did not independently verify.

He stipulated that he failed to maintain his client trust account for more than a year and negligently participated in his wife’s mishandling of the account. By blaming his wife and concealing the true causes of the insolvency, he frustrated the bar’s investigation. All were acts of moral turpitude.

Sturner also established a business practice of negotiating discounts for medical services from various providers. He sent various clients accountings in which he deducted the full amount of the medical service bills from settlement funds received as well as the full amount for his services. He then paid the medical bills for a lesser amount than withheld from the settlement funds and transferred the reduction to his personal account.

In one particular case, Sturner deposited two checks totaling $16,200 in his trust account, from which his clients were to pay about $3,500 in doctor bills. He then negotiated an agreement with the doctor to pay about $2,100, but did not tell his clients. He did not pay the doctor until after the doctor complained to the State Bar.

Sturner stipulated that he failed to promptly disburse client funds and that by giving his clients a false accounting of medical bills and by converting the reductions to his personal account, he committed acts of moral turpitude.

In a third case, Sturner obtained an $88,000 settlement of a workers’ compensation claim for his elderly client. His wife picked up the client to take her to a bank, but began to cry and told the client of her and Sturner’s financial woes. She asked for and received from the client a loan of $12,500.

Sturner learned about the loan when the client demanded payment. He did not repay the loan or advise the client to seek independent legal advice. The client eventually sued, Sturner and his wife filed for bankruptcy, and after the client died, Sturner repaid $1,100 to the estate. He stipulated that he improperly entered into a business transaction with a client.

In the final matter, Sturner held an attorney fee payment of $11,250 in trust, pending resolution of a dispute between him and the widow of the first attorney who handled the case. She held a lien on the fee.

He made an offer, the widow asked for more and he then made no reasonable effort to resolve the matter for more than 20 months. He finally paid the widow what he originally offered. He stipulated that he violated a court order by the workers’ compensation judge.

Sturner had no record of discipline in 32 years of practice, most clients and medical providers were paid and Sturner is working to repay the others. He suffered severe personal and financial stress; he paid for two round-the-clock caretakers for his disabled mother-in-law, paid his daughter’s private school tuition and helped support two college-age stepsons. His wife, who has been on anti-depressants for eight years, is no longer his employee. He also provided testimony attesting to his good character and has served as a volunteer arbitrator/mediator in the Los Angeles County courts for the past four years.

HAROLD VINCENT SULLIVAN II [#39889], 60, of Torrance 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. 29, 2000.

Sullivan stipulated to two counts of failing to respond to client inquiries and one count of failing to perform legal services competently.

Sullivan was retained to file a personal injury complaint, but it was dismissed because he failed to appear at hearings or file necessary documents. He stipulated that he did not notify his clients of the dismissal, did not return their repeated phone calls and failed to perform legal services competently.

He was disciplined in 1997 for failure to perform, return client phone calls or return client files.

In mitigation, the misconduct in this discipline occurred at the same time as that in the 1997 order. His secretary hid or threw away files, pleadings, notices and other documents which were not discovered for more than a year. She concealed notices in the personal injury case which led to the current discipline. Sullivan closed three of his four offices and reduced his staff and caseload. He also was going through a divorce at the time.

FRANK D. WINSTON [#28599], 67, of San Francisco was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation 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 Sept. 29, 2000.

Winston was contacted by an immigration attorney to represent his clients in a divorce. Time was of the essence as a result of new immigration laws. Although Winston accepted the case and $1,000 in advance fees and costs, he did not file the case, return phone calls or return their file after the clients fired him. The clients obtained a $1,000 judgment in small claims court, which Winston paid.

He stipulated that he failed to refund unearned fees, communicate with clients or return client files.

In a second matter, Winston was hired to help a client obtain a transfer to a California penitentiary and accepted a $3,000 advance fee. After not returning phone calls, he was fired and did not return the fee for almost two years.

In mitigation, Winston suffers from diabetes, requiring surgery, and he had a slow recovery. As a result, he had bouts of depression and inactivity. He cooperated with the bar’s investigation and has a long record of public service.

CARLOS MIGUEL ALCALA [#87094], 52, of Sacramento was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on 18 months of probation with an actual 90-day suspension and was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect Sept. 29, 2000.

Alcala stipulated to misconduct in four consolidated matters.

In the first, he entered into a confidential settlement agreement with a client who had complained about him to the State Bar. The client agreed that the terms of the settlement would not be reported to the bar, a violation of the Business & Professions Code.

In the second matter, he filed a frivolous argument in an appeal, and referred to declarations or affidavits which had been excluded from evidence. His behavior constituted a failure to perform legal services competently.

He filed a frivolous appeal in another case, and was sanctioned $2,250 for filing another lawsuit in the wrong venue. He neither paid the sanctions nor reported them to the State Bar.

Alcala has been disciplined five times previously, including two public reprovals, one for failing to attend ethics school and the other for allowing an employee to sign a false declaration under penalty of perjury, and a private reproval for pursuing a moot appeal and an improper default and for frivolously opposing a motion to set aside the default.

He also was suspended in 1992 and 1998. His misconduct in those two matters included failing to perform legal services competently, report court sanctions or abide by a court order, for signing and submitting an inaccurate declaration to the court. A lawsuit he filed was dismissed for failure to prosecute and he did not notify his clients of the dismissal. He then filed an appeal without authorization but did not properly prosecute the appeal.

In mitigation, two clients said they were satisfied with Alcala’s work; the individual who originally complained about him withdrew the complaint. In the sanctions matter, he mistakenly believed he did not have to report the sanction until his appeal was exhausted.

Alcala cooperated with the bar’s investigation, he has a history of pro bono work, and he submitted letters attesting to his good character.

JAMES EARL DeFRANTZ [#165780], 42, of Hayward was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on probation for four years with an actual two year suspension, and was ordered to make restitution, prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Oct. 5, 2000.

DeFrantz stipulated to 20 counts of misconduct in six consolidated cases. Many involved telling his clients he had taken various actions in their cases when in fact he had done no work. The misconduct included failure to perform legal services, communicate with clients, comply with court orders, return unearned fees, return client files, pay out client funds and place client funds in a client trust account. He also failed to pay three court-ordered sanctions and committed acts of moral turpitude.

DeFrantz was hired by a client to handle a racial discrimination claim against the owners of her apartment building. Although he never filed a lawsuit, he falsely told his client he settled her case, received a judgment, prepared papers to levy the defendants’ bank accounts and provided papers to the sheriff to effectuate a levy. He also said the apartment owners were in bankruptcy and he would file necessary papers on his client’s behalf. He sent the client three checks from his personal accounts and represented them as settlement and bankruptcy payments.

He never actually performed any legal services for his client.

In another matter, DeFrantz was hired to obtain additional compensation for a client who had won a settlement of a personal injury case with a different attorney. The client did not cash the first settlement check because he believed it did not compensate him for his injuries. DeFrantz told the client the settlement draft would no longer be valid and the insurance company would likely stop payment, which in fact it did.

Five months later, the statute of limitations expired.

A month later, the client called DeFrantz, who said he was preparing a letter of demand and that the client still had time to file suit because the statute had not run. He then said he was unable to contact the client’s doctor and asked the client to send a copy of the check, which DeFrantz said he would send to the insurer so it could issue a new check.

When the client called the insurer, he learned that DeFrantz never contacted the company and never filed suit. DeFrantz, however, told the client there was no problem with the statute of limitations and claimed he had sent the necessary paperwork to the insurer.

He moved without telling the client and did not return his phone calls. When the State Bar made inquiries, he provided false information to an investigator. When DeFrantz finally contacted the insurance company, 14 months after he was hired, it refused to issue a new check.

In three other matters, DeFrantz was sanctioned $9,500 for failing to make 24 court appearances.

In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and agreed to the imposition of discipline without a hearing.

KELECHI CHARLES EMEZIEM [#159652], 35, of Oakland was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE. The order took effect Oct. 5, 2000.

Emeziem stipulated to misconduct involving mishandling his client trust account.

He had two law offices, and without his knowledge, an employee deposited client funds into the office general account and used the funds for payment of expenses unrelated to that client’s case.

In the second case, Emeziem represented two clients in personal injury matters; the two later hired a different attorney. In the meantime, Emeziem used powers of attorney the two had signed when he was hired, settled their claims, deposited $12,500 in settlement funds into his trust account and wrote checks to the two clients which he deposited in his general office account — all without their knowledge or consent.

He stipulated that he misappropriated client funds for his personal and professional use.

In another matter, he deposited a settlement check for another client into his trust account and used the money for attorney’s fees and deposition transcripts unrelated to that client’s case. He also deposited personal funds into the account.

In mitigation, Emeziem cooperated with the bar’s investigation, made restitution to a client and to an insurance company, and did pro bono work for a legal services program. He also serves in the U.S. Naval Reserve.

CHARLOTTE A. HASSETT [#140285], 51, of Beverly Hills was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 5, 2000.

Hassett stipulated that she did not perform legal services competently or keep her clients informed about developments in their claim against a hospital and two doctors for performing an unauthorized procedure on their infant son.

Although Hassett filed a complaint in March 1994, she did not appear at two hearings and the case was dismissed in February 1995. She did not tell her clients or return eight telephone messages seeking information about the case. About a month later, Hassett filed for reconsideration without her clients’ consent; she still had not told them about the dismissal. She did not respond to a request to return the clients’ file so they could find a new attorney.

The case was reinstated, Hassett was sanctioned $500, she failed to appear at a status conference and was sanctioned another $780. She still did not tell the clients about the dismissal and reinstatement of their case.

The defendant hospital brought motions to compel Hassett to respond to requests for production of documents and to respond to interrogatories and requested sanctions. Although Hassett failed to appear at the hearing, it was ordered off calendar because the discovery deadline had passed. She then failed to appear at another hearing and was sanctioned $780.

The case eventually went to arbitration, where the minor was awarded $15,000, but because Hassett did not obtain the court’s required approval, the settlement could not be finalized.

When the clients obtained new counsel, she did not provide their file.

Hassett stipulated that she failed to respond to client inquiries, keep clients informed about significant developments in their case, perform legal services competently or release client papers.

Hassett also was disciplined last April for misleading a judge by making false statements, failing to cooperate with the bar’s investigation or to keep her address current with the bar, and for committing an act of moral turpitude.

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

STEVEN GEORGE HOOVER [#57345], 59, of Northridge was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE. The order took effect Oct. 5, 2000.

Hoover stipulated to misconduct in four consolidated cases.

The first matter involved two separate business disputes his client had with a pizza company. Hoover did not perform legal services competently by failing to appear in court twice, respond to interrogatories, amend a complaint, file a written opposition to a motion or inform his client about a hearing, and he settled one of the actions without his client’s knowledge. He also did not keep his client informed about developments in the case, including sanctions.

In a second case, Hoover defended a couple in a breach of contract matter, but he did not respond to discovery interrogatories, reply to motions or pay court-ordered sanctions. He was fired, but did not tell his clients that a trial-setting conference had been scheduled. Neither he nor the clients appeared at the conference. As a result, sanctions were imposed against Hoover in the amount of $10,733 for discovery abuse and failure to provide discovery, forcing the plaintiff to incur unnecessary legal fees and delay. The client was held responsible for $1,500 of the sanction, which was never paid.

Hoover did not respond to State Bar inquiries about the sanction.

He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, obey a court order, keep his clients reasonably informed about developments in their case or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

In another case, Hoover represented a client seeking additional earthquake repair money from his insurer. Hoover sent three letters contesting the denial of his client’s claim, but did no further work, including failing to file a complaint. He did not return the client’s file as requested. When the client sought a return of his fee, Hoover contended he earned the entire amount. As a condition of Hoover’s probation, the fee dispute will be arbitrated.

Hoover substituted in to a wrongful termination matter, but never filed an amended complaint, as he said he would. He twice did not file an opposition to a motion for summary judgment or respond to discovery requests and then did not appear at the hearing. Summary judgment was granted.

Hoover did not inform his client and did not respond to subsequent inquiries from the client.

He later appealed the court’s decision, but did not pursue the appeal and did not respond to his client’s inquiries.

He also did not properly pursue a medical malpractice case or a legal malpractice matter on behalf of the same client or keep the client informed about significant developments.

In mitigation, Hoover has no prior record of discipline since his 1973 admission to the bar.

JOHN JOSEPH HOUSE [#132332], 40, of San Jose was placed on probation for 60 months and actually suspended for 60 months and until he proves his rehabilitation, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Oct. 5, 2000.

House was disciplined in 1998, but did not meet the conditions of his probation: he failed to provide proof of enrollment in a substance abuse treatment program or attendance at ethics school, and he failed to make restitution or comply with the terms of his criminal probation.

The underlying discipline involved a failure to perform legal services competently, respond to client inquiries, or cooperate with the bar’s investigation, the unauthorized practice of law and committing acts of moral turpitude.

The criminal probation followed a 1997 conviction for petty theft and the unauthorized practice of law for which House was placed on misdemeanor criminal probation for three years. As part of the probation, he was required to complete 300 hours of volunteer work.

In an appearance before the judge, House said he had completed 172 hours of volunteer work. The court subsequently learned that House bribed a teenage boy to fraudulently sign the verification papers stating he had completed some volunteer work.

He was remanded to custody, still denying allegations of a probation violation. However, at a later probation violation hearing, House admitted he violated probation and acknowledged his misstatement. He was sentenced to eight months custody.

In mitigation, House had serious family and financial problems.

JOHN G. MONKMAN JR. [#51174], 54, of Pasadena was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on one year of probation with a two-month actual suspension. The order took effect Oct. 5, 2000.

Monkman stipulated to misconduct in two cases.

In the first, he practiced law in Nevada without being licensed there. He accepted a pro bono criminal case and did not file a written application with the district judge to represent his client and did not associate with a Nevada attorney as co-counsel.

In the second matter, Monkman failed to pay court-ordered sanctions and committed an act of moral turpitude. He filed a bankruptcy petition on behalf of a client, but in the petition stated that no previous action had been filed. In fact, the client had filed a previous petition and had been ordered by the bankruptcy court not to file another without obtaining a court order. Although the client said he told Monkman about previous filings, Monkman maintains he did not learn about prior cases until after the new petition was filed. He mistakenly believed he was prevented from divulging the truth because of attorney-client privilege, and he also thought the case would be dismissed after 15 days if additional schedules were not filed.

When the bankruptcy judge learned about the misstatements, he issued an order to show cause why Monkman should not be held in contempt, sanctioned and reported to the U.S. Attorney. Monkman failed to appear at the hearing and was sanctioned more than $8,000. He failed to appear at a disciplinary hearing or pay the sanction and was barred from the bankruptcy court of the central district of California.

In mitigation, he took steps to demonstrate remorse and he cooperated with the bar’s investigation.

JOHN D. MUSICK JR. [#157605], 55, of Penrose was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual six-month suspension and until he completes a domestic violence treatment program, and was ordered to take the MPRE. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Oct. 5, 2000.

Musick was suspended from practice in Colorado in 1998 after a finding that he struck his girlfriend three times during a five-year relationship. There was no finding of a criminal violation.

The Colorado Supreme Court grievance committee found that Musick’s conduct violated a rule stating that is it professional misconduct for a lawyer to “engage in any other conduct that adversely reflect’s on the lawyer’s fitness to practice.”

As a result, he was disciplined in California.

In mitigation, Musick acknowledged a dysfunctional relationship for which he sought counseling over four years. He maintains that his defense to the charges in Colorado, including a successful practice with satisfied clients and the fact that the assaults were isolated incidents rather than a pattern of behavior, were meritorious.

GEOFFREY PHILIP WONG [#42586], 59, of Sacramento was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 45-day suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 5, 2000.

Wong settled a personal injury case for $25,000, withholding $7,325 for a medical lien. He allowed the balance in his client trust account to fall below that amount, however, and paid the lien in four installments from his business account or with cashier’s checks.

He stipulated that he failed to maintain client funds in trust or promptly pay a medical lien.

In mitigation, Wong has no record of prior discipline, he made restitution to the medical provider and he cooperated with the bar’s investigation.

JOSLYN AITKEN [#88848], 51, of Laguna Beach was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on one year of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 5, 2000.

In 1997, Aitken had reached an agreement in lieu of discipline (ALD) in two matters, but she failed to comply with its conditions: she failed to submit three quarterly probation reports, take the MPRE, attend ethics school or submit a statement from a treating psychiatrist.

Because she did not comply with the ALD, she became subject to more stringent discipline and stipulated to misconduct in the two underlying cases.

In the first, she was hired to prepare naturalization petitions for her client’s stepchildren. When she did not return phone calls or prepare the papers, the client fired her and sought a return of his files and fee. Aitken did not return either for three months, when she completed the work, returned the file and refunded the fee.

In the second case, she did not communicate with her client and did not do the work for which she was hired. She returned most of the advance fee to the client.

She stipulated that she failed to perform legal services competently or respond to client inquiries in both cases, and failed to return a client file or refund a fee in the naturalization matter.

In mitigation, Aitken’s child was acutely ill and was hospitalized or in residential treatment for nearly two years. The child is now home, requiring a good deal of Aitken’s time. The situation contributed to Aitken’s misconduct and failure to comply with the ALD.

DAVID WILLIAM BARGMAN [#90684], 48, of New York, N.Y., was suspended for 12 months, stayed, placed on 24 months of probation with an actual 30-day suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 15, 2000.

Bargman was suspended for three months in New York for failing to maintain client funds in a trust account and conduct adversely reflecting on his fitness to practice law. Because his actions would warrant discipline had they been committed in California, he is subject to discipline in this state.

In mitigation, Bargman has practiced since 1979 without any discipline, the New York hearing panel found his conduct to be an aberration, and trust funds were converted for a one-month period without any harm to clients. Bargman cooperated with the investigation.

CALVIN F. ELAM JR. [#146368], 42, of Sacramento was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 45-day suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 15, 2000.

Elam stipulated to eight counts of misconduct in five client matters.

In the first matter, Elam was hired in 1995 to file a claim against Vacaville State Prison for an injury sustained by his client. He filed a personal injury action, but then moved his office without changing his address of record with the court.

His client fired him in mid-1997, but Elam did not notify the court, which continued to notify him of various court dates. He failed to make six appearances or notify the client of hearings during the next two years. He also did not file or respond to motions, pay sanctions, or find new counsel. The client finally hired a new lawyer.

Elam stipulated that he failed to take steps to protect his client’s interests or to properly withdraw from a case. He did not respond to a bar investigator’s inquiries about the matter.

In a personal injury case, Elam did not pay his client’s doctor bill. The client won a judgment against Elam but held the client liable for the debt. Because she was retired, the client was unable to pay the bill. Elam stipulated that he failed to pay a medical lien, as requested by his client.

In another personal injury matter, he did not serve the lawsuit he had filed, did not provide his client with her file or respond to her letters, and withdrew from representation without protecting his client’s interests.

Elam failed to perform legal services competently or refund fees in a wrongful termination case.

In a Social Security case, he did not tell his client he no longer wished to represent her, file an appeal of an unfavorable decision or advise her of her options. The woman’s doctor refused to continue her treatment and she begged Elam to take the necessary steps to advance her claim.

Elam finally advised the client he was no longer her attorney but did not tell her the deadline for an appeal had passed, that her claim was dead because he did not protect her rights, or advise her to try to reinstate her medical treatment and take steps to protect any legal rights she might still have. He did not file a motion to withdraw as attorney of record or notify the Social Security Administration that he was no longer acting as his client’s lawyer.

Elam was privately reproved in 1997 for failing to deposit client funds in a trust account, paying a client’s expenses and improperly withdrawing from employment.

In mitigation, Elam agreed to close his solo practice.

RICHARD MICHAEL ELINSKI [#112892], 51, of Chino 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.15, 2000.

Elinski stipulated that he commingled personal and client funds by repeatedly replenishing his trust account with personal funds. He also wrote three checks against insufficient funds, committing acts of moral turpitude.

In mitigation, Elinski has no record of discipline since his 1984 admission to the bar and he cooperated with its investigation.

JOHN M. GOODMAN [#147569], 37, of San Diego was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension, and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Oct. 15, 2000.

Goodman stipulated to misconduct in five consolidated cases.

He practiced law while suspended for nonpayment of bar dues, used his client trust account for personal purposes and wrote seven checks against insufficient funds, failed to maintain settlement  funds in a trust account and misappropriated client funds for his own use, an act of moral turpitude.

In mitigation, Goodman was drinking heavily at the time of the misconduct and now attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He cooperated with the bar’s investigation.

NANCY LEE KELSO [#53880], 56, of Palmdale was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 15, 2000.

Kelso stipulated to misconduct in two matters.

She was hired to represent a client in a wrongful termination matter on a contingency fee basis. She filed a complaint and claims she completed substitute service by leaving a copy of the complaint at the defendants’ business. When she received a notice that the defendants had filed bankruptcy and named her client a creditor, she assumed they had been served. Kelso did not file proofs of service with the court.

Because the defendants obtained a discharge in bankruptcy, Kelso’s client was precluded from pursuing her action and Kelso contends that further activity was unnecessary. She also says the client no longer wanted to pursue her claims, but the client denies this. The court dismissed the action without any opposition from Kelso. Over the course of the representation, Kelso did not return most of her client’s phone calls.

In a second case, Kelso represented a property owner in an eviction proceeding and a breach of contract action to obtain past due rent. One of the tenants was never served with the summons and complaint, the other did not respond to the lawsuit but Kelso did not request entry of default. When she did not respond to a letter from her client demanding an explanation, she was fired. She then filed a request for entry of default against one tenant and default was entered the same day. Kelso did not sign a substitution of attorney or deliver the file to the new attorney until the date of the hearing.

She stipulated in both matters that she failed to perform legal services competently or respond to client inquiries.

In mitigation, Kelso was overwhelmed by many small low-paying matters, she does a great deal of pro bono work for indigent clients, and her secretary was ill for several months, contributing to delays in processing paperwork and responding to telephone calls. She submitted evidence attesting to her good character.

PAUL S. MARCHAND [#147146], 37, of Palm Springs was suspended for six months, 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. 15, 2000.

Marchand stipulated that he practiced law while suspended for non-payment of bar dues. He was privately reproved in 1995 for failing to report a $1,000 sanction to the bar.

In mitigation, no client was harmed and Marchand cooperated with the bar’s investigation.

FADLO PAUL MOUSALAM [#38640], 61, of La Canada was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 45-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 15, 2000.

Mousalam practiced law while he was on inactive status, making court appearances on behalf of eight clients.

In mitigation, he has no record of discipline, no clients were harmed, he presented references to his good character and he cooperated with the bar’s investigation.

HARRY W. ZIMMERMAN [#166422], 51, of Covina was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 15, 2000.

Zimmerman stipulated to misconduct in two separate cases.

He represented a client in a marital dissolution, winning a motion to set aside a default judgment. At 2 a.m. the day of a hearing to modify child and spousal support, Zimmerman informed his client he could not appear.

They met at 6 a.m. so the client could sign a substitution of attorney form and appear in pro per. Zimmerman stipulated that he failed to take steps to protect his client’s interests.

In a second matter, he pleaded no contest in 1997 to driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident. He also pleaded no contest in 1994 to a DUI with one prior.

He stipulated that his continuing alcohol abuse shows a lack of respect for the legal system.

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

INTERIM SUSPENSION

ROGER WELLINGTON STOUT [#91147], 58, of Camarillo was placed on interim suspension July 7, 2000, following a conviction for conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

LEON H. BRUSH [#117411], 75, of Marina del Rey was placed on interim suspension July 19, 2000, following his conviction on workers’ compensation charges. He was ordered to comply with rule 955. Brush resigned from the bar Sept. 29.

STEPHEN SCOTT KING [#33489], 63, of Los Angeles was placed on interim suspension Aug. 3, 2000, following his conviction of one count of grand theft by embezzlement. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.

GERALD VINCENT UNDERWOOD III [#84497], 47, of Modesto was placed on interim suspension Aug. 10, 2000, following convictions for auto theft, inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant, stalking and violating a protective order. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.

JAY CURTIS COX [#147858], 38, of Boise, Idaho, was placed on interim suspension twice — on Aug. 14 and Sept. 5, 2000 — following convictions for possession of a controlled substance and reckless driving. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.

ROBERT THOMAS WILLIAMS [#116701], 52, of Santa Rosa was placed on interim suspension Aug. 14, 2000, following a conviction for two counts of grand theft, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. Williams resigned from the bar Sept. 14.

RUSSELL N. BAUGH [#124165], 43, of Stockton was placed on interim suspension Aug. 21, 2000, following a conviction for grand theft. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.

JOY S. HAMPTON [#160220], 46, of Placerville was placed on interim suspension Aug. 31, 2000, following a conviction for possession of a controlled substance. She was ordered to comply with rule 955.

LEON H. ROUNTREE JR. [#53029], 56, of Oakland was placed on interim suspension Sept. 11, 2000, following a conviction on two counts of making false statements to a government agency. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.

MERRISA LEIGH COLEMAN [#160046], 41, of San Rafael was placed on interim suspension Oct. 16, 2000, following a conviction for resisting an executive officer by means of threat or violence. She was ordered to comply with rule 955.

RESIGNATION/CHARGES PENDING

DAIN ROY BIRKLEY [#69884], 54, of Modesto (Aug. 17, 2000)

ISAURO DIAZ [#130475], 40, of Los Angeles (Aug. 17, 2000)

SOCRATES G. DOMINGO [#137333], 44, of Simi Valley (Aug. 17, 2000)

JEROME JAY EISENBERG [#105642], 41, of Calabasas (Aug. 17, 2000)

ROSEMARY E. FATUSIN [#170394], 36, of Rancho Cucamonga (Aug. 17, 2000)

FRANKLIN FEIGENBAUM [#134403], 38, of Munich, Germany (Aug. 17, 2000)

SANDRA D. HARDRIDGE [#159539], 38, of Laguna Hills (Aug. 17, 2000)

KELLY A. HATFIELD [#140983], 41, of Thousand Oaks (Aug. 17, 2000)

GARY STEVEN KLEINMAN [#85232], 47, of Tarzana (Aug. 17, 2000)

SVEN CHARLES RUDKIN [#109750], 45, of Adelanto (Aug. 17, 2000)

MANNY C. MARTINEZ [#134069], 54, of Pico Rivera (Aug. 19, 2000)

ROBERT JOHN SHUTAK [#96648], 66, of Santa Monica (Aug. 19, 2000)

STEVEN A. DAYTON [#158617], 44, of Long Beach (Aug. 20, 2000)

ANDREW MILTON BAKKER [#92493], 57, of Los Angeles (Aug. 25, 2000)

ROBERT THOMAS WILLIAMS [#116701], 52, of Santa Rosa (Sept. 14, 2000)

FRANCIS LEONARD GILL [#112768], 42, of Agana, Guam (Sept. 23, 2000)

LINDSAY WELLMAN [#73122], 49, of Westlake Village (Sept. 23, 2000)

SIMONA ROSALES BAKKER [#98225], 54, of San Diego (Sept. 23, 2000)

MORTON BEN GOLDSTEIN [#45242], 58, of Havre, Mont. (Sept. 23, 2000)

WILLIAM HAROLD THOMAS [#118369], 45, of Beverly Hills (Sept. 23, 2000)

LEON H. BRUSH [#117411], 75, of Marina del Rey (Sept. 29, 2000)

DAVID LEE BRANSON [#63716], 66, of Lomita (Oct. 8, 2000)

ROBERT L. FENTON [#56982], 51, of Monterey (Oct. 14, 2000)

FREDDIE R. SOTO [#169796], 33, of San Diego (Oct. 14, 2000)

SUSPENSION/FAILURE TO PASS PRE

RODNEY JAMES ESPINOZA [#117657], 44, of Covina (July 5, 2000)

JOHN ROGER ETIENNE [#61067], 59, of Fiji (July 5, 2000)

JOHN R. LOTHROP [#158111], 43, of San Leandro (July 5, 2000, terminated Oct. 23, 2000)

GARY LELAND ASHTON [#37361], 60, of Sonora (Aug. 21, 2000)

PUBLIC REPROVAL

CHRISTIAN E. MARKEY III [#118747], 42, of Los Angeles (April 16, 2000)

DAN J. DeSARIO [#105569], 47, of Los Angeles (May 8, 2000)

MICHAEL ARNOLD LEVIN [#41448], 58, of Burbank (May 31, 2000)

ROBERT A. DICKRELL [#151498], 36, of Sherman Oaks (June 16, 2000)

ALLAN HARRIS LERCH [#50993], 58, of San Francisco (June 24, 2000)

LUIS ANTHONY LUCERO [#86366], 48, of San Luis Obispo (Aug. 12, 2000)

REINSTATEMENT

ROLAND RAMEZ SALAMEH [#107658], 52, of Beverly Hills (June 14, 2000)