HOWARD C. KNADLER [#85063], 49, of Colfax
was suspended for four years, stayed, and actually suspended for two
years and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the
suspension and he proves his rehabilitation. The order took effect
June 6, 2001.
In a default proceeding, the bar court found that
Knadler failed to properly maintain his client trust account or hold
client funds in a trust account. He wrote 17 checks against
insufficient funds over a three-month period.
In addition, the court found he commingled
personal and client funds by writing 10 checks on the trust account
for personal and business expenses unrelated to any client, including
payments to a paralegal for office expenses and body work on his car.
He also made 56 deposits totalling more than $29,000 into the account.
The money came from personal, family and non-client related business
sources, including his mother, his general account and the sale of his
Knadler has two prior disciplines, the first for
misusing his client trust account by writing bad checks and checks for
personal and non-client business, the second for failing to comply
with probation conditions attached to the earlier discipline.
MICHAEL LEIGH REAGAN [#82583], 58, of
Westminster was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on five
years of probation with an actual three-year suspension and was
ordered to prove his rehabilitation, make restitution, take the MPRE
and comply with rule 955. The order took effect June 9, 2001.
Reagan stipulated to 11 acts of misconduct in
five separate cases.
In a personal injury case, Reagan failed to pay
his client's medical provider, allowed the balance in his client
trust account to fall below the required amount on 10 different dates,
and misappropriated almost $3,000 from his client, an act of moral
In a second personal injury matter, Reagan wrote
checks to his client's doctors, but they were returned because the
doctors had not agreed to reduce their bills. He never resolved the
dispute or paid medical
liens owed by his client. The balance in his client trust account fell
below the required amount six times and Reagan misappropriated client
funds, an act of moral turpitude.
He failed to perform legal services competently
or keep another client informed about developments in her case.
Although he filed a complaint in court, he did not serve the defendant
with either the summons or the complaint and he took no further
action. When the defendant moved to dismiss, he did not appear at the
His client learned of the hearing independently
and appeared unrepresented. Reagan did not respond to her inquiries,
so she hired new counsel.
Despite more than 15 calls from another client
about his share of a settlement, Reagan did not pay the man his funds,
instead offering a variety of excuses for not going to the bank or
mailing a check. He misappropriated more than $6,000 from the client.
Reagan also practiced law while suspended for
non-payment of bar dues. When his law firm fired him, he had 12 active
cases. He did not pay another client his share of a settlement that
was deposited in Reagan's trust account.
In mitigation, Reagan has no prior record of
He submitted a statement to the bar court
indicating he suffered a serious illness in the 1980s (a blood clot in
his brain). When he returned to work, he began to drink and ultimately
suffered from severe depression. He has controlled those problems and
takes medication to deal with medical problems stemming from the blood
MICHAEL ANTHONY RODRIGUEZ [#153962], 35, of
Chicago 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 June 9, 2001.
Rodriguez' problems resulted from his
arrangement with Montana Financial, a paralegal company that marketed
its services primarily to low-income Spanish-speaking individuals.
Rodriguez reviewed bankruptcy petitions prepared by Montana, signed
the petitions as attorney for the clients and appeared at the
creditor's hearing, all for a $100 per client fee. He never received
any money directly from clients, never met any clients and never went
to Montana's offices.
Rodriguez was paid for only 10 court appearances.
After he terminated his relationship with Montana, he learned the firm
continued to use fee agreement forms bearing his name and purported
Rodriguez stipulated that he failed to provide
competent legal services in three separate matters.
In one matter, he did not review a client's
bankruptcy petition before it was filed, didn't provide legal
assistance and failed to appear at three hearings. The only debt -
delinquent child support payments - was non-dischargeable, but
Rodriguez did not inform his client.
He didn't consult with clients in another
bankruptcy proceeding, which was not warranted due to the small amount
of debt to be discharged. The petition also contained incorrect
Another client paid Montana $4,000 in fees which
he charged to his credit card. He then incorrectly listed the fees as
a dischargeable debt; Rodriguez did not delete the listing on the
petition, nor did he explain that listing the fee could be considered
fraudulent. He signed a petition stating he had explained the various
types of bankruptcy proceedings and available relief to his clients
when in fact he did not do so.
In mitigation, Rodriguez cooperated with the
bar's investigation, he has a record of providing pro bono services,
and he submitted letters attesting to his good character.
ERIC TARANKOW [#101427], 52, of Los Angeles
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 June 9, 2001.
Tarankow stipulated to one count of failing to
obey a court order.
He did not appear at two hearings in an
immigration matter. He tried to withdraw as his client's attorney
two days before the first hearing, but the judge ordered him to
appear, warning that failure to do so would result in a complaint to
the State Bar.
When Tarankow did not show up, the judge
continued the hearing to another date, but Tarankow failed to appear
then as well.
He also was disciplined in 1996 for failure to
perform legal services competently, deposit client funds in a trust
account or promptly pay out client funds.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's
investigation and took steps to demonstrate remorse.
CHRISTOPHER M. VACARRO [#123775], 42, of
Newport Beach was suspended for one year, stayed, actually
suspended for 60 days and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to
terminate the suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE. If the
actual suspension exceeds two years, Vacarro must prove his
rehabilitation. If it exceeds 90 days, he must comply with rule 955.
The order took effect June 9, 2001.
Vacarro has three convictions for driving under
the influence, the last in 1998. His blood alcohol level was .29 and
he was driving on a suspended license.
He also was convicted in 1996 and 1993.
The bar court found that his misconduct warranted
discipline but did not amount to moral turpitude.
JAY CURTIS COX [#147858], 39, of Boise, Idaho,
was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of
probation with an actual one-year suspension and was ordered to prove
his rehabilitation and take the MPRE. Credit toward the actual
suspension will be given for an interim suspension which began Aug.
14, 2000. The order took effect June 14, 2001.
Cox stipulated to four counts of misconduct in
three cases, each a criminal conviction in 1999.
He pleaded guilty twice to possession of
methamphetamine, as well as alcohol-related reckless driving and
driving with a suspended license.
Cox has been placed on interim suspension twice,
with orders to comply with rule 955. He submitted one affidavit late
and the other was on time.
In mitigation, he has no other discipline,
acknowledges his wrongdoing and has the support of his current
employer and former colleagues in efforts to turn his life around.
CHARLES B. DINSMORE [#87112], 53, of Haverton,
Pa., was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of
probation with a 90-day actual suspension, and was ordered to take the
MPRE within a year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect
June 14, 2001.
Dinsmore stipulated to 10 counts of misconduct in
three matters in New Jersey, where he was suspended by the Supreme
He failed to perform any legal services for a
client charged with disorderly conduct or return a $500 advance fee
until a fee arbitration complaint. He also improperly withdrew from
employment and failed to cooperate with the bar's investigation.
He settled a personal injury case for $20,000,
but did not pay his client's medical bills or refund the balance of
the funds to the client, nor did he cooperate with the investigation.
Following an audit by the New Jersey office of
attorney ethics, Dinsmore was charged with misappropriating client
funds and conduct involving dishonesty and deceit. That investigation
is still pending and Dinsmore is contesting the charges.
In the third case, he did not file a bankruptcy
petition promptly, and when it was filed it was deficient and required
another filing. Dinsmore's check for the filing fee was returned for
insufficient funds, causing dismissal of the bankruptcy petition.
The California bar court found that Dinsmore's
actions in New Jersey warrant the imposition of discipline in
In mitigation, he has no prior record of
discipline, demonstrated his remorse and suffered from emotional or
physical difficulties at the time of the misconduct.
ELVA GONZALEZ-FUNES [#128177], 44, of Miami
was suspended for one year, stayed, and was placed on two years of
probation with a nine-month actual suspension and until she makes
restitution and presents a physician's opinion that she is fit to
practice law. She also was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with
rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, she must prove
her rehabilitation. The order took effect June 14, 2001.
Gonzalez-Funes stipulated to three counts of
misconduct in three consolidated cases.
In the first, she wrote nine checks totaling
$21,000 against insufficient funds in her client trust account.
In the second matter, she settled a personal
injury case and informed her clients they each would receive $1,185
from the settlement. Through inadvertence, checks totaling $6,670 were
never deposited in Gonzalez-Funes' trust account. Nonetheless, she
wrote four checks totaling that amount.
Two of the checks, one for a doctor and the other
Gonzalez-Funes' fee, were endorsed over to another party for cash.
The other two, for the clients, were less than the amount they were
promised and they refused to accept them.
Gonzalez-Funes stipulated that she failed to
ensure the drafts were deposited in a client trust account and failed
to adequately supervise the payment of client funds.
After settling another personal injury matter,
she was to keep $2,500 in her client trust account to pay medical
providers, but allowed the balance to fall below that amount. Despite
the client's requests, Gonzalez-Funes did not provide him with his
file or with a copy of any check disbursing funds to the doctors.
Instead, she told the client the doctors had been
paid. As in the previous case, two checks written to medical providers
were endorsed over to another party for cash. Gonzalez-Funes also told
the client he had to pay $50 for his file.
She stipulated that she did not maintain
settlement funds in a trust account and did not adequately oversee the
payment of those funds to lienholders.
In mitigation, Gonzalez-Funes suffered extreme
physical disabilities, making her unable to attend to the daily
requirements of her practice. She eventually closed her practice and
moved out of state.
WILLIAM JOHN HOUSER JR. [#141329], 55, of
Reseda was suspended for six months, stayed, and placed on two
years of probation. The order took effect June 14, 2001.
Houser pleaded no contest in 1999 to corporal
injury to a spouse or cohabitant. He was arrested after police were
summoned to his home and witnessed him grabbing the victim and shaking
her violently as her head hit the floor. The victim was treated for
bruises to her back, arms and head.
Houser later violated his probation by attempting
to contact the victim in violation of a restraining order.
In mitigation, he had an alcohol problem and
enrolled in a domestic violence program.
Houser also was disciplined in 1998 for failing
twice to pay sanctions. The first was for filing a frivolous appeal
from a judgment of dismissal and the second was for filing a frivolous
appeal from a sanction order for prosecuting a frivolous lawsuit.
TRACY LYNN STEWART [#92958], 63, of Torrance
was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on three years of
probation with an actual 30-day suspension and was ordered to make
restitution. The order took effect June 14, 2001.
In one matter, Stewart stipulated that she failed
to perform legal services competently, inform the client of
significant developments or refund unearned fees.
She substituted in as counsel in an appeal from a
criminal conviction. The appeal was dismissed due to failure to file
an opening brief, but the court later issued an order to extend the
time; the opening brief was due 30 days later.
Another dismissal was issued; again it was
vacated when the court granted Stewart's motion for a time
extension. The opening brief was not signed and the appeal was
dismissed again. The client learned of the dismissal by calling the
Stewart then told the client she would file a
petition for a writ of habeus corpus, but failed to do so.
The appeal ultimately was reinstated by the
California Appellate Project, which was unsuccessful in contacting
Stewart about the case. The client won a small claims judgment for the
$5,000 fee, but Stewart did not refund the money.
In another case, Stewart did not comply with
probation conditions attached to a 1999 stipulation she reached with
the bar as a result of misconduct in 12 consolidated cases. She did
not file three quarterly reports, a mental health report or a law
office management plan on time, and did not file two statements by a
treating psychiatrist or psychologist. She acknowledged receiving no
psychotherapy during a five-month period.
She has three prior disciplines: a 1996 private
reproval for failure to perform competently, return client files,
refund unearned fees or cooperate with the bar's investigation; a
1998 suspension for failing to comply with probation conditions
attached to the reproval and for a conviction for driving with a
suspended license; and another suspension the following year for
misconduct in 11 consolidated matters, including failure to perform,
return client files or communicate with clients and improperly
withdrawing from representation.
In mitigation, Stewart is receiving treatment for
emotional or physical problems, was under severe financial stress and
cooperated with the bar's investigation.
DAVID J. CASTENHOLZ [#130687], 47, of
Huntington Beach was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed
on two years of probation with a 60-day actual suspension. He also was
ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect July
Castenholz stipulated to failing to supervise an
authorized signatory on his client trust and general accounts, but he
was granted leniency because the resulting troubles were not caused by
him, but by those he worked with as a contractor.
In August 1993, Castenholz moved into a Los
Angeles office suite shared by several attorneys. He began working
with another attorney there on a contract basis, handling some
litigation work. Castenholz made numerous court appearances for the
other attorney and prepared pleadings for him. The attorney later
asked Castenholz to take on all his litigation work and to become a
signatory on accounts to assist with settlements.
Castenholz opened the client trust accounts and
authorized the attorney's office administrator as an additional
signatory. He was unaware at the time that the accounts would be used
improperly or that the attorney and his administrator were embroiled
in a dispute.
The attorney moved out of the office on a weekend
in early 1995, without notifying Castenholz, and took some of his
Castenholz later found that without his
knowledge, proceeds from several of the attorney's non-litigation
cases were deposited and withdrawn from the litigation accounts. He
also learned the administrator was taking on cases using his name. In
response, Castenholz closed the accounts.
There were six cases in all. In one 1994 personal
injury matter, the administrator forged the names of Castenholz and
the client to approve a settlement and then intercepted the $11,000
check. The funds were not returned to the client
until 1996. In another case, the administrator solicited two
clients to employ Cas-tenholz, without his knowledge.
Since that time, Castenholz has spent
considerable time and money in an effort to remedy the problems.
Before working with the other attorney, he had a small and thriving
Castenholz failed to keep a ledger for each
client or maintain bank statements and canceled checks.
Castenholz admitted he was "incredibly naive,
used poor judgment" in opening the accounts and was negligent in
failing to supervise them. He had practiced law for almost eight years
without incident. He was unknowingly used by the office administrator
in his battle against the other attorney. He noted that had he paid
closer attention to trust account activity, he might have discovered
the fraudulent acts sooner.
Because his conduct did not involve dishonesty or
greed on his part, the bar recommended less severe discipline.
Castenholz gained nothing from the fraud and lost time and money
trying to investigate the situation. He spent nearly $30,000 of his
own money, and his marriage ended in a separation.
Since extricating himself from involvement with
the attorney and administrator, his handling of cases has been
He had no prior record of discipline and has been
actively involved in charity work with Global Partners for Develop-ment,
a nonprofit which supports and funds development in Kenya, Tanzania
and Uganda. He served as president of the organization for five years,
has been its general counsel since 1986 and is now a director of the
MICHAEL HENRY CLEPPER [#30863], 66, of
Riverside was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on
probation for two years with a 60-day actual suspension, and was
ordered to take the MPRE within one year and prove his rehabilitation
and fitness to practice. The order took effect July 1, 2001.
Clepper stipulated to failing to perform
competently, return unearned fees, release files, respond to client
inquiries or cooperate with the bar's investigation.
In 1990, an Alaska resident hired Clepper to
register a divorce judgment, paying him $1,500 in advance fees. For
nearly six years, Clepper failed to respond to the client, who finally
demanded the return of her fees and file. Clepper, in turn, sent her a
bill for $1,334.25
In another case, he took $3,500 in advance fees
to handle a divorce in 1998, then did little more than send a letter
or two to the opposing party and conduct one telephone conference, a
$793 value. The client demanded her money back, but Clepper did not
repay the rest of the fees until he was under pressure by a State Bar
investigation. In the third case, he substituted as attorney in a
family law case, then did not return calls related to a child support
matter in which payments were increasingly in arrears.
Clepper showed a pattern of misconduct and has a
prior record of discipline. In 1990, he received two years of
probation for improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to
perform and failing to return unearned fees.
In mitigation, in 40 years of practice, he was
disciplined just once, a decade ago. He served as a judge advocate for
the U.S. Air Force and has received honors and awards for his services
as an attorney.
RODNEY JAMES ESPINOZA [#117657], 45, of Covina
was suspended for one year, stayed, actually suspended for six months
and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the
suspension, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took
effect July 1, 2001.
In a default proceeding, the bar court found
Espinoza failed to comply with conditions of his probation. He did not
file quarterly reports and failed to take the MPRE.
In 1997, he was disciplined for failing to
maintain legal and just actions or report and pay judicial sanctions.
In violating his probation, Espinoza showed
indifference to rectifying or atoning his misconduct. His failure to
participate in the proceeding also was cited as an aggravating factor.
KENNETH DALE FAIR [#87535], 55, of Anaheim
was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on probation for two years
and was ordered to make restitution. The order took effect July 1,
Fair stipulated to incompetent performance,
failure to inform a client of significant developments and improper
withdrawal from employment in a workers' compensation case in 1994
and 1995. After taking over the case from another attorney, he was
late with discovery responses. He did not reply to the opposing
counsel's request to provide the responses and failed to appear at a
hearing at which sanctions of $678 were imposed. Fair was ordered at
the hearing to respond to discovery.
He did not comply with the court's order by the
deadline. Opposing counsel again wrote to Fair, enclosing a copy of
the court order, but got no response. A motion to dismiss the case was
filed; Fair did not oppose the motion or appear at the hearing. A
judgment was entered against Fair's client.
Fair did not inform his client of any of the
case's problems. He abandoned prosecution of the case and allowed it
to be dismissed with prejudice.
Fair has a prior record of discipline. He
stipulated to 15 counts of misconduct in 10 consolidated cases in
1998. The misconduct entailed the unauthorized practice of law,
failure to perform legal services competently, communicate with
clients, refund fees, return client files, comply with the probation
requirements of an earlier discipline or cooperate with the bar's
investigation, and improperly withdrawing from representation.
Fair also was disciplined in 1995 for misconduct
in five client matters, including failing to perform legal services
competently, pay out client funds, communicate with clients or
cooperate with bar investigations and for improperly withdrawing from
STEVEN E. McNICHOLS [#151934], 62, of San
Francisco was suspended for 90 days, stayed, placed on four years
of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and pay
$5,000 in restitution. The order took effect July 1, 2001.
McNichols stipulated to misconduct in two cases.
In 1994, he failed to promptly comply with reasonable requests for
information made by a client.
The client retained McNichols in August 1994 to
pursue administrative mandamus; between March and August 1995, the
client inquired about the petition and was told by McNichols that he
was awaiting a hearing date. In September, the client requested that
McNichols obtain a hearing date because he wanted to retire. He also
asked for a written accounting of the attorney's time. McNichols
instead telephoned the client, then filed the petition in October. He
provided an accounting the following summer, then failed to respond to
a request for a status report in 1997.
In August 1997, McNichols agreed to refund the
client's $5,000 if he did not prevail in court. The client filed a
complaint with the State Bar the following year. McNichols did not
take further action on behalf of the client and he did not refund the
In 1999, he represented a couple in the woman's
employment matter; the couple discharged McNichols about a week later
and requested a return of a $5,000 fee. McNichols agreed to return the
fee but was financially unable to do so.
In mitigation, McNichols had no prior record of
discipline in many years of practice. He cooperated with the bar's
investigation, showed remorse and acted in good faith. He suffered
from generalized anxiety disorder, a stress-related condition, and has
sought care. McNichols has virtually stopped practicing law, except
for monitoring two appellate cases, has filed a disability claim and
is now living in Mexico, where he hopes to pursue a career as a
writer. Effective Sept. 22, 2000, he voluntarily enrolled as an
inactive member of the California bar.
MICHAEL THOMAS MORRISSEY [#62195], 52, of San
Jose was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on probation for
two years with a 45-day actual suspension, and was ordered to prove
his rehabilitation and fitness to practice. The order took effect July
Morrissey stipulated to failing to comply with
terms of probation imposed in 1998. He submitted proof of paying
$1,000 in restitution to a client but failed to submit proof of paying
interest due. He also did not submit proof of completing eight hours
of MCLE, ordered as part of his probation, until January 2001.
The probation was imposed as part of an earlier
discipline related to four consolidated cases.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar by
agreeing to the discipline without a hearing. He had tried for 10
months to learn the terms and conditions of his probation but due to
the 1997 veto of the bar's fee bill, the discipline system was
virtually shut down and no one responded to his requests. He received
the information in May 1999. Morrissey's transgression was failing
to advise the bar of his compliance.
JAMES EDWARD NEWNHAM [#118711], 46, of San
Bernardino was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on probation
for two years and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The
order took effect July 1, 2001.
Newnham stipulated to failing to perform
competently, respond to client inquiries, inform a client of
significant developments or cooperate with the bar's investigation.
Newnham did not file any motions or requests for modification in a
child support case, yet he charged the client an additional $500 fee.
When the client requested an explanation for the extra charge, Newnham
said he would contact the client but instead stopped returning the
client's calls. The client sent a certified letter requesting the
return of his file, but Newnham did not respond. He also did not
return the client's unearned fees.
Newnham's actions significantly harmed the
client and he was ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution. He has a prior
record of discipline - a 1998 public reproval for failing to perform
HUEY PERCY SHEPARD [#31096], 65, of Inglewood
was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on probation for two
years and ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took
effect July 1, 2001.
Shepard stipulated to using his client trust
account for business and personal purposes. Between April 1997 and
March 1999, he issued checks against insufficient funds on 11
occasions. On one 1998 date, he wrote a $700 check when the account
was nearly $120 overdrawn.
All the checks were issued for personal or
business purposes. Shepard has since stopped using his trust account
in this manner and has hired a bookkeeper to maintain and balance the
In mitigation, Shepard did not cause harm to any
clients, cooperated with the bar's investigation, showed remorse and
has no prior record of discipline. He is a retired judge who has
served as a judge and court commissioner for about 16 years.
ANDREW K. ALGER [#142838], 43, of Fair Oaks
was suspended for two years, stayed, and actually suspended for six
months and until he pays $2,500 in restitution and the State Bar Court
grants a motion to terminate the actual suspension. He also was
ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took
effect July 13, 2001.
In a default proceeding, the bar court found that
Alger failed to perform services competently, inform clients of
significant case developments and pay court sanctions; he also
improperly withdrew from employment.
In the first of two cases, Alger in 1996 filed an
answer and cross-complaint for clients in a Sacramento County civil
suit; however, he did not provide the clients with court documents or
inform them of some court appearances, including a settlement
conference and a hearing on an order to show cause.
When the opposing party reneged on a $136,500
settlement agreement, Alger did not enforce the settlement, take the
matter to trial or proceed with the case. He took no further action,
and the clients hired new counsel in 1997.
In the second case, he filed a lawsuit for a
client in March 1995 and communicated with her in the early phases of
litigation, but thereafter failed to perform legal services. He did
not respond to the opposing party's discovery requests and failed to
appear four times, with one missed court date resulting in sanctions.
He also did not inform the client of these events. At a June hearing,
the case was dismissed and Alger received further sanctions for
failing to appear and for failing to file required documents. He did
not pay the sanctions.
The client made several attempts to contact Alger
and learn the status of the case. He did not respond, nor did he
inform her the case had been dismissed. The client was forced to pay
$1,000 to settle the sanctions.
The bar court cited as aggravating factors
Alger's multiple acts of wrongdoing and the significant harm caused
by his misconduct. He was indifferent toward rectifying the situation
and has yet to reimbuse the client for the sanctions. He did not
cooperate with the bar's investigation.
Alger has a prior record of discipline. He was
publicly reproved for failing to perform services competently in two
client matters, failing to communicate with one client and failing to
cooperate with the bar's investigation.
CONSUELO T. ANCOG [#178642], 44, of Huntington
Beach was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on probation
for three years with an actual one-year suspension and was ordered to
pay $6,523 in restitution, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The
order took effect July 13, 2001.
Ancog stipulated to misconduct in two
consolidated cases. In the first, she failed to return unearned fees
or respond to the bar's investigation.
Ancog was retained with $1,500 in advance fees in
a 1998 divorce but the client terminated her about two months later
and asked for a return of unearned fees. Ancog instead sent an
invoice, claiming she had prepared papers, although they had not been
filed. She agreed she owed the client $633, but the bar investigated
when Ancog had not returned unearned fees by April 1999. She responded
only after receiving three letters from the bar, but by August, she
still had not provided a refund.
In the second case, Ancog was retained to collect
a $21,343 judgment following a divorce. She again took $1,500 in
advance fees. She collected the funds in October, but when she wrote a
check from the client trust account the next month, the balance was
only $13,274. It had fallen below the required amount on several dates
since the judgment was collected.
Ancog paid the client $17,000 more in December,
but has not paid the balance, which with additional money owed the
client, totals $5,890. The client sent a letter demanding the money,
which Ancog did not acknowledge, then retained another attorney to
collect the money. Ancog did not respond to the attorney's attempts
to communicate with her.
Aggravating factors included violating trust,
causing harm to a client, indifference and failing to return money
owed. In mitigation, Ancog paid the $17,000 in restitution on her own.
She was suffering from difficulties in her personal life at the time
of the misconduct.
JON LOUIS AUGUST [#58801], 58, of Ann Arbor,
Mich., was suspended for 30 days, stayed, placed on probation for
one year and ordered to take the MPRE. The order took effect July 13,
August stipulated he violated terms of his 1998
probation when he failed to file a quarterly report, mental health
reports or CPA reports due in July and September 2000.
The disciplinary action dates back to 1995. In
1998, he received a 90-day actual suspension and two years of
probation as a result of a client trust account violation and four
counts of violating probation.
The original case involved four matters in which
August failed to release client property, properly handle client trust
funds, maintain complete records, promptly pay funds a client was
owed, deposit funds in a trust account, perform competent legal
services and respond to inquiries.
MICHAEL P. FEDYNYSHYN [#123566], 43, of San
Diego was suspended for 90 days, stayed, placed on probation for
one year and ordered to take the MPRE. The order took effect July 13,
Fedynyshyn stipulated he failed to meet
conditions of a September 1999 public reproval. He did not file a
quarterly report, attend ethics school, take the MPRE and complete
three hours of MCLE.
The disciplinary action dates back to 1997. In
1999, he failed to pay court sanctions or comply with conditions of a
private reproval stemming from two consolidated cases.
The cases involved accepting employment adverse
to a client without consent, failing to return unearned fees, respond
to inquiries and cooperate with the bar's investigation.
Fedynyshyn's actions showed a multiple pattern of misconduct.
ALAN WAYNE JOHNSON [#149396], 58, of Torrance
was suspended for five years, stayed, and placed on probation for five
years with a two-year actual suspension. He was ordered to pay $600
restitution and a total of $1,600 in sanctions, take six hours of MCLE,
develop an office management plan, prove his fitness to practice and
comply with rule 955. The order took effect July 13, 2001.
At the request of both Johnson and the bar's
office of chief trial counsel, the matter was reviewed after a hearing
judge's decision. The review department upheld the earlier judge's
ruling in five consolidated cases, but rejected a dismissal of charges
in the sixth case.
Bar court Judge Ronald Stovitz wrote that while
he did not take issue with the hearing judge's dismissal of charges
that Johnson failed to return unearned fees or proceed diligently, he
disagreed that Johnson should be exonerated of charges of moral
turpitude and failure to respond to inquiries. As a result, Stovitz
recommended an increase in Johnson's punishment to include the
two-year actual suspension.
In April 1996, Johnson was retained to prepare
papers to set aside a default judgment in a credit dispute. The client
gave him two declarations, but between April and August, Johnson did
not return the client's many phone calls. After the State Bar
intervened, he wrote to the client, enclosing motion papers he filed
on her behalf and apologizing for his failure to communicate. Johnson
had signed the client's name on a declaration, but did not file it
in court or serve opposing counsel.
In another April 1996 case, Johnson failed to
provide competent services, doing nothing for a client whose
driver's license was suspended. He failed to communicate with the
client for four months and did not return unearned fees.
A third misconduct case arose from an April 1996
matter in which Johnson performed incompetently by failing to file
papers seeking visitation rights. When the client couldn't reach the
attorney, he checked into the matter and learned nothing was filed.
The client confronted Johnson, who conceded he had "dropped the
ball." He told the client he could secure an October hearing date,
but the client later learned the date had never been set. He
terminated Johnson's employment.
Johnson failed to provide the client with an
accounting, refused to return $500 in unearned fees, and made false
statements about the status of the case. He also breached confidence
when he told another person that the client was a convicted felon.
Johnson represented a fourth client in two
unlawful detainer actions. He did not file a response to a motion to
compel, resulting in $600 in sanctions. He again failed to reply to
discovery or pay the sanctions, resulting in the case's dismissal.
The hearing judge found he failed to perform competently and did not
adequately respond to inquiries from June 1995 to early 1997.
In another eviction case, Johnson failed to
perform competently when he didn't show up at a hearing and two
pretrial conferences and failed to oppose release of the client's
rent deposit. His inaction resulted in the case's dismissal. He also
failed to respond to inquiries or inform the client of hearing dates.
The sixth case arose from Johnson's failure to
comply with a 1997 public reproval. He missed two restitution
payments, later paying in full, failed to file two quarterly reports
and did not take the MPRE by the deadline. The reproval stemmed from a
1995 case in which Johnson stipulated he failed to return an unearned
Aggravating factors in the current matter include
the prior discipline, multiple acts of wrongdoing and dishonesty,
causing harm to clients and lack of candor in the bar court
In mitigation, witnesses attested to Johnson's
good character and competence as an attorney.
DAVID YOSHIO NAKAHARA [#80461], 50, of Las
Vegas, Nev., was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on
probation for three years with a five-month actual suspension and was
ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect July 13, 2001.
Nakahara stipulated to misconduct in two
consolidated cases, one of which stemmed from an earlier disciplinary
matter. In 1995, he represented a family friend in a personal injury
case. He deposited a $7,500 settlement into his general account rather
than a client trust account. He then failed to maintain sufficient
funds in his trust account to cover medical liens he agreed to pay on
behalf of the client. He also commingled funds by depositing personal
checks into the trust account.
The family friend did not complain about Nakahara
to the State Bar; the bar learned the check to a medical provider had
After a 1998 case led to probation and a 45-day
actual suspension, Nakahara failed to file three quarterly reports,
violating his probation.
Nakahara was disciplined on two other occasions.
In 1993, he received a private reproval with public disclosure for
failing to perform competent legal services or communicate with a
client. In 1995, he received a stayed suspension and one year of
probation for failing to comply with conditions attached to the