California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA - JUNE 2002
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DISCIPLINE

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CAUTION!
Almost 180,000 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

RONALD LANCE BRADLEY [#114230], 43, of San Diego was disbarred Jan. 29, 2001, and was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.

Bradley disregarded a 2001 disciplinary order which required him to comply with rule 955 by notifying his clients and other pertinent parties of his suspension from practice and to file an affidavit to that effect with the Supreme Court.

He had been placed on interim suspension following a theft conviction in Ohio.

In mitigation, he had no prior record of discipline.

Failure to comply with rule 955 is grounds for disbarment.

BRIAN JOHN STONE [#132872], 43, of Sacramento was disbarred Dec. 29, 2001, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

The State Bar Court found that Stone committed multiple acts of misconduct in two client matters, including misappropriating $10,000, making misrepresentations to clients, collecting illegal or unconscionable fees and violating trust account rules.

In the first matter, Stone represented a client who was the personal representative and administrator of his mother's estate. He collected a $1,750 fee and more than $7,000 in death benefits from PERS without the required approval by the probate court.

Stone also received and endorsed, without his client's authorization, a life insurance check for more than $3,000 without telling the client. By that time, the client claimed he had fired Stone over the phone and demanded his file and his money.

Stone sent a check to cover the life insurance payment and said he would return the file after receiving a substitution of attorney form. When the client refused to sign the substitution form, Stone said he would petition the court to withdraw as attorney. He never filed a motion for attorney's fees and never returned the proceeds from PERS.

The bar court found that he charged an illegal fee, misappropriated client funds, allowed the balance in his trust account to fall below the required amount and misrepresented the status of those funds, endorsed a check without authorization, and failed to release a client's file, pay client funds promptly or cooperate with a bar investigation.

In the second matter, Stone entered into a retainer agreement with two clients to pursue separate civil actions against a general contractor. The contractor declared bankruptcy and the bankruptcy trustee hired an attorney to serve as the collective lawyer for the creditors.

The creditors, including Stone's two clients, contributed towards a $5,000 fee for the attorney.

When the lawyer received 11 checks from the bankruptcy trustee to reimburse the creditors for the $5,000 fee, he called Stone, who said he represented four creditors and asked that their checks be sent to him. Stone deposited those checks in his client trust account.

One of his clients learned about the reimbursement check and demanded to be paid. Stone said he'd been in trial for three weeks and had been unable to inform the client of his receipt of the check; he did not tell him it had been deposited into his trust account.

He told the second client he had applied the reimbursement check to the outstanding balance owed for attorney's fees. Neither client ever received any money from Stone.

The bar court found that Stone committed acts of moral turpitude by misappropriating the clients' money and by negotiating their checks without their authorization. The court also found that he failed to promptly notify clients of his receipt of their funds, and failed to maintain client funds in a trust account, pay out client funds or cooperate with the bar's investigation.

In mitigation, the court found that Stone practiced for eight years without any discipline and that he had extreme emotional and family difficulties at the time of the misconduct.

However, the court found that the seriousness of his actions was exacerbated by Stone's dishonesty and lack of candor. "While misappropriations and misrepresentations of clients' funds are serious offenses in themselves," wrote Judge Joann M. Remke, "perhaps respondent's greater offense is his fraudulent and contrived misrepresentations to the State Bar to conceal his misconduct."

EDWARD CHARLES LAND JR. [#45480], 58, of Santa Rosa was disbarred Feb. 1, 2002, and ordered to comply with rule 955.

Land failed to comply with rule 955, as required by a 2000 disciplinary order.

He had been suspended and placed on probation as a result of five acts of misconduct in handling a dispute regarding his client's purchase of a mobile home. He did no work, and did not return his client's phone calls, return her file or unearned fees.

LARRY HOWARD KREUEGER [#46885], 59, of Sherman Oaks was disbarred Feb. 2, 2002, and ordered to comply with rule 955.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Kreueger failed to comply with a rule 955 requirement in a 2001 disciplinary order.

Kreueger has three prior disciplines. In 1997, he was actually suspended for failing to keep his clients informed about developments in his case and for not cooperating with a bar investigation or keeping his address current. When he failed to comply with the terms of his probation, he was suspended for one year in 2001.

In addition, Kreueger was publicly reproved in 1979 for practicing law while suspended for non-payment of bar dues.

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SUSPENSIONS/PROBATION
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STEVEN J. BARTH [#104204], 50, of Pleasanton was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on four years of suspension with a 320-day actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE, attend ethics school and comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Dec. 26, 2001.

Barth violated the terms of a 2000 probation by failing to file three quarterly probation reports, take the MPRE or attend ethics school within a year of the discipline order, and by not changing his official membership address.

The discipline was ordered as a result of Barth's failure to comply with a court order or perform legal services competently. He also did not comply with conditions attached to a 1998 public reproval. That discipline in turn was ordered because Barth did not meet conditions attached to an agreement in lieu of discipline, ordered because of his failure to perform competently.

In mitigation, Barth cooperated with the bar's investigation and no client was harmed by his misconduct.

The probation of JOHN C. PYLE [#98212], 55, of Lodi was revoked, the previous stay of suspension was lifted and he was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual two-year suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation, attend ethics school, take the MPRE and make restitution. Credit toward the actual suspension will be given for a period of involuntary inactive enrollment that began July 1, 2001. The order took effect Dec. 27, 2001.

Pyle was suspended for four years, stayed, and placed on four years of probation with an actual 30-month suspension in 2000. He did not comply with probation conditions - he failed to file a quarterly probation report or certificate  from a certified public accountant.

Pyle was publicly reproved in a default proceeding in 1996 for failing to promptly refund unearned fees or cooperate with the bar's investigation.

When he did not comply with probation conditions attached to the reproval, he was suspended in 2000 in a default proceeding. That order also resulted from a failure to deposit client funds in a trust account, perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, return unearned fees or promptly pay client funds and for committing an act of moral turpitude.

WILLIS ADRIAN KOFFROTH [#50922], 81, of Manhattan Beach was suspended for six months, stayed, and placed on one year of probation. The order took effect Dec. 29, 2001.

Koffroth stipulated to misconduct in two matters, both involving his endorsement of checks not made out to him.

In both matters, he took over personal injury claims from other lawyers and when they settled, received and endorsed checks from the insurance companies payable to the other lawyers. Koffroth endorsed the checks by signing the other lawyers' names without their knowledge. In both cases, he disbursed the funds to himself, the clients and their doctor.

When the other lawyers learned the cases had been settled, both complained to the State Bar. Koffroth paid both to satisfy their claim for fees - $125 in one case and $1,600 in the other.

He stipulated that his actions constituted moral turpitude.

Koffroth was disciplined in 1980 and 1985 for failing to perform legal services competently.

In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation, no clients were harmed and he demonstrated remorse.

JOHN WALI MUSTAFA [#171355], 38, of Redondo Beach was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual two-year suspension and was ordered to make restitution, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Dec. 29, 2001.

Mustafa stipulated to misconduct in four matters.

He substituted into a civil matter, representing four clients against a music company, and filed a second amended complaint to his original federal filing without the court's permission. The defendants won $5,000 in sanctions, claiming Mustafa and his clients "had unreasonably and vexatiously multiplied the proceedings" in the case.

In the meantime, his clients' former lawyer filed two attorney fee liens.

The music company settled the case for $120,000 and issued a check payable to the four plaintiffs, the first lawyer and Mustafa, who had several conversations about the fee owed the first lawyer. Nonetheless, Mustafa negotiated the check without the other lawyer's endorsement and disbursed the funds to his clients and himself.

When the other lawyer sued Mustafa for fraud and conversion, he sent the dispute to fee arbitration. He and his clients failed to appear at the fee arb hearing and the other lawyer was awarded $51,646.40 as his fee, plus reimbursement for costs and interest. The court also found that Mustafa had acted fraudulently when he converted the settlement funds, and ordered punitive damages of $50,000 against him.

He stipulated that he failed to report judicial sanctions to the State Bar and that he committed an act of moral turpitude by converting the settlement funds.

In another matter, Mustafa filed a wrongful termination complaint, representing his client on a contingency fee basis. He did not oppose any of four motions filed by the defendants, and the motions were granted. He also did not oppose a motion for monetary sanctions, nor did he appear in court for the hearing. The court ordered that the complaint be stricken and imposed sanctions of more than $6,300. Although Mustafa moved for reconsideration, he didn't appear at the hearing.

Over a period of several months, the client called Mustafa repeatedly, but he did not return the calls. He also did not respond to a State Bar investigator.

The third case involved a civil complaint against a mortuary for mishandling human remains. The complaint was filed on behalf of the deceased's three children. Mustafa did not return six phone calls from the clients over an eight-month period. He also did not cooperate with the bar's investigation.

Mustafa also commingled personal and business funds in his client trust account and wrote checks for personal expenses against the account.

In mitigation, he had family problems at the time of the misconduct and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.