JOHN R. LIVINGSTON [#80324], 51, of Irvine
was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on probation for three
years with a 60-day actual suspension, and was ordered to prove his
rehabilitation. The order took effect Oct. 10, 2001.
Livingston was suspended and placed on probation
in August 2000 with a requirement that he comply with rule 955 by
notifying his clients, opposing counsel and courts that he was
suspended and to submit an affidavit to that effect to the Supreme
Court. Although he tried to file the affidavit, it was rejected due to
a clerical error. He filed the affidavit late.
The underlying discipline was the result of
Livingston's failure to comply with conditions attached to an
agreement in lieu of discipline he reached with the bar in 1997 as a
result of a criminal conviction. He did not file quarterly probation
Livingston was executive vice president of a
company and induced a savings and loan to transfer approximately $24
million in corporate bonds to a bank to secure a $9.2 million loan to
his corporation. He falsely assured the S&L that all documents and
fees would be returned if the transaction was not funded within a
specified period, knowing that his company was not in a financial
position to do that.
Livingston pleaded no contest and was sentenced
to five years, deferred, and was ordered to make restitution of
JAMES TERRILL LOCKE [#127516], 53, of
Sacramento was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three
years of probation with a five-month actual suspension and was ordered
to comply with rule 955. The order took effect Oct. 10, 2001.
Locke stipulated to misconduct in six
Over a five-month period, he wrote 15 checks on
his client trust account for personal and non-client related expenses.
He also wrote one check against insufficient funds. He did not respond
to the bar's investigation.
He did not prepare or file a bankruptcy petition
for one client, nor did he return the client's documents or refund
his advance fee.
Locke represented another client in a claim
against her employer, but was informed by another attorney that the
client wished to be represented by the new attorney. Despite numerous
requests, Locke never provided the client's file or signed the
substitution of attorney form.
In one matter, Locke stipulated that he failed to
comply with probation conditions attached to a 1999 discipline - he
turned in three probation reports late and they were incomplete. That
discipline was imposed as a result of his failure to perform
competently, promptly pay client funds, communicate with a client or
cooperate with the bar's investigation and for committing an act of
In mitigation, he was suffering from physical or
emotional difficulties as well as financial stress at the time of the
misconduct, and he presented letters of reference attesting to his
RAFAEL ARTURO CARDENAS [#59210], 61, of
Beverly Hills was suspended for 12 months, stayed, placed on three
years of probation with a 30-day actual suspension and was ordered to
take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Oct. 14, 2001.
Cardenas filed a civil suit for breach of
contract and subsequently filed two amended complaints in response to
demurrers and motions to strike by the defendants. After about a year,
the court notified Cardenas it intended to dismiss the suit on its own
motion. Cardenas filed an objection and said he planned to file a
third amended complaint.
The court removed the action from its calendar
after several months and notified Cardenas again it intended to
dismiss the matter. He filed an objection too late and when he did not
appear at a hearing, the court dismissed the case. Cardenas did not
notify his client, who learned about the dismissal more than a year
Cardenas stipulated that he failed to perform
legal services competently, communicate with his client or cooperate
with the bar's investigation.
In mitigation, his wife of 19 years died after a
six-year battle with cancer. She was his office manager and paralegal,
and her illness resulted in the mismanagement of Cardenas' law
office. He was caring for her and the couple's two children and
suffered emotional distress as the result of her illness and death.
He also was disciplined in 1993.
OLIVER CHAMI [#157921], 35, of San Diego was
suspended for six months, 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 Oct.
Chami stipulated to misconduct in seven consolidated
cases, all the result of his business relationship with a non-lawyer.
Chami failed to adequately supervise the
individual , who used Chami's name in the operation of a personal
injury practice, used a signature stamp bearing Chami's name, accepted
cases in Chami's name and converted client funds from Chami's trust
account for his own benefit.
Even after he became aware of the problems with
his trust account and transferred the balance to a different account,
Chami did not close the trust account and did not sever his relationship
with the non-lawyer. Unbeknownst to Chami, the non-lawyer formed a business relationship
with another attorney who opened a client trust account also utilized
by the non-lawyer.
Chami stipulated that he failed to adequately supervise his
employees, aided the non-lawyer in
the unauthorized practice of law, and failed to maintain proper trust
In one matter, for instance, a client hired Chami
to represent her and her two children in claims arising from an auto
accident. His office settled the case for $8,300, but the client
was not informed about the settlement and did not agree to its terms. The
non-lawyer or one of his agents signed three releases of claims
pertaining to the settlements.
The non-lawyer or
one of his employees endorsed and deposited three settlement checks
totaling $8,300 without the client's knowledge. They misappropriated
the entire amount. Chami stipulated that his actions and omissions
were grossly negligent and amounted to moral turpitude.
Another couple who were involved in an auto accident
were contacted by an individual who said he worked for Chami. The
couple met with the man and
His office received medical payment drafts for more
than $7,000, which were endorsed and deposited by the
non-lawyer or one of his employees. The clients knew nothing
of the payments.
The non-lawyer or
an employee later sent a letter to an insurance company, over Chami's
forged signature, saying another attorney was taking over the case.
The non-lawyer or
an employee then settled the clients' claims for $17,250, and endorsed
and deposited two checks for that amount without notifying the clients.
The money was misappropriated.
Chami's failure to supervise the non-lawyer enabled the solicitation of clients,
settlement of a claim without the clients' knowledge or consent,
the misappropriation of their funds, receipt of settlement funds
without notice to the client and the forging of the clients' signatures.
In each of seven similar client matters, Chami stipulated
that his actions and omissions constituted gross negligence amounting
to moral turpitude.
In mitigation, Chami took full responsibility for
his actions, made restitution to his clients totaling $151,098, cooperated
with the bar's investigation and he has taken control of his practice.
For the past few years, he has performed substantial pro bono work.
The previously ordered probation of ROBERT G.
FOYTACK [#98980], 50, of La Mesa was revoked, the stay of
suspension was lifted and he was actually suspended for one year and
until he proves his rehabilitation. He was ordered to attend ethics
school, take the client trust account record-keeping course and comply
with rule 955. Credit toward the actual suspension shall be given for
a period of involuntary enrollment that began June 30, 2001. The order
took effect Oct. 14, 2001.
Foytack failed to comply with probation
conditions attached to a 1998 stipulation - he failed to submit four
required probation and trust accounting reports on time and did not
file proof of completion of ethics school or the trust account
record-keeping course on time.
The State Bar Court said it did not find
persuasive Foytack's contention that he could not comply with
probation conditions due to the bar's virtual shutdown in 1998.
The underlying discipline was the result of
several trust accounting violations as well as failure to perform
legal services competently, return client files, promptly refund
unearned fees or cooperate with the bar's investigation.
RICHARD ALVIN HELLESTO [#61471], 61, of Walnut
Creek was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on two years of
probation and was ordered to pass the MPRE within one year. The order
took effect Oct 14, 2001.
Hellesto did not comply with the requirements of
an agreement in lieu of discipline; he failed to attend ethics school
or take three hours of continuing education courses in law office
Hellesto did not perform legal services
competently or communicate with a client.
He was disciplined in 1990; his probation in that
matter was revoked in 1992.
In mitigation, he was suffering from a severe
back ailment which affected his ability to attend to his various
duties. He cooperated with the bar's investigation.
RAYMOND KIRK KOLTER [#152579], 39, of Los
Angeles was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years
of probation with a one-year actual suspension and was ordered to make
restitution, take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955.
The order took effect Oct. 14, 2001.
Kolter stipulated to misconduct in nine
In five matters, he failed to perform legal
services competently, and in three of those five, he failed to
communicate with his clients. For example, in a divorce case, he did
not compel discovery responses, conduct further discovery, enforce
court orders or prepare his client for trial. For eight months, he did
not respond to his client's numerous attempts to reach him by phone
Kolter also stipulated that in three matters, he
failed to properly maintain his client trust account or pay settlement
funds to his clients' medical providers. He also wrote checks
against insufficient funds in the trust account, failed to promptly
pay out client funds and misappropriated funds he received for
In mitigation, Kolter was suffering from the
effects of diabetes, which was undiagnosed, at the time of the
misconduct. In addition, his father passed away during the same time
KENNETH B. ALEXANDER [#115336], 51, of
Northridge was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on four
years of probation with a one-year actual suspension, and was ordered
to prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955.
The order took effect Oct. 18, 2001.
Alexander stipulated to 32 counts of misconduct
in 11 client matters, all stemming from his problems with alcohol,
several arrests and two incarcerations. He failed to perform legal
services competently, keep clients informed about developments in
their cases, take steps to protect his clients' interests when his
representation ended, refund unearned fees, pay out client funds,
properly maintain his client trust account or properly supervise his
Twice in February 1998, Alexander was convicted
in Los Angeles of driving under the influence. In October of the same
year, he was convicted of hit and run, driving on a suspended license
and disturbing the peace in two separate incidents. Although he was
allowed to serve a 30-day sentence on weekends, he reported to jail
for weekend incarceration while intoxicated and in possession of
alcohol, so the weekend program was terminated.
He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and a 120-day
treatment program for violating probation in all four cases.
In one case, for example, he represented a client
on a contingency fee basis in medical malpractice and personal injury
claims. Alexander filed an action and was required to keep $500 of the
client's advance fee in his client trust account. He allowed the
balance to fall to a negative amount.
Alexander says the transactions in his trust
account occurred while he was incarcerated and were carried out by his
secretary who had no authority to withdraw funds or write checks from
He did not tell his client he was incarcerated,
but did say he would appear at a status conference. He failed to do so
and did not appear at a later hearing to show cause, which he did not
tell his client about. The case was dismissed, but Alexander never
informed his client.
Another client paid Alexander $1,000 to represent
him in a criminal case. He appeared at the arraignment without the
client, and the court set a pretrial conference and released the
client on his own recognizance, ordering him to attend
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings each
week. Although Alexander told the client about the pretrial
conference, he did not tell him about the AA order.
The client appeared at the pretrial conference,
but Alexander did not. Because the client did not have proof of
attending AA meetings, the conference was continued. Alexander's
secretary appeared at the next conference and told the court he was in
a treatment center. Alexander failed to appear at a subsequent
conference and the client hired a new attorney.
In mitigation, Alexander's personal life was in
turmoil and included the arrest of his wife on domestic violence
charges. She was his only office support and when she left him, his
practice fell under great stress and he declared bankruptcy. As a
result, Alexander began to drink heavily. He is now clean and sober.
LAWRENCE CRAWFORD BRAGG [#33302], 69, of
Hacienda Heights was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on
four years of probation with a six-month actual suspension and was
ordered to take the MPRE. The actual suspension is consecutive to
another period of actual suspension. The order took effect Oct. 18,
Bragg was disciplined in October 2000 and ordered
to comply with rule 955 by notifying all clients and other pertinent
parties of his suspension and submitting an affidavit attesting that
he had done so to the Supreme Court. He failed to submit the required
The underlying discipline was the result of his
failure to perform with competence, give written disclosure of a
personal relationship, pay client funds promptly, or inform a client
of significant developments and making misrepresentations to a client.
He also failed to comply with a rule 955 order from a previous
He was disciplined earlier in 2000 for splitting
legal fees with a non-lawyer, failing to inform clients he was in
possession of their funds and failing to cooperate with the bar's
investigation. He also was disciplined in 1997 for splitting fees with
a non-lawyer, failing to perform competently, failing to comply with
the terms of an agreement in lieu of discipline and for committing an
act of moral turpitude.
In mitigation, Bragg cooperated with the bar's
investigation and took steps to demonstrate his remorse. He also filed
a rule 955 affidavit on time in one of the earlier disciplines.
Bragg resigned from the bar Nov. 17, 2001.
MARY PATRICIA CLARK [#177852], 37, of El Cajon
was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of
probation with an actual 120-day suspension, and was ordered to prove
her rehabilitation, make restitution, take the MPRE and comply with
rule 955. The order took effect Oct. 18, 2001.
Clark stipulated to misconduct in four matters.
In the first, she sent a letter to her clients'
former employer in a wrongful termination and age discrimination case
and prepared a complaint, but never filed it or took any other action.
In response to her clients' numerous phone calls and letters, she
said she was in communication with opposing counsel, who had made
settlement offers too small to be considered. She also said she had
filed the complaint.
She then faxed a copy of the complaint on which a
court case number was written. The clients learned no action was
pending when they contacted the court.
Another client paid Clark $741 to obtain a legal
separation and was led to believe the petition was filed. Clark later
agreed to file divorce papers. She also told the client papers had
been or would be sent to her husband. In fact, no papers were filed
and her husband was never served.
In another divorce matter, a client retained
Clark for $500, but she did no work. When they met later to discuss
the client's options, Clark said she would charge her $1,000. The
client agreed to a payment schedule and Clark agreed to refund the
original $500. Her check bounced.
Clark told the client the papers had been signed
and would be filed immediately, and she assured the client they would
be in court within a month. Relying on her misrepresentations, the
client neglected her mortgage payment. When the client discovered that
nothing had been filed, Clark blamed an attorney service she used for
filing. Clark later said she had a court date and said the husband had
been served. None of it was true. She did not return the client's
files or refund the unearned fee.
In those three matters, Clark stipulated that she
failed to perform legal services competently, respond to a client's
status inquiries or return unearned fees, and committed acts of moral
turpitude by misrepresenting the facts to her clients.
In another matter, she deposited an advance for costs from a
client in her general business bank account.
In mitigation, Clark was suffering from physical
or emotional difficulties at the time of the misconduct.
TONY FORBERG [#172220], 39, of Los Angeles
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. 18, 2001.
Forberg stipulated to misconduct in two cases.
He settled a personal injury case for about
$4,200, but never disbursed any funds to the client and allowed the
balance in his trust account to fall to $9.63.
In a second matter, he deposited in his client
trust account settlement drafts totaling $14,500. Three weeks later,
the balance in the account stood at $39.80 and no disbursements had
been made. Several months later, he issued two checks, totaling more
than $10,000, to his clients as the proceeds from their settlement.
Although his account only had a balance of $4,600, the bank honored
both checks. Forberg deposited $12,800 the same day.
In both cases, he stipulated that he supervised
his client trust account with gross negligence and committed acts of
Forberg was not able to handle his office
management responsibilities when his attorney-wife and paralegal quit
at about the same time. He subsequently closed one of his two offices,
employed a bookkeeper to assist with record-keeping and stopped taking
complex cases until he can properly supervise his office.
He cooperated with the bar's investigation and
had no prior record of discipline.
JOHN HAIG MISSIRLIAN [#66885], 51, of Fresno
was suspended for 90 days, stayed, placed on two years of probation
and was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE within one year.
The order took effect Oct. 18, 2001.
Missirlian stipulated to misconduct in three
He was paid $1,500 by a client to prepare wills
and durable powers of attorney. No documents were produced at one
scheduled meeting, and at a second meeting, Missirlian offered a power
of attorney for the client's wife to sign, but no wills or powers of
attorney. He did no further work.
When another attorney working for the client
asked for an accounting of the funds the client paid, Missirlian did
not respond. He did not refund the unearned fee for one year. He also
did not maintain the proper balance in his trust account in order to
refund the fee.
As a result of his actions, Missirlian reached an
agreement in lieu of discipline with the State Bar, but he then failed
to comply with the conditions attached to it. He filed no quarterly
reports or statements from his treating mental health professional.
In a second matter, another couple paid him
$1,500 to review documents and provide advice regarding the wife's
eligibility for Medi-Cal. Missirlian then failed to respond to
numerous calls from the clients, with the exception of one instance
when he said he would provide an assessment of the wife's position.
He did not refund the unearned fees.
Missirlian stipulated to two counts of failing to
perform legal services competently and one count each of failure to
communicate with clients, deposit client funds in a client trust
account, promptly pay client funds or refund unearned fees.
In mitigation, Missirlian practiced for 26 years
without any discipline, expressed remorse, is being treated for
Attention Deficit Disorder, which appears to be the cause of his
misconduct, and his clients were not harmed.
NEWLAND CHENOWETH SHEPARD [#132824], 46, of
Long Beach was suspended for one year, stayed, actually suspended
for 30 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 90 days, he must comply with rule 955 and, if it
exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took
effect Oct. 18, 2001.
In a default proceeding, the bar court found that
Shepard failed to communicate with a client or cooperate with the
bar's investigation, and he improperly withdrew from employment.
He failed to appear at an administrative hearing
before the Board of Podiatric Medicine and his client was forced to
represent himself. He also did not respond to numerous phone calls
from the client seeking information about his case.
In mitigation, he has no record of discipline in
11 years of practice.
LAURENCE DAVID STRICK [#75097], 51, of Los
Angeles was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years
of probation with a six-month actual suspension and was ordered to
comply with rule 955. The order took effect Oct. 18, 2001.
Strick stipulated to misconduct in three matters.
In two cases, he did not perform any of the legal
work for which he was hired or respond to his clients' many
inquiries about the status of their cases. In one matter, he also
improperly withdrew from representation, and in the other, he failed
to refund an unearned $1,500 fee or cooperate with the bar's
Strick was given a stayed six-month suspension
and placed on two years of probation in 2000, but he did not comply
with the terms of probation. He failed to submit proof of completion
of eight hours of MCLE ethics courses and did not complete ethics
school, provide quarterly probation reports or proof of passing the
MPRE on time.
The 2000 discipline was the result of Strick's
failure to comply with conditions attached to a 1997 private reproval.
In mitigation, Strick's daughter suffers from
severe juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and resides in San Francisco in
order to obtain the best treatment. Strick is forced to divide his
time between northern and southern California. His daughter's
illness worsened during the time of his misconduct and contributed to
his failure to perform legal services competently.
ROY CHESTER DICKSON [#105583], 53, of Yorba
Linda was suspended for six months, stayed, and placed on four
years of probation. The order took effect Oct. 21, 2001.
Dickson stipulated to misconduct, which was
primarily the result of health problems, in two cases.
He was employed to represent a plaintiff, a
convicted felon confined to prison, in a medical malpractice case. The
plaintiff's brother paid Dickson $5,000 and signed a fee agreement
allowing for an additional 20 percent of any recovery.
Dickson failed to appear at six hearings or
depositions over the course of several months. During that time, he
visited or was admitted to the hospital nine times, suffered an
ulcerated eye and was left partially blinded. He also became dependent
on pain medication. He filed three motions to set aside various court
rulings; two were granted.
The client sued him for malpractice; the case was
Although the client was aware of Dickson's
medical problems and Dickson said he was incapable of carrying out his
obligations, he never sought to be relieved from the case.
His behavior was similar in a breach of contract
case he was handling at the same time. A default judgment was entered
when Dickson failed to appear and the client ultimately asked Dickson
to file a bankruptcy petition for him.
Dickson filed a motion requesting a time
extension to file a reorganization and payment plan, but the deadline
passed. The civil case was taken off calendar and the bankruptcy court
closed the bankruptcy case.
Dickson stipulated that in both matters, he
failed to perform legal services competently or respond to client
Dickson was privately reproved in 1998 for
failing to perform, return client files or communicate with clients.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's
investigation, reimbursed the second client for unearned fees, and
attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to deal with his pain killer
WOLODYMYR Y. DOZORSKY [#98515], 52, of Irvine
was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on four years of
probation with an actual 18-month suspension and was ordered to prove
his rehabilitation, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order
took effect Oct. 21, 2001.
Dozorsky stipulated that he practiced law while
suspended, misrepresented his status to clients, opposing counsel and
the courts, thereby committing acts of moral turpitude, and prepared
and filed a false affidavit in order to comply with a rule 955 order
from an earlier discipline.
He was suspended for four months in 1998. He
continued to represent a client in her divorce proceeding, appeared in
court and entered into a stipulation on his client's behalf. At no
time did he inform the client or her husband's attorney of his
In a second case, he continued to represent a
client in a child custody proceeding and made one court appearance.
The following day the client fired him. Four days later, he filed an
opposition to a motion to dismiss the child custody case.
Several days later, Dozorsky told the court clerk
he would not appear at two scheduled hearings at his client's
request. His client was not represented at either hearing and the case
was dismissed. The court set a hearing on the issue of sanctions, but
Dozorsky never notified the former client. About a month later, he
told opposing counsel his client had fired him.
The court ultimately ordered sanctions against
Dozorsky's client amounting to $5,000. When the client learned about
the sanctions, she hired a new attorney, but the court denied her
pleas for reconsideration.
As part of his probation in the case for which he
was suspended, Dozorsky was to file with the Supreme Court an
affidavit stating that he had complied with rule 955 by informing all
his clients, opposing counsel and pertinent courts of his suspension.
Although he filed the affidavit, his declaration was false.
In addition to the 1998 suspension, Dozorsky also
was disciplined in 1993 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, he had severe financial problems, and his misconduct
resulted in part from his mistaken belief that pleadings he filed with
the Supreme Court and the bar court's review department requesting a
stay of his suspension amounted to a stay until he received each
LORIE ANN RUMINSON [#131264], 48, of
Marysville was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three
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 Oct. 21, 2001.
Ruminson wrote 13 checks against her client trust
account for a total of $2,679.03. Some were for personal, non-trust
account related expenses.
She stipulated that she commingled personal and
client funds and failed to maintain client funds in trust.
In mitigation, she has no record of discipline,
she cooperated with the bar's investigation and she suffered from
health problems which contributed in part to her lapse in judgment.
ARTHUR ASHUR GRAVES III [#84881], 51, of
Newport Beach was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two
years of probation with a three-month actual suspension and was
ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The
order took effect Oct. 21, 2001.
Graves stipulated to misconduct in four
In the first matter, Graves acted as the lawyer
for a client in connection with the sale of investment contracts
pertaining to the ownership of wireless cable television systems.
Graves was legal counsel to one of three companies, president and sole
shareholder of another and interim managing general partner of the
He prepared a private placement memorandum for
potential investors which contained incorrect information. He also
prepared a proxy statement distributed to investors which listed a
wireless cable television license worth $1.4 million as an asset, when
in fact the partnership had no substantial assets and no ownership
interest in any cable television licenses.
Graves stipulated to two counts of committing
acts of moral turpitude by failing to perform due diligence and making
misrepresentations to investors.
When one of the investors demanded a refund of
his $12,500 investment upon learning that the general partnership
would not be able to acquire a particular television system, Graves
sent him a check for $1,000 and a letter stating the balance would be
refunded in monthly payments of $1,000.
He sent another $2,000, but eventually informed
the investor the company had decided to suspend all refund payments.
The investor sued Graves and others involved in the partnership and
filed a complaint with the bar. Graves made a settlement offer, but
demanded the investor withdraw his bar complaint as a condition of the
settlement. Such a demand violates the Business & Profes-sions
In another case, he filed a bankruptcy petition
for a client but failed to file required schedules and a statement of
financial affairs. He sought and received a time extension and around
the same time advised his client she owed him attorney fees. When she
did not pay the fees, Graves did not appear at a hearing and never
filed the required documents. The petition was dismissed.
Graves stipulated that he failed to obtain the
court's permission to withdraw as counsel, as required by the
Graves also was arrested in 1997 for drunk
driving and pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and driving
under the influence with two priors. He has complied with the terms of
his criminal probation.
MICHAEL DALE HARGROVE [#177832], 42, of Grand
Terrace was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on five
years of probation with a 22-month actual suspension and was ordered
to prove his rehabilitation, make restitution, take the MPRE and
comply with rule 955. The order took effect Oct. 21, 2001.
In one matter, Hargrove committed acts of moral
turpitude by repeatedly writing bad checks against his client trust
In another, he filed a personal injury claim
arising from a fall at a restaurant the day after the statute of
limitations ran. He did not return his client's phone calls, and
when the insurer denied liability, he did not inform the client.
Instead, he told the client he was negotiating a settlement. Without
her consent, he settled the case for $5,000 and filed a request for
dismissal of the case with the court.
Hargrove signed the client's name to the check
and took a portion as his fee. He was supposed to maintain the entire
amount in his client trust account, but its balance fell below the
required amount several times, including one date when it stood at
The client learned the case was dismissed by
going to the court and learned the insurer had closed its file by
calling the insurance company.
When the client complained to the State Bar,
Hargrove told an investigator she had agreed to dismiss the case and
provided a letter which confirmed such an agreement. In fact, the
client had not agreed to the dismissal and Hargrove created the letter
to misrepresent the truth.
He stipulated that he failed to perform legal
services competently, keep his client informed of significant
developments in her case, promptly notifiy her of receipt of funds or
properly maintain client funds in a trust account and he committed
acts of moral turpitude.
He represented another client in personal injury
and property damage claims arising from an automobile accident. After
settling the property damage claim, Hargrove deposited it in his
client trust account without the client's endorsement. He did not
disburse any funds to the client and allowed the balance in the
account to fall below the required amount.
When the client inquired about the settlement,
Hargrove said he had mailed a check, when he had not. Hargrove did not
return subsequent phone calls and eventually his phone was
disconnected. He did not return the client's file upon request.
Either Hargrove or his assistant later settled the personal injury case and signed the
client's name to a release of liability, both without the client's
knowledge. He or someone in his office signed the client's name to
endorse the $8,500 settlement check. He took a fee without
authorization, did not disburse any funds to the client or his medical
provider, and allowed the balance in the client trust account to fall
below the required amount.
He stipulated that he failed to maintain client
funds in a client trust account, release a client's papers upon
request or notify a client of the receipt of funds and committed acts
of moral turpitude.
In mitigation, Hargrove had no prior record of
discipline, he cooperated with the bar's investigation and he's an
alcoholic. He joined The Other Bar, attends regular meetings of
Alcoholics Anony-mous and receives counseling.
RHEA S. HIRSCH [#158660], 54, of Bakersfield was
suspended for 90 days, stayed, placed on three years of probation and
was ordered to take the MPRE. The order took effect Oct. 21, 2001.
Hirsch borrowed her client's car for two months
and when she did not return it, entered into an agreement with the
client to buy the car for $4,500. She did not explain to the client
the terms of either the "loan" of the car or its purchase, did not
put either transaction in writing, did not tell the client to seek
independent counsel and did not obtain the client's consent in
One payment check bounced and Hirsch asked the
client not to cash a second. The client hired a new lawyer, who asked
Hirsch to return the car and account for monies paid and services
After she returned the car, it was learned there
were two unpaid parking citations and the car needed repairs. Although
Hirsch paid the parking tickets, it took almost two years to pay for
the repairs and an additional parking ticket.
Hirsch stipulated that she failed to avoid
interests adverse to a client and that she improperly contacted her
ex-client when she was represented by new counsel.
In mitigation, she cooperated with the bar's
investigation, voluntarily reimbursed the client for damage to the car
and for an unpaid traffic fine, and at the time of the misconduct, was
a single mother experiencing financial problems.