More than 150,570 attorneys are eligible to practice law in California. Many attorneys share the same names.
All discipline reports should be read carefully for names, ages, addresses and bar numbers. Attorneys must report address changes within 30 days.
ELLEN ELIZABETH STEVENSON [#153967], 39, of Marina del Rey was disbarred May 19, 1996.
In a default matter, Stevenson was charged with misconduct in 20 different client matters involving, for the most part, workers' compensation claims. The State Bar Court concluded she failed to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients or promptly return their files, and improperly withdrew from employment.
"Some clients lost their causes of action while others could have settled their claims had (Stevenson) communicated with them or with opposing party," the bar court judge wrote.
"Still, many more were left in a limbo for a long time, not knowing the status of their cases. (Stevenson) also made it extremely difficult for her clients to retain successor counsel because of her refusal to cooperate and return the client files."
Stevenson, admitted to practice in 1991, has a record of prior discipline as well.
JAMES ARTHUR WILSON [#60199], 53, of San Diego was disbarred May 19, 1996, and ordered to comply with Rule 955.
Wilson, a former San Diego Superior Court commissioner, was given a 60-day actual suspension and placed on one year of probation in 1994 as a result of abandoning a client's case.
Although he was ordered to comply with Rule 955, he failed to file an affidavit stating that he had notified all pertinent parties of his suspension. It was this failure that led to the disbarment.
This is Wilson's fifth disciplinary proceeding.
He was suspended in June 1995 for not complying with conditions of his probation imposed in the same disciplinary proceeding that gave rise to the Rule 955 violation.
Wilson also was disciplined in 1993 for failing to promptly honor a medical lien in a personal injury case. In 1986, he was privately reproved for failing to file an employment discrimination action because of his mistaken belief that he had been hired only to investigate the claim.
JOHN M. RUBENS [#140559], 38, of Hollywood was suspended for three years, stayed, and placed on three years probation with a two-year actual suspension and until he makes restitution and proves rehabilitation. He was ordered to take the CPRE and comply with Rule 955. The order took effect May 11, 1996.
In its recommendation, the bar court's review department upheld the hearing judge's discipline recommendation. Rubens had asked that he not be actually suspended.
The court found that although Rubens' misconduct was not extensive, it risked serious harm to his clients.
After his admission to the bar, Rubens joined a personal injury practice dominated by non-lawyers. He quit after nine months, suspecting insurance fraud and the use of runners and cappers, and because he realized he did not have adequate control over the non-attorney staff.
He joined a second, similar practice and again failed to exercise proper supervision of the non-lawyer staff. He stayed 18 months, again suspecting insurance fraud and capper use, but he also knew of forgeries and significant misappropriations.
In the first practice, he failed to communicate with a client and then abandoned the client without providing for the return of his file or giving the client an accounting.
At the second practice, because of Rubens' lack of supervision, a client's matter was settled without the client's knowledge or consent, the client's signature was forged on a release and a settlement check, and the client never received his share of settlement funds.
In mitigation, Rubens cooperated with State Bar investigators.
He received a private reproval and completed probation in 1994 for a prior disciplinary offense. Additional aggravation was established by proof of significant harm to a client, failure to halt improper practices and failure to make restitution to the client. In addition, there were uncharged acts of fee-splitting with non-lawyers and failure to keep his bar membership address current. There were multiple acts of wrongdoing.
MANUEL LOPEZ [#40235], 56, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on three years probation with a 60-day actual suspension. The order took effect May 18, 1996.
A client hired Lopez to handle three separate matters for her -- a non-payment of debt action and two personal injury cases. A second client also retained Lopez in two of the cases.
All three cases were dismissed for lack of prosecution, but Lopez did not inform his clients of the dismissals.
In another count, Lopez stipulated that he withdrew from employment without protecting his client's rights. In that matter, Lopez did not provide the complete trial file to an attorney who was handling the appeal of a criminal case in which Lopez had acted as the defense attorney at trial.
Aggravating factors included a prior record of discipline from 1993 and the fact that Lopez' misconduct caused his clients to lose their cases.
In mitigation, this recent misconduct occurred during the same period as the misconduct for which he was disciplined in 1993.
ARTHUR MARVIN MELVIN [#85173], 59, of Lake Forest was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on probation for two years with an actual 30-day suspension and until he makes restitution, and was ordered to take the CPRE. The order took effect May 18, 1996.
After a default hearing in which Melvin was charged with four counts of misconduct, he was found culpable of failure to perform legal services competently, inform his client of developments in her case, return unearned fees, and cooperate with the State Bar's investigation.
Melvin's client advanced him $1,500 to handle her legal separation from her husband, but after filing the petition, he did no further work.
The client was forced to hire another attorney to complete the work.
Melvin has no prior record of discipline in 17 years of practice. In aggravation, he caused significant harm to his client and demonstrated indifference toward the outcome of his misconduct.
KENNETH D. MILLER [#128725], 39, of Big Bear City was suspended for 90 days, stayed, and placed on two years of probation. The order took effect May 18, 1996.
Miller negotiated a plea agreement with the federal government in which his client would be released from custody if he pleaded guilty to a single criminal charge and provided information to the government. Miller did not, however, tell his client that cooperating with the government was part of the plea agreement. When his client refused to cooperate, his bail was rescinded.
The client's parents had paid Miller $50,000 for his services. They asked for a refund when their son fired Miller, but Miller never provided any refund.
In an immigration case, Miller's non-lawyer employee drafted pleadings on Miller's letterhead, signed Miller's name and filed the pleadings. Miller stipulated to failing to supervise his employee and perform legal services competently.
He also failed to supervise his office manager or perform competently in a personal injury matter. Settlement funds were supposed to be paid to the receiver for a medical center where Miller's clients were treated.
The office manager, who did not tell Miller about the receiver, made payments directly to the medical center before the settlement funds were actually received. Miller did not know that his office manager was the brother of the medical center's owner or that his clients in the case were their cousins.
When Miller received the settlement funds, he paid the receiver directly.
In mitigation, Miller was unaware of his employees' misconduct and acted to rectify it as soon as he learned about their activities. He did not act in bad faith or intend to harm his clients.
In the personal injury case, Miller prevented the clinic from being paid twice and brought it into compliance with the receiver's order.
In addition, Miller's wife was diagnosed with cancer and her illness caused financial and emotional difficulties for Miller.
In aggravation, Miller was publicly reproved in 1993 for negligent misappropriation of funds and his misconduct here involved three client matters.
LUCINDA K. MORENO [#136850], 39, of Rosemead was suspended for six months, stayed, and placed on probation for two years. The order took effect May 18, 1996.
Moreno was privately reproved in 1994 for failing to communicate with clients, promptly transfer files to new counsel and cooperate with the bar's investigation. In this matter, she admitted that she failed to meet five conditions attached to the reproval.
In another matter, she allowed a client's workers' compensation claims to lapse and says she never received notices that the claims were inactive.
However, her client attempted without success to contact Moreno between September 1994 and June 1995. No further work was done on the case.
In mitigation, Moreno was suddenly required to vacate her office in 1994 because her landlord rented the space in violation of municipal codes. In addition, she developed complications during pregnancy and her baby was born prematurely.
The California Supreme Court denied a petition for review from JOHN NASH [#40985], 72, of San Francisco and suspended him for four years, stayed, placed him on four years of probation with an actual 18-month suspension, and ordered him to take the CPRE within one year and comply with Rule 955. The order took effect May 18, 1996.
Nash was disciplined in two consolidated case.
The first case included three counts. The State Bar Court found in the first count that Nash failed to perform legal services competently. He sued a San Francisco hospital for medical malpractice, but did virtually no work on the case before it was dismissed for lack of prosecution.
In a second count, he was sanctioned $8,500 for filing a frivolous appeal, but neither paid the sanctions nor reported them to the bar.
In the third count, he removed disputed funds from his client trust account and when he was ordered by a court to return the funds to his client's wife, he failed to do so.
In the second case, Nash filed a wrongful death suit on behalf of a client. As a result of subsequent disagreements with his client, including her refusal to pay for an "expert" witness who was in fact not an expert, Nash did no further work on the case. However, he remained attorney of record and the case was dismissed.
When the expert witness, a psychiatrist who had been convicted of grand theft, later sued Nash's client in small claims court, Nash gave the psychiatrist legal advice. He therefore represented clients with adverse interests.
In mitigation, Nash has been discipline-free since his 1967 admission to the bar, with the exception of a private reproval in 1984. But the court noted that despite his good character references, the bar presented substantial evidence of Nash's poor reputation in the legal community.
In aggravation, his fee agreement with two clients exceeded limits set by the Business & Professions Code, and his misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing and harmed his clients.
JOSEPH POOLE VANDENBERG [#29072], 64, of Sacramento was suspended for four years, stayed, and placed on four years probation with a two-year actual suspension and until he makes restitution and proves his rehabilitation and fitness to practice. He was ordered to comply with Rule 955. The order took effect May 18, 1996.
In two matters that went to default, the bar court found that VanDenBerg failed to perform legal services competently or keep his clients informed of the status of their cases.
In the first case, he was hired to file suit against his clients' bankruptcy trustee. Although he filed the complaint, he did not serve the defendant, but told his client he did. In response to the court staff's inquiry, he said he couldn't remember filing the complaint. When he spoke to his clients about a scheduled court appearance, he could not remember what their case was about and told them he had not filed the complaint.
At the status conference, VanDenBerg was late for a status conference and appeared to be intoxicated. The case was later dismissed with prejudice. The clients' fee was never refunded despite their request for a refund.
The second case involved dissolution of a partnership and required VanDen-Berg to serve 74 defendants. After doing some work on the case, he failed to file a supplemental diligence statement or appear at an order to show cause proceeding. His clients were ordered to appear or face sanctions. When they tried to contact VanDenBerg, they found he had moved out of his office and his phone was disconnected.
In a third case, the court found that VanDenBerg failed to advise a client of significant developments in her case, namely the trial date. However, the court also found that he did not abandon the case, as the bar had charged.
VanDenBerg was privately reproved in 1993 for negligent misappropriation of a small amount of client funds and he was suspended last year because he did not comply with the conditions of the reproval.
Because he did not participate in the discipline hearing, the court gleaned mitigation from the record, which includes VanDenBerg's participation in an alcohol rehab program and attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. But the court found "no evidence that he has continued in his recovery or that the chances for recurrence are slim or none."
JEFFREY B. WOLIN [#137398], 38, of Tarzana was suspended for six months and until he proves rehabilitation and fitness to practice. The order took effect May 18, 1996, but the actual suspension began Jan. 17.
Wolin was suspended in July 1994 and placed on probation for 18 months and until he made restitution. He resigned from his law firm, advising the partners he had medical problems but not revealing the suspension.
He then called a client of the firm and offered to handle a case. When the client learned from the bar of Wolin's suspension, he notified the law firm.
Wolin's conduct amounted to practicing law while suspended. He also did not cooperate with the bar's investigation.
BRADLEY A. ARNOLD [#93085], 60, of Van Nuys was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation with an actual 30-day suspension. The order took effect May 19, 1996.
Arnold stipulated that he failed to perform legal services or keep his client informed of developments in a personal injury matter. He filed a complaint one day after the statute of limitations expired and later failed to oppose a motion for summary judgment, so the case was dismissed. He did not notify his clients of his actions.
Arnold also did not keep a client informed in an assault and battery case.
Arnold has previously been disciplined for failure to perform legal services and misappropriation of client funds.
ANTHONY RUSSELL ARNEST [#88909], 46, of Santa Fe, N.M., was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years probation with an actual 90-day suspension, and was ordered to take the CPRE within one year and comply with Rule 955. The order took effect May 19, 1996.
Arnest stipulated to one count of failing to deposit and maintain client funds in a designated client trust account. His employees treated the funds as advanced fees, deposited them in a general account, and used them to pay office expenses.
In mitigation, the client, who had hired Arnest to handle a bankruptcy matter, was not harmed and her creditors were paid. Arnest made restitution and cleaned up his office accounting procedures.
TERREL V. CONNOR [#146085], 43, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was suspended for three years, stayed, and placed on three years probation with an actual 18-month suspension and until he proves rehabilitation and fitness to practice. The order took effect May 19, 1996.
Connor failed to comply with Rule 955 of the California Rules of Court as required by a 1994 disciplinary order. He did not file with the Supreme Court a required affidavit stating that he had notified all pertinent parties of his suspension.
Connor's discipline extends back to 1993, when he was suspended and placed on probation for failing to communicate with a client, perform legal services competently, return files, refund attorney fees, maintain a current address with the bar or cooperate with the bar's investigation.
His failure to comply with probation conditions attached to that order led to a 1994 probation revocation and the order to comply with Rule 955.
In mitigation, he did not receive notice of the Rule 955 requirement until several months after it was issued because he was living out of the country. In addition, because he has not practiced law for more than three years, he had no clients to notify of his suspension and therefore thought he was not obliged to comply with 955.
He filed the affidavit when he learned he was mistaken.
GARY LEE HARRE [#86938], 58, of Long Beach was suspended for 30 days, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, effective May 19, 1996. He was ordered to pass the CPRE.
Harre's misconduct involved his failure to perform competently and communicate in three matters dealing with three different clients.
In one instance, Harre was employed by a client to represent him in a civil action in 1990. In August 1991, Harre filed an action on behalf of the client, but failed to make two court appearances, which resulted in a dismissal of the case. The client repeatedly attempted to contact Harre regarding the status of his case, but was unsuccessful.
In aggravation, Harre's misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing and significantly harmed two clients who lost their claims and any potential recovery.
In mitigation, Harre has no record of discipline since his admission to the bar in 1979. He cooperated with the bar's investigation and took steps to rectify matters involving two of his clients.
TERRY HERRERA [#125837], 55, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for one year, with 60 days actual suspension, effective May 19, 1996. He was ordered to pass the CPRE.
Herrera took over a personal injury case from another attorney in 1988. In 1989, he deposited a $1,000 medical draft payment into his client trust account. He later withdrew from representation, but failed to notify the client that he had received the draft.
He misappropriated the funds when his client trust account fell below the balance due to the client.
In mitigation, Herrera immediately responded to bar investigators' inquiries and cooperated with the disciplinary investigation.
He promptly made restitution to his client, demonstrating recognition of his wrongdoing.
In addition, considerable time has passed since the misconduct took place, he voluntarily placed himself on inactive status in December 1994 and since then has returned to the Philippines, engaged in charity work.
When Herrera took over the case, he was initially unaware of the money due the medical provider. He has no prior record of discipline.
FRED BURLING HOVEY III [#108805], 45, of Hollywood was suspended for four years, stayed, and placed on probation for four years on the condition that he actually be suspended for 20 months and until he has shown proof of his rehabilitation and fitness to practice law. He also must pass the CPRE and comply with Rule 955. The order took effect May 19, 1996.
Probation conditions attached to the discipline order include abstinence from alcohol, enrollment in an approved substance abuse program, attendance of the bar's ethics school and compliance with underlying criminal probation conditions.
Between Nov. 29, 1993 and Aug. 8, 1995, Hovey was convicted of drunken driving, possession of methamphetamine, multiple building code violations, vandalism, trespassing and contempt of court.
His misconduct significantly harmed clients when he failed to perform legal services competently. He also harmed the public and the administration of justice by filing frivolous motions and appeals, failing to pay court-ordered sanctions, violating criminal probation conditions at least four times and failing to appear at 10 scheduled court hearings.
In addition, he failed to comply with conditions of his release on his own recognizance in a criminal matter and he violated disciplinary probation conditions of a State Bar public reproval.
Hovey has a prior record of discipline. He received a public reproval in 1992, following his conviction of driving under the influence of alcohol, with a prior.
Hovey stipulated to numerous aggravating circumstances, including violation of his duty to comply with the laws of the state in six matters, recklessly failing to perform services in six matters, failing to return a client's file in two instances and in three matters, improperly withdrawing from a case.
In mitigation, Hovey has been paying court-ordered sanctions on a periodic basis.
MARK ALAN WHITEFIELD [#73143], 52, of Irvine was suspended for five years, stayed, and placed on probation for five years on the condition that he actually be suspended for two years and until he has shown proof of his rehabilitation and fitness to practice law. He also must pass the CPRE and comply with Rule 955. The order took effect May 19, 1996.
Whitefield was suspended for failure to pay bar dues in August 1991, but continued to represent clients in nearly 30 cases through 1994 and several more through April 1995.
In aggravation, Whitefield's misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing and demonstrated a pattern of misconduct. His actions significantly harmed clients and he showed indifference to rectifying the consequences of his misconduct.
In mitigation, Whitefield's first instance of misconduct occurred in 1992, about 16 years after his admission to practice, and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.
Whitefield maintained that his conduct was caused by his financial condition and he did not set out to violate the law or harm the administration of justice or his clients.
THOMAS DEAN WISE [#102039], 40, of Santa Barbara was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for three years, effective May 19, 1996, on the condition that he actually be suspended for six months. Credit was given for the period of interim suspension which began June 5, 1995. He also was ordered to pass the CPRE.
In this conviction referral matter, Wise pleaded no contest to a charge of stalking his ex-girlfriend, also an attorney.
In June and July of 1994, a few months after the couple ended their relationship, Wise made harassing and threatening telephone calls to the woman, followed her, vandalized her car and home, and left sexually suggestive and threatening notes on her property, car and in her neighborhood.
In aggravation, Wise's conviction was based on multiple acts which took place during a 41-day period and caused significant distress to the victim, who feared for her safety and the safety of her mother. Wise also damaged the victim's home and car.
In mitigation, Wise was admitted to the State Bar in 1981 and has no prior record of discipline. He was candid and cooperative with the deputy trial counsel and reported his criminal conviction to the bar.
After the breakup of his relationship, Wise's alcohol consumption increased significantly to the point where he was consuming a bottle of wine and up to a half bottle of hard liquor on a daily basis.
He often drank himself into unconsciousness and claims he never intended to harm his ex-girlfriend or follow through with his threats.
Following his arrest, Wise voluntarily checked into an Arizona in-patient mental health and substance abuse program, where he was diagnosed with depression, alcoholism and obsessive-compulsive behavior.
He currently attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, is continuing with therapy and assumes full responsibility for his misconduct.
In July 1994, he voluntarily placed himself on inactive status with the State Bar and later resigned from his law firm.
Letters from numerous members of the legal and civic communities, as well as former clients, attested to Wise's professionalism, competence, credibility and integrity, adding that his criminal behavior was uncharacteristic.
DANIEL MARK CHESNUT [#152136], 43, of Norwalk was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for one year with an actual suspension of 15 days, effective May 25, 1996. He was ordered to make restitution and pass the CPRE.
In 1992, Chesnut filed a personal injury matter on his own behalf against a car rental agency.
Because he failed to respond to discovery, appear for his deposition and comply with a court order, monetary sanctions of $3,320 were imposed on five separate occasions. However, he failed to pay the court.
In addition, he failed to disclose relevant evidence in discovery.
In mitigation, his misconduct did not result in harm to any clients.
Chesnut has been a member of the bar since 1991.
BRUCE CHANDLER DAWSON [#97509], 48, of Fresno was actually suspended for 60 days and until he attends the State Bar ethics school, effective May 25, 1996.
If the period of actual suspension reaches or exceeds two years, he will remain actually suspended until he has shown proof of his rehabilitation and fitness to practice law. If the period of actual suspension reaches or exceeds 90 days, he must comply with Rule 955.
Dawson failed to pass the CPRE, a condition of a public reproval he received in February 1993. He later entered into an agreement, in lieu of discipline, in which he agreed to pass the CPRE and attend ethics school. At his default hearing, the State Bar Court judge found that although Dawson passed the CPRE, he failed to attend ethics school.
DAVID M. HARNEY [#20281], 72, of Los Angeles was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for two years with six months actual suspension, effective May 25, 1996. Harney must make restitution and comply with Rule 955.
In this review decision, Harney was found to have collected attorney fees of $266,850 in excess of statutory limits for a medical negligence case. His petition for writ of review to the Supreme Court was denied.
Harney's disciplinary order marks the first time the State Bar has sought an actual suspension for violating fee restrictions imposed by the 1975 Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA).
In late 1986, a 32-year-old woman underwent elective back surgery at a San Bernardino county hospital and lapsed into a coma. Her mother employed Harney to represent her daughter's interests in a lawsuit against the doctors and hospital.
Harney told the mother that a fee agreement was unnecessary because the court would set the fees. He was successful in obtaining a $3.45 million settlement in 1988, and applied for a fee recovery of 25 percent, minus costs.
A county superior court judge awarded him $846,250, but Harney failed to inform the court or his client of the fee's potential applicability to MICRA. Under MICRA limits, Harney was entitled to a maximum fee of $579,400.
The judge in the civil matter told bar investigators that the cap fee issue did not occur to him because usually the 25 percent award is lower than the maximum fees permitted under MICRA. He said he would have set a hearing on the matter had he been aware of the discrepancy.
Harney is a self-described top medical malpractice attorney, the author of a book, "Medical Malpractice," and past president of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and the American Board of Trial Advocates.
In 1975, he testified against MICRA at legislative committee hearings and has filed amicus curiae briefs unsuccessfully challenging the constitutionality of the legislation.
In addition to collecting the excessive fee, the bar court review department found Harney culpable of "recklessness or gross neglect" when he failed to reveal information about MICRA. Due to his expertise in the field, added the review department, Harney "cannot claim ignorance of the law, and cannot shift the responsibility for mentioning the possible application of MICRA from himself to the court."
The review department increased the period of actual suspension recommended from 30 days to six months.
Considered as mitigating factors were statements from numerous witnesses in the legal community attesting to Harney's good character and long record of accomplishments. Mitigating weight also was accorded to his long record of practice without discipline, prior to a 1990 public reproval. Harney has been a member of the bar since 1949. He was candid and cooperative with the bar hearing judge.
The review department considered Harney's persistent attempts to portray himself as the victim of uncertain MICRA law as an aggravating factor.
In addition, his misconduct resulted in harm to his client and the public and he has a prior record of discipline. In 1990, he was publicly reproved for collecting $108,333 in fees in excess of MICRA limitations on a 1982 settlement.
RONALD ELI HARRINGTON [#53703], 48, of Newport Beach was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for two years with 30 days actual suspension, effective May 25, 1996. He was ordered to pass the CPRE.
Harrington was disciplined for practicing law after he was placed on administrative inactive status in July 1994 for failure to comply with the State Bar's MCLE requirements.
He eventually complied with MCLE rules and returned to active status in February 1995.
In mitigation, Harrington has no record of discipline since his admission to the bar in 1972.
During the period of his misconduct, he was caring for his seriously ill father and suffered emotional and financial stress.
ULYSSES GRANT PLUMMER III [#86628], 54, of Pasadena was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for one year, effective May 25, 1996. He was ordered to pass the CPRE.
In one client matter, Plummer failed to follow through with a case stemming from an auto accident, resulting in its dismissal.
An insurance check designated for the client's medical expenses was not deposited in Plummer's client trust account.
In a breach of contract case, Plummer failed to convey a settlement offer in a timely manner to his client, causing the case to be dismissed.
In mitigation, Plummer made several unsuccessful attempts to serve a defendant in one case and was unable to locate a copy of a letter he wrote to opposing counsel in another case.
Also, Plummer suffered extreme physical disabilities at the time of his misconduct. He was candid and cooperative with the bar's investigators.
B. PALMER RIEDEL [#49905], 51, of Walnut Creek was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for three years, including 60 days actual suspension, effective May 25, 1996. He was ordered to pass the CPRE.
In 1994, Riedel was convicted of violating Penal Code §647.6, annoying or molesting a minor under the age of 18.
Riedel pleaded no contest to the charge of inappropriate sexual behavior with a 17-year-old girl who was a file clerk in his law office. The bar's hearing judge concluded that Riedel's conduct involved moral turpitude warranting discipline.
Although the bar's trial counsel urged that Riedel be disbarred, the hearing judge said that the circumstances surrounding the matter warranted neither disbarment nor a private reproval.
In ordering the 60-day actual suspension, the bar judge said, "I believe a long period of actual suspension would be unnecessarily punitive in view of [the victim's] willing participation in his actions and the huge price already paid for his serious lack of judgment."
The bar's trial counsel argued that the victim was harmed by Riedel, which should be considered an aggravating factor. However, the review judge was unconvinced, saying that the girl's diary entries and other information indicated otherwise.
But the hearing judge found that Reidel's misconduct "harmed the public's perception of the legal profession," which could be considered as an aggravating factor.
In mitigation, Riedel had no prior discipline in more than 22 years of law practice and was a very active leader in his community. He served on the boards of numerous civic organizations, provided pro bono services to a battered women's shelter and organized a medical expedition of doctors and nurses to Nepal.
The bar court concluded that the testimony of a psychologist treating Riedel and many character witnesses showed that his conduct was the result of emotional difficulties and substance abuse, which have been resolved.
Conditions of probation include continued psychological treatment and enrollment in a substance abuse recovery program.
BRADLEY LEE THOMPSON [#116297], 41, of San Diego was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for two years with 18 months actual suspension, effective May 25, 1996. He also was ordered to pass the CPRE and comply with Rule 955.
Trial counsel initially recommended a one-year actual suspension, which the review judge found inadequate due to the nature of Thompson's misconduct.
In this default trial, Thompson was found culpable of failing to perform services for a client who employed him for representation in a construction litigation matter regarding the roof of his home.
The hearing department of the bar court also found that Thompson recklessly failed to properly supervise three attorneys who were assigned by him at various times to the case.
Thompson and one of the attorneys failed to respond to seven letters from opposing counsel and the attorney was sanctioned for his failure to file an at-issue memorandum.
Neither Thompson nor the attorney assigned to the case attended a scheduled hearing, were ill-prepared for an arbitration meeting and failed to attend a deposition.
Although the three attorneys involved in the matter initially performed some legal services, "the ultimate recklessness and repeated neglect damaged [the client] to the point where he had no reasonable option but to accept a very low settlement offer of $20,000," wrote the hearing judge.
Thompson also improperly withdrew from the case. He failed to submit a claim to his malpractice insurance carrier and fraudently transferred his assets to avoid the subsequent malpractice judgment against him which was awarded to the client.
There were no factors in mitigation but many in aggravation. Thompson's misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing, bad faith, dishonesty and concealment. Thompson's actions significantly harmed his client in that the client developed bleeding ulcers due to the legal problems.
He demonstrated indifference toward rectification of his misconduct and failed to participate in bar proceedings prior to the entry of default.
Thompson has been a member of the bar since 1984.
MARSHALL L. BITKOWER [#47478], 53, of Encino was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years probation, and was ordered to take the CPRE within one year. The order took effect June 17, 1996.
Bitkower failed to deposit settlement drafts in his client trust account and did not keep a record of the cash distribution to one client and payments of his clients' medical bills. Although Bitkower was charged with additional counts, including misappropriation, the State Bar Court found he did not violate any other professional conduct rules.
Bitkower's problems resulted from his representation of a couple in a personal injury matter. His associate negotiated a settlement for the couple based on what the attorney thought was law firm policy regarding the distribution of settlement funds.
When the settlement funds were received, however, the clients received less money than they expected. At one point, the clients asked Bitkower not to deposit the funds in his client trust account and he paid their share to them in cash.
The bar court judge found there were significant credibility issues with the testimony of several key witnesses, including the clients. One of the witnesses was a co-defendant in a suit Bitkower filed following the bitter dissolution of his law firm.
Although the judge recommended a 30-day actual suspension to impress upon Bitkower the seriousness of properly handling client funds, it was temporarily stayed in May. The Review Department vacated the stay in June.
Bitkower originally was admitted to the bar in 1971, but following problems with alcoholism and cocaine addiction, he resigned in 1982. The following year, he pleaded no contest to grand theft as a result of mishandling client settlement funds.
He was reinstated to the bar in 1991.
Although he has no prior record of discipline, Bitkower's previous resignation with charges pending and his admitted misappropriation of client funds in the early 1980s were considered aggravating factors.
However, Bitkower produced numerous character witnesses. The court also noted that although his action in the personal injury case was improper, no one was harmed except Bitkower, who was vulnerable to false claims by an angry client and acted in good faith.
RICHARD BRUCE NOYER [#98545], 42, of Calabasas (May 19, 1996)
DARLENE CANDACE GOODWIN [#97580], 42, of Los Angeles (May 25, 1996)
CHARLES SORRELL GUSH JR. [#35448], 68, of Redwood City (May 25, 1996)
ROBERT WILLIAM KRAFT [#91103], 50, of San Jose (May 25, 1996)
WILLIAM L. LAND [#59631], 71, of Los Angeles (May 25, 1996)
ERIC ANDREW G. MATYAS [#66735], 46, of Beverly Hills (May 25, 1996)
VERNON E. McGHEE [#77377], 51, of Beverly Hills (May 25, 1996)
GARY DEAN PATTERSON [#141543], 46, of San Bernardino (May 25, 1996)
DAVID DANIEL REES [#109637], 41, of San Diego (May 25, 1996)
GREGORY TADD SMYTH [#92940], 45, of Dana Point (May 25, 1996)
JOSEPH ANTHONY MESCE [#75299], 48, of Sacramento (May 1, 1996)
JONNIE HILDA JOHNSON-PARKER [#113574], 44, of Inglewood (April 5, 1996)