More than 151,250 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.
GARY L. MESTMAN [#147058], 34, of Los Angeles was disbarred Sept. 5, 1996, and ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court. Mestman was disbarred after failing to comply with rule 955 as ordered by the Supreme Court in 1995.
Mestman's prior record of discipline was considered an aggravating factor and he demonstrated indifference by failing to make an effort to comply with rule 955.
In 1991, he was under a court order not to contact a 16-year-old girl as a condition of his release on charges that he was annoying her. However, he approached her while riding his bike one day and asked her to marry him. He was subsequently charged with contempt for disobeying a court's bail order and pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct.
The State Bar Court imposed a private reproval in 1992 and ordered him to pass the CPRE. Mestman violated the order when he did not take the exam because of his refusal to pay the $350 fee.
In 1995, he received a 30-day actual suspension and was ordered to pass a professional responsibility exam, as well as comply with rule 955. At that time, in mitigation, Mestman suffered from a neurological disorder and was declared disabled and indigent.
Mestman has been a member of the bar since 1990.
WILLIAM RAYMOND SLIPP [#85303], 58, of Tustin was disbarred Sept. 5, 1996, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
Slipp was disbarred following his failure to comply with rule 955, as ordered by the Supreme Court in June 1995.
At that time, Slipp received an actual two-year suspension for misconduct involving two divorce cases.
In one instance, he handled a divorce while on suspension for non-payment of bar dues and also worked on the same client's bankruptcy filing. The client loaned him $3,000 in lieu of a fee for the bankruptcy matter, but Slipp never filed either of the cases, nor repaid the client.
No mitigating circumstances were presented during the disbarment proceedings, but aggravating factors included his prior record of discipline and failure to participate in the disciplinary hearing. Slipp was admitted to the bar in 1978.
HOWARD SPARROW III [#97348], 51, of Washington, D.C., was disbarred Sept. 12, 1996, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
Sparrow was disbarred following his failure to file an affidavit of compliance with rule 955, as ordered on Aug. 3, 1995. At that time, Sparrow was actually suspended for three years and ordered to make restitution.
His 1995 suspension resulted from 10 counts of misconduct involving 19 violations. They included failure to perform legal services and communicate with clients; making false statements to clients, courts and other attorneys; misappropriating client funds; practicing law while suspended; and failure to cooperate with the bar's investigation.
Considered in aggravation was Sparrow's prior record of discipline, which the court called "serious." He also received two years actual suspension in 1985. No evidence of mitigation was offered.
Sparrow was admitted to the California bar in 1981.
JOHN CHARLES WALLACE TAYLOR JR. [#30750], 65, of San Rafael was disbarred Sept. 12, 1996, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
Taylor's disbarment stems from his failure to comply with rule 955, as ordered on May 16, 1995.
At that time, Taylor's disciplinary probation was revoked, his stay of suspension lifted and he was actually suspended for 90 days. He was disciplined for neglecting to timely file two quarterly probation reports and provide proof of attendance at the bar's ethics school as required by a 1993 disciplinary order.
In the disbarment decision, the court said there appeared to be no explanation for Taylor's failure to file his affidavit of compliance with rule 955.
A member of the bar since 1960, Taylor did not participate in the disbarment proceedings.
APRIL KATHRYNE MOTELL FORD [#95688], 44, of Riverside was disbarred Sept. 13, 1996, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
Ford was disbarred following her failure to comply with rule 955, as ordered by the Supreme Court in March 1995.
At that time, Ford's disciplinary probation was revoked, her stay of suspension lifted, and she was actually suspended for three years.
Ford's prior record of discipline was considered an aggravating factor in the disbarment decision. She was publicly reproved in 1992, a result of a conviction for possession of methamphetamine.
She failed to comply with probation requirements and in July 1994, she received a three-year stayed suspension with three years probation and 60 days actual suspension.
In November 1994, Ford received another three-year stayed suspension, five years probation and an actual suspension of one year.
Ford did not participate in the disbarment proceedings.
The probation of FLYNN HAMILTON BRADLEY [#84925], 43, of San Francisco was revoked and the previously ordered stay of suspension lifted, effective Sept. 5, 1996.
Bradley was actually suspended for two years, ordered to attend the bar's ethics school and comply with rule 955. Credit toward the period of actual suspension will be given for the period of inactive enrollment which began April 3.
Bradley's current misconduct involves his failure to file two quarterly probation reports, a requirement of a July 1994 discipline order resulting from his failure to competently perform legal services for a client and cooperate with the bar's investigation.
Bradley's prior record of discipline was considered an aggravating factor. His disciplinary history consists of two other orders related to professional misconduct in 1994 and 1995, and failure to file probation reports.
An additional aggravating factor was his violation of probation on multiple occasions over a significant time period.
BILLIE J. CEGLIA-ANDERSON [#123810], 57, of San Jose was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, with 90 days actual suspension, effective Sept. 5, 1996. She was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955.
Effective Oct. 4, Ceglia-Anderson resigned with charges pending.
Ceglia-Anderson received advanced attorney's fees of $5,000 from a couple who hired her for legal representation. At the conclusion of the matter, the couple asked for a refund of unused fees, but Ceglia-Anderson refused.
The matter was submitted to arbitration and Ceglia-Anderson agreed to pay the couple $1,602.24 within 30 days, but failed to honor the award.
The couple petitioned the court to confirm the arbitration award and Ceglia-Anderson was ordered to honor it and pay costs, interest and attorney's fees. She failed to comply with the order and make a subsequent court appearance related to the matter.
She also was found culpable of failing to cooperate and participate in the bar's investigation.
In aggravation, Ceglia-Anderson has a prior record of discipline. She received a 90-day stayed suspension in 1993 for failing to promptly disburse trust funds and modify a wage order.
She also demonstrated indifference to rectifying the consequences of her misconduct and failed to cooperate with the bar.
In mitigation, Ceglia-Anderson underwent psychiatric treatment in early 1996 and is currently in counseling. She demonstrated good faith by enrolling as an inactive bar member in February and diligently sought counsel to oversee her law practice during the period of her hospitalization and aftercare therapy. No client matters were prejudiced as a result of the transition.
The probation of JOHN VINCENT HANAHAN [#154287], 30, of San Francisco was revoked and the previously ordered stay of suspension lifted, effective Sept. 5, 1996.
Hanahan was actually suspended for 15 months and ordered to comply with rule 955.
Hanahan's current misconduct involves his failure to file two quarterly probation reports and submit a criminal probation statement, conditions of a January 1995 disciplinary order.
At that time, Hanahan received a two-year stayed suspension, with three years probation and nine months actual suspension. He was disciplined following his 1993 guilty plea to drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of alcohol.
One of Hanahan's friends, a passenger in the car he was driving, was killed when the auto swerved and hit a telephone pole and a tree.
Hanahan was admitted to the bar in 1991.
JOHN ROGER ETIENNE [#61067], 55, of Suva, Fiji, was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for three years, effective Sept. 5, 1996. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Etienne was hired to represent a woman and her minor daughter in a personal injury matter in 1990.
Etienne deposited four medical payment drafts and a $50,000 settlement check for his clients into his general account rather than his client trust account. He also neglected to promptly pay out funds in his possession which his client was entitled to receive.
The client wrote to Etienne requesting that all outstanding medical bills be paid, but she was unaware he was out of the country on an extended trip. He did not receive her letter and he did not return any of her telephone calls.
In aggravation, Etienne's response to the investigation of a bankruptcy matter, which was later dismissed by the bar, was perceived to be dishonest and misleading.
In mitigation, Etienne has been in practice for 22 years with no prior record of discipline. The excess funds in the personal injury matter were inadvertently not refunded to his clients and when Etienne became aware of the situation, the funds were disbursed with interest.
Etienne temporarily returned from the South Pacific specifically to participate in the State Bar proceedings and he states he had no intention of misleading the bar during investigation of the bankruptcy matter.
SEBASTIAN PHILLIP ERNANDES [#89088], 43, of San Pedro was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, with an actual suspension of six months, effective Sept. 5, 1996.
The period of probation and actual suspension will be concurrent with the remainder of discipline previously imposed.
Ernandes' misconduct involved four clients and included failure to competently perform legal services, respond promptly to reasonable case status inquiries, inform his client of significant case developments, release a client's file when requested, provide an accounting of fees and cooperate with the bar's investigation.
In aggravation, Ernandes has a prior record of discipline. In 1995, he was found culpable of violating several rules of professional conduct in three separate matters. He was actually suspended for six months and ordered to make restitution to a client.
Because the 1995 discipline order involved misconduct which occurred during the same period as his current misconduct, the aggravating force of his prior discipline was diminished.
Ernandes' misconduct in one of the current cases resulted in a dismissal and the client received no recovery. However, Ernandes carried errors and omissions coverage and reported the dismissal to his insurance carrier. The client has a malpractice claim and may ultimately be compensated.
He also reported his failure to perform on behalf of a minor client, whose claim may not have been lost.
Mitigating circumstances included Ernandes' bout with depression during the period of his misconduct. He was emotionally distraught as a result of trying to care for his father who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. He voluntarily sought psychotherapy and has been in treatment on a weekly basis.
Ernandes has performed numerous pro bono services since his admission to the bar in 1979. He has served as a volunteer judge pro tem in both municipal and superior courts and served as a mediator for the past 10 years.
In addition, Ernandes eventually completed one client's divorce and was successful in obtaining a restraining order against her ex-husband.
CHRISTOPHER NAMSOO LEE [#132087], 35, of Los Angeles was suspended for three months, stayed, and placed on probation for one year, effective Sept. 5, 1996. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Lee's misconduct involved his representation of clients with adverse interests and his failure to inform the clients of the conflict as well as advise them in writing of their right to seek other counsel.
In 1991, former employees of a Korean funeral home published accusations of the owner's business irregularities in a daily newspaper. The owner filed a defamation suit against the former employees and a related suit against a broadcasting company.
Subsequently, eight plaintiffs filed two separate lawsuits for emotional distress against the funeral home for reselling and reusing a casket.
Originally, a defendant in the defamation suit and the eight plaintiffs in the other suit were represented by one lawyer, but they switched to another lawyer in 1992.
In 1993, the owner of the funeral home employed Lee to represent him in domestic and international business affairs. A few months later, a defendant in the defamation suit hired Lee to defend him and to initiate a malicious prosecution suit against the owner of the funeral home.
All eight plaintiffs also decided to have Lee represent them in their suit against Lee's client, the funeral home owner.
While still representing the owner of the funeral home, Lee appeared at a voluntary settlement conference on behalf of the plaintiffs in the other two cases, in which his client was the defendant.
Lee concurrently advised the owner of the funeral home in unrelated business matters, without providing disclosures to the plaintiffs.
In mitigation, Lee thoroughly cooperated with the bar's investigation. He was admitted to the bar in 1987 and has no prior record of discipline.
RODRIC LEE ROBINSON [#26157], 72, of Novato was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for three years, with 75 days actual suspension, effective Sept. 5, 1996. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Robinson's misconduct involved two client matters and numerous trust account violations over a five-month period.
In one instance, Robinson was hired to represent a client in two personal injury matters in 1987. Both cases settled in 1989 and Robinson deposited settlement drafts totalling $10,000 in his client trust account.
Because of the low value of the settlement, Robinson compromised his attorney's fees by 35 percent with the expectation that the medical liens would be similarly compromised. However, the medical provider declined to reduce his lien and Robinson failed to pay him any portion of the funds.
In 1990, the balance of Robinson's client trust account fell below the amount he was required to pay the medical provider. He misappropriated the funds, writing checks for his personal use.
The medical provider won a small claims court judgment against Robinson in 1993 and Robinson has since satisfied the judgment.
In another similar matter, Robinson was found culpable of failure to retain and disburse settlement funds to a medical provider, grossly and recklessly mismanaging his client trust fund account and neglecting to supervise his office staff.
In aggravation, Robinson's misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing when he repeatedly used his client trust account for personal non-trust purposes.
In mitigation, Robinson has no prior record of discipline since his admission to the bar in 1955.
He also provided an extraordinary demonstration of good character with letters from colleagues in the legal community, including two superior court judges. He served on the Mill Valley Planning Commission and city council in the 1960s and has served as the Marin County Easter Seal chairman and on the board of United Cerebral Palsy.
After traveling to Russia in 1990, Robinson and his wife founded International Humanitarian Services, a non-profit organization. They also started the San Francisco World Trade Association, an organization that promotes the development of a market economy in Russia.
BARRY RAY SMITH [#109959], 43, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for two years with an actual suspension of 30 days, effective Sept. 5, 1996. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Smith was disciplined for failing to comply with conditions of a 1994 private reproval. He neglected to file quarterly probation reports and to make restitution of $11,095 to a physician.
Considered as an aggravating circumstance was Smith's prior record of discipline, the 1994 private reproval. He was reproved for failing to promptly refund unearned fees to his client and for filing an unjust action against his client.
His failure to comply with the private reproval harmed the administration of justice, making it difficult for the State Bar to protect the public and the courts by monitoring his activities.
He demonstrated indifference toward rectification of the consequences of his misconduct and failed to participate in the disciplinary proceeding prior to entry of default.
No factors in mitigation were introduced. Smith has been a member of the bar since 1983.
TITO A. TORRES [#69478], 50, of Sausalito was suspended for five years, stayed, effective Sept. 5, 1996. He also was placed on probation for five years, with three years actual suspension and until he has shown proof of his fitness to practice law. The period of his actual suspension began retroactively on Feb. 10, 1996.
Torres' misconduct involved his failure to timely file an affidavit in compliance with rule 955, a requirement of a 1995 discipline order. He also failed to perform legal services for a client and communicate with him about his case.
The client hired Torres to handle his civil rights lawsuit against the city and county of San Francisco in 1989. Torres failed to keep his client notified of pertinent developments in the case, moved his law office without informing the client and sporadically returned his telephone calls.
After a series of events, including an expiration in the statute of limitations, the client's case was dismissed.
In aggravation, Torres has a prior record of discipline. In 1994, he received a six-month stayed suspension for failure to perform legal services competently and failure to report court sanctions. In 1995, he was suspended for six months for violating his probation.
On February 10, he was suspended for two years for the unauthorized practice of law and failure to report court sanctions, perform legal services, communicate and maintain his current address with the bar's membership department.
As a result of his current misconduct, his client lost his cause of action. He also failed to take steps to vacate the dismissal of his client's case, despite repeated promises to do so.
In mitigation, Torres suffered extreme emotional difficulties during the period of his misconduct and is currently engaged in a psychotherapy treatment program.
STEPHEN ROBERT FLUHARTY [#89360] 43, of Glendale was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for four years, effective Sept. 12, 1996. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and make restitution.
In one matter, Fluharty was employed by a woman to substitute in as her attorney in a medical malpractice action. After representing the client's interests in arbitration and through trial de novo, both of which resulted in decisions for the defendant, Fluharty filed an appeal. He failed to pay the required court fees and did not ask the client for the funds.
Fluharty's failure to pay the court clerk fees resulted in a dismissal of the appeal.
In aggravation, Fluharty's misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing, with a variety of complaints surrounding three different matters.
In mitigation, Fluharty was admitted to the bar in 1979 and has no prior record of discipline.
During the period of his misconduct, he suffered from dysthymia and generalized anxiety disorder, brought on by a series of stress and anxiety-causing events. His illness worsened over time and by 1992, he was unable to work and communicate with his clients.
In the medical malpractice matter, Fluharty said he had advanced costs throughout the duration of the case, but did not have the funds to pay the appeal fee. He believed his client did not have the funds to pay the fee and did not ask her. In addition, the application for in forma pauperis, which he filed on behalf of the client, was denied.
Fluharty has an extensive pro bono background. He has volunteered as a judge pro tem, counseled and advised students at two law schools and undergraduates at a third college, where he also taught alumni courses and leadership seminars to the general public.
JANIE WOODS LARKIN [#99588], 58, of Elk Grove was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for one year with an actual suspension of 30 days, effective Sept. 12, 1996.
In 1986, Larkin was employed by a client to represent her interests in a personal injury matter arising from an auto accident.
Larkin prepared the case and filed a complaint in 1987, but the client rejected a 1988 settlement offer of $2,500. The client then hired Larkin to handle her divorce, which was completed a short time later.
In 1990, Larkin closed her private practice and began work as an attorney for the federal government in the field of disaster assistance. Her employment required that she physically relocate upon short notice and for months at a time throughout the United States.
Nevertheless, she remained attorney of record for the client's personal injury matter. Larkin was relocated to Hawaii and Guam in late 1992 and neglected to pursue her client's case. In late 1993, her client again declined to accept the insurance company's $2,500 offer and in 1994, the case was dismissed for failure to bring to trial within five years.
Larkin failed to perform legal services competently and withdrew from employment without advising her client and taking steps to see that her client's rights were not compromised.
In aggravation, Larkin has a prior record of discipline. In 1995, she received a 90-day actual suspension for client abandonment and failure to cooperate with the State Bar.
In mitigation, her current misconduct occurred during the same period as her previous disciplinary matter. The discipline imposed reflects the appropriate level, had the matters been heard together.
RITA MAHDESSIAN [#141901], 35, of Glendale was suspended for three years, stayed, and placed on probation for three years, with an actual suspension of two years and until she has shown proof of her fitness to practice law, effective Sept. 12, 1996. She was ordered to pass the MPRE within the first two years of her actual suspension.
Mahdessian was found culpable of an act of moral turpitude, filing fraudulent amnesty applications and possession of a counterfeit employment authorization card.
In March 1994, Mahdessian pled guilty in federal court to one count of possessing a fraudulent identification document, a misdemeanor. She received three years probation and was fined $10,000.
In September 1990, special agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) began an investigation into certain individuals suspected of traveling to El Paso, Texas, to file fraudulent citizenship amnesty applications.
Before the investigation began in earnest, Mahdessian voluntarily appeared at the U.S. Attorney's office in El Paso, offered her assistance and admitted she had worked with several individuals who charged aliens to file phony amnesty applications. Mahdessian's role was to interview the applicants and inform them of the requirements.
At some point during the scheme, Mahdessian's cohorts determined that the immigration legalization office in El Paso was an easier office to obtain approval of the applications, so the claims were filed there.
Mahdessian cooperated with the investigation with the understanding that she could be charged with a crime or crimes. Her assistance led to several arrests in the amnesty application ring.
In aggravation, Mahdessian's misconduct significantly harmed clients, the public and the administration of justice.
In mitigation, she suffered from extreme emotional difficulties and has been diagnosed with a dependent personality disorder and depression. She displayed candor, cooperated with the bar's investigation and presented eight letters from attorneys, former employers, charitable groups, religious organizations and professional colleagues, all attesting to her good moral character and good standing in the community.
She also was cooperative with the INS investigation and flew from Los Angeles to El Paso on several occasions for extensive interviews. Three of her associates were later charged and convicted.
Through her cooperation, the government saved extensive investigatory costs and approximately 150 fraudulent amnesty applications were uncovered, enabling INS officials to "undo" the damage."
Without the assistance of Ms. Mahdessian," said Deputy U.S. Attorney Thomas C. Roepke, "the investigation could not have been successfully completed."
DALE K. NEES [#127943], 36, of Carmichael was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, with an actual suspension of six months and until he has made restitution. If he remains actually suspended for two years or more, he will remain suspended until he has shown proof of his fitness to practice law. He also was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order was effective Sept. 12, 1996.
This review decision marks the first summary review proceeding decided under rule 308, which was part of the recent overhaul of the State Bar discipline system.
Rule 308 was designed to streamline and reduce the costs of reviewing bar disciplinary cases.
Among matters eligible for review are those raising issues concerning the appropriate degree of discipline and those without dispute over the hearing judge's material findings of fact.
In this review decision, Nees was found culpable of two instances of misconduct. A bar court hearing judge originally gave Nees a 30-day actual suspension, but the review department increased it to two years. "We decide that greater actual suspension is appropriate based on [Nees'] protracted failure to perform legal services for an incarcerated client and his failure to return any of the sizeable unearned, advanced legal fees," wrote the review judge.
In 1991, Nees was employed by a client sentenced to a lengthy federal prison term, to seek a writ of habeas corpus. Nees did not provide a written agreement to the client, but asked for a $10,000 retainer. The clients' relatives paid Nees $7,000.
Nees then told the client he was pursuing the case and promised a memorandum, which he never provided. A few months later he told the client he had received his trial transcripts, which cost about $6,500.
The client's relatives unsuccessfully attempted to talk to Nees for nearly a year and the client eventually demanded a return of his files and unearned fees. Nees never replied.
The client later discovered Nees was in Hawaii and his file was in the California apartment of Nees' friend. The client contacted Nees in Hawaii, who assured him that he had taken the trial transcripts with him to work on. When confronted with the truth, Nees admitted that he had not started on the petition and it would be four to six months before he could complete it.
The client again demanded the return of his file and arranged for it to be picked up in Nees' Sacramento office. However, the file could not be found.
The client also demanded a refund of his fees, which Nees claimed were $6,000 rather than $7,000. As of October 1994, the client had received neither his file nor a refund of his fees and the client was financially unable to hire another lawyer to pursue his case.
The review judge agreed with the overall weight given to aggravating and mitigating factors, but considered Nees' abandonment of the habeas corpus petition of a prisoner more serious than acknowledged by the bar's hearing judge. "Clients who are incarcerated, even if they have friends or relatives outside of prison to act as intermediaries with the attorney, are necessarily limited in their ability to assist the attorney or to stay appraised of the attorney's efforts," wrote the review judge.
LEONARD EDWARD READ III [#47089], 52, of Hawaiian Gardens was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on one year of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 12, 1996.
While on involuntary inactive status in 1993 as a result of his failure to complete his MCLE requirements, Read made a court appearance .
In mitigation, he had no record of discipline during his 26 years of practice, and he returned to active status five days after the court appearance.
JAMES L. ROSENBERG [#82731], 47, 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 Sept. 12, 1996.
Rosenberg stipulated to several counts of misconduct in three consolidated cases.
In the first, a civil case was dismissed because he failed to pursue it. He then settled a malpractice case with his client without advising her to seek independent legal counsel. He did not respond to State Bar inquiries about the matter.
He failed to provide competent legal service to his client in a second case by submitting an incomplete and inaccurate application for a labor certificate. The application was filed late and a request for an accurate application was ignored. He did not respond to bar inquiries about this case either.
In the third matter, Rosenberg did not return a client's files as requested.
In mitigation, he had no record of discipline since his admission to the bar in 1978.
RONALD WAYNE SAMPSON [#67398], 58, of Beverly Hills was suspended for three years, stayed, and placed on three years of probation with an 18-month actual suspension and until he pays more than $25,000 in restitution. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. He also was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Sept. 13, 1996.
The review department reduced the discipline recommended in this case by the hearing judge because of the level of discipline imposed in similar cases.
Sampson did not adequately supervise personal injury cases and disregarded his trust account obligations for almost one year. Although he did not intentionally misappropriate funds, he failed to retain in trust more than $34,000 in settlement funds.
In addition, he failed to provide competent legal services and did not promptly notify a client of the receipt of a $2,500 settlement.
In aggravation, he committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and significantly harmed a medical provider.
In mitigation, he had no discipline record in more than 20 years of practice.
In late 1990, 14 clients hired Sampson to represent them in personal injury cases. His employees signed 14 medical liens for him to pay a chiropractor for treatment of the clients.
As the cases settled, however, Sampson did not pay the medical liens, which totaled nearly $30,000.
Although he was building a personal injury practice, most of Sampson's work was in real estate practice and his paralegal handled much of the work associated with the PI cases. When she returned from three months out of the office, the paralegal found the PI practice in a shambles and it took nine months to get it organized.
The Supreme Court issued separate discipline orders for NEOMA RUTH KNITTER [#92405], 55, of Desert Hot Springs, both effective Sept. 13, 1996. In the first, she was suspended for three years, stayed, and placed on three years of probation with an actual two-year suspension and until she proves rehabilitation. In the second case, she was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual one-year suspension, and was ordered to make restitution. In both cases, she was ordered to comply with rule 955. The periods of probation and actual suspension run concurrently.
In the first matter, Knitter failed to prepare a final judgment in a divorce, thereby violating a court order. In another divorce she was handling, Knitter failed to complete legal services, respond to her client's status inquiries or return her client's file, and she improperly withdrew from employment.
In the second case before the court, Knitter mishandled another divorce case. She told her client she had filed the required paperwork with the court when she had not, and she failed to return more than 50 phone calls from her client or refund attorney's fees.
By misrepresenting that she filed the paperwork, Knitter committed an act of moral turpitude.
Knitter did not cooperate with the bar's investigation of the case or with the investigation of a second matter which the court found the bar did not prove.
Knitter has been disciplined twice before. She was placed on two years of probation last year for failing to complete the legal services for which she was hired, communicate with her client or return unearned fees in one case, and in a second matter for failing to perform, communicate with her client or return her client's file.
In February, Knitter was suspended for six months and given another two-year probation as a result of mishandling a probate matter.
Knitter has been on involuntary inactive enrollment since Jan. 8.
DEAN RUSSELL HYATT [#53797], 51, of Ontario was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on four years of probation with an actual 120-day suspension, and was ordered to make restitution, take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Sept. 13, 1996.
Hyatt stipulated that he improperly managed the financial affairs of a limited partnership in which he was both the general partner and attorney. By holding both positions, he knowingly acquired a pecuniary interest adverse to his client's and the partnership, and did not advise the limited partners that they could seek independent legal advice. He commingled partnership funds with personal funds and misrepresented the partnership's financial status to its limited partners.
Hyatt had formed the limited partnership, Rialto Foothill Development Associates, to purchase, develop and sell vacant lots in Rialto. At the same time, Hyatt was the sole stockholder, officer and director of Hyatt Land Development Corp., Rialto's general partner. He served as Rialto's attorney for its acquisition of real property for development.
Rialto's nine limited partners invested a total of $150,000 in the partnership; neither Hyatt nor the land development corporation made any capital investment.
About a year after the partnership was formed, Hyatt executed a promissory note for a personal debt, secured by Rialto's property. He violated the partnership agreement by doing so. A year later, after telling one of his investors that things were going well, he admitted he had placed Rialto into bankruptcy two months earlier.
A subsequent review of Rialto's financial records revealed that partnership money was unaccounted for and Hyatt had used some money for personal expenses. Eventually, the bankruptcy court entered a judgment against Hyatt for $281,549, which he has not repaid to any of the Rialto partnership.
In a second case against Hyatt, he failed to properly handle a business slander action in which he represented the plaintiff. He failed to respond to interrogatories or motions by the defense, attend two hearings or schedule his client's deposition. He did not notify his client about the various motions or tell him of the dismissal of certain defendants.
His client fired Hyatt and sued him for malpractice. Hyatt settled and agreed to pay his former client $50,000. Although he paid $20,000, he has since failed to abide by the agreed upon payment schedule.
In mitigation, Hyatt was never disciplined in 14 years of practice prior to these cases. He suffers from severe depression, which affected his ability to attend to his business and client matters.
GENE JEFFREY GOLDSMAN [#76554], 45, of Santa Ana was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 75-day suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 13, 1996.
Goldsman stipulated to misconduct in seven consolidated cases, most involving problems with paying medical liens. He also failed to perform legal services competently, return client files, respond promptly to inquiries, disburse settlement funds promptly and comply with court orders, and he improperly withdrew from employment.
In a slip-and-fall case, he notified his client of a settlement and sent a check for $10,000, but the client says she never received either. She sued Goldsman, who personally paid the $10,000.
A personal injury case was dismissed due to lack of prosecution and Goldsman did not make good on his promise to deliver the client's file.
He was sanctioned $6,000 in another case when he did not follow the court's orders, and in a civil case which went to binding arbitration, Goldsman requested a trial after arbitration and was sanctioned by the court for "frivolous, bad faith and outrageous tactics."
Goldsman's problems began in April 1988, when he separated from his wife, who also was his law partner. A bitter divorce ensued, marked by serious conflict and the sabotage of Goldsman's personal and professional life. Most of the complaints were the result of the physical disruption of Goldsman's practice by his former wife, and the distractions and emotional stress he endured in attempting to protect his practice and raise the couple's four children.
Goldsman's home and car were broken into on numerous occasions and various items, ranging from files to financial records, disappeared from his office. One employee resigned and took virtually all the office records and gave them to Goldsman's ex-wife. At one point, his ex-wife instructed their bank not to honor any law firm checks from the general account that did not have both partners' signatures and then refused to sign any checks.
His ex-wife disconnected the firm's telephone number, and mail delivery was changed from the office to a post office box. A gun was planted in Goldsman's car, and on one occasion, he returned home to find his suits had been cut over the breast and his pants had been slit.
Goldsman was awarded sole custody of the couple's four children and the family residence by the court, which noted the ingestion of drugs by Goldsman's ex-wife and her interference with his visitation. When she removed her belongings, she took the children's belongings as well. When Goldsman was allowed to remove his corporate records from his ex-wife's home, there were 125 boxes.
Although Goldsman attempted to reduce his practice, he had to continue working to support his children. Adding insult to injury, his bookkeeper stole $157,000 from the firm.
Goldsman has implemented safeguards to protect his office records and documents and has taken courses on avoiding malpractice and client complaints. He believes some of his records and files have not been returned. He has relinquished any rights to attorney fees from the funds which are frozen in his client trust account.
DANIEL LAGOS ORTIZ GALLARDO [#45197], 55, of National City was suspended for 90 days, stayed, placed on probation for two years and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 13, 1996.
Gallardo failed to comply with the conditions of a private reproval issued in 1994.
He has two other private reprovals in 1987 and 1994, resulting from failure to communicate, render an accounting, promptly refund unearned fees, return client files and perform legal services competently, and improperly withdrawing from representation.
In mitigation, Gallardo says he was mistaken about the date for complying with the reproval.
GUSTAV GEORGE BUJKOVSKY [#47528], 53, of San Diego was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation, and was ordered to take the MPRE. The order took effect Sept. 15, 1996.
Bujkovsky stipulated to misconduct in three consolidated cases. Among his misdeeds: he failed to report sanctions to the State Bar; he failed to return a client's file to her or to notify her of developments in her case, including an order that the client pay attorney's fees and costs to the opposing party; and he failed to file an answer on behalf of a client, resulting in an entry of default against her.
Bujkovsky also pleaded guilty last year to failing to file a federal income tax return for 1988.
In mitigation, he practiced law since 1971 without a discipline record.
DANIEL N. HOFFMAN [#31949], 70, of Santa Clara was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for one year. The order took effect Sept. 15, 1996.
While suspended for poor office organization, Hoffman practiced law when he issued three deposition subpoenas. He had been suspended for 30 days, but the order was delayed at his request.
The previous suspension was the result of Hoffman's failure to perform legal services competently, communicate with a client, promptly return client property and cooperate with the bar's investigation. He also was disciplined previously for failure to give an accounting.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation and is taking steps to improve the organization of his law office by taking management courses and having the office evaluated by a consultant.
HOWARD ALLAN LIPTON [#79301], 46, of San Diego was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a six-month actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Sept. 15, 1996.
Lipton stipulated to misconduct which included solicitation of clients and failure to adequately supervise his employees, promptly deliver his clients' files to new counsel and obtain written consent of his clients concerning a potential conflict of interest.
An agent of Lipton's solicited clients in a Fresno hospital following a collision between a truck and a police car. Despite a potential conflict of interest, Lipton represented the parties, delegating the case to an associate.
However, a claim was not filed with the county Board of Supervisors until after the 100-day limit expired and Lipton took no further action. During numerous telephone calls to Lipton's office, the clients had been assured their case was progressing. They were never advised that all their legal remedies had been exhausted.
When the clients sued Lipton for malpractice, he provided an incomplete file.
Lipton received a public reproval in 1994 for representing potential conflicting interests without the written consent of the parties and for not adequately supervising his staff.
In mitigation, he was seriously injured in a plane crash and was hospitalized for five weeks, supervising his staff by telephone only during the time of the misconduct.
RICHARD LeROY TURNER [#51728], 64, of Redding was suspended for 90 days, stayed, placed on two years of probation, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 15, 1996.
Turner deposited a settlement check into his general account instead of his client trust account.
He has no record of discipline since his admission to the bar in 1972, and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.
LAWRENCE STANLEY TUCCORI [#37735], 56, of Fresno was placed on interim suspension April 30, 1996, following his conviction for committing a lewd and lascivious act upon a child. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.
LAURA ELIZABETH WILSON [#165504], 43, of Sun Valley was suspended July 31, 1996, following her conviction for appropriating audiovisual works for her own use (Penal Code §485). She was ordered to comply with rule 955.
JEFFREY RUBIN [#120270], 43, of Santa Monica was placed on interim suspension Aug. 15, 1996, following his conviction of violating Penal Code §459, burglary, a felony. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.
JENNIFER WASHBURN SHAW [#82842], 42, of Los Angeles was placed on interim suspension Sept. 3, 1996, following her conviction of 41 counts of violating Penal Code §597(b), animal abuse, a felony, and one count of animal neglect, §597(f). She was ordered to comply with rule 955.
MARK D. WAGNER [#103393], 41, of Newport Beach (Sept. 5, 1996)
GLENN DAVID MILLER [#91506], 51, of Newport Beach (Sept. 7, 1996)
ANDREW MORRIS SMITH [#80679], 49, of Riverside (Sept. 7, 1996)
HOWARD SCHMUCKLER [#118332], 53, of Los Angeles (Sept. 7, 1996)
KENDALL KING WATSON [#118392], 39, of Santa Barbara (Sept. 12, 1996)
AUGUST KIM ANDERSON [#113718], 40, of Encinitas (Sept. 12, 1996)
EARL RICHARD STEEN III [#47167], 52, of Pasadena (Sept. 15, 1996)
JEFFREY A. RUBIN [#120270], 43, of Santa Monica (Sept. 15, 1996)
Suspension/Failure to Pass PRE
GERALD F. NEAL [#53028], 52, of Las Vegas (Aug. 30, 1996)
ROBERT GEORGE KOCH JR. [#69914], 50, of Rialto (Sept. 3, 1996)
GEORGE WILLIAM PILLING [#43623], 54, of Los Angeles (Sept, 3, 1996)
FREDERICK A. ROMERO [#92423], 48, of Los Angeles (Sept. 3, 1996)
FRANK ARNOLD ALCANTARA [#85840]51, of North Las Vegas, Nev. (Sept. 5, 1996)
GRANT ERIK BEUCHEL [#113327], 38, of Mojave (Sept. 7, 1996)
MICHAEL B. FRIEDMAN [#38480], 57, of Tiburon (July 13, 1996)