Caution!

More than 151,100 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.


Disbarments

DOUGLAS J. McDOUGALL [#133397], 35, of Torrance was disbarred Aug. 15, 1996, and ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.

Hired to handle a dental malpractice case, McDougall allowed the statute of limitations to expire without filing suit, failed to communicate with his client and intentionally misrepresented the status of the case to his client.

When he spoke with his client, McDougall told her five different versions of the status of the case, each one untrue.

In a second matter, he agreed to buy a car for $6,500. He wrote a check for $2,000 on an account which had been closed four months earlier, never reimbursed the seller or made any subsequent payments and never returned the car.

McDougall was disciplined last year in a matter still pending before the State Bar Court's review department. His misconduct there included failing to perform legal services competently, communicate with his client or promptly return client files, misrepresenting the status of a case, dismissing an action without his client's consent, violating court discovery orders and improper withdrawal from employment.

In the default matter which resulted in his disbarment, McDougall was enrolled involuntarily inactive a year ago after he advised the State Bar Court that he planned to resign from the bar but did not do so.

JOHN R. SHEEHAN [#38693], 68, of Burbank was disbarred Aug. 15, 1996, and ordered to comply with rule 955.

Sheehan filed a personal injury suit against the Glendale School District, but did not respond to discovery requests despite two time extensions. When the school district filed motions to compel discovery responses and for sanctions, Sheehan did not appear at the scheduled hearing. The court awarded sanctions in the amount of $770.

The school next filed a motion for dismissal, but Sheehan neither responded to the motion nor appeared at that hearing.

The case was dismissed and he and his clients were sanctioned an additional $660.

Sheehan did not pay the sanctions or advise his clients that the case was dismissed.

In a second matter, Sheehan represented his client in a divorce but failed to take the steps necessary to complete the dissolution. He did not return his client's file upon request when he was fired.

Two other personal injury cases handled by Sheehan were dismissed; the first because he did not comply with local court rules, and the second because Sheehan failed to appear at a status conference and a hearing on an order to show cause.

Sheehan also failed to cooperate with the bar's investigation of three of these matters.

He has been disciplined on three previous occasions. He was publicly reproved in 1980 for failing to perform competently and making misrepresentations to a client. He was suspended for one year in 1981 for incompetent legal performance, and when he failed to comply with rule 955, he was suspended for six months in 1983.

MICHAEL ALAN FISHER [#68885], 50, of Los Angeles was disbarred Aug. 16, 1996, and ordered to comply with rule 955.

In a default matter, Fisher was disbarred for failing to comply with a rule 955 order issued in 1995, when he was placed on interim suspension following his conviction in 1994 for petty theft with a prior.

The State Bar Court noted that Fisher has been disciplined four times since his admission to the bar in 1976; two of the priors were for disciplinary probation violations.

GLEN HUEY HEINE [#66161], 53, of Sacramento was disbarred Aug. 18, 1996, and ordered to comply with rule 955.

Heine failed to disburse funds withheld from his client's settlement in a personal injury matter and never paid the medical liens. The judge concluded that Heine misappropriated those funds.

He also failed to communicate with his client, perform legal services competently, properly maintain his client trust account or keep his address current with the State Bar.

Heine has been disciplined on two previous occasions. In 1994, he was suspended for 60 days and placed on three years of probation for failing to perform legal services or communicate with his client, improperly withdrawing from employment, misrepresenting the status of a case and misusing his trust account.

The following year, Heine violated his probation by failing to make restitution or file quarterly probation reports.

He defaulted in all three disciplinary cases.

In the case which led to Heine's disbarment, the judge found that his actions "were intentional and tantamount to theft."

LUZ V. BRILLANTE [#135259], 62, of Los Angeles was disbarred Aug. 24, 1996, and ordered to comply with rule 955.

Brillante failed to comply with an earlier order to comply with rule 955; she did not notify her clients or courts that she was suspended in 1995 nor did she file an affidavit of compliance with the Supreme Court.

Brillante, who was admitted to the bar in 1988, was disciplined last year.

A personal injury case that she handled was dismissed because she did not respond to discovery motions or comply with an order compelling discovery. She then failed to appear at a hearing to vacate the dismissal, abandoned a subsequent appeal and never told her clients the case was dismissed.

In December 1995, Brillante was placed on involuntary inactive enrollment for failing to file an answer in the case.

She failed to participate in the most recent hearing.

GARY HALL AMSTERDAM [#97352], 36, of Beverly Hills was disbarred Aug. 24, 1996, and ordered to comply with rule 955.

Amsterdam's disbarment is the result of his failure to comply with an earlier order to comply with rule 955 when he was suspended for violating his disciplinary probation in 1995.

Amsterdam has a lengthy record of discipline beginning in 1990, when he was suspended for 30 days and placed on one year of probation. In 1992, he was ordered to complete a professional ethics course. In 1994, he was again placed on probation, and the following year, he was suspended for 18 months in a probation violation matter.

LECIA L. SHORTER [#139083], 46, of Beverly Hills was disbarred Aug. 25, 1996, and ordered to comply with rule 955.

In a strongly worded decision, former State Bar Court Judge David Wesley wrote, "to put it plainly, (Shorter) has stolen, lied, and is unrepentant. . . . She is seemingly incapable of conforming her conduct to the professional standards established for California attorneys. . . . Her actions before this court, whether by design or incompetence, have misled the court and have demonstrated her contempt for the disciplinary system."

Shorter misappropriated $7,000 from clients she represented in two unlawful detainer actions. Although she claimed the funds were her attorney fees for her alleged representation of the clients in a separate federal case, the judge disagreed. Her trust account records indicated the funds apparently were used by Shorter to settle other clients' personal injury claims and to pay other expenses, he said.

Wesley even quoted a federal judge who had accused Shorter of unprofessionalism in the federal case and who said individuals such as Shorter made the legal profession look "worse than used car salesmen."

During the disciplinary hearing, Shorter tried to have one of her own witnesses cited for contempt, but her motion was found to be based on a perjured declaration.

Wesley called the incident "disturbing," and noted that in another discipline case against Shorter, she made a similar misrepresentation by filing a false proof of service.

"Although the court considered the conduct at that time to be an extremely aggravating circumstance, (Shorter) was given one more chance and not disbarred," the court wrote. Shorter "has reinforced to this court that she lacks the ability to fulfill her duties and obligations to the public and the legal profession."

Shorter did not file quarterly probation reports, but testified her failure was unintentional because she "was suffering from emotional problems, was depressed, and protected herself by blocking out certain things, particularly correspondence from the State Bar."

Although Shorter claimed in the most recent case to suffer from depression, the court said she did not present convincing evidence that her mental problems were linked to the misconduct.

Shorter was previously disciplined in 1993 after failing to deposit entrusted funds in a trust account.


Suspensions/Probation

VINCENT KEITH PATRICK [#152110], 35, of San Diego was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on one year of probation with an actual 30-day suspension and until he makes restitution. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove rehabilitation; if it exceeds 90 days, he must comply with rule 955. Patrick also must take the CPRE within one year. The order took effect Aug. 4, 1996.

Patrick committed five acts of misconduct including improperly withdrawing from representation of clients in a bankruptcy matter and failing to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, return unearned fees and cooperate with the bar's investigation.

Hired in 1993 to file a bankruptcy petition, he never did so and had no subsequent contact with his clients. When they hired a new lawyer, Patrick never returned their fee. He failed to cooperate with the State Bar investigation of that matter.

He did not participate in this disciplinary proceeding.

MADELINE E. MELKA [#128009], 45, of Estancia, N.M., was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with conditions including restitution, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Aug. 4, 1996.

Melka stipulated to eight counts of misconduct involving four client matters. In the first matter, she allowed the statute of limitations to expire in a personal injury case and withdrew from representation without notifying her client.

In the second matter, Melka failed to set up an interest bearing trust account, as required by a trust agreement she entered into with a client.

She failed to communicate, perform legal services competently and return unearned fees to another client, and in the same case made a misrepresentation to the court.

In the fourth case, Melka visited an inmate at a county jail with a former client, whom she variously identified as an investigator, her paralegal, and an attorney employed in her office to gain access to the attorney interview room. She was charged criminally with false identification to secure admission, although the charge was later dropped. She stipulated that her conduct constituted an act of moral turpitude.

In mitigation, Melka suffered from chemical dependency, but is now sober and received treatment before complaints were made to the bar. She is remorseful and "is making a positive contribution to the legal community in New Mexico," according to the stipulation.

NICHOLAS CARL BYHOWER [#24234], 71, of Santa Ana was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years probation with a four-month actual suspension, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect Aug. 4, 1996.

Byhower stipulated to misconduct in three matters. In the first, he failed to comply or complied late with conditions attached to two public reprovals.

He failed to perform legal services competently on a workers' compensation claim; he kept the client's files for two years without taking any action, and he led his client to believe he was not representing him by not returning his files and not returning his phone calls.

Byhower did not competently pursue another worker's comp case in which his client filed three separate claims. Two of the claims were dismissed due to lack of prosecution.

In mitigation, Byhower has suffered from numerous physical ailments, including a stroke, during the past few years. His wife has a brain tumor. Numerous judges attested to his dedication to clients and his willingness to accept difficult cases.

Byhower was publicly reproved in 1994 for failing to comply with conditions attached to a 1992 public reproval.

HERBERT JAMES FOSS [#84367], 47, of Manhattan Beach was suspended for three years, stayed, and placed on three years of probation with a one-year actual suspension. Credit was given for the period of interim suspension which began Nov. 27, 1994, and ended last April. Foss also was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Aug. 4, 1996.

Foss was convicted in 1994 of sexually molesting a child in 1992.

In mitigation, he has been in psychotherapy since 1994 and has been emotionally supportive of his victim. He also cooperated with the State Bar and criminal investigations and is not considered by his psychiatrist to be a threat to the public.

CREIG ALAN DOLGE [#101651], 40, of Santa Barbara was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 60-day actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MRPE within one year. The order took effect Aug. 15, 1996.

Dolge stipulated to misconduct in three cases.

He failed to prosecute a breach of contract action but told his client he had obtained a judgment. Several times, he told the client he was executing the fictitious judgment and even made a small payment which he said was in partial satisfaction of the judgment. He then stopped communicating with the client.

In another case, Dolge was appointed by the court to represent a woman in her appeal of a DUI conviction. Although he investigated and made multiple court appearances, Dolge determined there was no basis for an appeal. The appeal was dismissed by the court, but Dolge never advised the client.

Dolge did not provide another client with copies of transcripts of his court proceedings, despite multiple requests by the client after the appeal.

Dolge did not cooperate with the bar's investigation of any of the cases.

He also was privately reproved last year for failing to perform legal services and communicate with a client in one matter.

MARK ALLEN GEBHARDT [#138551], 42, of Ione was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for two years with an actual 30-day suspension and until he makes restitution. He was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and to comply with rule 955 if the actual suspension exceeds 90 days. The order took effect Aug. 15, 1996.

In this default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Gebhardt failed to pursue a divorce action he was hired to handle. He did not return any of his client's phone calls, even when asked to do so by the bar, nor did he return unearned fees.

Gebhardt did not cooperate with the bar's investigation.

CRAIG KENNETH MARTIN [#74750], 47, of San Francisco was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 90-day suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Aug. 15, 1996.

Martin practiced law by representing a client in a civil matter while suspended for failing to pass the California Professional Responsibility Examination. He also failed to comply with probation conditions stemming from an earlier discipline order.

Martin has been disciplined three previous times for offenses including commingling client and personal funds in one case and for violating probation in another.

In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation. In addition, although Martin was notified he failed the CPRE, he discovered that one of the answers on the test was graded incorrectly. As a result of the flawed exam result, Martin was suspended and did not practice for 60 days.

DAVID GLENN WILLS [#106486], 42, of Los Angeles was suspended for 18 months, stayed, placed on 18 months of probation with an actual 15-day suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Aug. 15, 1996.

Wills made court appearances on behalf of two clients while he was suspended for failure to comply with MCLE requirements.

In mitigation, he had completed his requirements on time but the bar did not receive his proof of compliance prior to his inactive enrollment.

The probation of FRANCIS JOSEPH BLOOMINGDALE [#52935], 60, of La Mesa was revoked and the previously ordered stay of suspension was lifted Aug. 16, 1996. He was actually suspended for five years, and was ordered to attend ethics school and take the MPRE during the course of his suspension.

Bloomingdale originally was suspended and placed on probation in 1994. He filed three quarterly probation reports late and failed to file a fourth. He also did not attend ethics school as required.

In the 1994 case, the State Bar Court found that Bloomingdale engaged in "highly dishonest and corrupt behavior" by misappropriating funds from his brother-in-law, who also was his client.

Upon the sale of a residence, Bloomingdale collected the payments for his brother-in-law. He then convinced the brother-in-law to sign documents assigning the note and deed of trust on the property to Bloomingdale's wife. Bloomingdale then took $100,000 of the principal for his own benefit.

In addition, he represented his brother-in-law's girlfriend in a civil matter, withdrawing his legal fees from his brother-in-law's funds without his knowledge.

Bar prosecutors had sought Bloomingdale's disbarment, but the bar court felt he was a good candidate for rehabilitation. He had a prior record of discipline as well, resulting from loan transactions with clients in violation of the rules.

In its most recent order, the court rejected the bar's request that Bloomingdale be placed on involuntary inactive status and that he be ordered to comply with rule 955.

He has been on actual suspension since August 1994, and he complied with rule 955 at that time as part of the 1994 discipline order.

STEVEN JACOB BARKIN [#91575], 43, of Sherman Oaks was suspended for seven years, stayed, placed on nine years of probation with an actual four-year suspension and until he proves his rehabilitation, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Aug. 16, 1996.

Barkin stipulated to misconduct in 19 consolidated cases.

The majority of his misdeeds involved mishandling entrusted funds: he misappropriated client money, did not render appropriate accounts or pay liens to medical providers, used his client trust account to pay personal and business expenses, bounced client trust account checks and allowed the balance of the trust account to fall below the amount that should have been maintained on behalf of clients.

He also did not return clients' phone calls and made numerous misrepresentations and promises he did not keep.

Several clients were contacted by collection agencies and one was forced into bankruptcy.

Barkin's actions lasted for more than three years and he did not make restitution in most of the cases.

In mitigation, he has no prior record of discipline and suffers from severe depression for which he is on medication. Barkin also engaged in charitable activities during the past 10 years.

FRANKLIN KNIGHT LANE III [#22494], 72, of Los Angeles was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, effective Aug. 16, 1996.

Knight was disciplined for practicing law while he was suspended from Aug. 6 to Oct. 5, 1994. During that period, he filed a petition on behalf of a client to be appointed a successor trustee in superior court.

Knight erroneously believed that his suspension had terminated by the time he filed his client's petition. When he discovered the error, he withdrew from the case and did not charge his client fees for his services.

In aggravation, Lane has a record of two prior disciplinary actions. In 1994, he received a three-year stayed suspension and 60 days actual, and also a six-month stayed suspension which ran consecutive to the prior disciplinary action.

In mitigation, Lane cooperated with the bar's investigation and promptly took steps to rectify the situation involving his practice of law while on suspension.

RITA MARIE MORALES [#127115], 45, of Pacific Palisades was suspended for 18 months, stayed, and placed on probation for 18 months with an actual suspension of 90 days, effective Aug. 16, 1996. She must make restitution, pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955.

Morales' misconduct included commingling personal and client funds, and failing to properly maintain her client trust account, return unearned legal fees, pay an arbitration award and communicate with her client.

In one matter, Morales was employed by a client in 1992 to handle a sex, race and age discrimination complaint. In March 1994, she settled the case and received a draft payable to the client and herself for $50,500.

In May 1994, she disbursed $20,000 as partial payment of the settlement funds to the client and paid the balance of $8,718 in June. Between March and June 1994, the balance of her client trust account dipped below the balance Morales should have maintained on behalf of her client.

Also during this time, the client and another attorney acting on his behalf made several unsuccessful requests for the prompt disbursal of the proceeds from his case. It was stipulated that Morales made a partial payment of the proceeds to appease the client until she had time to complete the lengthy and complex accounting of the case.

In aggravation, Morales' misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing.

In mitigation, she cooperated with the bar's investigation and made restitution to one client.

In addition, Morales had worked as an associate in law firms handling civil rights cases until late 1992, when she became a solo practitioner. Because office personnel in her previous jobs handled the law firms' financial matters, her inexperience with billings, client trust accounts and record-keeping resulted in poor office management practices.

She became overloaded with cases and often found herself in situations without the resources to finance litigation costs when clients failed to advance legal fees.

In addition, during this period her father died, her children's paternal grandfather died and she was forced to evacuate her home and office during the 1993 Topanga Canyon fire.

In 1994, the Northridge earthquake damaged her newly relocated office in Santa Monica and her nephew wrecked her car in an accident. She was unable to replace the car for eight months.

Her financial difficulties contributed to her inability to refund unearned fees addressed in the stipulation.

The probation of PAULA F. SCHMIDT [#56075], 45, of Woodside was revoked and the previously ordered stay of suspension lifted, effective Aug. 16, 1996. Schmidt was actually suspended for one year with credit for the period of inactive enrollment ordered in the probation violation matter. She was ordered to comply with rule 955.

Schmidt failed to timely file three probation reports, a requirement of a 1994 disciplinary order.

In that disciplinary matter, Schmidt received a one-year stayed suspension, with two years probation and a 60-day actual suspension, for failure to comply with a condition of a 1993 public reproval.

She received the reproval for failing to perform legal services competently, communicate with her client and cooperate with the State Bar.

Schmidt's prior record of discipline was considered an aggravating factor in the current proceedings, as was her violation of probation on multiple occasions over a significant period of time.

No mitigating circumstances were established.

ROBERT FORBES BECKER [#93171], 43, of Cathedral City was suspended for 30 days, stayed, and placed on probation for one year, effective Aug. 24, 1996. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.

Becker's misconduct involved his failure to comply with conditions attached to a 1994 private reproval. He failed to file timely quarterly reports, pass the CPRE and attend the bar's ethics school.

Becker's prior record of discipline was considered an aggravating circumstance. He was privately reproved for failure to perform legal services, communicate with his client and return unearned fees.

In mitigation, Becker suffered economic hardship and was homeless during 1995.

ROBERT STEPHAN OCHS [#40994], 54, of San Diego was suspended for three years, stayed, and placed on probation for four years on the condition that he actually be suspended for six months and until he makes restitution.

If Ochs' actual suspension continues for more than two years, he will remain suspended until he has shown proof of his rehabilitation and fitness to practice law. The order was effective Aug. 24, 1996.

Ochs was hired by a client in 1991 to represent him in claims arising from an auto accident and agreed to retain $500 from any settlements for his fee.

Ochs settled the claims and deposited the drafts into his client trust account, but failed to distribute the money to his client.

Despite the client's repeated requests for his share of the settlement funds, Ochs falsely told him that the drafts had not cleared the bank. He then misappropriated the $13,600 for his own use.

In aggravation, Ochs has a prior record of discipline. His current misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing and followed the same pattern as a previous instance in which Ochs misappropriated the trust funds of five clients.

In mitigation, Ochs has embarked upon a plan to repay his client, he has admitted his wrongdoing and cooperated with the bar's investigation.

In addition, Ochs developed financial problems in 1991, after his wife opened a restaurant. His wife arranged for about $375,000 in loans from friends and claimed that threats were made against her family in the event she did not repay them. A potential buyer for the restaurant later backed out of the sale after it went into escrow.

Ochs received notice of foreclosure of the family home and learned that his wife had secretly borrowed money against the house. They eventually lost the house and were evicted.

Due to emotional stress and threats on his family, Ochs misappropriated client funds. Although he did not seek to excuse his misconduct, the extreme and unusual events at the time were connected to his actions.

Admitted to the bar in 1967, Ochs had a 27-year discipline-free record prior to 1994.


Interim Suspension

JAMES LESTER PRICE [#87275], 52, of Riverside was placed on interim suspension effective July 15, 1996, following his conviction of driving while intoxicated and causing an injury, a felony. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.

CHARLES WILLIAM BRODIE [#35411], 58, of Palo Alto was placed on interim suspension effective July 15, 1996, following his conviction of possession of a controlled substance, a felony. 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.

STEVEN H. FRANCESCHI [#80057], 43, of Modesto was placed on interim suspension effective Aug. 14, 1996, following his conviction of possession of a controlled substance, a felony, and misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia for unlawful use, a misdemeanor. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.


Resignation/Charges Pending

HARRY A. BRAVERMAN [#79814], 44, of Los Angeles (Aug. 2, 1996)

WENDELL L. BONNER [#122756], 43, of San Jose (Aug. 15, 1996)

JAVIER CASTRO [#146511], 37, of San Diego (Aug. 18, 1996)

MICHAEL D. EHRMAN [#76314], 44, of Beverly Hills (Aug. 25, 1996)


Suspension/Failure to Pass PRE

JOHN PAUL WALKER [#56194], 53, of Pasadena (July 1, 1996)

DONALD RICHARD SMITH [#87031], 31, of Nevada City (Aug. 5, 1996)

KAREN AMY YOUNG [#160290], 28, of Sacramento (Aug. 5, 1996)

MICHAEL E. STERES [#62900], 47, of Fallbrook (Aug. 19, 1996)

RONALD E. HULTING [#86129], 54, of San Rafael (Aug. 22, 1996)

BYRON PETER HALLING [#82281], 51, of Ramona (Aug. 22, 1996)

JOHN GEORGE BRONOS II [#75931], 46, of West Palm Beach, Fla. (Aug. 22, 1996)


Public Reproval

RICHARD DANA WILLIAMS [#92376], 43, of San Jose (June 23, 1996)

WILLIAM PATRICK PATTERSON [#99088], 42, of San Diego (July 12, 1996)

CARLOS M. ALCALA [#87094], 50, of Jackson, Miss. (July 13, 1996)

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