More than 155,160 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.
BERNERD F. LIBANTI [#59665], 48, of Modesto was disbarred May 8, 1997, and ordered to comply with rule 955. In a default trial, the State Bar Court found Libanti culpable in 11 separate client matters of failing to communicate, perform legal services competently, properly withdraw from employment, return client files upon termination of employment, return unearned fees, deposit settlement funds into a client trust account and pay a medical lien.
In addition, he made misrepresentations to clients, formed a partnership with a non-lawyer and shared legal fees with an entity not licensed to practice law. He also failed to cooperate with the State Bar and maintain a current membership records address.
No evidence in mitigation was presented during the disbarment proceedings, since Libanti did not participate. However, based on evidence from one matter, the court said there were indications that Libanti may have had an alcohol abuse problem.
The court found many aggravating factors in Libanti's disciplinary hearing, including a prior record of discipline. He received a public reproval in 1984 for failing to perform services competently in one matter.
His misconduct also presented a pattern of misconduct, was surrounded by bad faith, dishonesty and concealment and significantly harmed his clients. Many clients lost their causes of action while others were not informed of the status of their cases for long periods of time.
In addition, Libanti demonstrated indifference toward rectification and displayed a lack of candor to the victims of his misconduct. His failure to cooperate with the State Bar prior to the entry of his default also was considered an aggravating factor.
The hearing department adopted the disbarment recommendation of the bar's trial counsel, stating that Libanti has been "unwilling or unable to abide by professional ethics and responsibilities."
ROBERT STEVEN KAPLAN [#86205], 48, of Irvine was disbarred May 17, 1997, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
In this opinion on review, Kaplan was ordered disbarred for extensive misconduct from 1986 to 1993.
A State Bar Court hearing judge had recommended a five-year stayed suspension with five years probation and three years actual suspension.
Kaplan requested review of the suspension decision, contending that his misconduct was minor, the result of negligent office management and not moral turpitude.
In six matters, he sought dismissal of almost all charges on the grounds that parts of some of the notices to show cause were not adequate and that the record did not support the factual findings and culpability conclusions.
However, the State Bar Court review judge found that Kaplan "recklessly" failed to provide competent legal services in eight matters, cooperate with disciplinary investigations in 14 matters, communicate properly with clients in nine instances and forward files promptly to clients in three matters.
In two matters, he failed to adequately protect his clients' rights before withdrawing from employment and he did not disperse trust funds promptly. He also did not provide an appropriate accounting in one instance and neglected to promptly inform a client about the receipt of entrusted funds.
In addition, he neglected to obtain the written consent of all parties when he represented conflicting interests in a case.
The court found that Kaplan's "habitual and reckless disregard of his clients' interests amounted to a pattern of misconduct involving moral turpitude."
Stressing an abundance of aggravating factors and a lack of mitigation, the State Bar recommended disbarment. Kaplan previously received a suspension in 1994 for less serious but similar misconduct. In addition, Kaplan's current misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing, caused significant harm to clients and he demonstrated indifference toward rectification.
"Given the facts in the record and the extended period of time over which numerous instances of misconduct occurred we find that the attorney's pattern of misconduct is likely to continue or repeat," wrote the review judge, recommending Kaplan's disbarment.
IRA S. BRACKENS [#79807], 49, of Fresno was suspended for three years, stayed, and placed on three years of probation with an actual five-month suspension. He also was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect March 26, 1997.
Brackens entered into a partnership with a disbarred attorney, Oscar Luna, and allowed Luna and other non-lawyers to practice law under the aegis of "Ira Brackens & Associates" in Fresno. They maintained separate offices for about 18 months and worked in the same office for six months.
Luna procured clients for the law firm and provided legal services for numerous clients. Brackens paid him in cash and Luna then paid the other non-attorneys and the office overhead. Luna and the others used Brackens' signature stamp on letters, pleadings and other documents.
By his conduct, Brackens permitted misuse of his name as an attorney, aided Luna's unauthorized law practice, maintained a partnership for the practice of law with a non-lawyer, failed to supervise his employees, and committed acts of moral turpitude.
In mitigation, Brackens has not been disciplined since he began practicing in 1978.
Following a default hearing, DAVID M. GARLAND [#26250], 74, of Newport Beach was placed on actual suspension for six months and until he has complied with the probation requirements of an earlier probation. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. He also was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect March 26, 1997.
The discipline is the result of Garland's failure to comply with probation conditions imposed following his 1993 criminal conviction for assault and battery. Garland failed to file three quarterly probation reports. Although bar attorneys sought a disbarment recommendation, the hearing judge reasoned that discipline already was imposed for the underlying criminal referral matter.
"This court cannot increase the discipline which the Supreme Court has generally found appropriate in probation violation cases like the present one simply because [bar attorneys are] unhappy with the result in the previous criminal referral matter," the court wrote.
Garland failed to file three quarterly probationary reports.
Following this order, the bar court has subsequently recommended that Garland be disbarred in a separate matter, although the Supreme Court has not yet acted.
ANDREW T. BERNKNOPF [#158998], 33, of Santa Monica was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on four years of probation with an actual 90-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. Credit toward the actual suspension will be given for the period of interim suspension which began Jan. 1, 1996. The order took effect March 26, 1997.
Bernknopf pleaded no contest in 1995 to felony battery. He was arrested after he assaulted a 79-year-old woman on a sidewalk in Santa Monica without provocation. The victim suffered three broken ribs, a fractured elbow that required surgery, a possible wrist fracture, and lacerations requiring stitches.
He told arresting officers he assaulted the woman because he felt good and wanted everyone to celebrate, and because God wanted him to do it. He was taken to the hospital for a 72-hour psychiatric detention.
An affidavit submitted by his doctor said the incident was an extreme aberration that occurred at the time Bernknopf was taking Prozac, using marijuana daily and drinking two to three beers a day. The physician called the incident "a hypomanic reaction to the Prozac." He said Bernknopf has made a complete recovery.
Bernknopf paid his victim $10,000 in compensation.
MATTHEW CHARLES LONG [#55857], 64, of Los Angeles was suspended for 30 days, stayed, placed on one year of probation, and was ordered to take the MPRE within a year. The order took effect March 26, 1997.
Long failed to take and pass the California Professional Responsibility Examination, a condition of a 1995 public reproval.
In two consolidated conviction referrals, RAYMOND V. SWEENEY [#36563], 57, of Vacaville was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. Credit toward the actual suspension will be given for the interim suspension which began April 3, 1996. The order took effect April 2, 1997.
Sweeney was convicted in Tuolomne County in 1995 of driving under the influence with two priors, a misdemeanor. Later that year, he pleaded guilty to a DUI with three priors, a felony. He was ordered to serve nine months in the county jail.
His prior drunk driving convictions are considered aggravating evidence. Sweeney also was publicly reproved in 1981.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation and he has been sober since his last arrest.
ALVIN L. CHING [#135443], 35, of Glendale was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on probation for two years with an actual 120-day suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 2, 1997.
For 19 months, Ching did not pay a married couple their settlement funds from a personal injury case, nor did he pay their medical provider, despite an agreement to pay any medical liens. He wilfully misappropriated client funds, allowing the balance in his client trust account to drop below the required amount, did not communicate with his clients and failed to perform legal services competently.
In mitigation, Ching demonstrated candor and cooperation with the investigation.
ARTHUR BEVIS HAMPTON [#105756], 40, of El Monte was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on probation for one year, and was ordered to take the MPRE within a year. The order took effect April 2, 1997.
Hampton was charged with misconduct in two cases. He represented a defendant in an insurance subrogation matter, but failed to appear for trial. As a result, the court entered a $16,424 judgment, plus costs, against his client. Hampton did not notify his client of any of the developments.
He also failed to perform legal services for a client in a personal injury case after the client rejected all settlement offers. He effectively withdrew from representation without notifying his client.
Hampton has no record of discipline since his 1982 admission to the bar.
MATTHEW CLAY BISHOP [#134936], 39, of Yountville was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on probation for two years, and was ordered to take the MPRE within a year. The order took effect April 2, 1997.
Bishop pleaded no contest to battery, a misdemeanor, after he roughed up a young teenager who he thought had damaged his car and after obscenities were exchanged.
A drinking problem contributed to the assault, and Bishop completed a 28-day stay at the Betty Ford Center. He also was experiencing personal difficulties at the time which contributed to his inability to control his temper.
FREDERICK TAIT EHLER [#165526], 39, of San Jose was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with conditions, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect April 2, 1997.
Ehler pleaded no contest to misdemeanor second degree burglary after he broke into a doctor's office and stole a prescription antidepressant. It was stipulated that the facts surrounding the case involved moral turpitude.
In mitigation, he has taken steps to address his drug problem and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.
The probation of GEORGE LEE BAUGH III [#97407], 45, of Fullerton was revoked and the previous stay of suspension lifted April 3, 1997. He was suspended for five years, stayed, and placed on two years of probation.
In 1992, Baugh was given a five-year stayed suspension and was placed on five years of probation with conditions including a requirement that he submit a quarterly certificate from a certified public accountant. He did not timely file three certificates due in 1996.
In mitigation, Baugh made substantial efforts to comply with probation. Both Baugh and his CPA were confused about the trust account information requiring certification. In addition, the CPA advised Baugh that one certificate was filed on time, although it was not received. Another certificate was filed on time but provided improper information. Baugh filed amended reports and certificates.
The probation of THOMAS NEIL THOMSON [#48785], 52, of West Hollywood was revoked April 3, 1997, and the previous stay of suspension lifted. He was placed on two years of probation with conditions, which began March 1, 1997.
Thomson used his attorney trust account for personal expenses, he violated his 1994 probation by failing to complete three hours of law office management education, and he practiced law while suspended for not paying his bar dues.
In mitigation, Thomson had selected an MCLE course when the probation revocation notice was filed, his trust account contained no client funds, and the client he represented while suspended was aware of Thomson's suspension. He cooperated with the bar's investigation.
DAVID REED AIKENS [#134147], 35, of Torrance was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an 18-month actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 13, 1997.
Aikens stipulated to misconduct in three consolidated cases. After he filed a frivolous lawsuit, he was sued and found liable for malicious prosecution and abuse of process. He did not notify the bar that a judgment of $521,125 had been entered against him.
During the trial, he misrepresented his real property assets to the court by declaring he owned no real property when in fact he owned three parcels of land. He then filed a claim of exemption with the court, again falsely stating he owned no real property.
Aikens later transferred the parcels to his mother without providing notice to his judgment creditor or to the court of his prior misrepresentations.
In a bankruptcy case for which he was employed, he submitted a forged document to the court. In response to a request for monetary sanctions against him, Aikens again misrepresented to the court that he owned no real property. When sanctions were imposed, he neither paid them or notified the bar.
In a bankruptcy case, he misled a judge by preparing and filing a Chapter 11 petition for the clients for whom he previously filed a Chapter 11 petition in order to forestall impending foreclosures. He falsely indicated that no other petition had been filed. The petition was filed under the name of another attorney and in the name of his client's wife to avoid detection.
When the trustee filed a disgorgement motion, Aikens stated in a declaration under oath that he was not involved in the second petition when in fact he had prepared and filed it. He was sanctioned for his conduct, but did not pay the sanction in full. He failed to timely comply with two court orders entered against him in the matter.
The court considered extensive mitigation in this case. Aikens has an extreme physical disability -- due to a congenital physical abnormality, he stands about 30 inches tall and has bodily disproportion -- which affects every aspect of his life. He has physical pain, is frequently exhausted and suffered severe emotional difficulties at the time of his misconduct, which occurred soon after he completed law school. He made restitution, is paying off the sanctions, and is in therapy to deal with his emotional difficulties. In addition, it was stipulated that many of the conclusions of culpability were surrounded by various mitigating factors.
LEON JACOB ATLAS [#98008], 52, of San Francisco was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a six-month actual suspension, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 13, 1997.
Atlas stipulated to misconduct in two matters. In the first, a personal injury case, he did not notify his client of his receipt of settlement money, did not pay out the funds, misappropriated settlement funds and did not cooperate with the bar's investigation.
In the second matter, he practiced law while involuntarily enrolled inactive.
In mitigation, Atlas' life was seriously disrupted by a child custody dispute in which he lost all contact with his daughter. He received psychiatric counseling and has recovered.
In aggravation, he has a prior disciplinary record.
ENRIQUE P. BIN [#48933], 60, of Los Angeles was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with a three-year actual suspension and until he proves rehabilitation, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 13, 1997.
In a proceeding consolidating four original matters, Bin misappropriated client funds over a three-year period and delayed paying out the funds in four cases. His trust account balance fell below the required amount countless times during a period of nearly two years and he wrote 106 bad checks against his client trust account. Bin also failed to turn over a file to his client as requested. In one matter, he settled a case without the client's knowledge, although Bin denies this violation.
In mitigation, Bin repaid his clients, cooperated with the bar's investigation, and has practiced without any discipline since 1971.
TOD A. DiTOMMASO [#130564], 35, of Beverly Hills was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on probation with an actual nine-month suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 13, 1997.
The proceeding involved two conviction referrals and violation of conditions attached to a reproval. In 1992, DiTommaso pleaded no contest to driving with a suspended license for driving under the influence. He was convicted by a jury in 1994 of driving under the influence and driving with a blood alcohol level higher than .08 percent with two priors. At the time of his 1994 arrest, DiTommaso was on probation in three alcohol-related driving incidents.
He was publicly reproved by the State Bar in 1993 for multiple DUI violations and driving with a suspended license. The 1994 arrest violated the terms of his reproval.
DiTommaso "knew his license was suspended but, walking to the beat of his own drum, considered himself above the law and continued to drink and drive," the bar court wrote. His "failure to conform his conduct to the requirements of the criminal law or the terms of either his criminal or State Bar probation calls into question his integrity as an officer of the court and his fitness to represent clients."
GEORGE H. McNEAL JR. [#42987], 56, of Los Angeles was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on probation for three years with an actual 90-day suspension and until he proves rehabilitation, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 13, 1997.
This discipline is the latest in a series of probation violations extending back more than five years. McNeal originally was disciplined in 1991 with a one-year stayed suspension and a year of probation with conditions.
When he violated the terms of probation by failing to file quarterly reports, his probation was extended to a period of three years and he was given an actual 60-day suspension in 1993.
He then violated the terms of that probation and probation was extended for another year in 1995.
Since then, he has failed to file five quarterly reports. In mitigation, he has harmed no clients.
KAREN RUCKER [#165653], 39, of Oakland was suspended for six months and until she makes restitution. Within 30 days of the end of the suspension, Rucker must provide a declaration that she did not practice law while suspended. Should the suspension exceed two years, she must prove her rehabilitation. She also was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 13, 1997.
Rucker failed to file an employment discrimination case she was hired to handle, did not respond to her client's inquiries, did not return his file for almost two years and did not fully refund the unearned fee.
In a second employment discrimination matter, she did not perform legal services or respond to her client's repeated messages and inquiries, and failed to return the client's files and unearned fees for many months.
She also did not cooperate with the bar's investigation.
Noting that Rucker abandoned two clients, made misrepresentations to both clients and the bar, and that she had been in practice less than a year when the misconduct began, the court said she is not a good candidate for probation.
MORRILL DUNN III [#46665], 55, of Santa Rosa was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an 18-month actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 20, 1997.
Dunn misappropriated $7,100 from his children's swim team bank account. The swim team was not a client and client funds were not misappropriated. However, the act constituted moral turpitude warranting discipline.
At the time Dunn was president of the team, its board held a fundraiser which collected about $25,000. The money was placed in a checking account for which Dunn and his wife were two of the four signatories. The account required two signatures for withdrawals.
Over a two-month period, Dunn withdrew more than $7,000, signing his name and forging his wife's signature without her knowledge. He "borrowed" the money to pay his office expenses during a period of poor cash flow.
He admitted to the board what he had done and repaid the funds.
In mitigation, Dunn had no record of discipline in 23 years of practice, he cooperated with the bar's investigation, and he has a history of extensive pro bono and community activities.
JAMES ALAN TWITTY [#59033], 58, of Malibu was suspended for three years, stayed, and was placed on three years of probation with an actual one-year suspension and until he proves his rehabilitation. The order took effect April 20, 1997.
Twitty was required to comply with rule 955 by a 1995 disciplinary order by notifying all clients, opposing counsel and other parties of his suspension and then submitting an affidavit to the Supreme Court. He provided the affidavit eight months late. At the time, he had no clients to notify.
Twitty, a former member of the U.S. Department of Justice Strike Force, was originally disciplined for professional misconduct including three convictions for DUI and six other matters. In three cases, he failed to account for advanced fees of $25,000, $20,000 and $150,000. Other misconduct included failure to communicate with clients, return their files, respond to inquiries concerning the status of a case, or cooperate with the bar's investigation.
Although bar attorneys sought Twitty's disbarment, the usual penalty for failure to comply with rule 955, the bar court declined to recommend disbarment because of the significant mitigating circumstances. Twitty suffers from severe depression which contributed to his failure to comply here.
He also presented extensive testimony about his good character, including high praise for his competence as a federal criminal defense attorney. In addition, he has extensive community service involvement.
Twitty's failure to comply with other terms of his probation led to a bar court recommendation of additional discipline in a separate matter, but the recommendation is pending on appeal.
DENNIS SWAN BRODERICK [#98712], 47, of Culver City was suspended for four years, stayed, placed on four years of probation with an 18-month actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within 18 months and to comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 25, 1997.
Broderick stipulated to four counts of wrongdoing. He commingled personal and business funds, wrote 29 checks on his client trust account for personal and business expenses, and wrote six checks against insufficient funds. (He also deposited personal funds in his client trust account to sequester funds from creditors, but stopped in October 1994.)
In a personal injury case, he failed to perform legal services or keep his client informed of significant developments. He also failed to comply with a condition of his 1995 disciplinary probation.
Broderick was disciplined in 1995 as a result of his withdrawal from a case without permission of the court, failure to pursue another case, failure to perform legal services and commingling of trust funds to avoid seizure of his assets by creditors.
Broderick also was disciplined in 1993 for misappropriating client funds.
In mitigation, he was candid and cooperative with the bar's investigation.
DANIEL R. BUCKNUM [#37828], 60, of Mission Viejo was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect April 25, 1997.
Bucknum represented the plaintiff in a civil suit. After the plaintiff reached a settlement, Bucknum failed to file a judgment against the defendant as instructed by his client and the case was dismissed. The dismissal was vacated, but Bucknum never filed the judgment. He failed to return any of his client's telephone calls or keep him advised of developments in the case.
Bucknum also was disciplined in 1992.
EDWARD H. HOROWITZ [#135566], 44, of Riverside was suspended for 90 days, stayed, placed on one year of probation, and was ordered to take the professional responsibility exam within one year. The order took effect April 25, 1997.
Horowitz was publicly reproved in 1994, and failed to comply with the conditions of the reproval: he completed ethics school late, did not take the CPRE, and submitted three quarterly reports late and one report not at all.
WILLIAM LESLIE O'BRYAN [#42335], 60, of Playa Del Rey was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on three years of probation with an actual suspension of 30 days. The order took effect April 25, 1997.
O'Bryan failed to perform all the legal work for which he was paid in a federal criminal case, did not return the unearned portion of his fee, and did not communicate with his client.
In another case, he did not properly supervise a paralegal who, with an associate attorney, participated in a deposition without disclosing he was not an attorney. O'Bryan was unaware of the paralegal's conduct.
In mitigation, he has practiced law for 27 years without discipline, he changed his office procedures and personnel, and he took action to prevent a recurrence of the paralegal's actions.
JENNIFER WASHBURN SHAW [#82842], 43, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 90-day suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect April 25, 1997.
Two conviction referrals were consolidated in this proceeding. Shaw was convicted by a jury in 1995 of brandishing a steak knife at an individual who was photographing a possibly undernourished horse on the Kern County ranch where Shaw lived.
The same year, she was charged and later pleaded no contest to 41 felony counts of abusing animals and one count of neglecting animals after animal control officers found undernourished horses at her former mother-in-law's ranch. Shaw's motion to withdraw her plea was rejected and she was sentenced to one year in custody, with 45 days in the county jail and the remainder of time served at home under electronic monitoring.
Although Shaw has since appealed both criminal conviction matters, she stipulated to professional misconduct in the bar's disciplinary proceeding against her. It was further stipulated that the acts did not constitute moral turpitude but warranted discipline.
In mitigation, Shaw has no record of discipline since her 1978 admission to the bar, she cooperated with the investigation, and she did not live at the ranch at the time animal control officers found the starving horses. She did not own the horses, and later presented evidence to the State Bar of the presence of arsenic in the horses' drinking water.
NEIL ANDREW COOK [#103101], 43, of Walnut Creek was suspended for three years, stayed, and until he proves his rehabilitation, was placed on probation for five years, and was ordered to take the MPRE within a year. The order took effect April 30, 1997.
This proceeding involved five consolidated conviction referrals. Between 1987 and 1995, Cook has been charged with eight counts of either loitering or being a peeping Tom. Cook pleaded no contest to two counts of loitering and one count of prowling and peeking and the remaining counts were dismissed pursuant to negotiated plea settlements.
In mitigation, Cook suffered extreme emotional difficulties at the time of his misconduct and receives therapy.
NICHOLAS J. MACCARONE [#130732], 45, of Newbury Park was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 18-month suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 30, 1997.
Maccarone stipulated to six counts of misconduct. He did not keep sufficient funds in his client trust account to pay a client, used client money for personal expenses, failed to perform legal services competently or keep his client informed of significant developments in her case, and misrepresented the status of a case.
In a wrongful termination case, Maccarone altered a fee agreement without his client's consent and submitted it to an arbitrator.
In mitigation, he reimbursed a client and compensated her for the delay in receiving her settlement funds.
PETER J. BROCK [#136265], 35, of San Jose was suspended for 90 days, stayed, effective May 8, 1997. He was placed on probation for two years and ordered to pass the MPRE.
Brock's discipline resulted from his three misdemeanor alcohol-related convictions stemming from three separate incidents.
In 1994, Brock pleaded guilty to alcohol-related reckless driving and was sentenced to three years probation, fined and ordered to enroll in a county-approved first offender program.
In 1995, he pleaded no contest to charges of reckless driving, alcohol-related, after he collided with a truck. In 1996, he pleaded no contest to driving with a .08 percent or higher blood alcohol level. His sentence included a restricted driver's license and enrollment in a multiple offender program.
His misconduct did not involve moral turpitude, but involved other misconduct warranting discipline.
In aggravation, Brock's misconduct involved multiple alcohol-related offenses within two years.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation and made restitution to the driver whose truck was damaged in the 1995 collision.
As part of his probation, Brock was ordered to comply with conditions of the multiple offender program, abstain from alcohol during his disciplinary probation and enroll in a recovery program.
TERRY C. BROOKS [#109262], 48, of Long Beach was suspended for six months, stayed, and placed on probation for 18 months, effective May 8, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
In one matter, a client who hired Brooks to handle a family law matter in July 1994 was unable to make contact with him for several months. The client eventually discovered that Brooks had vacated his law offices and no longer had an answering machine.
The client then discovered that Brooks had never filed certain divorce documents, although he indicated that he had done so and billed the client accordingly.
In December 1995, Brooks sent the client a revised billing statement showing a lower balance owed than his previous billing statement and a check for $151, representing unearned fees from the account. The client had paid Brooks $1,500 in advanced fees.
However, the $151 check bounced so Brooks mailed the client a $200 money order. To resolve a subsequent fee dispute with the client, Brooks sent the client a cashier's check for $1,500 in December 1996.
Brooks stipulated that he relocated his office without notice to clients, failed to communicate with a client, failed to perform services competently, charged his client an unconscionable fee and committed an act of moral turpitude.
In a second matter, Brooks failed to promptly pay sanctions imposed by a superior court while representing a client in a family law matter. He made partial payment issuing a check drawn from his client trust account. The sanctions were eventually discharged by Brooks in his bankruptcy case.
In aggravation, Brooks' client was harmed by his failure to perform legal services and by Brooks' issuance of a check with insufficient funds.
In mitigation, Brooks has been a member of the State Bar since 1983 and has no prior record of discipline.
NICHOLAS F. COSCIA [#93248], 44, of Cardiff was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for 30 months, including nine months actual suspension, effective May 8, 1997. He also was ordered to pass the MPRE. Credit toward the period of actual suspension will be given for the period of interim suspension which began June 5, 1996.
In December 1994, Coscia pleaded guilty to securities fraud conspiracy in federal court, after he was charged with participating in a money laundering scheme involving a Nevada corporation.
He was sentenced to two years probation, fined $5,000 and ordered to disclose his conviction during his probation period when engaged in any consulting in the area of securities.
The State Bar placed him on interim suspension in June 1996 and after an investigation, it was stipulated that Coscia's actions did not involve moral turpitude, but constituted misconduct warranting discipline.
In aggravation, Coscia served as legal counsel for the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission Division of Enforcement from 1979-84, planning and checking numerous investigations of possible violations of federal securities laws and reviewing hundreds of disclosure statements.
In mitigation, Coscia has cooperated with the State Bar since his indictment and has willingly presented all information requested of him.
He also presented the bar with numerous positive character letters stating that he is highly respected for his community contributions and for the steps he has taken to atone for his misconduct.
In addition, other factors considered in mitigation included his discipline-free record since his admission to the bar in 1979.
Coscia was sentenced below the guideline range in the federal court as a result of his substantial assistance to the prosecution.
From the outset, Coscia accepted full responsibility for his actions, expressing remorse. He was instrumental in securing redemption of 762,500 shares of the stock by a co-conspirator at a cost to the co-conspirator of $2.1 million.
He also cooperated with and testified for the government and entered a guilty plea, permitting the government to avoid the time and expense of a trial.
PATRICK B. KELLY [#55800], 55, of Valley Center was suspended for two years and until he provides proof of his fitness to practice law.
The suspension was stayed and he was placed on probation for two years on the condition that he is actually suspended for one year and until he makes restitution.
If the period of actual suspension reaches or exceeds two years, he will remain actually suspended until he has shown proof of his fitness to practice. He also was ordered to pass the MPRE during the period of his actual suspension and comply with rule 955. The order took effect May 8, 1997.
Kelly's misconduct involved two client matters. In one instance, he failed to competently perform services when he neglected to timely comply with appropriate government claim filing procedures for his client who received injuries at a southern California university.
The civil action was dismissed as a result of Kelly's failure to timely comply with those procedures. He did not communicate with the client, return unearned legal fees or cooperate with the bar's investigation.
In another matter, Kelly was hired by a client and her son to file an appeal of a criminal conviction of the son's daughter. Kelly failed to take any post-conviction action on behalf of the daughter.
He also failed to return the advanced fees of $5,000, even though he acknowledged he had performed no legal services and agreed to the refund.
In aggravation, Kelly has a prior record of discipline. In 1991, he received a 120-day actual suspension and in 1992, a 130-day actual suspension. His misconduct significantly harmed a client and he has not made any payments toward his debts to his clients.
In mitigation, Kelly acted in good faith when he believed that case law supported his position that he could pursue a lawsuit in superior court without first seeking relief.
During this time, he also suffered extreme emotional difficulties, overwhelmed by personal as well as financial losses. His associate died, his mother died, a member of his family was criminally victimized and two close friends died.
In addition, he has signed promises to make reparations to his clients and agreed to pay one client $14,000 to remedy the consequences of his misconduct.
VINCENT J. KILDUFF [#57494], 55, of Orlando, Fla., was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, including six months actual suspension. Because he voluntarily maintained his inactive status from Nov. 28, 1996, until the effective date of the order, May 8, 1997, the period of actual suspension began retroactively on Nov. 28, 1996. He also was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955.
Kilduff's misconduct involved three matters. In 1988, he represented a client in Hawaii in a personal injury matter, despite his suspension for non-payment of dues in that state.
Kilduff said he had an ongoing fee dispute with the Hawaii Bar Association and was unaware of the suspension.
Meanwhile, Kilduff missed several court deadlines, failed to follow through with his client's case and it was dismissed.
However, in 1994, Kilduff falsely told his client that he had settled her case for $3,800 and presented her with fake documents. In fact, he used personal funds, which he had deposited into his client trust account, to pay the client her alleged settlement funds. He also inserted language into a release which bound the client to keep the details of the settlement confidential.
In another matter, a court reporting firm obtained a small claims judgment against Kilduff for $1300. He failed to satisfy the judgment and make subsequent appearances for a debtor's examination, causing a bench warrant for his arrest to be issued.
Kilduff also continued to practice law in California during a two-month period in 1995, while he was suspended from the State Bar for non-payment of dues.
In aggravation, Kilduff's misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing and he has a prior record of discipline. He received a private reproval in 1991. In 1992, he received a public reproval for negligent misappropriation of $788, which had been withheld from a client's settlement to pay a medical lien.
In mitigation, Kilduff fully cooperated with the bar's investigation and disciplinary proceedings.
RONALD B. PANCOAST [#122405], 53, of San Diego was suspended for two years, stayed, and until he has shown proof of his fitness to practice law, effective May 8, 1997. He was placed on two years probation and ordered to pass the MPRE.
In one matter, Pancoast was hired by a client to handle a drunk driving case, but he neglected to appear at a readiness hearing, resulting in the issuance of a bench warrant for his client's arrest. Pancoast failed to return numerous calls and a letter from his client. He failed to return unearned fees of $750 to the client.
In another matter, he was hired by a client in 1993 to handle her divorce, which was finalized in 1995. Pancoast completed initial filings, but then neglected her case and did not return several of the client's phone calls or release her file.
In a family law matter, his misconduct also involved failure to perform legal services competently, reasonably communicate with his client, respond to the
client's requests for his case status, promptly release client files and provide an accounting of fees.
Pancoast also practiced law while enrolled inactive for failing to file responses to notices of disciplinary charges. Because Pancoast wilfully neglected to open his mail, he was unaware of his inactive status, but took steps to reactivate his status as soon as he became aware of the situation.
In aggravation, his misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing when he failed to perform legal services competently in three separate client matters and other related misconduct.
In mitigation, his discipline-free prior record since 1986 carried little weight due to the serious nature of his misconduct.
However, mitigating weight was given to the emotional stress he suffered during this time. In 1992, Pancoast's wife died, leaving him a single parent with a teen-age son. His son began having problems with drug and alcohol abuse and was involved in a criminal act with his friends.
Pancoast enrolled his son in a treatment program and at one point supervised his transportation to 90 required meetings in 90 days. Throughout this period, Pancoast was unable to dedicate the normal amount of time to his practice. He enlisted the assistance of other attorneys to help with his caseload, but was unable to devote sufficient time and energy to insure that all client matters were covered.
MARCUS R. PEPPARD [#45746], 58, of Point Richmond Station was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for two years with 18 months actual suspension, effective May 16, 1997. Credit for the period of actual suspension was given for the period of interim suspension which began Feb. 24, 1994. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Peppard sought review of the bar court hearing department's determination that two separate conviction referrals constituted misconduct warranting discipline, including an 18-month actual suspension.
Peppard was convicted of two felonies involving the use of a controlled substance, methamphetamine. In the first offense, in 1992, Peppard drove his car with an expired license, and along with a female companion, injected methamphetamine. He also was in possession of about a half ounce of the drug when he was stopped by officers for driving without headlights.
A search of his car and motel room revealed syringes and drug-related paraphernalia, including a spoon with drug residue, a small scale, and a loaded .22 caliber revolver. Numerous needle marks were observed on Peppard's arm.
Peppard was convicted of transporting a controlled substance. The drugs were for his personal use.
In 1993, his second offense, felony possession of methamphetamine, occurred while he was out on bail for the first offense.
Peppard served time in jail for both offenses and successfully completed a drug abuse program.
The hearing department of the bar court found that Peppard's crimes did not involve moral turpitude, but did involve other misconduct warranting discipline.
The review department rejected Peppard's argument that in the event of a finding of no moral turpitude following a conviction referral, the matter must be dismissed under the statutory language of the pertinent Business & Professions Code sections.
In addition, Peppard argued that the standard of "other misconduct warranting discipline" is unconstitutionally vague. But the review department found nothing vague when applied to Peppard's conduct leading to the disciplinary proceedings.
In mitigation, Peppard testified that he has practiced since 1970 with no prior record of discipline. He was a well-known criminal defense attorney in Contra Costa County, has been president of the local bar association and presented letters from judges and fellow practitioners extolling his abilities and integrity.
The review department agreed with the hearing department's recommended discipline. Although Peppard's record shows a "remarkably able lawyer," wrote the judge, he engaged in serious criminal activity. "Such conduct warrants substantial discipline with probation conditions imposed to protect the public and to maintain the integrity of the profession," the judge wrote.
The Supreme Court declined to grant Peppard's petition for writ of review.
TIMOTHY W. ELLIOTT [#132789], 49, of Rancho Palos Verdes was suspended for five years, stayed, and placed on probation for five years on the condition that he is actually suspended for two years and until he has furnished proof of his fitness to practice and proof that he has made restitution. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect May 17, 1997.
Elliott was disciplined for failure to maintain a client's settlement funds in trust until all funds were distributed to her, failure to promptly pay the client the full amount of the funds due to her and misappropriating her money.
Elliott was hired by a client to represent her in a wrongful death matter in July 1993. The matter was settled for $25,000 in December, before an action was filed.
Elliott held the funds in trust until September 1994, when the balance of the account fell below the amount due to the client. He eventually disbursed all but $4,000 of the funds to the client, despite the client's repeated attempts to collect the balance. At one point, the balance in his trust account fell below the $4,000 he owed the client.
The State Bar hearing judge originally recommended that Elliott be suspended for three years, stayed, with a one-year actual suspension and three years of probation.
However, the bar's trial counsel sought review, contending that Elliott should be required to make restitution and his one-year actual suspension increased to two years.
The review department agreed with trial counsel's request.
ROBERT S. ROBERTSON [#112463], 39, of San Clemente was suspended for three years, stayed, and placed on probation for four years on the condition that he is actually suspended for two years and until he makes restitution and provides proof of his fitness to practice. He also was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect May 17, 1997.
In this default decision, Robertson was found culpable of misconduct involving three client matters.
In one matter, he failed to competently perform legal services when he neglected to file a motion for relief from default and jeopardized his clients' civil case when he failed to timely designate witnesses. In addition, he failed to inform the clients of significant case developments and promptly inform them of a written settlement offer of $30,000. The clients hired a new attorney who subsequently obtained a $7,000 settlement.
In another instance, Robertson was found culpable of failing to notify a client of the receipt of funds after he was hired to collect delinquent accounts on behalf of a business.
In a third matter, he commingled funds when he allowed a travel agency to pass thousands of dollars through his client trust account for the purpose of booking hotel reservations.
Aggravating circumstances included the significant harm to his clients and his failure to participate in bar disciplinary proceedings prior to the entry of default.
Robertson has no prior record of discipline since his admission to the bar in 1983, a factor presented in mitigation.
GARY E. UHD [#83119], 46, of Fresno was suspended for three years and until he has shown proof of his fitness to practice. The suspension was stayed and he was placed on probation for three years with six months actual suspension. The order, which was effective May 17, 1997, also requires Uhd to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955.
Uhd's misconduct involved failure to respond to reasonable case status inquiries, competently perform legal services and provide an accounting of unearned fees to a client.
He also failed to communicate with his client in one matter and failed to promptly pay out funds entrusted to him in another matter.
In aggravation, Uhd has a prior record of discipline. In 1995, he received a one-year stayed suspension and two years probation for failure to keep his clients reasonably informed of the status of their case and failure to complete legal services.
In addition, Uhd did not comply with certain probation conditions as required by the 1995 discipline order.
In mitigation, Uhd is an alcoholic who spent one month in a residential treatment center and has been attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings four times a week since his sobriety began in 1995.
He has not been practicing law since the recognition of his problem with alcohol. In addition, his marriage fell apart and he filed for personal bankruptcy during this period.
CHARLES D. WEEDE JR. [#51778], 53, of San Bernardino was suspended for one year, stayed, and until he provides proof of his fitness to practice. He was placed on probation for one year on the condition that he is actually suspended for 30 days. The order was effective May 17, 1997.
Weede failed to comply with conditions of an April 1995 disciplinary order. He failed to provide proof of attendance in a substance abuse treatment program, file quarterly probation reports and obtain psychiatric or psychological treatment.
In aggravation, Weede has a prior record of discipline.
Weede also acknowledged he did not comply with the conditions of probation. He stated that he did not receive a 1995 letter from the bar's probation unit which advised him of mental health conditions and that the report from his substance abuse counselor did not address the probation condition of mental health treatment.
In mitigation, Weede cooperated with the bar's investigation by providing all required probation documents.
TIMOTHY M. JACOBS [#158249], 33, of San Jose (April 30, 1997)
BRENDA P. BARNES [#66805], 53, of Santa Monica (May 17, 1997)
SEBASTIAN ERNANDES [#89088], 43, of San Pedro (May 17, 1997)
TOM LOW [#71737], 49, of San Francisco (May 17, 1997)
DAVID S. WEISMAN [#47237], 63, of Los Angeles (May 17, 1997)
ROBERT PRISTOKOVIC [#128915], 36, of Anaheim (June 13, 1997)
DOUGLAS R. SNYDER [#101382], 43, of Los Alamitos (June 13, 1997)
IONE Y. GRAY [#74491], 50, of Los Angeles was placed on interim suspension April 29, 1997, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
Gray was convicted of violating Title 18 U.S. Code §1014, making a false statement on a loan application, a felony, and Title 42 U.S. Code §408(a)(7)(B), a felony.
EDGAR R. CARVER JR. [#25604], 80, of Sherman Oaks was placed on interim suspension effective May 9, 1997, following his conviction for violating Penal Code §549, solicitation or referral -- insurance fraud, a felony. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.
Twin brothers FELIX SLATER [#35714] and FRANKLIN J. SLATER [#69411], 61, were placed on interim suspension May 13, 1997. The two, who practice together as Slater & Slater in Sherman Oaks, were convicted of mail fraud in February.
They were ordered to comply with rule 955.
ADELAIDA E. REYES [#85275], 64, of Los Angeles was placed on interim suspension May 13, 1997, following her conviction of income tax evasion. She was ordered to comply with rule 955.
Reyes also has tendered her resignation from the bar, although it is not yet final.
CARLYE CHRISTIANSON [#74254], 47, of San Diego (Feb. 13, 1997)
JOHN E. ZEHNDER [#156785], 32, of Redding (Feb. 22, 1997)
STANLEY D. BOWMAN [#75896], 48, of Manhattan Beach (March 12, 1997)
RICHARD E. HOVE [#53780], 50, of Hayward (April 3, 1997)
SPEROS MANIATES [#107782], 39, of Huntington Park (April 4, 1997)
GREGORY L. ERIKSEN [#113420], 38, of Orange (April 5, 1997)
JAMES J. JIMMERSON [#74593], 46, of Las Vegas (April 6, 1997)
MARY ANN FOSTER [#108632], 49, of San Luis Obispo (April 6, 1997)
JAMES MICHAEL GUY [#61374], 50, of Monterey (April 20, 1997)
SHERRI FORD COUSER [#93904], 42, of Los Angeles (May 22, 1997)
KAYRETHA H. WILLIS [#134091], 47, of Los Angeles (May 28, 1997)
Suspension/Failure to Pass PRE
GARLAND JEANNE GREENAWALT [#129240], 53, of Los Altos (May 13, 1997)
JOSEPH ROBERT MORENO [#64981], 49, of Los Angeles (May 21, 1997)
JILL MORTON [#135107], 51, of Berkeley (May 28, 1997)
DARNEL A. PARKER [#135739], 36, of Indio (June 9, 1997)
ULYSSESS GRANT PLUMMER III [#86628], 55, of Pasadena (June 23, 1997)