More than 156,215 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.
JOSEPH ROBERT MORENO [#64981], 49, of Los Angeles was disbarred effective Aug. 8, 1997, and ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.
Moreno’s disbarment is the result of his failure to comply with rule 955, as required by a previous discipline order, and practicing law while on disciplinary suspension.
In this decision, the court found that Moreno’s wilful failure to comply with rule 955 was "extremely serious." Moreno was ordered to comply with rule 955 in March 1996, when he was actually suspended for six months.
He was placed on inactive status in July 1994 for failure to comply with MCLE requirements. In August 1994, he was suspended for failure to pay State Bar membership dues and in November 1995, he was placed on involuntary inactive status for failing to answer a notice of disciplinary charges.
Despite three separate orders of inactive enrollment, Moreno appeared as attorney of record for a defendant in a criminal matter in November 1995. The bar court’s hearing department found that his unauthorized practice of law on several occasions showed bad faith and dishonesty. A member of the bar since 1975, Moreno also had two prior discipline matters.
GERONIMO INES AMIGABLE [#146812], 48, of Los Angeles was summarily disbarred Aug. 8, 1997.
A federal criminal indictment charged Amigable with using the U.S. mail in a scheme to defraud insurance companies by presenting inflated and falsified insurance claims — essentially a soliciting and capping operation.
In September 1994, Amigable was convicted in federal court of four counts of mail fraud and two counts of money laundering, crimes involving moral turpitude. As a result, he was placed on interim suspension in 1994.
The bar court review department determined that the criteria for summary disbarment was met because Amigable was convicted of a felony, and an element of the offense involved the specific intent to deceive, defraud, steal or make or suborn perjury. In addition, the offense was committed in the course of practicing law.
Amigable’s criminal conviction was affirmed on appeal and his petition for a writ of certiorari was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996.
In the conviction referral proceedings before the State Bar Court, Amigable opposed summary disbarment, contending it was premature because he had filed a motion to vacate his sentence. He also requested that the order of interim suspension be terminated because he was "erroneously convicted."
However, the bar’s review department found that Amigable’s pending motion to vacate his sentence did not affect the finality of his conviction for purposes of discipline.
In addition, it was noted that Amigable’s criminal conduct began in 1989 and continued through 1991. He was admitted to the bar in 1990.
FRED BURLING HOVEY III [#108805], 46, of Santa Monica was disbarred Aug. 22, 1997, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.
As part of a disciplinary order in May 1996, Hovey was required to comply with rule 955 by notifying his clients and all other pertinent parties that he was suspended from practice and by filing an affidavit to that effect with the Supreme Court.
His failure to do so led to the disbarment.
The underlying disciplinary order, based on misconduct in 11 separate matters, included a four-year stayed suspension, 20 months of actual suspension, proof of rehabilitation and four years of probation.
Six of the matters involved criminal convictions, including driving under the influence and possession of methamphetamine. In addition, he failed to comply with the provisions of a 1992 public reproval following a DUI conviction.
In the remaining matters, the State Bar Court found that Hovey filed unjust lawsuits, motions and appeals which resulted in a pattern of frivolous litigation and harassment. He failed to perform legal services competently, return client files or keep his client informed of developments in his case, and he withdrew from representation without protecting his client’s interests.
ROBERT PATRICK FISHER [#103115], 40, of Scotts Valley was disbarred Aug. 29, 1997, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
In this default proceeding, the bar court’s hearing judge wrote, "Fisher repeatedly mishandled the funds entrusted to him. He lied to the State Bar about the handling of his trust account. He repeatedly committed acts of moral turpitude."
Fisher was disbarred for misconduct which involved lying to two clients about the settlement of their cases in a condominium homeowners’ civil action. He also induced them to sign fraudulent claims releases, including release of a malpractice claim against him. Fisher did not inform the clients that their cases had been dismissed.
The two clients from the same condominium complex hired Fisher to represent them in separate civil actions. Not only did he neglect to inform both clients of potential or actual case dismissals, he also raised the possibility that their claims could be settled for $6,000-$7,000 in exchange for an assignment and release of any malpractice claims. He paid both clients with his own funds and neglected to advise them to seek independent counsel.
In addition, Fisher’s client trust account balance showed that he repeatedly wire-transferred those funds in and out of his general account, issuing bad checks along the way.
In 1993, he received a settlement check for $126,500 on behalf of another client. The balance in his trust fund account dropped to about $1,000 before the client received any of the funds. He eventually paid the client $21,000, but the balance of his client trust account again dropped to zero.
IRIS Z. SPECTOR [#107506], 39, of Corona Del Mar was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for one year, with an actual suspension of 30 days, effective Aug. 7, 1997. She was ordered to pass the MPRE.
In 1991, Spector was ordered suspended from practice for non-payment of dues. In 1994, she represented a client in municipal court who did not know she was suspended.
Although Spector has no prior record of discipline, it was not considered a factor in mitigation because her misconduct was deemed serious; it involved the wilful violation of a court order and practicing while on suspension.
However, her misconduct did not result in harm to clients.
PATRICK R. GUILLORY [#91870], 49, of San Francisco was suspended for two years and until he has shown proof of his fitness to practice law. The suspension was stayed, and he was actually suspended for six months, effective Aug. 7, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955.
In October 1994, Guillory pleaded guilty to filing a false federal tax return, a crime involving moral turpitude. He purposely failed to report $107,589 in taxable income for the year 1988. He was placed on three years of probation and ordered to make restitution for unpaid taxes for the years 1987-89, amounting to $57,336, plus penalties, interest and all additional taxes assessed.
Although Guillory has no prior record of discipline, it was not considered a mitigating factor because his misconduct was considered serious.
There were several other mitigating factors: Guillory cooperated with the bar’s investigation and with the victims of his misconduct, he presented an extraordinary demonstration of good character, he demonstrated remorse and took steps to atone for his misconduct. In addition, considerable time has passed since his misconduct and he has subsequently been rehabilitated. Also, Guillory has an extensive record of community service and pro bono work, coupled with strong recommendations from the Bay Area legal community.
Guillory has worked extensively on a pro bono basis for the Native American community and specializes in the representation of Native American children under the Indian Child Welfare Act.
He has twice been recognized by the State Bar Board of Governors for his volunteer work and received the 1991 unity award for outstanding contributions to ethnic minorities in the law from the Minority Bar Coalition.
Although it did not qualify for consideration in mitigation, during the period of his misconduct Guillory was involved in a painful separation from his wife, who eventually moved to another state with their child.
The vast bulk of his unreported taxable income was used for the benefit of his estranged wife and child.
HOWARD LOWELL RASCH [#48517], 56, of Beverly Hills was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation, effective Aug. 7, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Rasch’s misconduct arose from his handling of a complicated divorce case and his representation of a client following the dissolution of the client’s marriage in Los Angeles in 1991.
In 1993, the client’s ex-wife filed a complaint in the Los Angeles Superior Court alleging that she and her ex-husband (Rasch’s client) had entered into a "Get," a marriage contract under Jewish law which permits dissolution only upon the death of a spouse or by order of a rabbinical court.
The ex-wife sought a court order requiring her former spouse to grant her a "Get," as well as damages for emotional distress.
Rasch successfully defended the ex-husband in the suit. However, the ex-wife then brought a religious proceeding against her former husband and he obtained Israeli counsel to defend him before the District Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem in 1994.
The case was not resolved and moved to the Supreme Court of Justice in Israel. A settlement was reached requiring the ex-wife to pay her ex-husband $25,000 and return certain personal property to him in return for his agreement to grant a "Get."
Rasch assisted Israeli counsel in reaching a settlement of the religious proceedings and it was agreed that he would hold the $25,000 in trust until the ex-husband successfully obtained the "Get."
Rasch’s trouble with the State Bar occurred when he told his client that he intended to execute a lien on the entrusted funds to pay himself outstanding fees, which amounted to more than $28,000.
The client did not object to the amount of the fees, but wanted $10,000 of the fees to come from the escrow account, with the balance from another source.
Rasch later removed about $18,000 from the account for his fees and forwarded the remaining $7,000 to his client and other lien holders.
The client continued to object to Rasch’s withholding and the matter went to binding fee arbitration, with a ruling in the attorney’s favor.
In the disciplinary hearing, the State Bar Court found Rasch culpable of failing to deposit entrusted client funds in a client trust account, improper withdrawal of funds disputed by the client and failing to pay entitled funds to the client.
In aggravation, Rasch has one prior record of discipline, a 1989 private reproval involving a child support matter. In addition, his indifference to his client’s repeated objections regarding the distribution of the settlement funds was viewed as an aggravating factor.
The bar court hearing department found that Rasch’s misconduct "did not arise from corruption or venality. He was not deceitful." The court found that Rasch erroneously believed he was entitled to enforce the lien on the entrusted funds, as well as withdraw funds in excess of $10,000.
Rasch cooperated with the bar’s investigation and provided an extraordinary demonstration of good character from many of his peers. He is active in the legal community, has provided pro bono services and volunteers extensively with youth organizations, schools and religious groups.
TIMOTHY LEE TAGGART [#69462], 47, of Bloomington was suspended for two years, stayed, with an actual suspension of seven months. He also was placed on probation for two years and was ordered to make restitution and comply with rule 955. The order was effective Aug. 8, 1997.
Taggart’s misconduct involved four separate clients. In one case, he repeatedly failed to perform competently, provided information to opposing counsel which harmed his former client’s case, threatened criminal prosecution to gain advantage in a civil matter, failed to pay court sanctions and failed to maintain the confidences of his client.
In that case, Taggart was hired by a woman in 1989 in connection with claims for discrimination, wrongful termination, intentional infliction of emotional distress and other related causes of action against her employer, a cheese company. Allegations of sexual harassment were later added, then successfully removed from the complaint by the cheese company.
Taggart did not personally meet his client until a deposition was taken in July 1990. Taggart’s clients were usually prepared by his legal assistant, who holds a law degree, but is not a member of the State Bar. Although Taggart indicated that the client did not testify well during several days of deposition, he neglected to meet with her during the continuance period between deposition dates for further instructions.
Until the client sued him for malpractice at a later date, Taggart was ignorant of many key factors in her case, including allegations that co-workers had made numerous sexual overtures, such as pulling zippers up and down in front of her and carving a penis out of a block of cheese.
The client eventually hired another attorney to continue her case and to bring a legal malpractice suit against Taggart. The new attorney settled the client’s case against her former employer for $41,000.
A jury found that Taggart and his firm were negligent in their handling of the client’s case and that his assistant had contacted defense counsel for the cheese company offering information to aid its case against Taggart’s former client.
In aggravation, Taggart has a prior record of discipline. He was suspended for four months with a two-year stayed suspension in 1996, which will run concurrently with his current disciplinary order. In addition, his current misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing.
No factors were considered in mitigation.
EUGENE BUTTON [#43263], 64, of Pasadena was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, effective Aug. 8, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Button represented a Hong Kong cassette company in 1992 in a suit alleging that the company owed the plaintiff $800,000 for the purchase of blank video tapes.
During the course of the proceedings, Button was called to testify concerning a statement he made during a pre-trial settlement meeting which he tape recorded. Button testified that he had not recorded the portion of the meeting he referred to in his declaration.
His testimony led the court to believe that he had perjured himself in the declaration and his clients were sanctioned $6,428 by the court.
In January 1993, in the course of transferring the case to new counsel, Button found evidence that he had recorded the entire meeting, indicating that his declaration was, in fact, true. He immediately filed a motion for reconsideration by the court, but it was denied.
Button failed to pay and report to the State Bar $5,000 in sanctions imposed by the court in 1992 for inappropriate conduct during the trial. He also disobeyed a court order prohibiting him from taking further action in connection with the case.
In aggravation, Button has a prior record of discipline. He was privately reproved in 1981. Also, his current misconduct harmed the administration of justice when, during the course of litigation, he failed to pay court-ordered sanctions.
In mitigation, he provided an extraordinary demonstration of good character. Various people, including his client, contacted the State Bar and attested to Button’s honesty, integrity and attempts to act in good faith. Although Button admitted that he had not paid court-ordered sanctions, due to his advanced age, limited income and the fact that he is no longer practicing law, repayment was not required as a condition of the stipulation.
The probation of GRANT ERIK BEUCHEL [#113327], 39, of Mojave was revoked and he was suspended for 19 months, stayed, and placed on probation for three years with an actual suspension of 60 days. The order was effective Aug. 8, 1997.
Beuchel failed to comply with conditions of a 1995 discipline order. He failed to file several quarterly probation reports and provide evidence of his enrollment in a substance abuse recovery program, the bar’s ethics school and law office management courses.
In aggravation, Beuchel has a prior record of discipline. In 1995, he received an actual suspension of 90 days and three years probation.
In addition, he harmed the administration of justice by failing to comply with probation conditions, making it more difficult for the State Bar to monitor his actions.
In mitigation, Beuchel was forthright about his misconduct and admitted all the facts presented in the bar’s motion to revoke his probation. Beuchel has been suspended from the State Bar since September 1996 for failure to pass the CPRE in connection with two prior discipline cases.
MICHAEL PHILIP RUBIN [#86732], 43, of Encino was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual one-year suspension, and was ordered to take the CPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Aug. 15, 1997.
In six consolidated cases, the State Bar Court found that Rubin committed numerous acts of misconduct and that he "did not acknowledge any wrongdoing but adamantly insisted that everything he did was for the good of his clients."
One of the matters involved a conviction referral after Rubin pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of battery with serious bodily harm, resulting from a fracas between Rubin, his brother and a band member. The musician was severely injured during the fight.
In a civil matter, Rubin did not perform competently or pay funds to a party to the suit. He demonstrated disrespect to a Superior Court by filing three incomplete accountings and failing to appear. Rubin’s argument that he believed the court no longer had jurisdiction over the case was rejected by the bar court.
In addition, a bench warrant was issued for his client when he failed to appear at a hearing.
In a personal injury case, Rubin entered into a fee agreement with his client which called for him to receive one-third of any recovery if no lawsuit was filed and 40 percent if a suit was filed.
Rubin’s client handled his own workers’ compensation case, and received more than $9,000 in benefits. Although Rubin did not work on that case, he was aware of it.
No lawsuit was filed in the personal injury matter and the insurer, unaware of the workers’ compensation benefits, paid Rubin’s client a settlement of $12,000, which included $5,000 for medical bills.
Rubin paid his client $3,480.70 and kept $8,482.70 as his fee, claiming he was entitled to 40 percent of all his
client’s settlement proceeds, including the workers’ comp benefits.
Since the amount his client received as workers’ compensation benefits was offset against the uninsured motorist recovery, Rubin claimed, he was entitled to 40 percent of the total.
The bar court disagreed and found that Rubin was entitled to only one-third of $7,000 as his fee. The fee he actually collected was therefore unconscionable, the court said.
Rubin refused to refund the portion of the fee owed his client.
The third matter involved Rubin’s defense of a client in two cases. In the first, Rubin billed his client for an appearance he failed to make. He told his client he had gone to court and "we lost." Although Rubin adjusted the bill when his client complained, he then sued his client in small claims court for unpaid fees.
Rubin failed to file a timely response in his client’s second case and did not respond to opposing counsel’s discovery requests. When Rubin withdrew because of nonpayment of fees, his client refused to sign a substitution form. The client complained that Rubin billed him for work that was not completed, said he had provided written answers to discovery, and asked Rubin to return his file. Rubin said his client was uncooperative.
The bar court found that Rubin failed to perform legal services, charged an unconscionable fee and committed an act of moral turpitude by saying he appeared at a hearing when he did not.
The final case against Rubin involved a fracas in a restaurant he co-owned. He and his brother argued with a musician about money owed the band. When the musician grabbed some money on the bar, Rubin tackled him and began to beat him. Rubin hit the man on the head 15 to 20 times and "squeezed his throat," while his brother kicked the musician in the stomach with steel-tipped cowboy boots and stomped on his legs, shattering his fibula. The musician suffered a broken ankle, head and back injuries, and required surgery to place a metal plate and screw in his leg.
Charged with three counts, Rubin pleaded no contest to one count of battery on a person with serious bodily injury.
Rubin was privately reproved in 1993 for a conviction for carrying a concealed weapon.
In mitigation, Rubin endured a difficult divorce and filed for bankruptcy, losing his house and his building. However, the court said his problems carried little mitigating weight and his character witnesses did little to attest to his good character.
EILEEN M. BAKER [#138190], 32, of Virginia Beach was suspended for one year, stayed, and was placed on one year of probation with a 30-day actual suspension. The order took effect Aug. 20, 1997.
Baker stipulated that she practiced law while suspended for non-payment of bar dues in 1995.
In a bankruptcy case, she failed to file the petition, did not respond to her
client’s status requests, failed to return an unearned fee and did not cooperate with the bar’s investigation.
In mitigation, she later reimbursed her client and apologized.
WILLIAM JOSEPH HAMILTON [#92688], 48, of Santa Monica was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 60-day suspension and until he makes restitution, and was ordered to take the MPRE. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation; if it exceeds 90 days, he must comply with rule 955. The order took effect Aug. 20, 1997.
As part of a 1994 disciplinary probation, Hamilton was ordered to make restitution in the amount of $853.48 to a client. His check bounced.
The State Bar Court found that Hamilton was grossly negligent in his office practices and "this situation was directly responsible for the issuance of an insufficient funds check." The check was drawn against Hamilton’s law office account as restitution to a former client required by a 1994 discipline order. He admitted to a cash flow problem since 1982.
Hamilton has a record of prior discipline: in 1993, he was suspended for practicing law while on suspension for non-payment of bar dues, and in 1995, he was suspended for misconduct in three client matters, including failure to perform, communicate with a client, and advise a client to seek independent legal counsel.
MITCHELL K. JAYSON [#108416], 49, of Palm Desert was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on two years of probation with a 30-day actual suspension and a requirement that he make restitution. He also was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Aug. 20, 1997.
Jayson stipulated to misconduct in three consolidated cases, all involving his abandonment of clients.
In one matter, a default judgment was entered against his client and the opposing party was awarded more than $200,000, of which $150,000 was punitive damages. Although Jayson said he would move the court for an order to set aside the judgment, he never filed such a motion and his client was forced to file bankruptcy.
The client sued Jayson and the law clinic which employed him, but Jayson filed bankruptcy and obtained an order discharging any debt to his client.
In another matter, he represented a client in a workers’ compensation action for 14 months. During that time, he never spoke to her in person or by phone and never communicated in writing. He also closed his Pomona office without notifying the client.
In another workers’ comp case, Jayson did not pay his client’s portion of a lien, agreed upon in a stipulation, until the State Bar notified him of a complaint. More than eight months elapsed before the payment was made.
Jayson was privately reproved in 1993 for client trust account problems.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation.
RICHARD WAYNE LINDSTROM [#107863], 54, of Rancho Cordova was suspended for three years, stayed, and was placed on probation for three years with an actual 60-day suspension and until he makes restitution. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove rehabilitation, and if it exceeds 90 days, he must comply with rule 955. He also was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Aug. 20, 1997.
In three separate matters, Lindstrom failed to communicate with his clients or notify them when he moved his office. He withdrew from employment without protecting one client’s interests and did not refund unearned fees.
In another matter, Lindstrom filed for approval of fees for substituted counsel in 17 unrelated bankruptcy cases. When he failed to appear at a hearing, however, he was sanctioned $500 for each case, totaling $8,500. He never paid the sanctions.
Lindstrom had no prior record of discipline.
MICHAEL LEE MILLMAN [#55933], 51, of Los Angeles was suspended for six months, stayed, and placed on three years of probation. The order took effect Aug. 20, 1997.
In one matter he handled pro bono for the president of the California chapter of the Ziegfeld Club, Millman did not inform interested parties that he had closed his post office box. Settlement funds owed to the chapter were mailed to this closed address and were lost. He failed to perform competently or communicate with his client.
In a second matter, he again did not perform legal services competently when he provided only a piecemeal accounting of funds he held to pay medical lienholders. He also did not pay those funds promptly.
Millman did not adequately supervise his staff in a third matter, allowing them to communicate directly with an employee of a party represented by counsel. Although Millman was suspended at the time and made arrangements for someone else to handle the case during that time, he allowed his letterhead to be used in correspondence during that time.
Millman has been disciplined three times previously.
In mitigation, no clients were harmed by his actions, and in the third matter, the misconduct was limited to inadequate supervision of employees which occurred despite Millman’s efforts to ensure that his practice would operate properly during his suspension.
MICHAEL FRANCIS WELCH [#38309], 60, of Coronado was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on probation for one year with a restitution requirement, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Aug. 20, 1997.
Hired to handle immigration petitions for a woman and her four children, Welch never did so, nor did he communicate with his clients despite telephone calls and a letter. He moved his office without notifying the clients.
Welch also did not cooperate with the bar’s investigation of the matter.
Welch was privately reproved in 1992 for failure to communicate with a client or return files, and in 1994, he was publicly reproved for failing to competently perform legal services or render an accounting. He did not cooperate with the bar’s investigation of those matters.
JOHN HOWARD YOUNG [#63273], 48, of Arcata was suspended for four years, stayed, placed on four years of probation with a two-year actual suspension and until he proves rehabilitation, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect Aug. 20, 1997.
In a default matter, the State Bar Court found that Young wrote a check drawn against his client trust account to pay a client’s tax bill before the client had given him the funds to cover the check. Not only did the check bounce, but Young wrote the check using other clients’ funds and knew there were insufficient funds to cover it.
Young also violated the terms of a 1994 probation by failing to file two quarterly reports. In that case, he was disciplined for a conviction for carrying a concealed weapon without a license.
ANDREW M. BAKKER , 53, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on two years of probation with an actual 60-day suspension. The order took effect Aug. 22, 1997.
Bakker was hired to handle a client’s tax obligations during a four-year period the client served abroad as a missionary. Although the client advised Bakker at one point that his employer was not deducting sufficient sums for his social security insurance, Bakker wrote only one letter and failed to pursue the matter further.
When the client returned home, he owed more than $12,000 in taxes, penalties and interest.
Bakker stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently.
When the client retired several years later, he learned that no tax credits had been placed into his social security account for the preceding six years. He asked Bakker to handle subsequent notices he received from the IRS; with a couple of exceptions, Bakker did not respond to his client’s phone calls or letters.
In another matter involving the same client, Bakker induced his client to make a short term mortgage loan of $10,000 to finance another client’s investment. Bakker said the money would be repaid, with interest, within six months.
About six months later, Bakker wrote a check on his general account for $11,500 as purported repayment of the loan. The check bounced.
Bakker also failed to advise his client that he could seek independent counsel concerning the loan, and failed to obtain the client’s consent to terms of the transaction in writing.
Bakker was previously disciplined in 1995.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation.
MICHAEL JAY BERGER [#100291], 40, of Beverly Hills was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on 18 months of probation with a 45-day actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Aug. 22, 1997.
According to a retainer agreement, Berger was to receive 50 percent of any recovery in a legal malpractice case he brought on behalf of his client. The case settled for $75,000. Upon receiving the first payment of $50,000, Berger kept $25,000 as his fee, gave his client $8,760.15 as his portion of the settlement, and wrote a check to his law firm for more than $16,000, the amount owed for past legal services he had performed for the client.
The client objected, did not cash the check, and demanded $25,000 as his full portion of the settlement.
Instead, Berger reissued the check for $8,760.15 to his law firm.
He failed to keep disputed entrusted funds in his client trust account.
Eventually, Berger sued his client and won two civil judgments against him for more than $14,000.
In a second matter, he failed to notify his client about a deposition and neither he nor the client appeared.
In mitigation, Berger has no record of discipline in 15 years of practice.
JAMES O. BOYLAN [#91187], 58, of Del Mar 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 Aug. 22, 1997.
In 1991, Boylan entered into a charter boat business venture with a man whose mother loaned Boylan $80,000 to purchase two boats. The woman put up her home as collateral.
Boylan said he would repay the loan, primarily with an expected legal fee of $300,000 from a pending case in Riverside County.
Boylan and the woman signed a recision waiver; Boylan signed as the woman’s attorney, stating he had informed her of her rights. In fact, he did not fully advise her about the recision waiver, failed to advise her to seek independent counsel, and did not put the terms of the transaction in writing.
After a variety of fees was paid, Boylan had about $61,000 to purchase the boats. Because it was not enough money, he enlisted his client in the Riverside litigation as a partner. Efforts to purchase a boat failed, however, and Boylan began spending the money designated for the boat on personal expenditures, such as the purchase of a car.
He began to repay the loan, but when the Riverside County case settled, his client (and now his partner) refused to pay his legal fees.
Boylan sued the client, but the client declared bankruptcy. Boylan therefore had no money to repay the loan.
The woman lost her home and sued Boylan. The loan remains outstanding.
In mitigation, Boylan suffered serious financial reversals as a result of the loan and his client’s refusal to pay his legal fees. Boylan had to declare bankruptcy, he has no car, no health insurance, no savings, owns no property and owes nearly $50,000 in back taxes. His law practice is extremely limited.
He is attempting to repay the $80,000 loan.
Boylan had practiced law since 1979 without any discipline prior to his current problems.
CHARLES W. BRODIE [#35411], 59, of Palo Alto was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual six month-suspension and until he proves his rehabilitation, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Aug. 22, 1997.
Brodie pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine, a felony, in 1995. Charges of driving under the influence with priors and an enhancement of refusing a blood alcohol test, and driving with a license suspended for DUI convictions with priors were dropped.
In 1992, Brodie was suspended and placed on disciplinary probation following his fourth DUI conviction.
IRWIN FRIEDMAN [#35753], 62, of Gardena was suspended for 30 days, stayed, placed on one year of probation, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and to make restitution. The order took effect Aug. 22, 1997.
Friedman stipulated that in a personal injury case in which he and his client agreed to repay money owed to an insurer, he failed to disclose in writing the terms of the repayment agreement. He also did not advise his client to seek independent counsel or obtain his client’s written consent to the terms of the transaction.
In another case, Friedman’s clients advanced $5,000 as attorney’s fees and $5,000 for other fees and costs. Friedman did not perform the legal services for which he was hired, provide an accounting of the fees or repay funds advanced for costs.
In mitigation, Friedman suffered from chronic depression at the time and was distracted by serious family and emotional problems. He has practiced law since 1964 without any discipline and cooperated with the bar’s investigation.
THOMAS LAURANCE HYATT [#152719], 38, of Orange was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Aug. 22, 1997.
Hyatt pleaded guilty in 1995 to one count of misdemeanor assault after he beat an opposing attorney, with whom he’d been exchanging taunts, in the Orange County courthouse parking lot. He later apologized to the other counsel for the incident and admitted his wrongdoing.
The State Bar Court found that the facts surrounding the incident did not involve moral turpitude, but involved other misconduct warranting discipline. Hyatt failed to participate in some of the bar’s disciplinary proceedings against him.
The previously ordered probation of MICHAEL SHARPE [#123965], 40, of Redding was extended for one year. The order took effect Aug. 22, 1997.
Sharpe was suspended and placed on a three-year period of probation in 1995 following his conviction the previous year for his fourth DUI. Although he was ordered to abstain from drinking as part of his probation, he suffered a relapse last November.
Sharpe was disciplined two other times for DUI convictions.
He has enrolled in an 18-month outpatient alcohol program and an antabuse program.
JONATHAN L. SMALL [#94327], 44, of Los Angeles was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation, and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation, make restitution, and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Aug. 22, 1997.
Small borrowed $28,000 from a client he represented in a real estate transaction, but did not put the terms of the loan in writing, advise his client to seek independent counsel, or obtain the client’s written consent.
In a workers’ compensation case, Small failed to tell his client about the date, time and place of a deposition or otherwise keep the client reasonably informed of the status of the case.
In mitigation, Small reached a settlement with the first client. Small had no record of discipline since his 1980 admission to the bar.
BARBARA G. St.OURS [#82954], 46, of Valencia was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on probation for three years with an actual one-year suspension, and was ordered to prove rehabilitation and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Aug. 22, 1997.
After settling a personal injury matter for her client, St.Ours misused her client trust account by failing to withdraw her own funds (fees plus reimbursement for advanced costs) promptly, provide an accounting of funds to her client and maintain her client’s funds in trust, and she misappropriated client funds for her own use.
St.Ours was disciplined in 1994. In mitigation in this case, she stipulated to the misconduct before disciplinary charges were filed. She also made restitution to her client.
BRUCE WILLIAM NICKERSON [#90760], 56, of San Carlos was suspended for three years, stayed, and until he has shown proof of his fitness to practice law, and was placed on probation for five years with an actual suspension of nine months.
Credit toward the period of actual suspension was given for the period of actual suspension which began Dec. 26, 1996. He was ordered to pass the MPRE. The order was effective Aug. 29, 1997.
Nickerson pleaded no contest to misdemeanor attempted petty theft after he took a sexually explicit video tape which had been confiscated by police.
Nickerson was hired by a client in 1995 to represent him after police seized, among other things, about 600 video tapes from his client’s home.
Police determined that three of the videos contained illegal, sexually explicit material and another 10 were classified as "questionable." The three videos were entered into evidence at a preliminary hearing in early 1996.
A few months later, a deputy district attorney arranged for Nickerson to meet with one of her investigators at the police department for the purpose of complying with a discovery motion.
Nickerson viewed a number of the tapes in the property room of the police department, then slipped one of the tapes into his accordion file folder just before he left. After a clerk observed his actions, he was confronted by police and returned the tape to its box.
The video was not one of the tapes entered into evidence or classified as "questionable" by police. Nickerson was sentenced to summary probation for two years and ordered to pay a fine of $200.
Nickerson stipulated that the circumstances surrounding his misdemeanor conviction involved moral turpitude.
In aggravation, Nickerson has a prior record of discipline. In 1992, he was placed on actual suspension for 18 months after a felony conviction of Penal Code §32, accessory.
In mitigation, Nickerson presented the State Bar with a list of 68 character references, including attorneys, friends, clients and prominent members of the San Jose community. The prevailing opinion is that Nickerson is a competent attorney with high moral character and integrity.
In addition, Nickerson’s misconduct was motivated by his personal, not professional, interest in viewing the video tape, which contained sexually explicit materials.
Also, Nickerson voluntarily sought counseling after the incident.
JONATHAN ROBERT ADLER [#49989], 56, of Beverly Hills was suspended for two years and until he has shown proof of his fitness to practice. The suspension was stayed, and he was placed on probation effective Aug. 29, 1997.
Adler stipulated to misconduct involving one client. He failed to competently perform services, return the client’s file and keep the client reasonably informed of significant developments in her case.
Adler had been hired by the client in 1989 to represent her in a wrongful death action. The complaint was not served on the defendants, but Adler sent the defendants correspondence advising them of his client’s claim.
The defendants’ insurance company sent a letter requesting additional information, which Adler passed on to the client.
In July 1991, the insurance company denied the client’s claim and Adler failed to take any further action in the case.
In 1994, the client verbally informed Adler that she no longer wanted him to represent her and asked for her files to be returned. A few months later she sent a certified letter repeating her request, but was unsuccessful. In January 1995, another letter was sent and Adler returned her file.
Meanwhile, Adler neglected to tell his client that he failed to serve the defendants with the complaint and did not keep her apprised of the status of her case.
In mitigation, the client took nearly two years to research and provide to Adler patient records, a medical analysis and other information pertinent to the case. In 1994, the Northridge earthquake significantly damaged and disrupted Adler’s office, resulting in broken computer equipment, shelves falling from the walls and spilled filing cabinets. Many of Adler’s files were scattered and misplaced, including the client’s.
The client’s telephone call terminating Adler’s employment occurred during the earthquake aftermath and Adler does not recall receiving a letter asking for the file to be returned.
In addition, when Adler mailed the file to the client’s new attorney, it was returned as undeliverable because the attorney had moved. In late 1994, Adler’s main and backup computers both suffered hard disk crashes and other technical problems, resulting in some permanently lost files.
In aggravation, Adler has a prior record of discipline. In 1994, he was actually suspended for 90 days and again in 1995, both concurrent with a period of probation from another disciplinary order.
ALBERT KOJO AMANQUAH [#153339], 41, of Los Angeles was suspended for 18 months, stayed, and placed on probation for two years on the condition that he is actually suspended for 30 days, effective Aug. 29, 1997. He also was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Amanquah’s misconduct involved two clients and his failure to take proper steps to substitute into their cases, as well as failure to supervise his employees.
In both instances, Amanquah substituted in for clients involved in personal injury matters, but he neglected to inform the clients that he was taking over their cases.
Employees of Amanquah forged the clients’ signatures authorizing the change in representation and on settlement documents.
When Amanquah’s office notified the clients of their "settlements," they refused to accept the proceeds.
Probation conditions for Amanquah include the development of an approved law office management plan and three hours of MCLE courses in attorney-client relations or legal ethics.
PHILLIP MATTHEW CONNOR [#69702], 49, of San Diego was suspended for six months, stayed, and placed on probation for one year, effective Aug. 29, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
In this decision, Connor was found culpable of failing to respond to a client’s reasonable case status inquiries, improperly withdrawing from the case and failing to cooperate with the bar’s investigation of the matter.
Connor was hired by a client to file a lawsuit in connection with a collection matter, but he failed to do so and did not respond to his client’s inquiries over a six-month period.
In mitigation, Connor has no prior record of discipline since his admission to the bar in 1976.
In aggravation, the hearing department of the State Bar Court found that Connor’s failure to respond to the notice of disciplinary charges indicated a lack of candor and cooperation prior to entry of default.
Because of Connor’s lengthy period of practice without prior discipline and the relatively minor nature of the misconduct, "at first blush a reproval may have been warranted," wrote the court. However, because Connor did not file a response to the disciplinary charges, no information was available to explain his misconduct. "These factors signal the need for harsher discipline, including a period of probation. It is hoped that [Connor] will view this as a wake up call," wrote the bar court judge.
ROBERT Y. NAKAMURA [#72069], 46, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, including 60 days actual suspension, effective Aug. 29, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Nakamura failed to take and pass the CPRE, a condition of a public reproval he received in 1993. However, in 1995, the State Bar Court modified the order in a stipulation, deleting the CPRE requirement and adding the requirement that Nakamura attend the bar’s ethics school client trust account record-keeping course, on or before May 22, 1996.
Although the course was offered five times in Los Angeles and three times in San Francisco during this period, Nakamura neglected to attend any of the classes.
Nakamura’s prior record of discipline was considered a factor in aggravation. The November 1993 public reproval resulted from acts of misconduct which included communicating with a represented party, failure to competently perform and failure to promptly return clients’ files.
In addition, in December 1993, he was placed on probation for six months with 30 days stayed suspension for failure to communicate, promptly return clients’ files and cooperate with the bar’s investigations.
No mitigating circumstances were introduced.
RALPH CREIG GREAVES [#71035], 50, of San Diego was placed on interim suspension July 28, 1997, following his felony conviction in January 1997 of one count of filing a false income tax return.
He was ordered to comply with rule 955.
HAROLD DON THOMPSON [#69472], 53, of San Diego was placed on interim suspension July 30, 1997, following felony convictions in the Riverside County Superior Court for forgery and filing a false grant deed with the San Diego County recorder’s office. Thompson obtained an equity loan for more than $200,000 on a piece of property in San Diego by impersonating the owner of the property.
He exchanged the funds for cashier’s checks, but was arrested when he tried to cash one of the checks in San Francisco.
Thompson also was placed on interim suspension in April for his conviction in San Francisco on one count of possessing a forged cashier’s check.
JOSEPH P. MASTERSON [#165564], 35, of Prairie Village, Kan., was placed on interim suspension July 30, 1997, following his felony convictions in Kansas for possession of cocaine and aggravated battery. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.
CARY DAVID DECHOWITZ [#76208], 46, of San Francisco was placed on interim suspension Aug. 20, 1997, following his conviction for violating Title 21 U.S. Code §841, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, a felony. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.
AARON BERNSON PAYNE [#77713], 46, of El Cerrito was placed on interim suspension Aug. 20, 1997, following his conviction for violating Vehicle Code §23152(a), driving under the influence with three priors and §23152(b), driving under the influence with a blood alcohol level of .08 or more, with three priors, felonies. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.
VICTORIA ANN KING [#74024], 52, of Tucson, Ariz. (Aug. 9, 1997)
LYN HAROLD MARCUS [#25367], 69, of Los Angeles (Aug. 9, 1997)
GREGORY PAUL SULLIVAN [#145032], 50, of Newport Beach (Aug. 9, 1997)
DAVID MAX ECKHART [#59321], 50, of La Palma (Aug. 17, 1997)
MICHAEL GUTIERREZ [#139569], 36, of Newport Beach (Aug. 17, 1997)
RONALD GARY RUTIZ [#56062], 52, of Santa Monica (Aug. 17, 1997)
ANDREW STERGIS PITT [#117371], 39, of Los Angeles (Aug. 17, 1997)
Suspension/Failure to Pass PRE
WALTER DAVID CHANNELS [#107719], 50, of Costa Mesa (Aug. 12, 1997)
BEN DARWIN HYDE [#134972], 39, of San Diego (Aug. 12, 1997)
WILLIAM LESLIE O’BRYAN [#42335], 61, of Playa Del Rey (Aug. 12, 1997)
VINCENT KEITH PATRICK [#152110], 36, of San Diego (Aug. 26, 1997)
DALLAS JAMES COLE [#41974], 58, of Waterford (May 8, 1997)
JOSEPH A. BILLINGSLEY [#85405], 46, of Oakland (May 11, 1997)
ROBERT F. DODENBIER [#113017], 45, of Manteca (June 22, 1997)
CARL E. DOUGLAS [#97011], 42, of Los Angeles (June 29, 1997)
ANTHONY M. AMOSCATO [#78977], 46, of Tarzana (June 29, 1997)
JOAN BAUMGARTEN [#108909], 46, North Palm Springs (July 10, 1997)
Involuntary Inactive Enrollment
MARK T. GROWNEY [#138133], 39, of Pismo Beach (July 3, 1997)