Professional Liability Insurance
Nearly 160,800 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.
ARTHUR THEODORE HINDIN [#40853], 55, of Beverly Hills was disbarred Feb. 13, 1998, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
Hindin and the State Bar both sought review of a July 1994 opinion by the hearing department, which recommended a two-year stayed suspension with four years of probation and one year of an actual suspension for Hindin.
In its opinion on review, the bar court's review department agreed that Hindin committed professional misconduct in 22 counts constituting more than 30 violations during a 10-year period. It also found evidence of additional culpability and re-evaluated the recommended discipline.
Although none of Hindin's misconduct entailed dishonesty or false statements, "the State Bar believes that [Hindin's] misconduct constituted a habitual disregard of client matters and moral turpitude requiring disbarment," wrote bar court Judge Ronald Stovitz, with presiding Judge James Obrien concurring.
Hindin was found culpable of misconduct in 18 client matters involving 12 instances of failure to perform legal services competently.
In addition, in five cases he did not return client files promptly and 14 client matters involved failure to communicate. He failed to report sanctions in one case, failed to obey a court order in another case and abandoned two clients.
Hindin also failed to cooperate with the bar's investigation of 14 of the cases.
Hindin was admitted to the State Bar in 1967 and maintained his own professional corporation since 1980. His practice included major personal injury cases, business litigation and bad faith insurance litigation.
During the period of his misconduct, he handled all trials personally and his case load varied from between 50-100 active cases at one time.
Hindin was in trial from three to nine months in a given year and pretrial matters were often handled by one to three associates and several non-attorney office staff members.
The court found it "troublesome" that Hindin appeared oblivious to the central causes of his problem for 10 years: his immersion into a very demanding trial practice while maintaining a significant client base with frequent deadlines; serving as sole principal of his law practice; and his failure to consistently supervise his caseload.
Three of the counts involved multiple mishandlings of the same client's case by Hindin or members of his office staff.
Although Hindin did not have a prior record of discipline, it was given little weight in mitigation because of the harm to his clients over a long period of time.
In addition, "his pro bono work is so remote in time (20 years) as to be minimal in weight" and his demonstration of good character "fell short of the clear and convincing standard."
State Bar Court Judge Kenneth Norian, the department's sole public member, issued a dissenting opinion, primarily based on his disagreement with the hearing department's dismissal of five counts.
Norian wrote: "Little protection is provided the public when properly alleged charges are dismissed on motions that do not establish that the dismissal will further the public interest in the fair prosecution of the matter."
ROBERT KENNETH BROWN [#46574], 53, of Fresno was disbarred Feb. 20, 1998, and ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.
At a default hearing, Brown was found culpable of misconduct in five client matters.
He misappropriated settlement funds in one case, disobeyed court orders in a second matter and failed to honor a fee arbitration award or to return a client file in a third case.
In addition, he failed to provide competent legal services in two matters, provide an accurate accounting to a client in one case and properly withdraw and refund unearned fees in another.
In one instance, Brown's failure to appear for an arraignment of a client resulted in a bench warrant issued for the arrest of his client. In another, his client was forced to appear on her own behalf during a bankruptcy hearing.
In order to recover advanced fees, another client was compelled to pursue a fee arbitration and obtain an award against Brown, which has not yet been honored by Brown.
The court found that there were indications in the early 1990s that Brown suffered from crippling back and leg injuries. However, there was no indication from his record that Brown's physical condition was the cause of his misconduct and a mitigating factor.
Brown also has a prior record of discipline, which was considered an aggravating factor.
He was suspended in 1982, following his felony conviction for receiving stolen property. In 1984, he received a public reproval after he represented himself as an active member of the bar during the period of his actual suspension.
In the current misconduct proceedings, Brown's actions in one client matter involved dishonesty, concealment and overreaching, also considered as aggravating evidence.
His failure to appear in three cases adversely affected his clients. Brown engaged in multiple acts of misconduct and was indifferent toward rectifying any harm to his clients when he failed to cooperate with the bar's investigation.
In his decision, the hearing judge wrote, "Disbarment is the proper remedy." Because of aggravating factors and the lack of mitigating evidence, "the attitude demonstrated by [Brown] during these proceedings all indicate that [he] remains a risk to the public, his future, and the legal profession."
DONALD ANTHONY AINSLIE [#97381], 41, of Van Nuys was disbarred Feb. 21, 1998, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
Ainslie's disbarment followed a default hearing based on his failure to file an affidavit of compliance with rule 955, a requirement of a 1996 discipline order.
No mitigating circumstances were established, but his prior record of discipline was considered an aggravating factor.
He received a one-year actual suspension in 1996 for misconduct which included a conviction for inflicting corporal injury on his spouse.
In addition, he failed to cooperate with the bar's investigation of three cases. He did not honor a medical lien for a client and misappropriated $1,500 which he was required to maintain on deposit to satisfy that lien.
He did not pay a $1,000 court sanction which resulted in the original judgment being enforced against a client, and he failed to perform legal services and return unearned legal fees to another client.
STANLEY Z. GOLDFLAM [#43386], 60, of Los Angeles was disbarred Feb. 21, 1998, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
Goldflam was found culpable of misconduct involving seven clients and the misappropriation of more than $45,000.
In most instances, Goldflam was hired to represent clients in personal injury cases, but neglected to tell them when their settlement checks arrived and failed to disburse their entitled funds or pay medical liens.
In one case, Goldflam falsely told his client that he had open-heart surgery and would eventually send him the settlement proceeds. However, Goldflam did not mention that the case had been settled.
The client took it upon himself to contact the insurance company to check the status of his claim and discovered it had been settled nine months earlier. Goldflam had forged his client's endorsement of the settlement checks.
Goldflam's misconduct caused significant harm to his clients, who suffered severe financial harm.
His continued failure to make restitution, acknowledge his mishandling of his financial affairs and rectify the damage to his clients were considered aggravating factors.
In addition, he failed to appropriately participate in State Bar court proceedings prior to entry of default.
"In this matter, [Goldflam's] misconduct continued for several years and clearly was part of a purposeful design to defraud his clients, and was accompanied by dishonest statements [he] obviously made to conceal his misdeeds," wrote the hearing judge.
The court had no choice but to disbar Goldflam, wrote the judge, given the egregious nature of his misconduct and his lack of participation in the disciplinary proceedings.
JAMES P. MONTAGUE [#94176], 45, of San Diego was disbarred Feb. 21, 1998, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
In eight separate client matters, Montague was found culpable of failing to perform legal services competently, report court-ordered sanctions, return unearned fees, support the laws of California and misappropriation of more than $63,000 in estate funds. In addition, he commingled personal and client funds and committed acts of moral turpitude.
In one matter, an inmate at a state prison employed Montague to probate the estate of his deceased father. Because he had no experience in probate matters, Montague hired another attorney and was appointed as the estate's administrator.
Nearly $98,000 was in the estate's bank account by the time of Montague's appointment, as well as $51,000 in jewelry. In 1991, the court authorized the distribution of $37,000 to the client.
In 1992, the probate attorney assisted Montague in a lawsuit against the bank holding the estate's funds. However, the suit was dismissed when the probate attorney had difficulty obtaining relevant information from Montague. The attorney was unsuccessful in securing an accounting of the estate from Montague.
The client also had communication problems with Montague, but eventually received a letter from him apologizing for delays and indicating he had been ill.
When the client was released from prison in 1993, he checked the estate's bank records and discovered less than $300 in the account.
The probate attorney successfully sought to have Montague removed as the estate's administrator. After drilling open a safety deposit box at the bank, it was discovered that the estate's jewelry was intact.
However, after an investigation, the probate attorney determined that Montague had embezzled the estate's funds.
Montague claimed he had been hospitalized on several occasions in 1993 and had not misappropriated any funds.
He said he disbursed more than $40,000 to himself as fees for criminal defense work performed on behalf of his client, although he acknowledged he had not obtained required court approval.
He filed for bankruptcy in 1994, staying any claims his client may have had against him.
Montague's lack of a prior disciplinary record in 10 years of practice when his misconduct began in 1990 was considered a mitigating factor but did not merit significant weight given the serious nature of his offenses.
Based on evidence in one of the matters, the hearing department of the State Bar Court surmised that Montague may have suffered a serious illness or alcohol abuse problem, resulting in his hospitalization in 1993.
However, his lack of participation in disciplinary proceedings deprived the court of any meaningful information.
Montague's misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing, which was considered an aggravating factor.
In addition, his actions were surrounded by concealment and dishonesty, his clients were harmed and he demonstrated indifference toward the consequences of his misconduct. He did not appear in State Bar Court for trial and his default was entered.
RICHARD L. IVEY [#129327], 42, of El Centro was disbarred Feb. 26, 1998, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
Ivey's disbarment followed his failure to file an affidavit of compliance with rule 955, a requirement of a September 1996 disciplinary order.
At that time, Ivey was found culpable in one client matter of wilfully failing to competently perform legal services, return the client's file and unearned fees, communicate with his client and cooperate with the bar's investigation.
He received a one-year stayed suspension, two years of probation and a 30-day actual suspension, with a restitution condition.
His misconduct also resulted in more than $1,200 in sanctions against his client.
LeRUE JAMES GRIM [#37485], 69, of San Francisco was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for two years with four months of an actual suspension, effective Jan. 29, 1998. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955.
In four different matters, Grim stipulated to failure to perform competently, maintain respect for the courts, communicate significant case developments and improper withdrawal from employment.
Breakdowns in Grim's client relationships occurred because of his chaotic office practices and lack of written records which hindered client communications and attorney accountability.
He decided in good faith not to continue to pursue some cases, but neglected to inform clients or protect them from possible prejudice.
In one case, Grim represented a woman in 1986 who was having problems with a real estate matter. The woman attended law classes taught by Grim in his office. Although he initially regarded the case as pro bono, the woman paid him a total of $5,000 in the course of the next six years.
Grim did some work on the case, but the woman became frustrated and eventually hired another attorney to take over, paying him $1,900. However, the attorney told her the matter had become so complex due to Grim's inactivity, she should return to Grim to straighten it out. By this time the woman had filed a complaint with the State Bar.
She went back to Grim, who then drafted a complaint in the real estate matter, but never filed it. The woman fired him in 1993.
Meanwhile, the piece of property in question was sold, without the knowledge of Grim or his client. Grim maintained that his client was not forthcoming with her information and fabricated portions of her story.
The client took Grim to arbitration and was awarded $4,300. Grim appealed the award in municipal court and sought additional fees. The client filed a cross complaint for malpractice, but never appeared in court.
In aggravation, Grim has a prior record of discipline going back to 1983.
In addition, Grim harmed his clients when at least three of them lost their causes of action. And in one case, a couple lost an $80,000 arbitration award when he abandoned them in superior court at the trial de novo.
Grim did not display insight into his misconduct or atonement for the problems which resulted. He blamed his clients for their troubles, calling two of them liars, portraying two as emotionally unstable and another as dysfunctional and angry.
Grim presented six character witnesses to offer evidence of his good character and reputation in the community. However, the evidence was not considered significantly mitigating.
Grim testified in mitigation that between 10 and 25 percent of his practice has been pro bono, he gives weekly current events lectures to senior citizens, he founded a small university dealing with the philosophy of naturalism and supports his five young children. He apologized for any anguish he may have caused.
KATHY L. HOLDER [#153045], 41, of San Bernardino was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for two years on the condition that she is actually suspended for six months and until she makes restitution of $1,200. If her actual suspension exceeds two years, she will remain suspended until she has provided proof of her fitness to practice. She was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order was effective Jan. 29, 1998.
In this default proceeding, Holder was found culpable of abandoning two clients, failing to complete legal services, communicate and return an unearned fee.
In one case, Holder was hired by a woman in 1992 to represent her in an employment discrimination suit against a school district.
In 1995, attorneys for the school district filed a motion for summary judgment which Holder did not oppose. She also neglected to inform her client and the motion was granted. A judgment for costs was entered against her client.
Holder later initiated settlement negotiations with the district, offering to dismiss all claims in return for a waiver of costs. The defendant accepted on the condition that a signed stipulation was in their hands by Aug. 3, 1995.
Holder neglected to inform her client of the district's counter offer and missed the deadline.
Holder had been admitted to practice less than three years before her misconduct began with no significant history of service to the profession to offer in mitigation.
In one client's letter to the State Bar, a reference was made to Holder's "severe personal problems," but her failure to participate in the disciplinary proceedings deprived the court of any such information which might have been considered in mitigation.
Considered as an aggravating factor was Holder's prior record of discipline, which was based on her failure to communicate in two client matters and perform services in one of the matters. Because that misconduct occurred during the same period as her current misconduct, it was given less weight than usual in aggravation.
Also considered as aggravating circumstances were Holder's failure to participate in the disciplinary proceedings and the harm to her clients.
Although the bar's office of chief trial counsel recommended a lengthier actual suspension, the hearing department judge felt six months was adequate because Holder's misconduct "can be remedied if [Holder] will begin honoring her professional obligations." However, the judge warned that ignoring remedial actions could result in further discipline, including disbarment.
LOUIS KRASS [#79105], 51, of Tarzana was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for one year on the condition he is actually suspended for 30 days and until he makes restitution.
If he remains actually suspended for two years or more, he will remain suspended until he has shown proof of his fitness to practice.
He also was ordered to pass the MPRE and must comply with rule 955 if his actual suspension continues for 90 days or more. The order was effective Jan. 29, 1998.
Krass was disciplined for failing to comply with conditions of a 1994 discipline order. He failed to make restitution of $3,800 to two parties by March 24, 1996, when his probationary period expired.
The 1994 discipline order was considered a factor in aggravation. His conduct also involved multiple acts of wrongdoing.
LARRY HOWARD KREUEGAR [#46885], 55, of Sherman Oaks was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for one year on the condition he is actually suspended for 30 days, effective Jan. 29, 1998. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Kreuegar was employed to file a lawsuit against a towing service for $8,000 in damages to his client's commercial truck in 1992. After June 1994, the client was unable to contact Kreuegar and he discovered a lawsuit had not been filed on his behalf.
In 1994, Kreuegar was placed on inactive status for failure to comply with MCLE requirements. In August 1994, he was suspended for failure to pay his bar dues. He remained ineligible to practice at least through October 1996.
Kreuegar failed to inform his clients that he was ineligible to practice law. Also, he did not keep the bar's membership department apprised of his current address and failed to cooperate with the bar's investigation.
Considered as an aggravating circumstance was Kreuegar's prior record of discipline. A 1978 public reproval was given very limited weight in aggravation, but the harm incurred by his client in the current matter was considered significant.
His failure to advise his client to obtain successor counsel resulted in the client's belief that he had representation for several years. In addition, his failure to communicate with his client resulted in a substantial delay in efforts to have the truck repaired and back in service. His failure to appropriately participate in disciplinary proceedings prior to default was given limited weight in aggravation.
The bar court hearing department judge found that Kreuegar's misconduct was an isolated incident, but questioned his neglect in informing the bar of his whereabouts and lack of participation in disciplinary proceedings, "which raises concerns about his present ability or willingness to comply with his ethical obligations."
DAVID R. RANCOURT [#161461], 33, of Providence, R.I., was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for one year on the condition that he is actually suspended for 60 days and until he makes restitution.
If he is actually suspended for two years or more, he will remain suspended until he has provided proof of his fitness to practice. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order was effective Jan. 29, 1998.
In a divorce matter, Rancourt abandoned his client, failed to complete legal services, communicate and return unearned fees.
Rancourt also failed to meet conditions of a 1996 public reproval when he failed to attend the bar's ethics school and pass the MPRE.
He did not participate in the disciplinary proceedings.
Although he mentioned an illness in one letter to bar investigators, Rancourt did not offer his physical ailment as a factor in mitigation.
Considered in aggravation was the fact that his client completed his divorce petition on his own and was not refunded unearned legal fees by Rancourt.
IVAN BARRY SCHWARTZ [#153264], 37, of San Diego was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, including 60 days of an actual suspension, effective Jan. 29, 1998. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Schwartz' misconduct involved numerous client trust account violations, including misappropriation, affecting two clients.
He failed to maintain client funds in trust and did not promptly deliver settlement funds to one client and to a medical provider. He also failed to maintain the required balance in his client trust account and bounced several checks.
In aggravation, his misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing.
In mitigation, Schwartz was suffering from alcoholism during the period of his misconduct. He has since been rehabilitated.
He abstained from practicing law during his treatment period, revealed his misconduct to one client, made full restitution and promptly paid all medical lienholders.
In addition, many members of the community attested to his good character and he displayed candor, cooperation and remorse throughout his disciplinary proceedings.
Since his rehabilitation, Schwartz has regularly provided pro bono and low-cost legal services to residents and alumni of alcohol recovery homes in San Diego.
ANDRE F. ZEEHANDELAAR [#145799], 50 of San Diego was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, with an actual suspension of 120 days, effective Jan. 29, 1998. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955.
In this default decision, Zeehandelaar was found culpable in two client matters of failing to perform legal services, properly withdraw from a case, return client papers, communicate, obey a court order and cooperate with the bar's investigation.
In one instance, Zeehandelaar was hired by a client for representation in a personal injury matter on a contingency fee basis. Zeehandelaar failed to make a court appearance and failed to file a required proof of service until he was sanctioned by the superior court. He also failed to serve the defendants and missed several appearances, resulting in a summary judgment and case dismissal.
He did not inform his client of any of these developments.
Considered as an aggravating circumstance was Zeehandelaar's failure to respond to the bar's notice of disciplinary charges, indicating a lack of candor and cooperation prior to entry of default. In addition, Zeehandelaar's misconduct involved multiple acts and harmed the administration of justice.
Because Zeehandelaar had been practicing only four years before his misconduct occurred, his discipline-free record was not accorded any weight in mitigation.
NATHAN MISRAJE [#94170], 44, of Los Angeles was suspended for three years, stayed, and placed on probation for three years with an actual suspension of one year, effective Feb. 13, 1998.
He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955.
Misraje was hired by two men to represent them in a personal injury matter on a contingency basis.
After depositing into his client trust account $14,000 in settlement funds for both clients, he issued them checks of about $5,000 each. However, a few weeks previously, his client trust account balance fell below the amount held in trust for the clients.
Misraje's misconduct involved misappropriation, failing to promptly inform two clients of his receipt of settlement funds and promptly pay the settlement funds to his clients.
He also stipulated to recklessly failing to perform legal services.
In mitigation, Misraje had no prior record of discipline since his admission to the State Bar in 1980.
In aggravation, trust funds were involved and clients were harmed.
JAMES BEIRNE [#163755], 45, of Woodland Hills was suspended for 18 months, stayed, and placed on probation for two years on the condition he is actually suspended for 30 days, effective Feb. 21, 1998. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Beirne's troubles stemmed from his ownership of a credit repair business and his relationship with the two other non-attorney partners.
In one instance, Beirne signed Chapter 13 bankruptcy documents prepared by his partners, but never met with the client. He allowed non-attorneys to consult with clients and prepare documents without his supervision, beyond the scope permitted by bankruptcy laws.
One of Beirne's partners wrote a column for a local Filipino newspaper which offered legal advice dealing with bankruptcy, foreclosure and immigration matters.
The phone number of the credit repair business was affixed to the column, soliciting calls for free consultations.
Beirne reviewed the articles before they were published, but he allowed general legal advice to be dispensed by a non-lawyer through the newspaper column.
In another case, Beirne advised a client he could transfer the title of some property to another individual and file for bankruptcy without legal consequences.
The client paid Beirne $2,800 for legal services on behalf the individual, who later learned from another attorney that such a title transfer was illegal. Beirne then filed a motion to dismiss the bankruptcy filing.
A malpractice judgment in favor of the client, who sued because Beirne provided illegal advice, resulted in the order for Beirne to reimburse the fees. He has failed to do.
In mitigation, Beirne acted in good faith and cooperated with the bar's investigation. In addition, he suffered extreme difficulties in his personal life at the time of his misconduct, including illnesses of relatives which required him to travel to northern California frequently.
He recently completed training in a domestic violence program in order to provide pro bono legal services in the Los Angeles area.
As a condition of probation, Beirne must make restitution.
JAMES J. BROWN III [#169686], 42, of Thousand Oaks was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for three years with an actual suspension of 30 days, effective Feb. 21, 1998. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Brown failed to meet the conditions of probation attached to a 1996 public reproval he received following his vehicle code conviction for reckless driving and driving with a suspended license in 1995. Among other things, he failed to file quarterly probation reports and provide verification of attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. In addition, a required drug/alcohol test indicated use of marijuana.
His public reproval was considered a factor in aggravation. In addition, he failed to participate in the current disciplinary proceedings.
In mitigation, Brown suffered extreme emotional and physical difficulties at the time of his misconduct as a result of alcoholism. He has been sober since March 1997.
Conditions of probation include mandatory attendance of a substance abuse program.
BRET M. COOK [#170726], 37, of Newport Beach was suspended for 90 days, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, effective Feb. 21, 1998. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Cook was disciplined for failing to fully pay a medical lien. After settling a personal injury case for a client, Cook sent a check to the client's medical provider, indicating the medical lien account was paid in full.
His client attempted to contact him nine times within the next few weeks for a status check on the lien payment before Cook finally responded. Cook then advised the client that he discovered there still was a balance due on the lien.
Cook did not promptly pay a medical lien and must attend law office management classes and courses in attorney-client relations or legal ethics as a condition of probation.
GEORGE ANTHONY CREQUE [#115580], 42, of Willow Springs, was suspended for 90 days, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, effective Feb. 21, 1998. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Creque was employed by a woman in June 1995, for representation in a dispute with her insurance carrier regarding an earthquake insurance claim. She gave Creque her personal file with receipts and other documents.
Creque missed an appointment with the client and did not respond to several of her letters requesting a case status update.
In May 1996, she arranged to pick up her file from Creque's office, but it was not available. In August, when she returned to his office, she discovered that Creque had moved, but did not provide her with a forwarding address.
Letters sent to his current address on file with the State Bar were not returned as undeliverable and Creque did not respond to bar investigator inquiries.
In aggravation, Creque's misconduct harmed his client. He demonstrated indifference to the consequences of his actions and did not cooperate with the bar's investigation.
In mitigation, Creque has no prior record of discipline.
ANTHONY RENE GASTON [#100767], 47, of Carson was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for three years with an actual suspension of six months and until he has provided proof of his fitness to practice, effective Feb. 21, 1998. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.
Gaston was hired to represent a client in a criminal matter in 1994. He negotiated a three-year probation with 181 days in county jail for the client. As part of the plea agreement, Gaston's client was given the opportunity to apply for a work furlough program in order to keep his job.
The client filed his work furlough application, but it was denied. Gaston failed to appear in court to pursue the application approval on his client's behalf several times. Both the client and the court were unable to reach Gaston, resulting in the court's eventual appointment of a public defender for the client.
No circumstances in mitigation were found during the default disciplinary hearing.
In aggravation, Gaston has a prior record of discipline. In 1995, he received a one-year stayed suspension with two years of probation and 20 days of an actual suspension.
His probation was extended a year after he failed to meet certain conditions. He also was privately reproved in 1993.
In addition, his misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing and he did not appropriately participate in disciplinary proceedings prior to entry of default.
Although the bar's trial counsel sought a two-year actual suspension for Gaston's current misconduct, the hearing department judge thought the recommendation excessive.
"Strong discipline measures are nevertheless indicated," wrote the judge. In addition, the judge said that Gaston's May 1996 statement to the deputy trial counsel that he was suffering from a serious drug problem and was in a rehabilitation program confirmed the need for stringent disciplinary measures. Those measures, he said, should be "geared to insuring that he does not practice law until he is able to do so prudently and that he is thereafter subject to probationary controls and scrutiny for a moderate period of time."
The court took the "relatively unusual step" of recommending that Gaston remain actually suspended until he has provided proof of his rehabilitation and fitness to practice, a requirement normally imposed for periods of actual suspension lasting two years or longer.
MICHELE LOUISE GUGUIERE [#95288], 54, of Sacramento was suspended for 90 days, stayed, and placed on probation for one year, effective Feb. 21, 1998.
Guguiere was hired by a woman to represent her in a civil action for breach of a partnership agreement and fraud.
During the course of her representation, Guguiere failed to competently perform legal services when she inappropriately responded to certain discovery requests.
In addition, several checks bounced when she failed to maintain sufficient funds in her client trust account.
In aggravation, Guguiere's misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing.
In mitigation, Guguiere had a discipline-free record since her admission to the bar in 1981. In addition, she acted in good faith in the civil matter. In respect to the trust account violation, Guguiere did not convert any client funds to her own use nor did any client suffer a loss.
JOHN J. HOUSE [#132332], 37, of San Jose was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for two years on condition he is actually suspended for one year and until he makes restitution.
He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order was effective Feb. 21, 1998.
House stipulated to practicing law while he was on inactive status for non-payment of bar dues and failing to inform his clients and the court of his ineligibility.
In addition, he failed to file suit or take other steps to pursue a judgment against a client, as well as return his client's phone calls and respond to his case status inquiries.
He also failed to respond to written inquiries from State Bar investigators.
In mitigation, at the time of his misconduct House had left the practice of law and terminated his long term partnership with his father to pursue other business opportunities.
House's bar dues were usually paid as part of the law practice's business expenses. However, due to an ongoing dispute with his former law partner, House was not kept informed as to the general affairs of the law practice and was not informed that his bar dues had not been paid.
House became inactive in August 1994, but was unaware of his ineligibility to practice until March 1995. He then turned his files over to his former law partner.
In aggravation, his clients were harmed by his misconduct.
In mitigation, House had no prior record of discipline.
RICHARD ALAN KERNODLE [#112513], 48, of Martinez was suspended for three years, stayed, and placed on probation for three years with a condition of restitution, effective Feb. 21, 1998. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Kernodle's misconduct involved nine client matters and multiple instances of failing to perform legal services competently and failing to respond to clients' case status inquiries. In several instances, he failed to return unearned legal fees.
In one matter, Kernodle was hired by a woman to collect child support from her ex-husband, but he failed to complete the case, return her file or refund her retainer.
In a divorce matter, Kernodle failed to disburse the balance of a client's tax refund, which was held in his client trust account.
In aggravation, Kernodle's misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing and demonstrated a pattern of misconduct.
In mitigation, House has no prior record of discipline since his admittance to the bar in 1984.
MILTON BERNARD LIPTON [#82343], 79, of North Hollywood was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for five years, effective Feb. 21, 1998. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Lipton's misconduct involved prosecuting a frivolous lawsuit and filing frivolous court appeals which resulted in sanctions of $15,000 imposed by the Los Angeles County Superior Court. He failed to comply with the sanction orders.
In mitigation, Lipton has no prior record of discipline and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.
THOMAS C. LOFFARELLI [#159724], 44, of Sherman Oaks was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, effective Feb. 21, 1998. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Loffarelli was convicted of a misdemeanor for violation of a restraining order obtained by a woman he dated for about a year. It was stipulated that the conviction did not constitute an act of moral turpitude.
His misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing, considered an aggravating factor. There were no factors in mitigation.
The probation of DAVID A. McVEY [#93222], 49, of Pasadena was revoked and his previously ordered stay of suspension lifted, effective Feb. 21, 1998. McVey was ordered actually suspended for two years, to run consecutive with the period of actual suspension imposed in a Feb. 26, 1998, order. The Feb. 26 order suspended McVey for five years and until he makes restitution, stayed, with a five-year probation and one year of actual suspension. He was ordered to comply with rule 955 in both instances.
The Feb. 21 order resulted from McVey's failure meet certain probation conditions ordered in two prior disciplinary cases.
Considered as an aggravating circumstance was his record of three prior disciplinary proceedings, including misconduct which resulted in the Feb. 26 order.
In the Feb. 26 order, McVey stipulated to failure to perform competent legal services for five clients. Four of the clients' cases were dismissed either for failure to prosecute or failure to appear at hearings.
He also did not return files, communicate with clients, provide an accounting for fees or refund unearned fees.
In addition, McVey did not cooperate with the bar's investigation.
The previously ordered probation of ARTHUR MARVIN MELVIN [#85173], 61, of Lake Forest was extended for two years, effective Feb. 21, 1998. Melvin was ordered to comply with rule 955.
Melvin did not comply with conditions of probation from an April 1996 discipline order. He did not submit required probation reports and failed to maintain his current address with the bar's membership records office. He also failed to respond to a request for a hearing in this matter.
DAVID L. ODOM [#52057], 56 of Aurora, Colo., was suspended for three years, stayed, and placed on probation for three years on the condition that he is actually suspended for two years and until he makes restitution ordered by the Colorado Supreme Court. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Feb. 21, 1998.
Odom's California discipline order was imposed as a result of his misconduct and subsequent discipline in Colorado.
His misconduct in Colorado involved multiple acts of wrongdoing, two client matters and failure to cooperate with the Colorado bar's investigation.
In one matter, Odom mishandled a client's child support case, causing significant harm. A second matter involved Odom's representation of a client charged with carrying a concealed weapon.
The client was later shot by his wife. Odom represented the wife in her attempted murder and first degree assault case, with the approval of his wounded client.
Odom failed to inform the husband of the potential conflict of interest and advise him to seek the services of another attorney.
The husband was eventually found guilty of the concealed weapons charge, but court officials and the client were unsuccessful in contacting Odom to schedule a sentencing date.
The court ruled that Odom had abandoned his client. A substitute attorney was appointed and Odom was ordered to make restitution of $2,500 in legal fees.
Although Odom had no prior record of discipline in California, the bar's hearing department noted that he has a prior record in Colorado.
He received a public censure there in 1992 for misconduct in two client matters, similar to his current misconduct involving conflict of interest.
"[Odom] has clearly not heeded the message of his initial discipline and a substantial period of discipline is necessary in order to protect the public and the legal profession in California and to ensure that [Odom] appreciates the gravity of his misconduct," wrote the bar's hearing judge.