LEE R. ALBERT [#84921], 47,
of Riverside was suspended for six months, stayed, and placed on probation for
one year, effective April 29, 1998.
In a wrongful termination matter, Albert failed to
oppose a defendants motion for summary judgment or appear at a hearing.
In aggravation, Albert has a prior record of discipline. He received a 90-day actual
suspension in 1994 for misconduct which included failure to perform legal services
competently and respond to a clients case status inquiries.
In mitigation, Albert suffered from emotional and family difficulties during the period
of his misconduct due to his mothers death and conflicts with family members
regarding her decision to remain on life support. In addition, two longtime family pets, a
cat and a dog, died a few weeks before his mother.
DOUGLASS EDWARD HUBERT [#32173], 61, of Monterey was suspended for two
years, stayed, and placed on probation for three years with conditions including 90 days
of actual suspension and a requirement that he make restitution. He was ordered to pass
the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 29, 1998.
In this decision, Hubert was found culpable of seven counts of misconduct involving one
He abandoned a client, and failed to communicate, return unearned fees and the
clients file, cooperate with the bars investigation and keep his bar
membership records current.
In 1995, Hubert was employed by a client for representation in a divorce matter. A
critical part of the case was defending an attempt by the clients former spouse to
have the jurisdiction of child support proceedings transferred from Monterey to Baltimore.
When the clients current wife called Hubert a few months later to check on the
status of the case, he had no recollection of it.
The client, who was in the military, discovered a few months later that Huberts
phone had been changed to an unlisted number and he had moved with no forwarding address.
In addition, he investigated his court records and found that Hubert had not filed
anything in connection with his case.
In mitigation, Hubert has been in practice for 34 years with no prior record of
Huberts failure to participate in discipline proceedings prior to the entry of
default was considered an aggravating factor. His inaction resulted in some harm to the
client, and his disappearance and failure to return unearned fees to the client also were
seen as aggravating factors.
Although the office of the bars trial counsel had not included restitution of
$1,200 in unearned fees, the hearing department judge included it as a condition of
WILLIAM NESH [#82507], 47, of Toluca Lake was suspended for six
months, stayed, and placed on probation for three years, including a 30-day actual
suspension, effective April 29, 1998. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
In four client matters, Nesh stipulated to failure to maintain settlement funds in his
client trust account, promptly pay medical liens, notify a client of his receipt of
settlement funds, promptly release a clients file, and promptly pay client funds. He
also represented clients with adverse interests and loaned money to clients without a
written promise to repay.
In one case, Nesh was employed by a couple to represent them in a personal injury
matter. A lawyer in Neshs office settled the matter for $28,000 and the couple
claimed they were told they would receive $10,000 as their portion.
However, Neshs office informed the couple they would receive $974.50 as their
share if the medical liens were paid in full. The couple refused to accept the offer and
Nesh then offered to send them a check for $6,500. The couple again refused, but Nesh sent
the check anyway, with a notation that it was a full and final settlement.
The couple employed another attorney who told Nesh the check would not be cashed unless
he acknowledged that it would not preclude them from seeking additional funds from him.
Nesh refused and the couple initiated an arbitration hearing. The couple was awarded
$9,039.70, plus interest, which Nesh honored.
In aggravation, Nesh has a prior record of misconduct, a public reproval in 1995. In
addition, his current misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing.
In mitigation, Nesh was candid and cooperated with the bars investigation, and he
acted in good faith.
AUSTIN A. DITTER JR. [#50407], 56, of Citrus Heights was suspended for
two years, stayed, and placed on probation for two years on the condition that he is
actually suspended for 60 days and until he makes restitution, effective May 2, 1998.
If he is actually suspended for two years or more, he will remain suspended until he
has shown proof of his rehabilitation. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with
In this default decision, Ditter was found culpable of eight counts of misconduct
involving one client who hired him to pursue an appeal of a case she lost in superior
Ditter failed to perform legal services competently, communicate, return unearned fees,
cooperate with the bars investigation and change his membership records address. He
also practiced law while suspended for nonpayment of fees.
In mitigation, Ditter had no prior record of discipline in his 15 years of practice.
Considered as an aggravating factor was Ditters failure to participate in
disciplinary proceedings prior to entry of default, including his failure to answer the
notice of charges. The court found there was some client harm and his failure to return
$1,300 in unearned fees also was an aggravating factor.
ROGER VALDON CHASTAIN [#47573], 58, of Pearl, Miss., was suspended for
two years, stayed, and placed on probation for two years with a 90-day actual suspension,
effective May 8, 1998. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955.
In 1994, Chastain was convicted of five misdemeanor counts of failure to pay federal
income taxes from 1985-89. He was sentenced to four months in federal prison and ordered
to pay back taxes amounting to $48,000 and a $50,000 fine.
Chastain began to have trouble paying taxes in 1982, but filed returns for many years
until 1992. He kept in touch with the Internal Revenue Service and some years his taxes
were eventually paid through a combination of liens and voluntary payments.
In 1993, Chastain settled a large case and bought a new car and some other large items.
He also offered to settle his tax bill for about $20,000. Apparently, considering
this too little, too late, the IRS declined to settle and referred the matter
for criminal prosecution, wrote the bars hearing judge.
Further investigation showed that Chastain had a substantial income during the years in
question and took several vacations, including a trip to Europe. Through the years, he
increasingly used his client trust account and cash to pay expenses, as the IRS had liens
on his regular bank account and he could not obtain credit.
The bar determined that Chastains misconduct is similar to that in cases
involving criminal convictions for failure to file tax returns, although more extensive
than the misconduct in the reported cases.
Although the bars office of trial counsel recommended a six-month actual
suspension, the hearing department did not agree that Chastains misconduct was worse
than that of an attorney found guilty of failure to file returns. This seems to the
court less serious than the attorney-taxpayer who does not file returns at all, hoping to
evade liability altogether, said the decision.
However, the court ordered a 90-day actual suspension, to convince [Chastain] of
his absolute obligation to abide by tax laws.
GREGORY J. DORST [#113922], 42, of Arcadia was suspended for two
years, stayed, was placed on three years of probation with a one-year actual suspension
and was ordered to take the MPRE. The order took effect May 8, 1998.
In a default decision, the State Bar Court found that Dorst recklessly failed to
competently perform legal services and respond to a clients reasonable case status
inquiry, and that he committed an act of moral turpitude.
Dorst was employed by a client to represent him in a lawsuit in 1993. The client paid
$10,000 in advanced attorneys fees with an agreement that an additional 35 percent
contingency fee would be paid upon recovery from the defendant. There was no written fee
For more than two years, Dorst falsely told the client that he had filed the lawsuit,
but ignored his requests for a copy of the suit. Repeated telephone calls also were not
returned and, in February 1997, the client discovered Dorsts phone was disconnected.
The State Bar provided the client with Dorsts new number, but again, he received no
The bar courts hearing department considered the harm to Dorsts client
significant; his misrepresentation precluded the client from seeking other counsel.
Whether or not his cause of action was valid, [the client] lost his opportunity to
have the matter heard in a court of law, wrote the hearing judge.
Additional factors in aggravation included Dorsts prior record of discipline. In
May 1997, in two consolidated cases, Dorst was disciplined for failing to communicate with
two clients and properly represent one of the clients, resulting in the dismissal of a
critical part of the clients case.
Dorst failed to show remorse for his current misconduct by returning some or all of his
unearned fees. Due to the sparse record and lack of allegation that Dorst failed to return
unearned fees, Dorst was ordered to offer to arbitrate the matter with his client.
Dorsts lack of participation in the discipline proceedings indicated a lack of
respect for the proceedings and an opportunity to offer evidence in mitigation.
JOHN ROBERT PERRY [#147787], 45, of Carlsbad was suspended for five
years, stayed, placed on six years of probation with a 42-month actual suspension and
until he proves he has made restitution of more than $29,000 or reimbursed the Client
Security Fund. The order took effect May 8, 1998.
Perrys misconduct involved 19 matters and a multitude of client trust account
His misconduct included failure to communicate with clients, maintain the required
balance in his client trust account, pay medical liens, and communicate settlement offers
and the receipt of funds to clients. He also commingled personal and client funds.
In aggravation, Perrys misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing and
significantly harmed his clients when he failed to pay out settlement proceeds to clients
and medical providers for as long as four years.
In mitigation, Perry was candid and cooperated with the bars investigation and
has displayed a willingness to make restitution.
During the period of his misconduct, Perry experienced serious family problems. His
wife unsuccessfully underwent several treatments for substance abuse, leaving him as the
sole caregiver for his four young children.
His children experienced psychological problems due to their mothers alcohol
abuse and hospitalization. His wife then moved to Tennessee and persuaded Perry to close
his office, pack up the children and join her.
However, when they arrived, she had disappeared. Meanwhile, the family home in Vista
was burned by vandals and Perry experienced several delays in dealing with the insurance
claim. In addition, his wife would not cooperate with the insurance companys
investigation of the claim.
During this period, Perrys father died and he had to deal with his own sorrow,
his mothers depression and her declining health.
While he was relocating to Tennessee, his paralegal in his California law office
disappeared. Her loss was an additional blow to his ability to communicate with and serve
his remaining clients.
GINA S. BERRY [#155032], 33, of Ventura was suspended for one year,
stayed, and placed on probation for two years with a 90-day actual suspension and a
restitution requirement, effective May 14, 1998.
She was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955.
Berrys misconduct involved three separate clients and their parole hearings.
In one case, Berry was hired by a client for representation at his parole recision
The clients hearing was held and his parole revoked, with a date set for a
suitability hearing. Berry accepted additional fees to work on a writ of habeas corpus for
her client, but she failed to file it.
She later promised to visit the client on a certain date, but failed to call or show
up. The clients wife wrote to Berry and requested a status update on her
husbands case, but she never received a response.
Berry then informed the clients wife that she was moving to a law office in Simi
Valley, but asked her to continue sending correspondence to her Oxnard address. She told
the wife not to contact her at her new firm since she would be practicing in a different
area of law.
Berry failed to respond to the wifes letters and telephone calls asking for a
case status update and informing her of the date of her husbands suitability
hearing. She failed to inform her client that she could not represent him at his parole
suitability hearing and contacted the parole board regarding her withdrawal only a day
before the hearing.
In addition, she neglected to keep the bars membership department apprised of her
In aggravation, her misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing.
In mitigation, she acted in good faith when she returned unearned fees to one client.
Her discipline-free prior record was not entitled to any weight in mitigation because
she had practiced only a short time when the misconduct occurred.
The previously ordered probation of GERALD FINK [#34969], 63, of Los Angeles was
extended for six months, effective May 14, 1998.
Fink failed to comply with conditions of a 1997 suspension order when he did not
provide proof of psychiatric or psychological treatment during the required time period.
In aggravation, Fink has two prior instances of discipline on his record.
In mitigation, Fink was unable to continue paying for psychiatric treatment due to a
marked decrease in income following his actual suspension. Through a friend, he was
eventually able to obtain a referral to a licensed clinical social worker who provides
treatment at a reduced rate.
ALAN J. SCHULTZ [#82726], 53, of Encino was suspended for five years,
stayed, and placed on probation for seven years on the condition that he is actually
suspended for four years and 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 May 14,
Schultz misconduct involved 14 client matters and included, among other things,
numerous instances of failure to pay medical liens, accepting settlements without his
clients approval, client trust fund violations and failure to perform legal services
In one instance, Schultz filed a wrongful discharge complaint on behalf of a client,
but did not provide a retainer agreement. After the client accepted a $240,000 settlement
offer, she objected when Schultz told her he wanted half the proceeds. Schultz received
and deposited the settlement check without the clients knowledge.
Schultz issued the client a postdated check for $115,000 and asked her to check with
him before she deposited the draft. Two months later she was told she could deposit the
check, only to have it returned for insufficient funds.
When Schultz learned the check bounced, he issued his client a cashiers check as
a replacement and another check written on his client trust account for $10,000 to
compensate her for the problems she had with the bounced check. However, the $10,000 check
Schultz neglected to maintain the disputed portion of the clients settlement
funds in trust until an agreement had been reached. In addition, when the client requested
a breakdown of the funds, Schultz failed to respond.
In aggravation, Schultz misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing,
concealment, deceit and numerous instances of misuse and mismanagement of his client trust
In mitigation, with the exception of one case, Schultz was candid and cooperated fully
with the bars investigation. He has acknowledged his wrongdoing and demonstrated
willingness to rectify the consequences of his misconduct.
Other factors taken into consideration for the purposes of determining appropriate
discipline included his lack of a prior record of misconduct.
In addition, Schultz has been treated for a chemical dependency and attends meetings of
Alcoholics Anonymous. During the period of his misconduct, Schultz was embroiled in
embittered and protracted litigation regarding a personal business interest, which
resulted in his neglect of clients and failure to supervise his law practice.
He has been especially diligent in promptly distributing entitled funds to his clients.