Professional Liability Insurance
More than 156,435 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.
WILLIAM GARDINER BRODERICK [#46570], 58, of Lafayette was disbarred Nov. 30, 1997.
In this decision, Broderick was found culpable of violating probation conditions from a previous disciplinary order and failing to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.
In March 1995, Broderick received a three-year stayed suspension and four years of probation with an actual suspension of one year. In addition to a requirement to file quarterly probation and mental health reports with the bars probation department, Broderick was ordered to make nearly $4,500 in restitution to two clients. He failed to comply with those conditions in a timely manner.
The bars hearing department found that Brodericks current failure to make restitution, seek mental health treatment and file probation reports was identical to prior misconduct for which he was disciplined in March 1995.
Aggravating factors included his prior record of discipline. Broderick has been in practice since 1970 and has a significant record of misconduct. In 1991, he was disciplined for abandonment of two client cases. One of two March 1995 discipline orders was the result of his failure to comply with probation conditions of the 1991 order.
In a third disciplinary order, also filed in March 1995, Broderick was suspended for misconduct involving one client matter in which he misused his client trust account, lost a clients settlement check, failed to reply to the clients inquiries and did not respond to a State Bar investigation.
His probation violations and failure to file a rule 955 affidavit were considered multiple acts of wrongdoing.
Considered as a mitigating factor was Brodericks candid and cooperative attitude during the bars investigation. However, the bars hearing judge noted that Brodericks record presents no compelling evidence of mitigation which would cause this court to deviate from the sanction normally imposed in cases such as this.
VINCENT KEITH PATRICK [#152110], 36, of San Diego was disbarred Nov. 30, 1997, and ordered to comply with rule 955.
In this default matter, the State Bar found that Patrick willfully failed to comply with rule 955, a requirement of a discipline order from August 1996. At that time, Patrick was suspended for 30 days until he made restitution to his former clients and complied with rule 955.
Considered as an aggravating factor was Patricks prior record of misconduct, which led to the August 1996 discipline order. In one client matter he failed to perform competently, improperly withdrew from employment and failed to return unearned fees. In addition, he failed to respond to client inquiries or cooperate and participate with the bars investigation.
COREY LEON STEELE [#80707], 45, of West Los Angeles was disbarred Dec. 18, 1997, and ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.
The review department of the State Bar Court increased the discipline recommended by a hearing judge in Steeles case, recommending disbarment instead of a four-year probation with two years actual suspension.
The hearing judge found that Steele formed a partnership and split fees with a non-lawyer and failed to control his law practice for more than two years. The judge also found that Steele committed acts of moral turpitude and dishonesty through deliberate concealment, misappropriation and misrepresentation, and violated many ethical rules.
Steele was charged with numerous counts of misconduct in two consolidated cases. Underlying many of his actions was the conduct of his office manager, Jim Gray, a non-lawyer who took over much of Steeles practice. Gray told clients he was a partner and lawyer, signed client trust accounts and handled all financial records without proper supervision. He conducted initial interviews with clients, discussed their treatments with doctors, monitored treatment schedules, gathered medical records and reports, wrote demand letters and negotiated settlements.
As Steele became increasingly detached from his personal injury practice, he permitted Gray to become a signatory on his client trust account and general business account. Neither Gray nor Steele ever balanced the checkbook for the client trust account, and Gray ultimately embezzled at least $25,000 from Steele. When Gray confessed his embezzlement, Steele did not report him to the authorities and, in fact, allowed him to remain as office manager.
Steele also paid Gray a percentage of his fees, deposited settlement funds from cases in his personal bank account, and placed at least $50,000 of his personal fees in his client trust account, which he used as a down payment for a house.
Steele also was charged with misconduct in nine separate client matters. In a matter in which Steele represented a client who had been assaulted, he demanded a $50,000 settlement for the client, who had died of unrelated causes three months earlier. Steele did not inform the insurer of his clients death and accepted a $2,500 settlement.
In his disciplinary hearing, Steele testified he did not know about the clients death until several months later, but the hearing judge did not believe him.
He misappropriated one clients settlement funds, misrepresented the total amount of another clients settlement (whose case was settled by Gray without authorization), and failed to notify several clients of his receipt of settlement checks.
Gray embezzled numerous settlement checks.
Steele sought review of the hearing judges recommendation, claiming that a small amount of lost testimony was crucial to proving his credibility. The review department rejected his claim.
Steele also offered the testimony of 10 character witnesses as mitigation, but the review panel discounted it.
Steele was treated for anxiety attacks after Grays resignation, and contended his family background and upbringing made him unable to deal with Gray. The review panel said Steeles psychological makeup deserved little weight in mitigation and noted that his misconduct resulted more from greed than gullibility.
The panel also gave little weight to Steeles claims of office reforms, noted that restitution was incomplete, and found his recognition of wrongdoing inadequate.
Steele repeatedly favored his own financial interest over the interests of his clients and the requirements of the law, the review panel found, adding that he personally committed other acts of moral turpitude and dishonesty, violated rules, displayed a lack of candor at trial, and failed to establish any significant mitigation.
EDWARD FRANCIS GRAZIANO [#71034], 51, of Riverside was disbarred Dec. 18, 1997.
The bar courts review department granted the State Bars request that the discipline recommended by the hearing department (stayed disbarment, five years of probation and a five-year suspension) be increased to disbarment.
Grazianos discipline is the result of two consolidated conviction matters one involves convictions for making hundreds of annoying and threatening telephone calls, and the second involves a perjury conviction for lying on a welfare application. He has been on interim suspension since 1991.
Graziano represented his personal physician as corporate attorney for a small company and as the doctors bankruptcy lawyer. The two entered into a retainer agreement which prohibited the doctor from firing Graziano except for cause.
When the bankruptcy court denied the doctors discharge in bankruptcy, Graziano insisted on filing numerous appeals. However, his client persuaded Graziano to drop the appeals. The relationship between attorney and doctor eventually deteriorated so much that, at one point, Graziano physically threw the doctor out of his home, slashed all four tires on his car and eventually was arrested. When the doctor fired him, Graziano responded with a 25-page, single-spaced letter which included a variety of threats.
During the following three years, Graziano made thousands of threatening and abusive telephone calls to the doctors office. He threatened to blow up a nurses car and rearrange another employees face with a tire iron. Some days, he made more than 100 calls, and during one period, Graziano tied up all 12 phone lines in the doctors clinic for more than two hours.
The doctor hired a security guard and obtained an injunction against Graziano, who eventually was convicted of three counts of making annoying phone calls.
Graziano also was convicted of felony perjury for making false statements on welfare applications. He indicated his four children were living with him. In fact, his ex-wife had taken the children to Australia, where she received public assistance.
Graziano unsuccessfully appealed that conviction to the California Court of Appeal, California Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.
During the time of his misconduct, Graziano was taking large quantities of Xanax, a mood-altering tranquilizer, as well as diet pills. He suffers from agoraphobia and bipolar disorder. However, the court did not find that he was adequately rehabilitated.
Graziano was placed on interim suspension after the perjury conviction in 1991 and was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court, but he did not do so. He failed to cooperate with the bars investigation, failed to appear at hearings, and filed declarations denying any wrongdoing.
In one, he wrote, I regret nothing that I have done. Not a single solitary thing. And if given the exact set of circumstances in which I found my self, I would commit perjury again and I would make annoying telephone calls again and again and again. Wake up and smell the coffee!
MARTIN S. PURVIN [#108557], 49, of Beverly Hills was disbarred Jan. 1, 1998.
Purvin pleaded no contest in 1993 to failing to register with the state corporations commissioner a security involving the sale of coffee futures. His action involved the solicitation of a $6,000 investment.
As a result of the conviction, Purvin was placed on disciplinary probation for 27 months with an actual two-year suspension. In this default case, the evidence showed that Purvin failed to file six quarterly probation reports, including compliance with his criminal probation.
KEVIN GUY GUPTON [#80135], 50, of Sacramento was disbarred Jan. 1, 1998, and was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.
Gupton was charged with misconduct in five client matters, for the most part involving accepting advance fees and then abandoning clients in divorce and child custody cases. No fees have been returned to clients.
Gupton also was disciplined earlier in what the court described as a pattern of strikingly similar misconduct involving four other clients. He also was privately reproved in 1993.
Gupton suffers from several physical ailments, as well as anxiety and depression, and is an alcoholic.
The bar court noted that in cases like Guptons, the usual discipline is a lengthy suspension and longterm probation. Because Gupton has been disciplined twice previously but was not motivated to resolve his problems, it does not appear to the court that a two- or even three-year period of suspension and further probation would provide the needed assurance that there will be no further harm to the public.
The court suggested that after five years, if Gupton can show a sustained period of recovery and exemplary conduct, he may attempt to regain his license.
The previously ordered probation of MICHAEL JUDSON BIGLOW [#47473], 52, of Fresno was extended one year and his stay of suspension lifted, effective Nov. 30, 1997.
Biglow was actually suspended for three months and until he provides proof of passage of the MPRE, completion of the bars ethics school and completion of four hours of law office management courses. The actual suspension will not exceed six months and credit toward the period of actual suspension will be given for the period of involuntary inactive enrollment which began Aug. 7, 1997. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.
Biglow failed to submit timely probation reports, complete required MCLE hours, provide proof of passage of the professional responsibility exam and provide proof of completion of ethics school.
LAURA J. COLBURN [#149567], 33, of San Diego was suspended for three years, stayed, and placed on probation for three years, with a one-year actual suspension, effective Nov. 30, 1997. She was ordered to comply with rule 955.
In July 1995, while on disciplinary suspension, Colburn faxed an arraignment form to the municipal court in San Diego, identifying herself as the attorney for a client in a criminal case. She entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of her client and demanded a jury trial.
In addition to misleading the court as to her eligibility to practice law, she misstated the reason for a proposed court appearance date 30 days after her clients arraignment.
Colburn also failed to respond to the State Bars inquiry of her unauthorized practice of law and cooperate with the pending disciplinary investigation.
In another matter, Colburn failed to timely complete six hours of a law office management course, as required by a previous disciplinary order.
In aggravation, Colburn has a prior record of discipline. She received a 60-day actual suspension and two years probation in May 1995 for failure to perform, abandonment of a client and failure to cooperate with the bars investigation.
There were no mitigating circumstances.
CHRISTOPHER L. CONGLETON [#165077], 32, of Santa Ana was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for three years, effective Nov. 30, 1997. Conditions of probation include an actual suspension of three months and restitution. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955.
Congletons misconduct involved eight different client matters. In many instances, Congleton failed to make court appearances on behalf of his clients.
In one instance, Congleton distributed settlement proceeds related to a personal injury matter, but neglected to pay the clients medical provider for four months.
In another instance, Congleton failed to respond to another clients reasonable case status inquiries and the client hired another law firm to handle her personal injury matter.
However, the client neglected to inform Congleton that she discharged him and hired a new attorney, resulting in two civil filings for the same action.
Congleton failed to appear at an order to show cause hearing, based on his clients election to proceed with the action as filed by her subsequent counsel.
No aggravating factors were presented. In mitigation, Congletons prior discipline-free record was not applicable due to the serious nature of his misconduct.
In addition, Congleton suffered extreme emotional difficulties at the time of his misconduct due to difficulties with his significant other.
JAMES LEON HERMANSON [#57289], 58, of San Diego was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, including one year of an actual suspension, effective Nov. 30, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955.
In this default decision, Hermanson was found culpable of misconduct in eight client matters. Clients hired Hermanson to handle personal injury matters, but when the settlement checks came in, he withheld payment of medical liens totaling more than $47,000.
One client was sued by her automobile insurer for recovery of medical payments on her behalf and another was threatened with legal action when Hermanson also failed to pay her medical provider.
In at least one instance, he failed to pay the client his portion of the settlement.
Although the bars office of trial counsel sought Hermansons disbarment, the review judge disputed that recommendation, noting that his misconduct, as alleged, did not rise to that level.
The judge wrote that Hermanson was not charged with misappropriation or some other acts of moral turpitude and the location of the missing funds was never pinpointed. It is likely that the misconduct committed by [Hermanson] was more serious than the State Bar charged, wrote the judge, that is, that the money [he] withheld to pay the various medical providers did not remain in trust, but instead was used by [Hermanson] for his own purposes.
Although the bar sent notices of disciplinary charges by certified mail to Hermanson, he failed to file responses or participate in the misconduct proceedings.
Hermanson has a 15-year discipline-free record, which was considered a factor in mitigation. However, because he failed to participate in the bar proceedings, no further evidence of mitigation was presented and none can be gleaned from the record, wrote the judge.
EDWARD RONALD KROPACEK [#48136] 63, of Auburn was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for three years on the condition that he is actually suspended for 90 days and until he pays the sanctions ordered by the Placer County Superior Court.
If the period of actual suspension exceeds two years, he will remain actually suspended until he has shown proof of his rehabilitation and fitness to practice. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order was effective Nov. 30, 1997.
In this default decision, Kropacek was found culpable of failing to perform legal services competently in a probate matter. Hired as the attorney of record for the conservator of an estate, he repeatedly neglected to file an estate accounting which was due in January 1994.
After several failures to appear in court and sanctions amounting to $600, Kropacek eventually filed documents in July 1995.
Kropacek also failed to comply with conditions of a public reproval he received in February 1995, when he neglected to file timely quarterly probation reports and provide proof of his passage of the CPRE by February 1996.
Kropaceks prior record of discipline was considered an aggravating factor, as was his failure to participate in the disciplinary proceedings. In addition, his misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing and his continued failure to provide proof of passing the CPRE were considered aggravating circumstances.
Because of his default, no mitigating evidence was introduced.
JEFFREY PHILIP MEYER [#98871], 46, of Los Angeles was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for three years, including 90 days of actual suspension, effective Nov. 30, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955.
Meyers misconduct involved his failure to comply with conditions of a private reproval. The bars office of trial counsel sought review of a hearing judges recommendation that Meyer receive a one-year stayed suspension, two years of probation and a 75-day actual suspension, on the basis that it was an inadequate amount of discipline. In addition, trial counsel maintained that the judge erred in his decision by not recommending that Meyer be required to file quarterly probation reports and notify his clients, opposing counsel and the courts of his 75-day actual suspension. The review judge rejected trial counsels request for additional finding in aggravation, but increased the period of Meyers actual suspension, stayed suspension and probation. Meyer also was ordered to comply with rule 955 since the period of actual suspension is 90 days.
The hearing judge declined to recommend disbarment, considering Meyers prior record of discipline not sufficiently severe.
The judge noted that in 1991 Meyer was suffering from extreme emotional difficulties and depression due to marital difficulties, which was considered a mitigating factor when he failed to comply with his first private reproval.
In aggravation, Meyer has two prior instances of misconduct. The 1991 private reproval stemmed from one client matter when he failed to respond to a clients reasonable case status inquiries, apprise the client of significant case developments and forward the clients file to new counsel when requested.
His second reproval occurred after he failed to abide by the conditions of the first reproval: to timely file specific probation reports and attend the bars ethics school.
His current misconduct involves failure to comply with conditions of the second reproval.
Meyer demonstrated indifference toward the rectification of his misconduct and his failure to attend three of his four scheduled disciplinary hearings was considered an aggravating factor.
DANIEL GARCIA MEZA [#108475], 42, of Santa Ana was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, with a 90-day actual suspension, effective Nov. 30, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955.
After a jury trial in June 1996, Meza was convicted of misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol, with a special allegation that he refused a chemical test. Meza collided with an auto at a stop light, which then struck a third car and resulted in several injuries.
His refusal to submit to a blood alcohol test following the accident was considered a factor in aggravation.
In addition, Meza has a prior record of discipline. In September 1992, he was disciplined by the State Bar following convictions for violating Vehicle Code ¤23152(b), misdemeanor driving with an excessive blood alcohol concentration and Penal Code ¤288.5, child sexual abuse. He received a three-year stayed suspension, three years of probation and a two-year actual suspension.
In mitigation, Meza presented evidence indicating that prior to 1990, he was active in community affairs and served on several boards. He also served as a judge pro tem in the East Los Angeles Judicial District.
Conditions of probation include attendance at weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
FREDERICK JAMES NAMETH [#44592], 54, of Glendale was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, with an actual suspension of four months, effective Nov. 30, 1997.
Credit toward the period of actual suspension was given for the period of interim suspension which began on March 5, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
In December 1996, Nameth was convicted of violating Insurance Code ¤750(a), capping.
Nameth was stung in an undercover operation of the San Diego Police Department when he agreed to accept $500 for each client referred to him by an organization he knew was not a State Bar-certified referral service.
Nameth represented two alleged clients sent to him by the organization during a one-year period and he delivered two $500 checks to the company as compensation or inducement for the referrals.
Nameth did not know an accident was staged for the purpose of the sting operation and he unknowingly presented false claims to an insurance company on behalf of the clients.
In aggravation, Nameth represented the driver and passenger in a personal injury matter arising from an alleged auto accident without obtaining the clients informed written consent regarding potential conflicts of interest.
No mitigating weight was given to Nameths prior discipline-free record because of the serious nature of his misconduct.
However, considered as a mitigating factor was the fact that there was no actual client and no evidence that Nameth did not adequately handle the matter.
In addition, Nameth immediately informed the State Bar of his indictment and later conviction and cooperated fully with the bars investigation.
Nameth also presented an extraordinary demonstration of good character and many years of community service in the form of numerous letters from prominent leaders of the legal profession, civic, religious and charitable organizations.
VIVIEN T. SASAKI [#108658], 39, of Montrose was suspended for 60 days, stayed, and placed on probation for one year, effective Nov. 30, 1997. She was ordered to pass the MPRE.
In 1995, Sasaki entered into an agreement in lieu of discipline with the State Bar, but she failed to take and pass the CPRE by Dec. 16, 1996, as required.
In addition, Sasaki and her attorney husband Matthew Dean Soule [#108656] (see next discipline case) borrowed $40,000 from a couple during a period in which Sasaki was representing the wife in a personal injury matter. Sasaki neglected to obtain a written consent for the loan and advise the couple in writing that they had a right to seek advice from independent counsel regarding the loan.
Effective Jan. 1, 1994, Sasaki went on inactive status and was ineligible to practice law. However, she continued to maintain a telephone directory listing as Sasaki and Soule through February 1995.
In 1990, Sasaki failed to perform legal services for a client who hired her to represent him in a fraud action.
Sasakis prior discipline-free record was not given any weight in mitigation because of her failure to complete conditions attached to her agreement in lieu of discipline.
However, mitigating weight was given to her poor health during the period of her misconduct. She has been disabled by extreme hypertension, migraines and internal bleeding, resulting in several hospitalizations since September 1995.
In addition, Sasaki enrolled for the MPRE after she was notified that the CPRE would be discontinued.
MATTHEW DEAN SOULE [#108656], 40, of Los Angeles was suspended for 60 days, stayed, and placed on probation for one year, effective Nov. 30, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Soule was disciplined for his failure to abide by the conditions of a March 1995 agreement in lieu of discipline. He failed to pass the CPRE by Dec. 15, 1996.
In addition, Soule and his wife, attorney Vivien T. Sasaki [#108658] (see previous discipline case), borrowed $40,000 from a couple who were clients. Soule had previously represented the husband in legal matters dealing with a trademark application. He neglected to obtain a written consent for the loan and advise the couple in writing of their right to seek the advice of another attorney.
In mitigation, Soules misconduct occurred during a period when he was caring for his wife, who was seriously ill. He also signed up for the MPRE as soon as he was notified that the CPRE was discontinued.
Although Soule had a discipline-free record prior to his misconduct, it was given little weight in mitigation because of his failure to complete conditions of his 1995 agreement in lieu of discipline.
LANNY P. WAGGONER [#67908], 51, of Beverly Hills was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for two years with an actual suspension of 30 days, effective Nov. 30, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
In January 1986, Waggoner was hired by a woman and her sister to represent them in a wrongful death claim against the Los Angeles Unified School District. However, one of Waggoners associates mistakenly filed a claim with the City of Los Angeles and by the time it was rejected, the deadline to refile correctly had expired. The school district denied a request to file a late claim and the Superior Court denied a motion for relief from the governmental claim requirement due to technical defects in the petition.
Waggoner neglected to remedy the defects and refile the petition. Until late 1994, Waggoner falsely told his clients that their wrongful death claim was pending in the court. During this period, from 1987 94, Waggoner issued nine cashiers checks totaling more than $2,300 to the clients, falsely telling them the funds were from the school district to pay for funeral expenses.
In late 1994, Waggoner provided his clients with a false notice of mandatory settlement conference, final status conference and trial date. He also gave the woman a copy of a summons which he said had been filed in the wrongful death matter. In fact, Waggoner fabricated the summons by cutting out parts from another summons and pasting them onto the summons he presented to his client.
He later sent her a letter of assurance that the wrongful death matter would successfully conclude.
In mitigation, Waggoner has no prior record of discipline since his admission to the bar in 1975.
In addition, when the clients eventually hired a new attorney, Waggoner cooperated and made full disclosure of his misconduct. He agreed the clients should pursue a malpractice claim against him and then notified his insurance carrier. He gave his malpractice carrier authorization to settle the matter for $135,000 in June 1995.
JAMES GARRETT [#135692], 55, of San Francisco was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Dec. 17, 1997.
Garrett stipulated to misconduct in four separate matters.
In a conviction referral matter, he pleaded no contest to one count of petty theft after shoplifting $41 worth of compact discs. The conviction was later vacated and the complaint dismissed.
In a personal injury case he handled, Garrett commingled personal and client funds in his client trust account. After reaching a non-disciplinary agreement with the State Bar in the matter, he did not comply with the conditions of the settlement, which included remedial efforts to avoid future misconduct in handling his trust account.
He misappropriated client funds in another case, and bounced four checks, totalling more than $7,000, drawn on his client trust account.
In mitigation, he had no prior record of discipline and he cooperated with the bars investigation.
NICOLE MORGAN HANSON [#129852], 48, of Mill Valley was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Dec. 17, 1997.
In a default hearing, the State Bar Court found that Hanson commingled personal and client funds in her client trust account, bounced a check to a clients doctor who provided medical records, and failed to cooperate with two separate bar investigations.
She also bounced a check issued from her client trust account to a clothing boutique and refused to make good, forcing the store owner to obtain a small claims judgment against her. Hanson did pay the judgment.
ROBERT B. AYRES JR. [#84922], 46, of Victorville was suspended for 90 days, stayed, and placed on probation until Aug. 25, 2000, on the condition that he be actually suspended for 90 days and until he makes restitution. If the period of actual suspension exceeds two years, he will remain suspended until he proves rehabilitation. He was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect Dec. 17, 1997.
Ayres held in trust a clients money and disbursed it to her as needed. When the client moved to Florida, the Social Security Administration assessed overpayment charges related to her receipt of funds from Ayres.
The clients Florida attorney made repeated requests for an accounting from Ayres, who submitted an incomplete accounting which the client disputed.
The client also was penalized for failing to report all her income.
Ayres ultimately accounted for all the funds except $2,000, which he agreed to pay his client despite his belief he had paid her that amount.
In another matter, Ayres settled a civil case in which his client had been represented for a time by another attorney. The other attorney became embroiled in a fee dispute with the client.
Ayres paid the other attorney the lien amount he and the attorney had agreed to before the fee arbitration between the client and former attorney was resolved. By doing so, he violated a rule of professional conduct that prohibits paying out disputed funds.
In mitigation, Ayres was involved in an acrimonious family law matter during the time of the misconduct, and he was unable to provide a full accounting in the first matter because he relocated his records.
He has a prior record of discipline.
MELANIE L. MORGAN [#131116], 45, of Los Angeles was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual one-year suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Dec. 17, 1997.
Morgan stipulated to misconduct via her plea of no contest in two cases, both involving failure to communicate with her clients. The wrongdoing was attributed to Morgans serious illness and the crippling of her high school age son, who was shot during an armed robbery attempt against him.
Stretched to the breaking point, she closed her law practice in 1995 but did not inform her clients.
In one case, Morgan did not return a clients telephone calls.
In the second matter, an unlawful detainer action, she failed to deposit checks in her trust account, one check bounced, and although she made arrangements for a new attorney to take over the case, she delayed in turning over the case file and signing a substitution of attorney form.
Morgan stipulated that she did not properly maintain trust funds in her trust account and misappropriated client funds.
She practiced law for 10 years without any record of discipline.
MICHAEL SHELLEY [#51558], 51, of Rancho Cucamonga was suspended for 90 days, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Dec. 17, 1997.
As the attorney for a labor union, Shelley was directed to represent a union member in a payroll dispute. He failed to negotiate with the employer, sue for back wages or respond to inquiries from the union or the client.
He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently and communicate with clients in the matter.
Shelley had no record of discipline in more than 20 years of practice.
PETER RUSSELL DiDONATO [#75554], 46, of Van Nuys was suspended for 90 days, stayed, and placed on two years of probation. The order took effect Dec. 17, 1997.
As a result of the dissolution of his marriage, DiDonato was ordered to place funds in a bank account to be used as security for future child and spousal support.
The amount was based on projected fees DiDonato was to receive in a case he was handling.
He did everything required by the court order with one exception: he failed to notify his ex-wifes counsel within the required 24 hours that he had received his legal fees. DiDonato stipulated that he violated a court order by failing to give such prompt notification.
In mitigation, his actions did not harm a client.
DiDonato has two prior records of discipline.
LAZARO J. MACHADO [#134209], 41, of Garden Grove was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 90-day suspension and until he makes restitution, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect Dec. 17, 1997.
While employed to handle a personal injury case, Machado failed to promptly notify his client of his receipt of settlement funds, properly maintain his client trust account, pay out settlement funds promptly, or properly supervise his employees.
His problems arose after his office manager, described in the stipulation as a renegade office manger, never informed him about the settlement and embezzled the settlement check. When Machados clients complained to the office manager about Machado, he blamed Machado and encouraged the clients to complain to the State Bar. The office manager destroyed files, changed phone numbers and stole money.
In a second matter, Machado stipulated that he did not pay settlement funds to two personal injury clients because of his failure to adequately communicate with them. In that case, the Spanish-speaking clients signed a retainer agreement which clearly spelled out the disbursement of settlement funds. But they refused to accept the settlement Machado negotiated, believing they were entitled to more money.
Even after Machado and the clients doctors agreed to reduce their fees, the clients refused to accept the settlement until they received more money.
Machado also was suspended earlier for misconduct that resulted from his poor office management.
In mitigation, Machados misconduct was the result of poor supervision of office employees. When he became aware of his office managers behavior, he closed the law office where the man worked. His trust account violations were unintentional and could be attributed in great part to poor office management.
Machado was candid and cooperative with the bars investigation and voluntarily refrained from practice for a period of time, even though there was no requirement that he do so.
LAWRENCE MASON KELLY [#111218], 62, of Etna was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension and until he makes restitution, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Dec. 17, 1997.
Hired to handle a breach of contract suit, Kelly failed to bring the case to trial within the required five years and it was dismissed. His client won a $39,000 malpractice judgment against Kelly, who did not participate.
Kelly did not pay the judgment or refund the clients original $1,000 fee.
He has been disciplined twice previously for failing to communicate with clients or competently perform legal services, for filing a false declaration and for serving as a certified public accountant when his license was expired.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bars investigation.
PAUL A. FRANKLIN [#162484], 42, of Santa Rosa was suspended for four years, stayed, placed on four years of probation with an 18-month actual suspension and until he proves rehabilitation, and was ordered to take the MPRE within 18 months and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Dec. 17, 1997.
Franklin stipulated to misconduct in six consolidated cases involving, for the most part, abandoning his clients and their cases. He failed to communicate with his clients or perform legal services competently in four matters.
In a personal injury case, he was sanctioned twice for failing to appear and violating court orders, and the case was dismissed. He did not notify his client of the dismissal.
Another client hired Franklin to handle several matters, and his procrastination on several eviction cases cost the client more than $5,000. A contract work dispute was dismissed because Franklin did not comply with a local rule of court.
Franklin also stipulated to misappropriating client funds and failing to maintain complete records of client funds, return unearned fees and return a clients file.
He practiced law when he argued a case before the state Court of Appeals while suspended for failure to pay bar dues and comply with MCLE requirements.
In mitigation, he suffered from emotional problems and cocaine dependency, enrolled in substance abuse programs and regularly attends support group meetings. He cooperated with the bars investigation and made restitution to three clients.
The probation of STEVEN D. BASSETT [#133910], 44, of Millbrae was revoked, the previous stay of suspension was lifted, and he was actually suspended for six months and ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect Dec. 18, 1997.
Bassett was disciplined with a two-year probation and six-month stayed suspension in 1996 for failing to perform legal services competently, communicate with a client or cooperate with the bars investigation.
He failed to comply with the conditions of his probation by not filing a quarterly probation report. He did not file a response to the charges and a hearing was waived.
The probation of BABATUNDE ADEYEMI OLADAPO [#94220], 49, of Anaheim Hills was revoked, the previously ordered stay of suspension lifted, and he was actually suspended for three years and until he makes restitution of a total of more than $68,000 to 14 clients. He also was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and take the MPRE. The order took effect Dec. 18, 1997.
Oladapo was placed on probation and suspended in 1996. In this matter, he failed to comply with 1996 probation conditions by not filing three quarterly reports or certificates from an accountant, and by not joining the bars law practice management section.
He has three prior impositions of discipline, beginning with a private reproval in 1990. He received a one-year stayed suspension with two years of probation in 1993. His 1996 discipline was the result of 10 instances of wrongdoing and included commingling and failure to communicate, perform legal services competently and supervise his legal staff.
In addition, the court found that Oladapo admitted he failed to attend ethics school or the client trust account record-keeping course, develop a law office management plan, or complete six hours of education about law office management. All were conditions of his probation.
ROBERT OTHNIEL WALSH [#60153], 59, of Porterville was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on one year of probation with a 45-day actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE exam within one year. The order took effect Dec. 18, 1997.
Walsh filed suit in a personal injury case, but then took no action; he did not communicate with the defendants insurance company, failed to serve the summons and complaint within three years of filing suit, and failed to oppose a motion to dismiss. When the matter was dismissed, he did not notify his client.
When the client complained to the bar, Walsh entered into an agreement in lieu of discipline which required him to file quarterly reports, take the professional responsibility exam and five hours of continuing education, and attend ethics school.
He did not comply with any of the requirements.
In mitigation, Walsh practiced law for more than 15 years without a record of discipline.
ALFONSO A. OLIVA [#107795], 46, of Los Angeles was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a one-year actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Dec. 18, 1997.
Oliva was on administrative inactive status for 19 months for failure to comply with MCLE requirements or to pay his bar dues. During that time, he represented a client in a deportation case, making three court appearances and swearing to the court that he was an attorney in good standing.
In mitigation, he practiced for 11 years without a record of discipline.
FREDERICK HILL STEIN [#86535], 47, of Dix Hills, N.Y., was placed on actual suspension for two years and until he proves his rehabilitation, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect Dec. 18, 1997.
Stein stipulated that he was disciplined in 1996 with an order that required him to comply with rule 955.
He filed the affidavit late.
Stein left California in 1993 and had no clients or other interested parties to notify of his suspension.
The original discipline resulted from Steins failure to perform legal services competently, keep his clients informed about developments in their case, or return client files and advanced fees.
ATTILIO MARIO REGOLO JR. [#140964], 38, of Beverly Hills was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Dec. 18, 1997.
Regolo is one of eight attorneys who bought Centro de Proteccion Legal Inc., a widely marketed lawyer referral service, from its former president, Tito Alvarez. The group hired Alvarez to produce and place advertising for the business.
Regolo stipulated that Centros television, print and bus ads violated relevant portions of the Business & Professions Code pertaining to lawyer advertising for variously not identifying Alvarez as the company spokesman, failing to disclose that actors portrayed clients, and failing to identify individual attorneys.
In another matter, Regolo wrote five checks against insufficient funds in his client trust account.
In mitigation, he had no record of prior discipline, he consulted with counsel before entering into the advertising agreement, no clients complained, and Regolo cooperated with the bars investigation.
SCOTT D. RAPHAEL [#111948], 40, of Fountain Valley was suspended for 30 days, stayed, and placed on one year of probation with a 60-day actual suspension. The order took effect Dec. 18, 1997.
Raphael sought review of a probation revocation recommendation, but the bar courts review department rejected his claims.
Raphael was disciplined in 1994 for misconduct in four matters, including failing to communicate with clients, perform legal services competently, provide an accounting and return unearned fees.
Among the conditions of his probation were requirements that he make $500 in restitution to a client and notify the bars probation office of any change of address.
He reimbursed his client four months late and did not notify probation officials of his new address.
He complied with other requirements that he attend a law office management course and ethics school and that he pass the professional responsibility exam.
JOHN WILLIS MINER [#27553], 79, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 60-day suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Dec. 19, 1997.
Miner was found to have abandoned two clients whose cases were dismissed because of his failure to pursue them.
After a default hearing, the bar court found that Miner failed to appear at three status conferences in a medical malpractice case. When the case was dismissed for failure to prosecute, Miner told his client that he would appeal the dismissal, but he never did. He did not respond to his clients phone calls and moved his law practice to his home without informing the client.
Miner was found to have failed to perform legal services competently, respond promptly to reasonable status inquiries from the client, and cooperate with the bars investigation.
After Miner substituted into a personal injury case, it was dismissed for lack of prosecution. His late motion to vacate the dismissal order was denied when Miner failed to appear at the hearing, and when he did not appear to argue his ex parte motion to set the case for trial, he was sanctioned $550. The hearing was continued and Miners motion was denied.
In mitigation, Miner practiced law for 34 years without a record of discipline.
MICHAEL R. AVERY [#58737], 52, of Hollywood was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual two-year suspension and until he proves rehabilitation, and was ordered to take the MPRE. Credit toward the actual suspension shall be given for an interim suspension which began Aug. 16, 1995. The order took effect Dec. 24, 1997.
This matter involves two conviction referral matters. Avery was convicted in 1994 of petty theft after he shoplifted two tubes of skin cream from a Longs drugstore. The crime involved moral turpitude. At the time, Avery was suffering from a skin condition which caused unsightly lesions on his body. The stolen cream was needed to treat his condition. Its value was under $25, but he claimed he could not afford to purchase it.
Avery was convicted the following year of possession for sale of a controlled substance, methamphetamine. He was sentenced to two years in state prison and was paroled last June.
Avery was a drug addict at the time of his arrest.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bars investigation and his misconduct did not involve the practice of law or any clients.
PAUL JOHN BLAKE [#89217], 57, of Santa Ana was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual two-year suspension and until he proves rehabilitation, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Dec. 24, 1997.
Blake accepted a case and appeared in court as the attorney of record in a criminal matter while he was suspended from practice. By accepting fees while suspended, he committed an act of moral turpitude. Blake was convicted of the unauthorized practice of law last year in Orange County municipal court.
Blake has a record of four prior disciplines.
In mitigation, he suffered extreme emotional difficulties as a result of alcoholism which was found to have caused his misconduct. Blake has been sober since 1995.
STUART REID CRYMES [#56819], 51, of San Francisco was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 60-day actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Dec. 24, 1997.
Crymes stipulated to misconduct in an overbilling case.
In the late 1980s, Crymes was a 50 percent partner and president of a law corporation. Over the course of three years, unbeknownst to Crymes, his partner ordered a billing clerk to increase charges to clients by amounts that totalled more than $1.3 million.
For example, time charges attorneys listed in time sheets were increased; clients were billed for paralegal, secretarial and law clerk time, despite the firms policy of not doing so; and a flat 15 percent of the total bill was added for out-of-pocket charges. The firm charged clients for more than 9,000 hours of secretarial work at the billing rate it charged for attorneys.
Although Crymes was unaware of the billing scheme, he stipulated that as president of the firm, he should have known about it and committed gross negligence.
The law firm pleaded no contest in federal court last year to 12 counts of mail fraud. Crymes currently is making restitution of $125,000 to clients.
In mitigation, he practiced law since 1973 without a record of discipline, agreed to pay an insurance company $80,000, and provided 19 character references.
ARTHUR FREDERICK SILBER [#130768], 49, of Los Angeles was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on two years of probation with an actual 90-day suspension. The order took effect Jan. 1, 1998.
In a default matter, the State Bar Court found that Silber abandoned two clients and their cases. He failed to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients or return their files, and he withdrew from employment without protecting a clients interests. He also did not maintain a current address with the bar or cooperate with the bars investigation.
In one of the matters, Silber failed to appear at three hearings. As a result, a default was entered against his client. It was only when the client went to the courthouse to check on her case that she learned of the default. She had been unable to contact Silber because his telephone was disconnected.
Silber was disciplined last year for similar misconduct.
MICHAEL KEVIN MALONEY [#120008], 37, of Santa Ana was placed on interim suspension and ordered to comply with rule 955, effective Nov. 24, 1997. Maloney was convicted of violating Penal Code ¤487(a), grand theft, a felony involving moral turpitude.
CHARLES W. BRODIE [#35411], 59, of Palo Alto was placed on interim suspension Nov. 26, 1997, following his conviction last year for driving under the influence. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.
Brodie has been placed on disciplinary suspension before for prior convictions for possession of a controlled substance and a DUI with three priors.
REYNALDO G. GOMEZ [#148433], 33, of Hayward was placed on interim suspension and ordered to comply with , effective Dec. 2, 1997. Reynaldo was convicted of violating Penal Code ¤496(a), receiving stolen property, a felony involving moral turpitude.
ROGER CHARLES CROBARGER [#44124], 59, of Park City, Utah, was placed on interim suspension effective Dec. 8, 1997. Crobarger was convicted of violating Title 18 of U.S. Code ¤¤1512(a)(1)(A), tampering with a witness and 1958, use of interstate commerce in attempt to murder for hire, crimes involving moral turpitude. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.
LAURA ELIZABETH WILSON [#165504], 45, of Sun Valley was placed on interim suspension Dec. 22, 1997, following her conviction for the unauthorized practice of law. She was ordered to comply with rule 955.
She also was placed on interim suspension in September 1997 for convictions for petty theft and giving false identification to a peace officer, and has convictions for driving with a suspended license, disturbing the peace, and appropriating audiovisual works for her own use.
DANIEL FRANCIS REARDON [#128437], 38, of Ventura was placed on interim suspension Jan. 6, 1998, following his conviction for felony grand theft. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.
BARBARA G. STOURS [#82954], 46, of Valencia (Nov. 30, 1997)
GEORGE WARD TRAMMELL III [#33682], 61, of Long Beach (Nov. 30, 1997)
RICHARD DANA WILLIAMS [#92376], 44, of San Jose (Nov. 30, 1997)
DONALD EDWARD CONNORS [#102290], 45, of Mission Viejo (Dec. 17, 1997)
STEVEN M. KUSHELOWITZ [#140762], 37, of Venice (Dec. 17, 1997)
CARY JAY SILBERMAN [#154407], 39, of San Francisco (Dec. 17, 1997)
AARON K. JACKSON [#162015], 36, of Downey (Dec. 17, 1997)
CHARLES TAUB [#72894], 45, of Palm Desert (Dec. 18, 1997)
M. SYAMAK SHAFI-NIA [#118584], 44, of Beverly Hills (Jan. 1, 1998)
ROBERT G. KOCH JR. [#69914], 51, of Rialto (Jan. 1, 1998)
STEPHEN C. GREEN [#71041], 48, of Carmichael (Jan. 1, 1998)
KATHLEEN M. BELLESORTE [#139443], 48, of Half Moon Bay (Jan. 1, 1998)
Suspension/Failure to Pass PRE
FREDERICK HILL STEIN [#86535], 47, of Dix Hills, N.Y. (Nov. 11, 1997)
JOHN McDONALD WREN [#31172], 75, of Torrance (Nov. 11, 1997)
STEVEN D. BASSETT [#133910], 44, of Millbrae (Nov. 17, 1997)
ROBERT CLIFFORD CANNON [#97471], 53, of Beverly Hills (Nov. 17, 1997)
LAURA SANTOS [#150378], 43, of Los Angeles (Nov. 18, 1997)
GARY WENKLE SMITH [#87277], 49, of San Bernardino (Dec. 4, 1997)
DONALD A. AINSLIE [#97381], 44, of Van Nuys (Dec. 15, 1997)
STEPHEN LESLIE WHEELER [#39466], 56, of Fallbrook (Dec. 21, 1997)
CLINTON STEWART ALLEY [#87760], 46, of Eureka (Dec. 21, 1997)
ROSEMARIE BURGOS [#130444], 38, of Long Beach (Dec. 23, 1997)
SHERMAN T. FAIRBAIRN [#81847], 46, of Tustin (Aug. 24, 1997)
CARL WILEY SHERMAN [#56090]57, of Bellflower (Aug. 24, 1997)
JOSEPH TRENK [#101459], 43, of Sherman Oaks (Oct. 2, 1997)
KENNETH LI [#94265], 45, of Monterey Park (Oct. 5, 1997)
LYLE STEVEN GRITCHEN [#140485], 48, of Colorado Springs, Colo. (Nov. 21, 1997)
THOMAS WELDON HARRIS [#50711], 52, of Irvine (Nov. 17, 1997)
NIAN STEVENSON ROBERTS II [#98221], 44, of Sacramento (Nov. 17, 1997)
RICHARD HAGEN KLEIN [#147633], 46, of Roseburg (Nov. 18, 1997)