Professional Liability Insurance Program
NEW PREMIUM CALCULATORS -- Get instant estimates, evaluate "what-if" scenarios -- Click here to start.
The State Bar of California
Kirke-Van Orsdel Specialty
Nearly 160,900 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.
RONALD SHERIDAN PANCOAST [#122405], 54, of San Diego was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on two years of probation with a 30-day actual suspension and restitution. The order took effect Feb. 21, 1998.
Pancoast agreed to represent a client in a criminal matter and accepted an advance fee of $750. He then did not communicate with the client, with the exception of giving him an incorrect trial date.
When the client called the court to determine the status of his case, he learned a bench warrant was issued for his arrest because he failed to appear on the actual date set for trial. The client also learned Pancoast had been replaced as his attorney because he had been placed on involuntary inactive status by the State Bar. Pancoast had failed to respond to a notice of disciplinary charges against him in another matter.
Pancoast stipulated that his failure to communicate, providing misinformation about the trial date, enrollment on inactive status and failure to inform his client about his status placed his client in jeopardy. He agreed to refund the advance fees.
In mitigation, Pancoast suffered from depression, brought on in all likelihood by the death of his wife in 1992 and subsequent problems with his teenaged son. He was hospitalized for depression in 1997.
He also was disciplined in a separate matter last year for failing to perform competently in three client matters and other related misconduct.
ALVIN UFKES [#34187], 73, of Orange was suspended for 90 days, stayed, placed on probation for one year and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Feb. 21, 1998.
Ufkes stipulated that in a personal injury matter, he failed to respond to his client's status inquiries or keep her informed about developments in the case, promptly pay her settlement funds or return her files promptly, and he withdrew from employment without protecting his client's interests.
Ufkes filed an action against two parties who settled with his client, and he referred a portion of the case, against the state of California, to another attorney for investigation of a potential liability cause of action. The other attorney filed an action against the state, with Ufkes listed as co-counsel.
Ufkes retained $2,000 of the settlement funds for costs associated with the case against the state.
The other attorney eventually determined there was no viable case against the state and asked Ufkes to have the client authorize dismissal of the lawsuit or allow the attorney to substitute out of the case. Ufkes never received the letter, however, and was unaware of the other attorney's opinion and wishes. He then failed to monitor the case or return his client's phone calls about the matter.
The client hired a new attorney.
Ufkes eventually refunded more than $6,000 to his client, including the $2,000 he had withheld. When the new attorney asked that the client's files be returned, Ufkes could not find them; they were in storage and are presumed lost.
In mitigation, he handled two other cases for the client for no fee.
Ufkes has a prior record of discipline.
The probation of GARY E. UHD [#83119], 47, of Fresno was revoked, the previously stayed suspension lifted and he was actually suspended for one year. He was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court. Credit toward the period of actual suspension shall be given for the period of involuntary inactive enrollment that began Oct. 8, 1997. The order took effect Feb. 21, 1998.
Uhd failed to comply with the requirements of a 1995 disciplinary order by not submitting quarterly probation reports or completing courses in law office management and ethics.
The original discipline was the result of a complaint from a court reporter and misconduct in six client matters: he provided inadequate legal services and failed to communicate with clients, return unearned fees to one client and return the file to another.
In another prior discipline, Uhd stipulated to misconduct in four client matters and probation violations.
In prior discipline, Uhd has admitted he is an alcoholic. He has not practiced law since 1995.
JAN WILLEM VERSTEEG [#89684], 67, of Huntington Beach was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 60-day actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within a year. The order took effect Feb. 21, 1998.
For a $1,500 fee, Versteeg was retained to recover for a client her deceased husband's assets. The 85-year-old client was legally blind and a conservatee of the state.
Versteeg recovered more than $36,000, which he placed in his client trust account. He also maintained for safekeeping other property belonging to the client.
By failing to inform the Public Guardian or the court of these deposits, Versteeg failed to perform legal services competently. By collecting a legal fee without first seeking the court's permission, he also violated the probate code.
The same client asked Versteeg to terminate the conservatorship. He provided her with a retainer agreement for $200 an hour and sent the client a letter offering to remove his fees from the money he held for her in his client trust account. He then withdrew more than $13,000 of the client's funds for his fees from his trust account.
Versteeg failed to seek permission from both his client and the Public Guardian or the statutorily required approval of the court before taking the funds. By doing so, he charged and collected an illegal fee.
In addition, entering into a fee agreement with a client who is a conservatee of the state is invalid because the conservatee lacks legal capacity.
Versteeg is an experienced probate attorney who has taught classes in estate planning and living trusts to senior citizens.
In mitigation, he paid the total amount of the assets he recovered for his client to the Public Guardian.
BRUCE STEVEN WEINER [#78533], 46, of Orange was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on one year of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE. The order took effect Feb. 21, 1998.
Weiner pleaded no contest to charges that he practiced law while suspended for failure to pay bar dues. He took a case for which he accepted a laptop computer as advance legal fees. By doing so, Weiner collected illegal "fees."
When the client later asked him to return the computer, Weiner did not do so. Weiner did not return repeated phone calls from the client and never prepared any documents for him.
In mitigation, he has no prior discipline and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.
HARRY E. WEISS [#17469] 82, of Los Angeles was suspended for 180 days, stayed, and placed on probation for two years on condition he be actually suspended for 70 days and until he makes restitution to two clients. If the period of actual suspension exceeds two years, he shall remain suspended until he proves his rehabilitation. He also was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Feb. 21, 1998.
Weiss stipulated to misconduct in eight consolidated cases.
In one matter, a married couple paid Weiss $30,000 in advance fees to defend them in a civil suit. Without their knowledge, he negotiated an agreement with another attorney to handle the case in exchange for a fee. Contracting with the other attorney constituted illegal fee splitting.
A default was entered when the complaint was not filed on time. With the exception of two meetings in 10 months, Weiss did not communicate with his clients and failed to keep them informed about significant developments in their case. He did not provide an accounting of his fees when requested and did not refund unearned fees.
In another matter, Weiss represented a criminal defendant charged with one count of burglary. He failed to appear at the beginning of trial, which was rescheduled. When the trial began, Weiss told his client to fire him because he could not remember the charges against his client and feared he would lose at trial.
Weiss also did not take the CPRE within the time required by a 1993 discipline order, and he did not cooperate with the bar's investigation in this matter.
In mitigation, he suffered a heart attack in 1994 and had heart surgery the following year. During the time of his illness, his associates moved his offices and took over his practice.
LARRY J. BRYANT [#80908] 51, of Los Angeles was suspended for two years, stayed, and was placed on probation for two years with a requirement that he make restitution and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Feb. 26, 1998.
Bryant was sanctioned in three cases by the California Court of Appeal in matters which stemmed from various pending fee-related disputes. After the orders imposing the sanctions were final, he never paid the sanctions, which totalled nearly $9,000, or reported them to the State Bar as required. After a contested hearing, Bryant was found culpable of disobeying a court order and failure to cooperate with an investigation.
In mitigation, he practiced law without prior discipline since his 1978 admission to the bar.
MICHAEL GEORGE CALHOUN [#152862], 35, of Sausalito 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 Feb. 26, 1998.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Calhoun failed to communicate with two clients or provide competent legal services to a third. Calhoun failed to appear at a hearing for a client facing a DUI charge, and the client lost his license for a year.
Calhoun also did not comply with the conditions of an agreement in lieu of discipline he reached with the bar in 1996. He failed to keep his address current, file two quarterly probation reports or complete courses in law office management.
The aggravating factors included: failure to participate, actual harm to a client and multiple acts of wrongdoing.
ROBERT KELLY CRAWFORD [#53359], 56, of Palo Alto was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on four years of probation, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Feb. 26, 1998.
In this stipulation consolidating four matters, Crawford agreed that he misled the court and engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.
He was suspended from practice for 90 days in 1994 and had arranged for a law school graduate to handle a case. Crawford thought the man was admitted to practice, but in fact he had not been sworn in. Crawford told his client that he would be the primary attorney on the case but signed the name of the attorney-to-be on the complaint without his permission or knowledge. He therefore misled the court into thinking the other individual was the attorney of record.
In another matter, he notified opposing counsel of his suspension and arranged for another attorney to handle the case. However, Crawford failed to remove his name from deposition notices, thereby engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.
He also failed to notify opposing counsel in one case, as required by rule 955 of the California Rules of Court, in a timely manner.
In two other cases, Crawford did not respond to clients' requests for information.
Prior to the 1994 discipline, Crawford was publicly reproved in 1988 for abandoning clients, and was suspended and placed on probation in separate cases in 1990 and 1991.
In mitigation, he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and depression, which led to hospitalization in 1996. In conjunction with treatment for those disorders, he has improved his office management.
CHRISTOPHER MARTIN DOLAN [#76254], 46, of San Francisco was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on probation for one year, and was ordered to take the MPRE within a year. The order took effect Feb. 26, 1998.
Dolan was hired to handle an unlawful detainer action. While settlement talks were going on, he fabricated a settlement agreement and forged the opposing counsel's signature. He then prepared and signed a notice of acceptance and notified his client of the purported settlement.
He also failed to cooperate with the bar's investigation of the matter.
In mitigation, Dolan had an excessive caseload at the time of the misconduct, his health was poor and his brother was dying. The clients were not harmed and the case eventually was resolved. Dolan has no prior record of discipline.
PHILIP H. FLICKINGER [#59369], 50, of Yucca Valley was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on two years of probation with an actual 60-day suspension. The order took effect Feb. 26, 1998.
Flickinger practiced law during a 30-day suspension in 1996. He made court appearances as the attorney of record in two cases and executed a request for an entry of default in another.
He filed a probation report containing a false statement (that he complied with the State Bar Act) with the bar.
The 1996 discipline was imposed for attempting to collect an unconscionable fee and failure to supervise an employee. Flickinger also was disciplined in 1989 for disbursing monies held in trust in a matter which benefited him. He also violated a pending court order.
In mitigation, no client was harmed by his conduct, he cooperated with the bar's investigation, and he demonstrated remorse for his wrongdoing.
WILLIAM JOHN HOUSER JR. [#141329] 52, of Reseda was suspended for 12 months, stayed, placed on probation for five years and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Feb. 26, 1998.
Houser was sanctioned twice by an appellate court: once for filing a frivolous appeal from a judgment of dismissal and the second time for filing a frivolous appeal from a sanction order for prosecuting a frivolous lawsuit.
He failed to comply with either of the sanction orders.
In mitigation, Houser has never been disciplined and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.
WILLIAM CHARLES KENNEDY [#76992], 56, of Riverside 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 Feb. 26, 1998.
Kennedy failed to properly supervise his former office manager in disbursing settlement funds and failed to properly review checks presented to him for signature. As a result, there were three overdrafts on his client trust account.
Kennedy corrected the problem as soon as he became aware of it.
In mitigation, he has no record of prior discipline and no clients were harmed because the bank issued the funds in question and Kennedy redeposited them. An urgent family problem at the time diverted his attention from his law practice.
LEE WELLINGTON LANDRUM [#21553], 74, of Carlsbad was suspended for 30 days, stayed, and placed on one year of probation. The order took effect Feb. 26, 1998.
Landrum, who retired from practice in 1995, stipulated that he was sanctioned twice for pursuing frivolous litigation and did not report the sanctions to the bar. After a client won a $50,000 judgment against him in a malpractice arbitration, he did not report the award to the bar as required.
Landrum originally filed a wrongful termination complaint on behalf of his client against a yacht club and several of its members. The members' demurrer was sustained without leave to amend, and the club's demurrer was sustained with 10 days leave to amend.
When Landrum filed an amended complaint, he named both the club and the members. The complaint against the club members was dismissed and Landrum was sanctioned.
He appealed, lost and was sanctioned again.
Several club members then filed suit against Landrum and his client for malicious prosecution and won a $55,000 judgment. While Landrum appealed that judgment, his client sued him for malpractice.
After a variety of legal machinations on Landrum's part, an appellate court ruled that he had filed a frivolous appeal and imposed a $2,700 sanction.
An arbitrator in the malpractice case made a finding of civil fraud against Landrum and awarded the client $50,000.
JAMES PHILIP RUSS [#69351], 55, of Newport Beach was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Feb. 26, 1998.
Russ was privately reproved in 1994, but failed to comply with conditions of his reproval, including submitting two probation reports.
He has been disciplined twice previously, in 1994 and 1995, for failure to perform legal services competently, respond to clients' status inquiries, and cooperate with the bar's investigation.
In mitigation, he submitted probation reports as required by a separate discipline order and believed he was no longer subject to the conditions of his reproval.
RAOUL JORGE SEVERO [#78104], 48, of Los Angeles 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 Feb. 26, 1998.
Because Severo did not supervise the disbursement of settlement funds, one of his client's medical providers was not paid pursuant to a medical lien. When the doctor complained, Severo failed to take prompt action to remedy the oversight but eventually satisfied the lien. There was no misappropriation.
A personal injury case was dismissed because of Severo's failure to prosecute. He was able to get the matter reinstated. The trial was continued several times at Severo's request, but on the last date set, his client was unable to appear and the case was dismissed when Severo himself did not appear.
Although Severo's motion to set aside the dismissal was granted, he was sanctioned $500 and ordered to pay $1,000 to the Client Security Fund. He did so, but was fired by his client.
Severo was disbarred in 1986 following a conviction for bribery and theft of federal funds.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation, acted in good faith and displayed remorse by taking steps to avoid similar misconduct in the future.
MICHAEL BENSON SPIZER [#35211], 60, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for two years with an actual 30-day suspension. The order took effect Feb. 26, 1998.
Spizer practiced law in 1996 while on inactive status for failure to answer a notice of disciplinary charges. He did not have actual knowledge of the suspension because he did not open his mail from the State Bar, which was being delivered to his parents' home. He also failed to return his client's unearned fee in a criminal matter which he accepted while suspended.
In another matter, Spizer failed to maintain a client's confidence. His client, with whom he had just ended a personal relationship, was charged with violating the terms of her criminal probation. Spizer made a series of statements to the court which breached confidentiality.
At the time, Spizer was suffering from drug addiction. Having just broken up with his client, he conceded that his feelings toward her negatively affected his representation.
Spizer was disciplined in February 1997 for giving false statements to law enforcement and the State Bar, and in 1990 for failing to communicate with clients or perform legal services competently.
BRENDA VARGAS [#153230], 33, of Glendale was suspended for 18 months, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual suspension of 60 days and until she makes restitution, and was ordered to take the MPRE. If the actual suspension exceeds 90 days, she must comply with rule 955. The order took effect Feb. 26, 1998.
Vargas stipulated that in a personal injury matter she handled on a contingency basis, she did not provide an accounting of the $60,000 settlement upon request. When the client hired a new attorney, Vargas provided a partial accounting.
The settlement was made with two of three defendants in the case. Just days before the trial against the remaining defendant, Vargas signed a substitution of attorney. The client appeared without an attorney, was denied a continuance and lost the case.
The same client hired Vargas to handle three civil cases, paying her $5,000. When Vargas was substituted out, she promised to return $1,880 in unearned fees to the client but never did so.
In mitigation, Vargas was admitted to practice in 1991 and has no prior record of discipline.
CLIFTON DONALDSON BLEVINS [#47481], 56, of San Diego was suspended for 60 days, stayed, and placed on probation for 60 days, effective March 5, 1998. The period of his probation will run consecutive to a previous discipline order. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Blevins stipulated to failure to communicate and respond to reasonable status inquiries in a personal injury matter involving a client in New Jersey.
In aggravation, Blevins has a record of three prior discipline matters. He was publicly reproved in 1994, received a two-year stayed suspension with three years probation in 1995, and a probation revocation in 1997, along with a two-year stayed suspension with three years probation and a 90-day actual suspension.
STANLEY SAMUEL FEINSTEIN [#34243], 65, of Chatsworth was suspended for five years, stayed, and placed on probation for three years, including 21 months of an actual suspension, effective March 5, 1998.
Credit toward the period of actual suspension was given for the period of interim suspension which began Nov. 14, 1995. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
In April 1995, Feinstein was convicted of sexual battery by restraint, a felony.
Feinstein's conviction resulted from a 1994 incident that occurred in his chambers.
A workers' compensation judge, Feinstein had invited a female attorney to stop by his chambers to check the date of an upcoming lecture.
As she was leaving his office, Feinstein asked her to close the door. He then pinned her against the wall and groped her.
The attorney managed to free herself and immediately reported the incident to the presiding judge's secretary and later, to the police.
Feinstein stipulated to another incident of inappropriate behavior in 1990, involving an out-of-town court reporter. Feinstein invited the woman to join him for an after-work drink, then made unwelcome sexual advances toward her.
The woman immediately reported the incident to her supervisor, who ordered her to inform the local court supervisor and return home. The court reporter subsequently accepted an apology from Feinstein.
In mitigation, Feinstein began psychological counseling one year before his conviction.
Admitted to the bar in 1963, he has an extensive background of volunteerism in the legal community and has been active in many bar organizations.
In addition, numerous attorneys and other members of the community wrote letters attesting to his high moral character, indicating that his misconduct was aberrational.
GEORGE HERNANDEZ [#134148], 40, of Beverly Hills was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for two years and until he makes restitution, effective March 5, 1998. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
Hernandez' misconduct involved failure to maintain respect due to the courts, competently provide legal services, maintain the proper balance in his client trust account, promptly respond to a case status inquiry and commingling of trust monies.
In one matter, Hernandez was sued for malpractice by a couple after he failed to competently represent them in a case dealing with an auto accident. By entry of judgment, he was required to pay the couple a combined total of $37,000.
In another matter, Hernandez was chastised for his unprofessional courtroom demeanor during a jury trial in a criminal conviction case. The court of appeals eventually overturned his client's conviction based on incompetence of counsel.
Considered as an aggravating factor was a matter under investigation in which Hernandez' client trust account fell below the required balance due to his use of client funds for personal purposes.
Although Hernandez has no prior record of discipline, his misconduct was deemed serious. However, it was stipulated that his good record could be considered in determining the appropriate level of discipline.
Hernandez contended that he has suffered from attention deficit disorder since childhood. He had discontinued his medication during the period of misconduct surrounding one matter, but has since resumed treatment and his medication.
RAYMOND F. HILLS [#73789], 48, of San Francisco was placed on probation for four years, with an actual suspension of one year and until he has shown proof of his fitness to practice law, effective March 5, 1998. Credit toward the period of actual suspension was given for the period of inactive enrollment which began Nov. 15, 1997. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.
In one matter, Hills failed to appear at a scheduled trial, neglected to notify his client of the trial date and failed to competently perform services.
In another instance, he failed to file a client's lawsuit prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations and failed to perform competently.
In addition, he failed to comply with probation conditions of a previous discipline order.
In aggravation, Hills has a prior record of discipline.
In mitigation, Hills cooperated with the bar's investigation, demonstrated remorse and made restitution.
In addition, during the period of his misconduct he was experiencing several personal difficulties, including migraine headaches, a foot injury, the death of his mother and his new role as a single parent.
A significant number of attorneys, clients, pro bono clients, neighbors, friends and other members of the community all attested to Hills' good character.
THOMAS A. LOYA [#102812], 45, of Covina was suspended for two years and until he has provided proof of his fitness to practice, effective March 5, 1998. The suspension was stayed and he was placed on probation for two years. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
In one matter, Loya failed to adequately supervise an employee, which resulted in a missed arbitration hearing. His failure to perform competently caused the dismissal of the client's cause of action.
In a divorce and child custody matter and a personal injury case, Loya stipulated to performing legal services incompetently.
In addition, two checks from his client trust account were returned due to insufficient funds. He failed to adequately supervise an employee who handled the account.
In aggravation, Loya's misconduct caused significant harm.
In mitigation, he has no prior record of discipline, he cooperated with the bar's investigation, demonstrated remorse and acted in good faith.
He experienced problems with the delivery of his mail during the period of his misconduct and did not receive critical correspondence and notices from the court.
In addition, when he was notified by the bank that his client trust account was overdrawn, he immediately took corrective action, performed an internal audit and installed a new computer software program designed to manage and reconcile client trust accounts.
The probation of ROBERT L. MEZZETTI [#24555], 73, of San Jose was extended for one year, effective March 5, 1998.
Mezetti failed to timely submit quarterly probation reports, in violation of a 1994 discipline order.
Mezetti's prior record of discipline was considered an aggravating factor. In mitigation, Mezetti was cooperative with the bar's investigation and he was remorseful.
GENE ALLEN MUELLER [#36955], 61, of Big Bear City was suspended for 90 days, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, effective March 5, 1998. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
About two months after hiring him for legal representation, a client informed Mueller he intended to substitute in another attorney and requested an accounting of paid fees.
Mueller failed to provide an accounting of the $2,000 advance for legal fees.
In addition, Mueller did not respond to correspondence from the State Bar regarding the client's complaint.
In aggravation, Mueller demonstrated a lack of cooperation during the bar's investigation. In addition, he has a prior record of discipline. He was privately reproved in 1995.
No mitigating circumstances were involved.
MICHAEL STUART PRATTER [#40277], 57, of La Mesa was suspended for two years and until he makes restitution and provides proof of his fitness to practice. The suspension was stayed and he was placed on probation for four years with a one-year actual suspension and an order to make restitution. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order was effective March 5, 1998.
Pratter pleaded no contest to several charges of unauthorized practice of law, failure to refund unearned legal fees, failure to obey a court order and commingling.
In one matter, Pratter was hired by a family to protect the assets of their mother, which were in jeopardy due to ongoing civil litigation involving her deceased husband's construction business.
During this period, Pratter was ineligible to practice law for non-payment of bar dues.
About 10 days later, the family decided not to use Pratter's legal services and requested a refund of unearned fees from their initial payment of $18,500.
The family was billed for 46 hours of time spent on their behalf, amounting to about $12,000. The family disputed the charges and the matter was submitted to binding fee arbitration. They were awarded $22,000 (amount of the retainer and interest), which was later upheld in court. Pratter failed to pay the arbitration award.
In aggravation, Pratter's misconduct was harmful, he demonstrated indifference toward rectification and his misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing.
In mitigation, Pratter suffered a progressive loss of vision during the period of his misconduct and was unable to read sufficiently to function as an attorney. He eventually underwent successful cataract surgery.
His health problems severely impacted his ability to earn a living and he had no health insurance, which led to significant financial problems.
He was unable to pay his bar dues, which led to his suspension and his inability to repay money owed to his clients.
BRUCE RONALD SAFRAN [#58206], 53, of Tarzana was suspended for three years, stayed, and placed on probation for three years with a 60-day actual suspension, effective March 5, 1998. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.
In one case, Safran was hired by a couple in 1994 to represent them in the arbitration of a securities dispute. He settled the dispute without his clients' authorization. In addition, the clients did not sign or authorize Safran to affix their signatures to the general release and the $7,500 settlement draft. He also neglected to inform them of his receipt of the settlement funds.
Numerous times throughout the year, Safran's client trust account fell below the balance required and he stipulated to misappropriation.
In another instance, Safran failed to render an accounting of the distribution of settlement funds, despite repeated requests from a client.
In aggravation, little weight was given to Safran's prior record of discipline because it occurred more than 20 years ago and involved acts unrelated to the practice of law.
In mitigation, Safran's misconduct occurred after the Los Angeles earthquake of January 1994. In addition to incurring substantial damage to his home, Safran's law office was in disarray.
As a result of the problems caused by the earthquake, Safran was unable to adequately focus on his law practice and he experienced significant emotional difficulties requiring medical treatment.
Also considered in mitigation was Safran's extensive past volunteer work for a hospital, his temple and his children's school.
MARCI A. SANDOVAL [#154001], 47, of Berea, Ky., was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for two years with an actual suspension of 30 days, effective March 5, 1998. She was ordered to pass the MPRE.
In this default decision, Sandoval was found culpable of failure to perform, communicate, refund unearned fees and improper withdrawal from employment.
In two separate instances, Sandoval failed to file bankruptcy petitions and moved to Kentucky without informing her clients. She did not return their unearned legal fees.
Considered in aggravation was Sandoval's failure to respond to the State Bar's notice of disciplinary charges prior to the entry of default. In addition, her actions involved multiple acts of misconduct and she made no effort to rectify the consequences of her actions.
Because Sandoval had been admitted to practice for only three years at the time of her misconduct, her prior discipline-free record was not accorded any weight in mitigation.
ANDRE K. SILVOLA [#109154], 49, of Colorado Springs, Colo., was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, including a one-year actual suspension, effective March 5, 1998. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955.
Silvola was disciplined in Colorado for misconduct in two cases which involved his overall failure to perform legal services competently.
In one case, Silvola was employed by a businessman who asked him to represent one of his "employees" in a personal injury matter resulting from an auto accident.
In fact, Silvola later discovered the businessman himself was involved in the accident, not the employee. In addition, the "employee" did not work for the client, but was a restaurant owner who had previously purchased equipment from the client and was in another city at the time of the accident.
A suit was filed against the restaurant owner as the alleged driver of the car and the businessman as the owner of the vehicle.
The businessman had falsely identified himself to police as the restaurant owner.
The businessman provided Silvola with a copy of a complaint filed by an insurance company and then disappeared.
Silvola filed a counterclaim on behalf of the "employee" claiming he had suffered injuries from the accident. Silvola, however, had never met or spoken with him.
A default judgment was entered against the restaurant owner and Silvola attempted to locate him about six months later. He finally spoke to the restaurant owner, who learned for the first time about the lawsuit.
Silvola stipulated to representing the restaurant owner for about 19 months without his consent or knowledge and asserting a counterclaim on his behalf without ever having met him.
He failed to communicate with the client, withdraw from the matter within a reasonable period of time, respond to discovery requests which resulted in a default judgment and advise opposing counsel that he had never been retained by the restaurant owner.
He misrepresented the status of the default once he located the restaurateur and took direction for his representation from another party.
In aggravation, Silvola's misconduct involved multiple acts of misconduct.
In mitigation, Silvola was admitted to the State Bar in 1983 and has no prior record of discipline in California.
CRISTETA S. PAGUIRIGAN [#115992], 38, of Los Angeles was placed on interim suspension March 12, 1998, following her conviction for violating Penal Code Section 470(a), forgery, a felony involving moral turpitude. She was ordered to comply with rule 955.
ALFONSO A. OLIVA [#107795], 46, of Los Angeles was placed on
interim suspension March 18, 1998, following his conviction for violating
Section 6126(b) of the Business & Professions Code, unauthorized practice
of law. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.
HOWARD EARL BLUMENTHAL [#44869], 53, of Beverly Hills was placed on interim suspension March 18, 1998. Blumenthal was convicted of violating Penal Code Section 487(a), grand theft, a felony involving moral turpitude. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.
WALTER BENJAMIN FEY [#127983], 50, of Reno, Nev. (March 5, 1998)
ROBERT PETER JARAMILLO [#55762], 50, of San Jose (March 5, 1998)
SAMAN TAHERIAN [#170953], 30, of San Jose (March 5, 1998)
WARREN M. GORDON [#25441], 78, of Manhattan Beach (March 21, 1998)
MICHAEL I. GREER [#30925], 63, of Poway (March 21, 1998)
JEFFREY L. CHAMPLIN [#133602], 42, of Roseville (March 21, 1998)
DARYL L. SMITH [#75054], 47, of Covina (March 21, 1998)
WALTER WENKO [#93053], 53, of El Monte (March 4, 1998)
CHARLES HAROLD KAVALARIS [#46853], 54, of San Jose (March 17, 1998)
MICHAEL S. JOHNSON [#110782], 47, of Carlsbad (March 22, 1998)
MEIR WESTREICH [#73133], 46, of Pasadena (Jan. 24, 1998)
JEFFREY S. PETERS [#150738], 40, of Tustin (Feb. 1, 1998)