|OLIVIA THERESA IBARRA [#71307], 47, of Long Beach was
suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 120-day actual
suspension and until she makes restitution, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. If
the actual suspension exceeds two years, she must prove her rehabilitation. The order took
effect July 17, 1998.
In a default hearing, the State Bar Court found that Ibarra
committed acts of misconduct in two cases.
In the first matter, she was hired by a high tech firm to obtain a labor certification
and change of visa status for an immigrant the company wished to hire as an engineer.
Because the company could not find qualified workers, it stressed the urgency of quick
action by Ibarra.
She told the company she filed the application. After numerous phone calls and written
communications, she asked for additional documents, which the company sent immediately.
After more unanswered phone calls, the company sought a status report, the return of
some documents and a refund. Ibarra finally submitted the required documents to the INS,
but never responded to any other requests by the company. The company eventually obtained
verbal approval to hire the engineer.
The State Bar Court found that Ibarra failed to communicate with clients, perform legal
services competently, refund fees or return files. She also did not respond to State Bar
inquiries about the matter.
The court made a similar finding in a second case in which Ibarra abandoned clients who
hired her to handle an immigration matter. She was asked to obtain visa extensions and
convert the status of her clients from vistors to non-quota resident aliens, as well as to
obtain permission for one of the clients to be employed pending the change in status.
The clients paid Ibarra $1,500 and provided documents including birth certificates,
passports, a marriage certificate, passport photographs and fingerprint cards.
Despite the clients' requests, Ibarra never returned their documents or refunded their
Ibarra also was disciplined earlier last year for similar misconduct, involving failure
to complete a client's immigration case. In that matter, she was placed on probation and
given an actual 30-day suspension.
JOHN MICHAEL BROWN [#38995], 57, of Pleasanton was suspended for one
year, stayed, and placed on two years of probation with an actual 60-day suspension. The
order took effect July 17, 1998.
Both the State Bar and Brown sought review of a State Bar Court hearing judge's 1996
decision that found Brown responsible for three disciplinary violations in a single
matter. The court found that he failed to perform legal services competently or
communicate with his client, and he misrepresented the status of the case to his client.
Bar prosecutors asked for longer probation and a lengthier suspension, while Brown
sought a reduction of both. The bar court's review department rejected all of the bar's
contentions, all but one of Brown's contentions, and upheld the hearing judge.
Brown's problems resulted from his representation of a client to handle the client's
mother's wrongful death and a medical malpractice action.
Brown did not prosecute the lawsuit within four and a half years after filing it.
He did not file a request to set a trial date, despite his promises to his client that
he would do so. After four letters and numerous telephone calls from the client, Brown
finally asked his paralegal to draft and send to the hospital a joint status report. The
hospital's attorney refused to sign and return the report because Brown did not cooperate
with the hospital's efforts to obtain all his client's mother's medical records.
During his client's deposition, Brown agreed that the medical records would be
provided. However, he never asked his client to sign a release and never produced the
Eventually, the superior court dismissed the suit, finding that Brown had not exercised
due diligence to expedite the case, and that he had done very little work that was not
prompted by the defense.
Brown denied responsibility for his failure to prosecute the case, citing fast track
problems, placing blame for some of his actions on his paralegal, and blaming the opposing
counsel for unjustly refusing to sign and return the joint status report. The review judge
rejected all three arguments.
The review judge also agreed with the hearing department's findings that Brown has a
prior record of discipline (although its importance was somewhat diminished because it
occurred contemporaneously with the misconduct in this case), that he committed multiple
acts of misconduct, harmed his client and was not candid in his testimony before the bar
In mitigation, Brown suffered from a serious illness, experienced financial problems,
and presented evidence of his good character.
The hospital case marked the third time a disciplinary matter against Brown has gone to
the bar's review department.
An earlier discipline involving Brown's failure to file timely tax returns and properly
handle entrusted funds was appealed twice by bar prosecutors.
Brown has been attorney since 1966 and had no record of discipline until the 1991
conviction of three misdemeanor counts of violating the Unemployment Insurance Code for
failing to pay tax monies withheld from his employees' and his wages.
He has continued to pay his taxes, now uses a payroll service, has discontinued
practicing as a professional corporation and reviews the financial condition of his office
at least quarterly with an accountant.
The probation of MICHAEL ALAN BAKER [#65108], 50, of Northridge was
extended for one year. The order took effect July 17, 1998. Baker was suspended and placed
on probation in 1996 with a requirement that he make quarterly probation reports. None has
Baker was convicted of one count of mail fraud in U.S. District Court in Sacramento in
1995 and was placed on probation in 1997.
In mitigation, he has been cooperative.
CYNTHIA ANN DUNNING [#126627], 44, of Alta Loma was suspended for two
years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension and until
she makes restitution, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and to comply with
rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, she must prove her rehabilitation.
The order took effect July 19, 1998.
In 1991, Dunning assumed another attorney's caseload, which included representation of
two clients in a personal injury matter. After negotiating a settlement, Dunning's office
received two settlement checks made out to the two clients and Dunning.
Dunning's employees forged the clients' signatures on documents purporting to release
all claims by the clients and sent the documents to the insurance company as part of the
settlement. They then forged the clients' signatures on the checks and deposited them into
Dunning's general checking account without Dunning's knowledge.
The clients did not receive the funds, which were used by Dunning and her office
manager. Dunning did not know the clients were entitled to the funds in question.
She stipulated that she was grossly negligent in failing to supervise her staff or
adequately review her case files and bank statements to ensure that client funds were
Dunning failed to maintain client funds in trust and failed to keep her clients
informed of developments in their case.
In mitigation, Dunning has no record of discipline in 12 years of practice.
JEAN MICHAEL IRIGOYEN [#177626], 36, of Fresno was suspended for three
years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 90-day suspension and
until he proves his rehabilitation, and was ordered to take the MPRE. The order took
effect July 19, 1998.
Irigoyen was convicted of petty theft in 1996 after he stole a computer fax modem from
an electronics store in Fountain Valley. He was placed on three years of probation and
ordered to pay a fine.
The bar court found that his actions constituted an act of moral turpitude. In 1997, he
was placed on interim suspension, which was terminated last April by the court's review
In a second matter, he misused his client trust account by writing a check for a
business expense on that account. The check bounced. The misconduct did not result in any
harm to clients.
In mitigation, Irigoyen was a drug addict at the time of the theft, has undergone drug
rehabilitation, continues to volunteer with the rehab program, has no record of
discipline, and cooperated with the bar's investigation.