|REBECCA MADELIN ORTIZ [#133153], 39, of Palmdale was
suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on two years of probation. The order took
effect Sept. 10, 1998.
Ortiz stipulated that she did not refund unearned fees in two
family law matters.
In the first, she was hired to oppose a modification of child custody filed by her
client's former husband. The client paid $1,500 to cover attorney's fees, and a month
later another $1,000 in fees.
Three months later, Ortiz ceased her representation and later named her client as the
Ortiz notified her client that $1,012.75 of the advanced fees was unearned, although
she amended that figure in a later document. The client filed and won a small claims
action seeking a refund which Ortiz never paid.
In the second matter, Ortiz was hired to initiate divorce proceedings and received
$1,500 in advance fees. Over time, the client told her twice to defer any action because
she was trying to reconcile with her husband. After six months, the client was informed
that Ortiz had closed her practice and the $1,500 was transferred to another attorney. She
demanded a refund.
Ortiz sent the woman an accounting, which charged $766.75 for 3.95 hours of work. She
never refunded any money.
Ortiz was publicly reproved in 1996.
In mitigation, Ortiz made restitution to both clients. She stopped practicing law in
1996 because of personal stress resulting, in part, from her own divorce and child custody
dispute. She suffered financial reversals which required her to file for bankruptcy.
DOUGLAS T. RICHARDSON [#106275], 43, of Westminster was suspended for
two years, stayed, and placed on two years of probation with a 40-day actual suspension.
The order took effect Sept. 10, 1998.
Another attorney referred a civil action to Richardson, who misrepresented the status
of the case over a two-and-a-half year period. He ultimately acknowledged that he had not
filed the action. His misrepresentations constituted acts of dishonesty and amounted to
Richardson stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently or keep his
client apprised of significant developments in his case.
In mitigation, Richardson was overwhelmed when he was assigned the entire caseload of
an attorney who left his firm. He was involved in numerous lawsuits and trials, as well as
an extremely complicated bankruptcy case.
Although he dictated a complaint and prepared the filing instructions in the matter
which led to discipline, the complaint never was prepared because he never gave the tape
to his secretary to be transcribed. When he told the attorney who referred the case that
the complaint had been filed, he believed it had.
BRUCE EDWARD TRANEY [#110026], 45, of Los Angeles, was suspended for
two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension, and
was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 10, 1998.
Traney stipulated that he commingled personal funds in his client trust account.
In 1993, the Franchise Tax Board filed a lien against Traney and levied a checking
account he maintained. In order to protect his money from the tax board, he placed
personal funds in his client trust account and wrote checks to pay bills.
He bounced two checks, which were reported to the bar. The bar then learned he had
bounced 14 more checks.
In mitigation, he has no record of prior discipline, he cooperated with the
investigation, and he promptly removed his personal funds from the trust account.