California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA - JULY 1999
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DISCIPLINE

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SUSPENSIONS/PROBATION
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 new attorney.

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 moral turpitude.

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.