|SIDNEY E. ARDEN [#26926], 77, of La Quinta was suspended
for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 60-day suspension,
and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 10, 1998.
was disciplined as a result of his handling of the estate of a deceased client. He billed
his client's stepdaughter $5,213 for probating the will, and although the superior court
did not approve the claim, it was paid.
Arden also sought and received a $25,000 advance from the estate in anticipation of his
legal fees. That amount also had not been approved, as required, by the court.
Eventually, the executrix of the estate replaced Arden, and he promptly turned over all
files to the new attorney. At the same time, the executrix revoked her earlier approval of
Arden's bill and notified the court of the $25,000 payment. Arden was ordered to repay the
estate the entire $30,200, but his attorney notified the court he did not have the money
to do so.
At a later hearing, the court rejected Arden's claims for services rendered to the
client before his death and for reimbursement for fees and costs for the services
performed on behalf of the executrix. It also found that the $30,200 was paid improperly
and ordered Arden to repay that amount plus interest, for a total of more than $46,000.
Arden could not pay, did not seek a loan and later discharged his obligations in
The State Bar Court found that Arden violated the probate code by failing to obtain
court approval for the fees and the $25,000 advance. It also found he violated court
orders to repay the estate.
In mitigation, Arden practiced law for 40 years without any misconduct, suffered
profound health problems, including a major stroke which left him incapacitated, and lost
his home of 30 years to foreclosure.
DAVID CYRANO DANTES [#102442], 52, of Canoga Park was suspended for
two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension, and
was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and to take the MPRE within a year. The order took
effect Sept. 10, 1998.
Dantes stipulated to two counts of commingling personal funds in his client trust
Because Dantes did not file tax returns for 1989-1992, the Franchise Tax Board levied
his general account on several occasions. He hired an accountant, stopped using his
general account, and began to pay personal expenses from his trust account. Between 1994
and 1996, he wrote 23 checks for personal business on the account.
In mitigation, Dantes cooperated with the bar's investigation, attended ethics school
and the client trust accounting school, and has no record of discipline since he began
practicing in 1982.
IRENEO M. GALICIA [#143394], 46, of Industry was suspended for five
years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual two-year suspension, and
was ordered to make restitution, prove his rehabilitation and take the MPRE. The order
took effect Sept. 10, 1998.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Galicia failed to notify a
client that he had received a check to pay her medical bills, render a complete accounting
of funds to the client, hold funds in trust, promptly return a client's file, or cooperate
with the State Bar's investigation. He also misappropriated client funds and withdrew from
employment without protecting his client's interests.
Galicia represented a client in a personal injury case, agreeing to a contingency fee
of one-third of any settlement. When her insurance company (Prudential) sent a check to
Galicia and the client to pay her medical expenses, Galicia deposited it into an account
which was not his client trust account. The client did not learn about the money for a
year and a half.
Galicia later received a $7,500 settlement for the bodily injury portion of his
client's claim from a second insurance company and gave his client her share. However, he
never reimbursed Prudential $2,500 it was owed for medical bills it had paid.
When the client learned that Prudential had not been reimbursed, she attempted to reach
Galicia but was unsuccessful. Prudential later sued her to recover money advanced under
the medical pay portion of her policy. The client hired a new lawyer.
Prudential eventually dropped the suit, but not before the client incurred significant
legal fees. Galicia never reimbursed Prudential.
Bar investigators believe Galicia has moved to the Philippines.
LAZARO J. MACHADO [#134209], 42, of Garden Grove was suspended for
three years, stayed, and placed on probation for three years with a nine-month actual
suspension and until he proves his rehabilitation. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.
The order took effect Sept. 10, 1998.
Machado stipulated to three counts of misconduct: failure to act competently and
communicate with a client, and practicing law while suspended.
Machado filed a civil complaint against his client's former business partner, but the
case was dismissed when Machado failed to make any appearances or comply with court rules.
In response to a motion Machado filed, the case was later reinstated and he was ordered to
pay a $100 sanction. The court ordered the case transferred to municipal court, but
despite two orders to pay transfer fees, the fees never were paid and the case was
Machado did not return his client's phone calls or notify him the case was dismissed.
He also did not respond to two certified letters from the client.
Machado was suspended from practice for nine months in 1996, but did not notify his
client of the suspension. By continuing to represent the client and giving him legal
advice during the course of the suspension, Machado engaged in the unauthorized practice
Machado has been disciplined twice previously.
JAMES McKIERNAN [#55913], 52, of San Luis Obispo was suspended for two
years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension, and was
ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Sept. 10, 1998.
McKiernan stipulated to misconduct in 14 consolidated cases, most involving his
inadequate supervision of his staff.
McKiernan, who was admitted to practice in 1973, opened his own office in San Luis
Obispo in 1989. He established a reputation in the community for successfully handling
high profile tort cases with an emphasis on personal injury.
He also advertised extensively and his practice increased. He employed between 21 and
23 employees and had a caseload of 200 to 400 matters. The office was open from 8 a.m. to
9 p.m. weekdays, and 9 to 5 on weekends. In addition to high profile cases, McKiernan
accepted many small cases, primarily because his office was technologically advanced.
In early 1990, the local courts began a fast-track program which McKiernan believed he
could adhere to. However, he was unable to properly supervise his staff, and it was during
this period that numerous complaints were made to the State Bar.
In several instances, McKiernan's staff settled cases without consulting their clients
and endorsed clients' names on settlement drafts. An associate substituted out of a case
without telling the client why. One client authorized a settlement after her case had been
settled and money received.
McKiernan's staff did not keep clients apprised of developments in their cases or
communicate with clients.
Once complaints to the bar became public, rumors spread that McKiernan's practice was
about to be shut down. Several press accounts detailed allegations against McKiernan, some
of which were never charged. The widespread publicity had a devastating effect on
McKiernan's practice as well as his personal life.
The disproportionately damaging impact of disciplinary proceedings upon McKiernan was
considered a mitigating factor.
JOSEPH M. MONTOYA III [#86477] 45, of Paramount was suspended for
three years, stayed, placed on probation for three years with an actual one-year
suspension and requirements that he make restitution, complete four hours of MCLE in law
office management, prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The
order took effect Sept. 10, 1998.
Montoya violated the conditions of a 1994 probation by failing to complete four hours
of MCLE courses in law office management. A separate probation order required that he file
quarterly probation reports, complete six hours of MCLE courses in law office management
and make restitution to an individual.
He did not comply with any of the three conditions.
Montoya has four instances of prior discipline, beginning in 1992.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation.