|JAMES DAVID PITTMAN [#92995], 49, of Huntington Beach
was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual
two-year suspension, and was ordered to make restitution, take the MPRE and comply with
rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation.
The order took effect July 22, 1999.
Suspended since 1996 for failure to pay bar dues or
complete MCLE requirements, Pittman handled two matters while suspended. He was hired by
one client to file a motion in bankruptcy court, and although he did not do so, he told
his client he had filed the motion. The client was forced to retain a new lawyer.
Pittman did not respond to the client's inquiries or refund unearned fees, and
committed acts of moral turpitude.
He also failed to cooperate with the bar's investigation or to keep his address
In addition, Pittman failed to comply with probation conditions attached to a 1995
private reproval requiring him to take the professional responsibility exam, make
restitution and attend ethics school and a client trust accounting class.
The private reproval was the result of failing to competently perform legal services or
to preserve in a trust account the identity of funds and property of clients.
Although he offered no mitigation, the court noted that in the earlier discipline,
Pittman presented evidence that he suffers from bipolar affective disorder and has been
taking lithium since 1994.
ROBERT J. BARTH [#75776], 56, of Beverly Hills was placed on a
six-month actual suspension July 22, 1999, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.
Barth was ordered to file quarterly mental health reports as part of a 1997 discipline,
and he failed to do so.
He has five prior records of discipline, including three client abandonments, two
probation violations, two failures to perform legal services competently or communicate
with clients, and one instance of unauthorized practice.
DAVID RAMIREZ DeQUIT [#178841], 35, of Olangapo City, Philippines, was
suspended for six months, stayed, placed on one year of probation, and was ordered to make
restitution and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect July 22, 1999.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that DeQuit failed to perform legal
services competently in a marriage nullification. He failed to prepare and file necessary
papers, and when he went to the Philippines on a business trip, he told his client he had
given the file to another attorney.
Although he arranged for the other lawyer to make a court appearance for the client, he
did not employ him to perform any other services.
DeQuit never filed substitution of attorney papers and abandoned his client. He never
refunded unearned fees.
PATRICK HUGH HUTCHINSON [#50799], 57, of Santa Rosa was suspended for
three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 14-month
suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. He shall receive credit for
the interim suspension which began April 16, 1998. The order took effect July 22, 1999.
Hutchinson pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana,
and was placed on probation for three years and sentenced to six months of house arrest
with an electronic monitor and 250 hours of community service.
The court found that the sentence departed from the guideline range due to
extraordinary family circumstances.
Hutchinson, a criminal defense attorney in Santa Rosa, served as a courier for a
marijuana dealer for several months in the mid-1990s. He had had open heart surgery and
his wife, who was a heroin addict, had reneged on promises to support him and their
According to papers filed with the federal court, Hutchinson has demonstrated
"exceptional rehabilitation," is a good parent to the couple's son, and
intervened with his stepdaughter, who was introduced to heroin by her mother. The mother
served a three-year prison sentence for marijuana distribution.
The interim suspension by the bar has been vacated and Hutchinson's law license is now
PATRICIA E. SHIELDS [#173175], 47, of Concord was suspended for two
years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension, and was
ordered to make restitution, prove rehabilitation, take the MPRE within one year and
comply with rule 955. The order took effect July 22, 1999.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Shields failed to perform legal
services competently, keep her client informed of developments in his case or return his
documents. She also withdrew from representation without protecting her client's
interests, misrepresented material facts to the client, and disobeyed a court order that
she appear at a hearing.
Shields failed to file timely pretrial pleadings in an adversary bankruptcy action
between her client and his ex-wife. As a result, the trial was continued. She failed to
appear at the rescheduled trial and then abandoned the case completely.
Shields did not inform her client she would not appear at trial until the morning of
the trial, leaving a voicemail message the client did not receive. Without her client's
consent, she offered to settle the case, and she told her client that opposing counsel had
offered to turn over stock certificates to him, when no such offer was made.
When the trial began, her client appeared without counsel and judgment was entered
against him. Shields did not file an appeal, as requested by the client.
She also did not appear at a hearing for sanctions, then failed to pay sanctions of
$975 ordered by the court.
Shields then did not appear at a contempt hearing before the bankruptcy judge, who
subsequently disbarred her from practice in the bankruptcy courts for the northern
district of California.
The bar court warned Shields that "if she does not take the remedial actions
ordered, further discipline up to and including disbarment will result."
PHILLIP ARON SCHUMAN [#151261], 44, of San Diego was suspended for
three years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with two and a half years of actual
suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. Credit towards the actual
suspension will be given for a period of interim suspension which began June 27, 1996. The
order took effect July 22, 1999.
Schuman was convicted in 1995 of one count of money laundering, and was sentenced to 24
months in federal prison and fined $7,500.
He was asked by an undercover agent posing as a dry goods importer and marijuana
smuggler to set up an offshore bank account. Schuman set up the account through another
attorney. He knew or had reason to know that his co-defendant planned to transport cash
allegedly belonging to the undercover agent from the United States to London in order to
avoid reporting requirements.
In mitigation, Schuman presented evidence attesting to his good character, is
undergoing therapy, completed 36 hours of MCLE courses and has been working as a law clerk
for a general practitioner in San Diego.
MICHAEL NEWTON ALEXANDER [#105279], 43, of Rancho Cucamonga was
suspended for two years, stayed, placed on one year of probation, and was ordered to take
the MPRE within one year and prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Aug. 6, 1999.
Alexander stipulated to misconduct in five consolidated cases, most relating to his
failure to pursue cases.
He did not keep clients reasonably informed of developments in their cases, perform
legal services competently, release client papers, account for legal fees, return unearned
fees or cooperate with the bar's investigation. He also withdrew from employment
In mitigation, Alexander experienced serious personal problems during the time of the
STEVEN KROFF [#55818], 64, of Los Altos was suspended for three years,
stayed, placed on four years of probation with an actual two-year suspension, and was
ordered to prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order
took effect Aug. 6, 1999.
In a personal injury matter, Kroff failed to perform legal services competently and
committed an act of moral turpitude by accepting a settlement offer and depositing a check
into his trust account without his client's knowledge.
In a second personal injury case, Kroff unilaterally reduced a medical provider's lien
by one-third and paid himself that amount as additional attorneys fees. After being
contacted by the medical provider, he wrote a check for the amount in question, which the
bank honored despite insufficient funds in his trust account.
The bar court found that Kroff failed to properly maintain funds in his trust account
or promptly pay lienholder funds. Taking the reduced lien as additional attorney fees
constituted an act of moral turpitude.
Kroff had a dispute with his client about a $5,500 settlement offer in another personal
injury case, so the client hired a new attorney who settled the case for $15,000. When the
check was received, Kroff disputed his share of attorney fees. The other attorney left the
disputed amount in trust and offered to submit to arbitration but Kroff refused.
Kroff then sued the bank where the check was cashed, charging it had converted the
settlement check without his endorsement. Two more complaints were filed by various
parties to the dispute and at trial, the court found that Kroff was not entitled to any
attorney fees. Kroff was sanctioned $1,560 for frivolous and bad faith actions, but the
order was immediately set aside and continued.
At a later hearing, Kroff was ordered to pay the bank $2,850 in fees and sanctions, and
pay his client and the other attorney $4,586.50 in costs, fees and sanctions.
He appealed and lost and was ultimately ordered to pay the other attorney nearly $8,200
The bar court found that Kroff did not inform the bar of one of the sanctions orders
within 30 days, and he filed a frivolous appeal.
Kroff has a record of prior discipline. In one case, he mishandled five client matters
and in another he solicited clients, attempted to collect unconscionable fees, failed to
render appropriate accountings or promptly pay client funds and committed acts involving
In the current matter, the court said Kroff has "no insight into his wrongdoing
and continues to raise arguments to circumvent his responsibility." It noted that in
his final letter to the court, Kroff wrote, "I cannot determine what facts or conduct
were deemed so extreme or improper to lead the court to the conclusion of unethical
TRACY LYNN STEWART [#92958], 61, of Redondo Beach was suspended for
two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a six-month actual suspension,
and was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect Aug. 6, 1999.
Stewart stipulated to misconduct in 12 consolidated cases, most involving a failure to
perform legal services competently in criminal cases.
She failed to appear at court hearings numerous times, resulting in the issuance of
warrants for the arrest of three clients and one warrant for her arrest.
Following one failure to appear, Stewart did not appear at a contempt/sanctions hearing
and was sanctioned $500. At her request, she was ordered to perform 100 hours of community
service in lieu of the monetary sanctions, but she never did the community service.
Stewart failed to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees, pay
sanctions, render financial accountings, return client files, communicate with clients or
respond to status inquiries, supervise her staff or properly withdraw from representation.
She was disciplined in 1996 and 1998.
In mitigation, Stewart had medical, financial and family problems, cooperated with the
bar's investigation and presented references attesting to her good character.
PETER RIND VAN PETTEN [#94396], 47, of Santa Monica was suspended for
two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension, and
was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took
effect Aug. 6, 1999.
In a personal injury matter, Van Petten did not communicate with his clients. They
complained three separate times; after the first two complaints, he promised to work on
their case. He did not respond to the third complaint.
In another personal injury matter, Van Petten did not pay a medical lien for more than
a year, and then only after being contacted by the State Bar. He told the doctor that his
client was responsible for paying the bill, despite the medical lien.
After taking over representation of the plaintiff in another case, Van Petten failed to
file a proof of service and when he failed to appear at a hearing, was ordered to pay
sanctions. He did not appear at four more hearings or comply with sanctions orders and the
case was dismissed.
He failed to provide legal services and improperly withdrew from representation.
Van Petten abandoned another personal injury case; he did not respond to his client's
requests for status reports, failed to return her file, did not attend a hearing, and paid
a filing fee and sanctions late.
He did not cooperate with the bar's investigation of three matters.
In mitigation, Van Petten has no record of discipline in his 18 years as an attorney.
VINCENT CRAIG WILLIAMS [#135531], 38, of San Francisco was suspended
for one year, stayed, and placed on one year of probation with a 60-day actual suspension.
The order took effect Aug. 6, 1999.
Williams was disciplined in 1993 for trust account violations and for forming a
partnership with a non-attorney which resulted in the non-lawyer misappropriating client
funds. Williams agreed to make restitution over five years, but was unable to do so
because of financial hardship.
The restitution order was modified, but he still made payments late and was unlikely to
complete the restitution this year as required. Some probation reports also were
Inactive since 1996, Williams is trying to build up two business ventures but has had
difficulty keeping fulltime employment due to his problems with the State Bar.
The bar court found that "nothing would be accomplished" by an endless round
of probation violation cases, and said restitution could be completed more easily by
Williams' return to active practice. The court conditioned that return on his completion
of ethics school, taking the MPRE and undergoing a fitness hearing.
ANGELA F. WALLACE [#134188], 38, of Los Angeles was suspended for five
years, stayed, and placed on five years of probation with a two-year actual suspension and
until she makes restitution of more than $200,000. She was ordered to take the MPRE,
comply with rule 955 and prove her rehabilitation. The order took effect Sept. 30, 1999.
Wallace stipulated to seven counts of misconduct in six consolidated cases.
In early December 1993, an individual identifying himself as Max Wolf hired Wallace,
signing a fee agreement and executing a power of attorney in favor of Wallace. He
presented identification and was in possession of Wolf's bank books and other
The real Max Wolf died a couple of days later. Subsequent to his death, a notarized
letter on Wallace's letterhead signed by "Wolf" requested that Wallace be given
permission to close Wolf's savings account.
The bank issued a cashier's check to Wolf which was deposited in Wallace's client trust
account. It was endorsed, "Max Wolf, for deposit only."
About a week later, two other banks issued checks payable to Max Wolf. They were
endorsed "Max Wolf for Angela Wallace, for deposit only," and deposited in her
Together, the three checks totalled $206,939.09.
Wallace subsequently transferred and disbursed assets at the direction of the
impersonator, writing 16 checks totalling more than $175,000.
She commingled funds, allowed the misappropriation of client funds and committed acts
of moral turpitude.
The person who complained to the State Bar about Wallace is the executrix of the
estate. Testimony was introduced at trial indicating that the executrix, her husband and
others had conspired to steal the proceeds of the Wolf estate and dupe Wallace into
helping them. Although the bar acknowledged the testimony, it did not stipulate to its
In another matter in which Wallace represented a defendant in a lawsuit, she failed to
file and serve a response to the complaint and a default judgment was issued against her
client in the amount of $124,784.70. She made no move to set aside the default, although
she told her client she would do so.
Wallace failed to perform legal services competently or refund her client's advanced
fees. She also failed to perform competently when she did not appear at another client's
status conference and the case was dismissed.
She failed to communicate with another client after receiving settlement funds.
In mitigation, she has no record of discipline since her admission to the bar in 1988.