California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA - JUNE 2001
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DISCIPLINE

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CAUTION!
Caution! More than 175,000 attorneys are eligible to practice law in California. Many attorneys share the same names. All discipline reports are taken from State Bar Court documents and should be read carefully for names, ages, addresses and bar numbers.
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DISBARMENTS

ELDON JOHN CANSDALE [#159981], 45, of Riverside was disbarred March 11, 2001, and was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Cansdale committed 52 acts of misconduct in 11 different matters, demonstrating a pattern of accepting and abandoning cases. The wrongdoing included repeatedly failing to perform legal services, respond to status inquiries, return unearned fees and files, as well as misappropriation and committing acts of moral turpitude.

Cansdale "literally walked away from. . . cases without returning any monies or files," said Judge Madge S. Watai, who recommended his disbarment.

In most of the matters, time was of the essence because the clients were seeking protection from creditors. Cansdale took the clients' money but performed no services and, after months of generally desperate phone calls, the clients would learn that Cansdale's phone was disconnected and he had done no work.

A couple who wished to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, for instance, gave Cansdale $650 in advance fees and a $175 filing fee. Cansdale never filed the petition, and although the clients were under pressure from by creditors and tax authorities, he did not respond to their phone calls or letters. Cansdale did not return any funds or the clients' file, nor did he respond to a State Bar investigator.

Although Cansdale filed a dissolution petition for a client who paid a $1,000 advance, he never did any other work, nor did he answer 16 phone calls from the client.

Another client paid $3,500 to pursue civil claims against an unlicensed pool contractor. Cansdale did not file a civil action or send a termination letter, as instructed. After ignoring phone calls and a registered letter, Cansdale finally met with the client, who wanted to employ a new contractor to complete the work. Cansdale told her to wait until he had taken photos of the pool and filed a civil action.

Although his secretary took the pictures, the client learned two weeks later that Cansdale's phone was disconnected. He never filed the lawsuit.

Cansdale has another pending discipline case stemming from a hearing judge's finding that he failed to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, refund unearned fees or cooperate with the bar's investigation.

RICHARD CARL CAMINO [#79847], 54, of Newport Beach was disbarred March 15, 2001, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

Camino did not comply with a 1998  rule 955 order, requiring that he notify all clients and other pertinent parties of his suspension from practice and submit an affidavit to the Supreme Court attesting that he had done so. Failure to comply with rule 955 is grounds for disbarment.

That discipline was imposed as a result of Camino's failure to perform legal services competently, return client files, refund unearned fees, deposit client funds in a trust account, communicate with a client, or pay court-ordered sanctions, and he committed acts of moral turpitude.

He defaulted in both matters.

AUSTIN A. DITTER JR. [#50407], 59, of Citrus Heights was disbarred March 15, 2001, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

Ditter did not comply with a 1998 discipline order that he meet the requirements of rule 955.

The underlying discipline was imposed for Ditter's failure to perform legal services competently, communicate with a client, refund unearned fees, keep his address current with the bar or cooperate with the bar's investigation, and he improperly withdrew from employment and improperly held himself out as entitled to practice.

MARY FRANCES RICHARDSON [#112861], 54, of Claremont was disbarred March 15, 2001, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

Richardson violated a 1999 disciplinary order by failing to comply with rule 955.

That discipline was imposed as a result of Richardson's failure to comply with a previous order which had sanctioned her for practicing without a license.

In recommending her disbarment, Judge Nancy Roberts Lonsdale said Richardson "has not participated in this disciplinary proceeding prior to the entry of her default, nor in the prior proceeding, which raises a grave concern that she has no regard whatsoever for her professional obligations."

MICHAEL C. MOUSTAKAS [#55953], 60, of Northridge was disbarred March 28, 2001, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

Moustakas misappropriated at least $35,000 of a client's settlement money and failed to complete the paperwork for an annuity for the same client over a three-year period.

The client was involved in an automobile accident and she settled her claim with two insurance companies for $265,000. Of that amount, $100,000 was issued to an annuity service corporation to be placed in an annuity for her. The remainder was deposited in Moustakas' client trust account for distribution to the client and Moustakas for his contingency fee.

Moustakas wrote five checks totaling $20,600 on the client's behalf, but $5,000 was for part of his fee. The client received no other money, and the balance in the trust account fell below the required amount.

Because Moustakas did not finalize the annuity, the client did not receive her first annuity payment for more than three years after the settlement.

When the client hired a new lawyer, Moustakas did not give him the client's file. He also did not respond to the bar's investigation after a complaint was filed.

The bar court found that Moustakas committed an act of moral turpitude and failed to perform legal services competently, release client property or cooperate with the bar's investigation.

He has a record of three prior disciplines.

SUSPENSION/PROBATION

JOHN WILLIAM BERNBROCK [#144254], 40, of Anaheim Hills was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a one year actual suspension, and was ordered to make restitution, prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Feb. 3, 2001.

Bernbrock stipulated to misconduct in two cases.

In the first, he placed in his client trust account the net proceeds from the sale of his client's home. Over the next several months, Bernbrock allowed the balance to fall far below the required amount and misappropriated more than $13,000. He subsequently made deposits to make up the deficiency in the account, and the funds were transferred to an account requiring the signatures of both attorneys and their clients.

The misappropriation involved moral turpitude.

In a divorce case, he received $1,500 in advance fees but failed to do any work. When the client fired him and asked for an accounting and a refund of unearned fees, Bernbrock did not respond or refund the money. He did not respond to demands by the client's new lawyer for 20 months, when he provided an accounting and said he would refund some money. He never did.

Bernbrock then told the State Bar he would refund the entire fee but never did.

In mitigation, Bernbrock is an alcoholic but is now sober and attends weekly meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. His marriage was unraveling at the time; his relationship with his father, who turned over his busy law practice to Bernbrock, also broke down; and he suffered financial reversals.

ALMA ROSA BONILLA [#186253], 35, of Rancho Palos Verdes was suspended for nine months, stayed, placed on 18 months of probation with a 30-day actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within a year. The order took effect Feb. 3, 2001.

Bonilla, a sole practitioner who handles family law and personal injury cases, stipulated to three counts of mishandling her client trust account.

She wrote three checks against insufficient funds in the account, she allowed the balance to fall below zero (she was twice overdrawn by more than $15,000), and she commingled personal and client funds in the account. The negative balances occurred when Bonilla deposited two checks totaling $16,000 from her personal account into the client trust account. However, because she was over her credit line with the bank, the checks were not funded but her client trust account was debited.

Bonilla explained that she deposited personal funds and money from her credit line account in an effort to rectify overdrafts which resulted from her repeated bookkeeping errors and inattention to the trust account. In addition, she had paid money to some clients before their settlement checks cleared.

Bonilla has a payment arrangement with the bank to repay the outstanding balance. One client's receipt of settlement funds was delayed for two and a half months, but he did not complain to the State Bar.

In mitigation, Bonilla was not prepared to handle a solo practice when she opened her own firm immediately after passing the bar exam in 1997. In addition, she has four minor children, was out of the office for a time on maternity leave and had marital problems. She also has a strong record of community service.

ERNESTO OBILLO CAUNAN [#174518], 61, of Rowland Heights was suspended for one year, 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 Feb. 3, 2001.

Caunan stipulated that he mishandled his client trust account by failing to maintain an adequate  balance or keep a written ledger.

He had deposited five checks totaling about $33,000 and disbursed funds to his clients and their medical providers. However, when the balance should have been at least $10,833.34 to cover those payments, it actually stood at $79.73.

Caunan also wrote checks to himself against the account and wrote six checks against insufficient funds.

In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation.

The probation of CREIG A. DOLGE [#101651], 45, of Santa Barbara was revoked, the previous stay of suspension was lifted and he was suspended for 34 months, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual 60-day suspension, and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation. The actual suspension is consecutive to another actual suspension which began June 11, 1999.

Dolge did not comply with the terms of a 1999 disciplinary order by not attending ethics school within one year.

He has been disciplined three other times, beginning with a 1996 private reproval for failing to perform legal services competently or communicate with clients. He received a 60-day actual suspension the same year for identical violations, as well as a failure to return client files or cooperate with the bar's investigation.

In 1998, Dolge was suspended for 135 days for violating professional integrity requirements.

The 1999 discipline underlying the probation revocation was the result of failing to comply with the terms of a previous discipline, practicing law while not entitled and committing acts of moral turpitude.

In mitigation, he did not attend ethics school because his employer would not give him time off. He has now accrued enough leave time and has made arrangements to attend.

HUMBERTO SAMUEL HERNANDEZ [#183659], 40, of Riverside was suspended for six months, 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 Feb. 3, 2001.

The disciplinary panel of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court suspended Hernandez from practicing before the bankruptcy court for one year and gave him an immediate three-month suspension. The remainder of the suspension was stayed if Hernandez purchases a copy of the bankruptcy code, the federal rules of bankruptcy procedure and the California Code of Civil Procedure, and if he completes 12 hours of continuing education and files a motion seeking reinstatement supported by a declaration of compliance. He also had the option of remaining suspended for one year.

Hernandez hired a paralegal who accepted a client's bankruptcy case, prepared a Chapter 13 filing and forged the client's signature without her permission. The paralegal used the client's husband's Social Security number on the petition, even though the client had provided her number.

Although Hernandez signed the petition as the debtor's attorney, he never met the client or discussed her case with her. The petition was filed.

The client, who had not authorized the filing of the petition, subsequently hired another attorney and signed the bankruptcy petition the new attorney prepared.

The bankruptcy judge referred Hernandez to the discipline panel when he learned Hernandez filed the first petition without authorization and that it contained a forged signature and false Social Security information.

In mitigation, Hernandez has no record of discipline since his 1996 admission to the bar.

SHELDON M. KAUFMAN [#30532], 66, of Toluca Lake was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a 45-day actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE and prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Feb. 24, 2001.

Kaufman stipulated to misconduct in two matters.

Kaufman never filed suit in a civil matter, despite numerous promises to his client that he would do so. He also did not respond to many of his client's inquiries about the case nor to a State Bar investigator looking into the matter.

Kaufman was disciplined in 1997 but did not comply with the terms of his probation: he failed to submit nine probation reports on time, pass the professional responsibility exam, attend ethics school or client trust account record keeping school, complete six hours of continuing education or provide evidence that he did not have any client funds in his possession.

That discipline was the result of Kaufman's failure to properly maintain client funds.

He has two other instances of discipline. In 1989, he was actually suspended for unauthorized practice, failure to act competently and failure to properly maintain client funds. In 1992, he was suspended for 30 days for unauthorized practice.

In mitigation, no clients were harmed by his misconduct.

LARRY H. KREUEGER [#46885], 58, of Sherman Oaks was suspended for two years, stayed, actually suspended for one year and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Feb. 3, 2001.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Kreueger failed to comply with probation conditions attached to a 1998 probation by not filing four probation reports and not completing ethics school.

The original discipline was imposed for a failure to communicate with a client, keep his address current with the bar and cooperate with a bar investigation.

Kreueger also was publicly reproved in 1978.

MARIE R. CANNELLA [#115480], 56, of Glendale was suspended for one year, stayed, actually suspended for 60 days and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, she must prove her rehabilitation. The order took effect Feb. 16, 2001.

In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Cannella failed to complete a probate matter or return a client's papers and she did not cooperate with the bar's investigation.

Although Cannella filed a petition to probate a will and letters testamentary, she never finalized the probate. She also did not respond to a letter from her client asking that the matter be completed.

When the client and her husband, who had hired Cannella several years earlier to prepare their wills, fired Cannella and asked that she give them the original wills and trusts, she never did so.

In mitigation, Cannella has no record of discipline since her 1984 admission to the bar.

The probation of BRETT L. FRANCISCO [#141745], 51, of North Hills was extended for one year, effective March 1, 2001.

Francisco failed to comply with probation conditions attached to a 1998 discipline issued in four consolidated cases: he did not submit three quarterly probation reports, complete six hours of MCLE or submit proof that he made restitution amounting to $1,500.

The discipline was imposed for failure to perform legal services competently, preserve client funds in a trust account, pay court-ordered sanctions or comply with an earlier probation. Francisco also was disciplined in 1996 for failing to pay sanctions or report them to the State Bar.

In mitigation, Francisco cooperated with the bar's investigation and took steps to demonstrate his remorse.

ANDREW H. GRIFFIN III [#108378], 44, of El Cajon was suspended for one year, 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 March 1, 2001.

Griffin stipulated to misconduct in three consolidated matters.

In the first, he mishandled his client trust account by not properly maintaining client funds, commingling personal and client money and failing to withdraw his fees at the earliest possible time.

In a real property matter, Griffin's clients were ordered to pay fees and costs of more than $11,000. He did not notify his clients about the outcome of the case. Instead, they learned about the fees from the opposing attorney, who had been unable to reach Griffin.

He did not respond to letters, faxes or phone calls from the clients, who fired him, nor did he return their file.

In the third matter, Griffin represented a woman in appealing the revocation of her foster care license. He did not respond to two certified letters requesting an update on the matter. Although he served notices to prepare clerk and reporter transcripts, he never returned the form and no transcript was prepared.

Griffin stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, respond to client inquiries, return a client's file or deposit client funds in a trust account.

In mitigation, Griffin has been providing pro bono legal services since 1985 and received awards for this work from the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, and he has performed community service through his church since 1987.

BRIAN M. KEITH [#145934], 42, of San Diego was suspended for 18 months, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 90-day suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect March 11, 2001.

While representing an insurance company as the plaintiff in a lawsuit, Keith received two settlement drafts totaling nearly $70,000 which were deposited in a checking account. Keith was entitled to about $23,000 and the client was to receive more than $46,000.

Before any funds were paid out, the balance in the trust account fell below $1,000.

Seven months after receiving the settlement funds, and after numerous phone calls and a letter from the client, Keith wrote two checks to the insurance company for $21,000 and $24,000. The larger check was dated for two weeks later and was returned by the bank for insufficient funds when the client tried to cash it.

Two months later, Keith issued a new check for $5,000 from a different account, and two months after that, he wrote another $5,000 check. In the meantime, he told the client he used the settlement money to build a new office building.

Keith never responded to a request for an accounting and did not pay the final balance of more than $11,000 until 18 months after the case settled.

He stipulated that he failed to deposit settlement funds in a client trust account, promptly pay out client funds or provide an accounting, and that he committed acts of moral turpitude by misappropriating client funds and writing a bad check.

In mitigation, Keith has no prior record of discipline and he has donated time and money since 1990 to charitable causes.

JAMES RICHARD BOYD [#175597], 35, of San Diego was suspended for three months, stayed, placed on 18 months of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect March 11, 2001.

Boyd stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently in his representation of a client in both a marital dissolution and charges that he violated a temporary restraining order.

Boyd told his client he did not have to appear at the TRO hearings because Boyd would represent him. Boyd failed to appear at three hearings and bench warrants were issued for his client's arrest twice. Boyd did not tell the client about the warrants.

When he did not appear at a custody hearing in the dissolution, another warrant was issued and Boyd's client was arrested and spent 12 hours in jail.

In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation.

PETER KENNETH OWENS [#112215], 44, of Sunnyvale was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual two-year suspension and was ordered to make restitution, prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect March 11, 2001.

Owens stipulated to 33 counts of misconduct in 15 consolidated cases.

Numerous clients hired Owens and paid advance fees, but he did not do the work. In some cases, he also did not communicate with his clients, return the advance fees or release their files when asked.

A client who had paid Owens $1,000 to handle her divorce took the matter to fee arbitration when he refused to return her fee or her file. The arbitrator awarded the client $1,050, but Owens never paid. He also failed to pay arbitration awards of $435 and $1,575 in two other cases.

In a bankruptcy matter, the judge ordered Owens to pay $30,000 to the bankruptcy trustee, who asserted that money was attorney fees which had not been properly disclosed. Owens did not pay the money.

He also mishandled his client trust account, issuing five checks to pay non-client-related expenses. During a six-month period in 1996-97, Owens issued 50 checks for a total of $38,000, representing the withdrawal of earned attorney fees from the trust account. However, the fees were withdrawn at times unrelated to when they were earned, a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Owens was privately reproved in 1996, but did not comply with the conditions attached to the order: he did not file two quarterly probation reports or make restitution.

RONALD U. CARTER [#122387] 53, of Oakland was suspended for one year, stayed, with an actual one-year suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect March 11, 2001.

Carter failed to comply with conditions of a 1998 probation order: he did not file quarterly reports or complete ethics school or client trust accounting school despite repeated reminders.

He had stipulated to misappropriation of client funds. In 1991, Carter filed a bankruptcy action for a client, a company that had not received any damages to which it was entitled in a civil case. The bankruptcy trustee made disbursements to Carter's client, which Carter thought he was entitled to take as legal fees. He did not inform the client about receiving the funds and did not deposit them in a client trust account.

GRADY MARTIN DAVIS [#96388], 49, of Chico 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 March 11, 2001.

Davis stipulated to one count of misconduct, resulting from representing two clients with conflicting interests in different illegal drug sale and possession cases. He did not obtain written permission from either client to represent the other. The clients knew each other through drug sale transactions.

The first client was arrested for numerous sales of cocaine in 1996 and had agreed to cooperate with police as an informant against her supplier. The client tried several times to set up a "buy" of cocaine, crank and marijuana with an undercover cop and her supplier but nothing came of the sting operation.

Davis represented the supplier, who was charged with sales and possession of methamphetamine.

When the first client was charged, she hired Davis to represent her and paid him $3,400. She says she informed Davis about her cooperation with law enforcement against the supplier.

Davis contends that as soon as he learned the woman was an informer against the supplier, he obtained both clients' oral consent, but not written consent, to his representation of conflicting interests.

The supplier, represented by Davis at trial, was convicted the same day the other client pleaded no contest to four counts of selling cocaine. She entered her plea on the recommendation of Davis' law partner.

About a year later, the first client fired Davis and hired another attorney, who filed a motion to change the woman's plea. The new lawyer argued that Davis had a conflict of interest when he represented the two clients. The court later found that there was a conflict of interest but said neither client was adversely affected by the conflict and refused to withdraw the plea.

Davis has a 1992 record of discipline for representing clients with conflicting interests and failing to communicate, promptly return unearned fees and deposit client funds in trust.

In mitigation, Davis cooperated with the bar's investigation.

SHAPOUR S. KHASTOO [#134194], 54, of Beverly Hills was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on probation for three years with a nine-month actual suspension and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect March 11, 2001.

Khastoo was convicted last year of making false statements on a tax return, a felony, and stipulated that he engaged in misconduct warranting discipline. The conviction was the result of Khastoo's failure to report some $169,900 on federal income tax returns over several years.

In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation and has shown remorse and rehabilitation. He also has a long record of community service and pro bono work.

DOUGLAS MALCOLM MARSHALL [#55880], 54, of Grand Forks, N.D., was suspended for three months, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension, and was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE within one year. If the actual suspension exceeds 90 days, he must comply with rule 955. The order took effect March 11, 2001.

Marshall stipulated to nine counts of misconduct in seven cases, including failure to perform legal services competently or communicate with clients, and commingling client and personal funds in his client trust account.

In a probate matter, he filed a complaint which the court later dismissed because he failed to appear at a hearing and did not comply with the local rules of court. He also did not return any of the client's files.

The same client employed Marshall to represent her in a wrongful termination case. The case was originally filed in 1994, but was won by the client's employer in 1995. Marshall filed an appeal and twice asked for an extension to file the client's opening brief. The appeal was dismissed two years later because Marshall had failed to file a brief. After several letters and faxes asking about the status of the appeal, Marshall finally told the client the case had been dismissed nine months earlier because he did not file an opening brief.

In an appeal of civil case judgment, another client paid Marshall $2,850. After a  year, the client did not hear from Marshall, who closed his law office without having filed an appeal. The client never received a refund.

In a workers' compensation matter for another client, Marshall was paid $3,000 in legal fees. The court ordered him to pay the money to the client's previous lawyers, but he refused.

Marshall also used a client's trust account money to write personal checks totaling more than $660 to pay for payroll expenses and bottled drinking water.

In mitigation, Marshall has no prior record of discipline since his 1973 admission to the bar. He discontinued practicing law in 1999 and has moved out of the state.

RICHARD ALAN KERNODLE [#112513], 51, of Martinez was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and make restitution. The order took effect March 15, 2001.

Kernodle stipulated to four counts of misconduct in three cases.

He did not comply with probation conditions attached to a 1998 disciplinary order: he did not make complete and timely restitution, file probation reports and statements of compliance with an approved law office management plan on time or cooperate with the probation monitor. The discipline was imposed as a result of Kernodle's failure to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, refund unearned fees, or promptly pay out client funds, and for improperly withdrawing from employment.

In a family law matter, he failed to perform legal services, appear at a hearing or refund $1,850 in advance fees.

He represented his mother-in-law in a personal injury case, but maintains that he filed the complaint at the urging of his family in order to prevent the statute of limitations from expiring. He says it was not his intention to represent his mother-in-law in the case beyond filing the complaint.

Subsequently, he did not substitute out as counsel, did not appear at case management conferences, did not respond to an order to show cause why the matter should not be dismissed (because of his failure to appear), and did not appear at the show cause hearing.

Kernodle also was disciplined last year for failure to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, refund unearned fees or cooperate with the bar's investigation.

In mitigation, the family law matter arose from Kernodle's participation in a prepaid legal services provider and was addressed in an earlier discipline. The client complained after that earlier discipline was imposed, but the complaint likely would not have resulted in a more severe discipline.

Kernodle also cooperated with the bar investigation of the new charges.

DAVID L. GANEZER [#134337], 40, of Santa Monica was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on five 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 March 16, 2001.

In a ruling on a second appeal by Ganezer, the State Bar Court's review department upheld most of the findings of a hearing judge in 18 consolidated cases. Ganezer and his brother, Elliott, originally were charged together with regard to the operation of the Ganezer Law Firm (GLF) and the handling of their trust account. Elliott Ganezer stipulated to misconduct in 1995.

Daniel Ganezer was charged with additional ethical violations stemming from his individual Wilshire Boulevard practice. He claimed his discipline was grossly disproportionate to that received by his brother, a claim the court rejected.

In 1991 and 1992, GLF expended about $150,000 a year on advertising and opened approximately one new personal injury case a day. For several months, the firm also completed settlements and disbursed funds in some eight cases per month.

By his own admission, Ganezer treated the firm's trust accounts as a convenience. The review department characterized his handling of client funds as "grossly careless and negligent." No client ledger or record of disbursements was maintained, trust accounts were never reconciled and bank statements were not reviewed more than twice a year.

Ganezer repeatedly allowed the balance in the trust account to fall below the required amount, wrote checks against insufficient funds, misappropriated client funds, allowed one client's trust funds to be used to pay another's attorney fees, and committed numerous acts of mortal turpitude. The review department found 14 instances of failure to deposit client funds in a trust account and 19 acts of moral turpitude, as well as nine additional uncharged instances of both.

In one matter, Ganezer used the proceeds from a client's settlement to pay office expenses. In another, he did not notify one client's previous attorney, who had a lien against any settlement, of the receipt of settlement funds. The former attorney's signature was on the check, although he had not endorsed it. Ganezer also told the other lawyer that the case had not settled when in fact it had.

He also did not pay a medical provider, who was forced to sue Ganezer to recover money he was owed.

For the seven months the Wilshire office operated under his name, Ganezer turned over control to a non-lawyer, who opened about 200 files. The non-lawyer signed up clients and cases were negotiated and settled by his employees, sometimes without Ganezer's knowledge. Ganezer acknowledged he lost control of the office and that he was not sure some clients' "accidents" had actually occurred. The non-lawyer took 40 to 50 client files when Ganezer fired him.

After Ganezer closed the Wilshire office, checks totaling $34,500 were deposited in his client trust account, bearing the purported signatures of Ganezer and three clients. None of the clients ever knew the checks were received or endorsed.

The review department found that in looking at Ganezer's misconduct, "a picture of total indifference to the ethical responsibilities of the practice of law emerges."

It did credit him for handling significant pro bono litigation over more than three years, requiring about 1,000 hours of work.

RICHARD F. LUNETTA [#94320], 50, of Corona was suspended for four years, stayed, placed on three 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 March 16, 2001.

Claiming he was denied a fair trial, Lunetta had sought review of a hearing judge's finding that he failed to properly maintain client funds, committed an act of moral turpitude and took an unconscionable fee. The review department upheld the first two violations, reduced the third to taking an illegal fee and reduced the recommended actual suspension from three years to two.

Lunetta's troubles stemmed from his representation of a minor in a personal injury case. Without court approval, his clients agreed Lunetta would receive 40 percent of any recovery.

Following a jury trial, Lunetta's client was awarded $10,700; the check was deposited in Lunetta's client trust account five months after it was received. The balance in the account declined steadily to a negative balance before any money was given to the client or her doctor. Instead, Lunetta wrote more than 40 checks to himself, ranging from $100 to $250.

After the State Bar inquired about the matter, Lunetta paid the client, using a $10,000 deposit he said was from his mother for a case he was handling for her. Although he prepared a petition to the superior court for approval of the contract for fees, he did not file it because he could not get the State Bar to agree that filing the petition would end any disciplinary complaint.

Lunetta testified that his wife maintained the trust account and he thought the withdrawals he made from the trust account were related to his mother's case. However, he produced no record of that case, no evidence of work product, bills or cancelled checks from his mother, nor any bank records relating to the case.

He also said he was distracted from close supervision of his trust account by a very busy practice of between 50 and 100 active cases.

In mitigation, Lunetta practiced for 13 years without a record of discipline.

JOHN ANDREW GARCIA [#109192], 59, of Merced was suspended for 30 days, stayed, placed on three years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect March 22, 2001.

For almost nine years, Garcia was in contact with the state's Victims of Crime Program (VOCP) on behalf of a client he represented in an uninsured motorist personal injury matter. He filed a lawsuit in the case and was required to reimburse VOCP when the matter settled.

After receiving three letters from the program, Garcia advised VOCP the case was still being negotiated. He subsequently received two letters, the first notifying him that the state held a lien of $4,112.45 and the second amending the amount of the lien to $3,483.37.

The client's uninsured motorist policy eventually paid $25,000, which Garcia deposited in his client trust account, disbursing $7,000 to the client and $18,000 to himself. He did not notify VOCP of the terms and conditions of the settlement, nor did he make any payment to the program.

More than three years later, a representative of VOCP spoke with Garcia by phone, and he challenged her to prove that he knew about the lien. She provided the documentation and demanded that Garcia pay the lien within 20 days, but he did not respond. Finally, three years after that, Garcia issued a check to VOCP for $4,112.45.

Over the course of these events, Garcia delegated many of the responsibilities to staff whom he did not adequately supervise. He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently and that by failing to honor the lien, he failed to support the laws of California.

In mitigation, Garcia has no record of prior discipline and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.

GREGORY P. MUTZ [#153481], 49, of El Cajon was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on actual suspension for three years and until he makes restitution and the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect March 22, 2001.

The State Bar Court found that Mutz failed to perform legal services competently for four clients; he did not appear at hearings, return client phone calls, honor a fee arbitration award to a client or pay court-ordered sanctions.

One client hired him for a breach of contract action in which damages exceeded $25,000, but Mutz filed the complaint in municipal court instead of superior court. He delayed five months before serving the defendants, and the proof of service was rejected by the court as legally insufficient. When the client hired a new lawyer, Mutz did not release the file or execute a substitution of attorney for four months. While still attorney of record, he failed to attend a status conference.

Mutz' client in a criminal matter gave some money to another attorney to hold in trust in order to avoid government seizure of his money. Mutz approached the other attorney and asked that he pay Mutz $3,500 in attorney's fees, although the client had paid $5,500 in advance fees. The other lawyer declined.

Mutz did not appear at two hearings, was found in contempt and ordered to pay $350 in sanctions. He never paid, did not respond to letters from the client and did not refund any unearned fees. The State Bar's fee arbitration committee awarded $5,005 to the client, but Mutz never paid.

Another client paid $1,000 for Mutz to collect a court-ordered judgment, but he did no work, failed to respond to phone calls, and did not honor a promise to provide the client with copies of his documents or notice of a court date.

When he failed to appear at a criminal hearing for another client, the court issued a bench warrant of attachment for Mutz and set bail at $25,000.

Mutz also did not cooperate with the bar's investigation of his misconduct.

MATTHEW DEAN SOULE [#108656], 43, of Los Angeles was suspended for 90 days, stayed, placed on 18 months of probation and was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect March 22, 2001.

Soule practiced law and accepted an illegal fee while suspended in 1996 and 1997 for non-payment of bar dues.

In mitigation, Soule had suffered a fire in his home, was living in a Red Cross shelter with his wife and children, and spent several months putting his life back together.

GEORGE A. CREQUE [#115580], 46, of Willow Springs was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect March 28, 2001.

Creque did not comply with the conditions attached to a 1998 probation: he failed to file eight probation reports, attend ethics school, take the professional responsibility exam or complete eight hours of continuing education.

The discipline was imposed for Creque's failure to communicate with a client, return client files or cooperate with the bar's investigation.