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