HOWARD ALLAN LIPTON [#79301], 51, of Sherman
Oaks 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 Sept. 6, 2001.
Lipton stipulated to four counts of misconduct in
two consolidated cases.
He misused his client trust account by writing
three checks against insufficient funds, commingling personal and
client funds in the account and paying personal bills from the
account, and by failing to maintain client funds.
He settled a personal injury claim for $15,000,
but did not disburse any funds to his client or a lienholder, and
allowed the balance to fall below the required amount. About six
months after the settlement check was deposited in Lipton's trust
account at Alliance Bank, his client signed and submitted to the bank
a form alleging that his (the client's) signature on the check was
forged. As a result, the bank on which the check was drawn had to
refund $15,000 to Alliance Bank. Alliance was unable to recover the
funds from Lipton's trust account and sued Lipton. That case and
other civil matters eventually settled with a stipulation for judgment
in the amount of $220,000, with Lipton assigning his attorney fees
from other matters to the bank.
Lipton also stipulated to committing an act of
Lipton has a record of four previous disciplines,
including a public reproval, three suspensions and a probation
He offered extensive mitigation, including severe
financial pressures and depression. His wife had a brain seizure,
filed for divorce and had Lipton evicted from their home, their son
receives psychiatric treatment and Lipton himself had serious health
problems. He recognizes his wrongdoing, is extremely remorseful and
cooperated with the bank to resolve his debts.
JOSEPH MEIR RIBAKOFF [#146573], 45, of Long
Beach was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on four years of
probation with an actual 60-day suspension and was ordered to make
restitution and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect
Sept. 6, 2001.
Ribakoff stipulated to misconduct in two cases.
In the first, he represented a client in several
legal matters relating to an apartment building partnership. The
client paid Ribakoff $5,000 and asked him to initiate formal
litigation to dissolve the partnership. His check for the filing fee
was returned, however, and the court ordered him to pay within 20 days
or the filing would be voided.
When the client demanded a meeting because she
was frustrated about the lack of progress, Ribakoff promised to repay
the advance fee at a rate of $500 a month and to continue the case on
a contingency basis. When the court scheduled a notice to show cause
hearing, Ribakoff did not notify the client. The court issued another
return check notice.
The client hired a new attorney and asked for a
return of unearned fees. Although Ribakoff finally paid the filing
fee, the client obtained a small claims judgment against him for
$5,048, which he did not pay.
Ribakoff stipulated that he failed to perform
legal services competently, refund advance fees or keep his client
informed of developments in her case.
In the second matter, he was paid a $3,000
advance fee to handle an ERISA claim for a client and his wife. He
told the client the complaint had been filed when it was not, and then
did not respond to three requests by the client for a copy of the
complaint. The client eventually learned no complaint was filed when
he visited the court.
He demanded a refund of his fee and complained to
the State Bar.
Nine months after Ribakoff said he filed a
complaint, he did file a complaint, but in the wrong county. When the
court issued an order to show cause, Ribakoff filed a declaration
identifying himself as counsel for the clients, although he was no
longer their attorney.
He stipulated that he failed to provide competent
legal services, refund an unearned fee or respond to client inquiries.
His misrepresentations to his client and the court were acts of moral
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's
investigation, he had financial hardship at the time of the misconduct
and suffered from a serious undiagnosed medical condition. Because he
had no medical insurance, he was unable to obtain care and was
distracted from the performance of his legal duties.
STEPHEN M. WEISS [#110150], 54, of Los Angeles
was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on 30 months of probation
and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and take the MPRE within
one year. The order took effect Sept. 6, 2001.
Weiss received a $1,000 advance fee to represent
a woman and her son in an arbitration proceeding involving a personal
injury claim. Although he received notice that a motion for summary
judgment had been filed, Weiss did not adequately inform the client he
would not file an opposition to the motion or appear at the hearing,
and that she should hire another lawyer to represent her. The motion
was granted and the case dismissed by the arbitrator, but Weiss did
not tell the client.
When the client received a refund from the
arbitration service and asked Weiss why, he said he did not know. He
also did not respond to a letter from the client regarding the status
of her case and asking for a refund. He did not respond to a State Bar
investigator looking into the matter.
Weiss stipulated that he failed to communicate
with his client, provide an accounting of the advance fee or cooperate
with the bar's investigation.
He has a record of prior discipline - a private
reproval in 1996 for failing to perform legal services competently.
In mitigation, he was experiencing severe family
problems at the time of the misconduct.
NICOLA CIMMARRUSTI [#129429], 45, of San Diego
was suspended for one year, stayed, actually suspended for 15 days and
until he makes restitution, attends ethics school and the State Bar
Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension. If the suspension
exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation; if it exceeds 90
days, he must comply with rule 955. He also was ordered to take the
MPRE. The order took effect Sept. 7, 2001.
In a default proceeding, the bar court found that
Cimmarrusti violated the terms of an agreement in lieu of discipline (ALD)
by failing to attend ethics school or make restitution to a client. He
had represented a client in a divorce action and submitted documents
that were rejected by the clerk for errors and inaccuracies. He did
not resubmit the documents or perform further services on his
He entered into an ALD with the State Bar,
admitting that he failed to competently represent his client and
agreeing to refund $150 and attend ethics school.
BRUCE MALCOLM BROWN [#135036], 40, of Duluth,
Minn., was placed on two years of probation with an actual
two-year suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation, make
restitution, take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took
effect Sept. 20, 2001.
Brown stipulated to two counts of misconduct in a
bankruptcy matter for a mother and her son in Arizona. The clients
believed Brown was a licensed Arizona attorney but he was not, and he
was suspended from practice in California at the time.
Neither Brown nor his firm filed a bankruptcy
petition and he did not refund a $790 advance fee.
He stipulated that he improperly held himself out
to practice law when he was not entitled, and he failed to refund an
In a second matter, Brown responded to two
complaints against his firm and America Bankruptcy Center Inc.,
identifying himself as corporate counsel for the bankruptcy center. At
the time, he was not licensed in Arizona and was suspended from
practice in California. He stipulated that he practiced law in a
jurisdiction where he was not entitled.
In mitigation, Brown suffered from a bipolar
disorder for which he received treatment. In addition, it was his
intent to work with a licensed Arizona attorney in his firm.
He has a record of two prior disciplines, in 1995
and 1996, for misconduct that included failure to refund unearned
fees, return client files, communicate with clients or perform legal
services competently, and for committing acts of moral turpitude.
JACK RAYMOND COONEY JR. [#63980], 57, of
Pleasanton was suspended for five 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 Sept. 20, 2001.
Cooney stipulated to four counts of misconduct.
He misappropriated more than $7,000 from a client
for whom he settled a personal injury claim for $12,000. He did not
pay the client her share of the funds, nor did he pay her doctor
bills, and he did not respond to a letter requesting an accounting for
the funds. He made full restitution after receiving notification he
was being investigated by the State Bar. He failed to participate in
the bar's investigation.
He also misappropriated more than $7,500 from two
other clients for whom he received settlement funds totalling $16,200.
Although he paid them $2,000 and paid their doctor bills, he did not
give them what they were owed. He made restitution as a condition for
settling the bar's investigation and he deposited funds into his
client trust account to satisfy a lien by the clients' former
attorney. (The clients dispute the lien and have directed Cooney not
to pay it.)
Cooney has no record of discipline, he was
struggling with serious family issues that resulted in financial,
emotional and health problems, and he demonstrated remorse.
IONE YOUNG GRAY [#74491], 54, of Los Angeles
was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on four years of
probation with a four-year, six-month actual suspension, and was
ordered to take the MPRE. Credit towards the actual suspension will be
given for an interim suspension which began April 29, 1997. The order
took effect Sept. 20, 2001.
Gray was convicted in 1997 of two counts of
making false statements on a loan application and two counts of
fraudulent use of a Social Security number, all felonies involving
moral turpitude. The convictions were the result of knowingly making
material false statements in documentation she submitted in support of
two loan applications. She provided a false name and Social Security
number and misstated her monthly earnings.
While suspended for nonpayment of bar dues, Gray
accepted three cases for clients. She made three court appearances,
filed a complaint and motions, and requested a continuance of a trial
date. She stipulated that she committed acts of moral turpitude.
In mitigation, she made her loan payments on time
and the bank suffered no monetary loss as a result of her actions.
There was no order of restitution.
CHARLES T. HINDLEY [#55738], 77, of San
Bernardino was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two
years of probation with a one-year actual suspension, and was ordered
to take the MPRE within one year. Credit will be given for an interim
suspension which began Oct. 27, 1999. The order took effect Sept. 20,
Hindley was convicted in 1999 of one count of
receiving stolen property. Unidentified individuals stole trash and
other discarded papers belonging to a law firm engaged in civil cases
with one of Hindley's clients.
The items were given to Hindley's client, who
stored them in plastic bags in a space in Hindley's office. There
was no indication Hindley knew of the burglary, although he helped the
client move the bags from one location to another.
In mitigation, Hindley has no record of
discipline in more than 25 years of practice, and he cooperated with
the bar's investigation. At the time of the misconduct, he was under
the care of physicians who prescribed eight different drugs for his
hypertension. The medication adversely affected his decision making.
CRAIG MICHAEL LYTLE [#84430], 59, of Hermosa
Beach was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of
probation with an actual 60-day suspension, and was ordered to take
the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 20, 2001.
Lytle represented a client in a medical
malpractice claim on a contingency fee basis, filing a complaint in
1997. He then failed to respond to discovery requests or to numerous
client phone calls, and did not appear at two case management
conferences or an order to show cause hearing. As a result, the case
was dismissed, but he did not inform his client.
When the client finally terminated Lytle in
February 1999, he did not release her file for a month. The client
learned her case was dismissed 11 months later.
Lytle stipulated that he failed to perform legal
services competently, respond to client inquiries or keep a client
informed of significant developments in her case. He also did not
cooperate with the bar's investigation.
In another matter, he used his client trust
account to pay personal expenses and bounced at least six checks, acts
of moral turpitude.
Lytle was disciplined twice previously, both
public reprovals. In one matter, he failed to maintain client trust
records or render an accounting and he improperly withdrew from
employment. In the other case, he failed to pay court-ordered
In mitigation, he had family problems at the
time, and the issuance of checks against insufficient funds was partly
due to a stop-payment order placed on a check written to Lytle which
he had deposited. He cooperated with the bar's investigation.
WAYNE WINROW [#153632], 50, of Richmond
was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on 30 months of probation
with an actual 75-day suspension, and was ordered to prove his
rehabilitation and take the MPRE within one year. The order took
effect Sept. 20, 2001.
Winrow stipulated to misconduct in four cases.
He did not inform one client that her claim
against a transit agency was rejected or of a resulting six-month
statute of limitations. He took no further action on the case. He also
did not respond to requests for the client's file from her new
Hired to file a divorce petition by another
client who paid a $1,000 retainer, Winrow drafted a petition but did
no further work. He did not return numerous phone calls from the
client and refunded the fee only after the client complained to the
He also practiced law while on inactive status
for failing to pay an arbitration award, making three court
appearances, filing pleadings and negotiating with opposing counsel.
In mitigation, no client was harmed as a result
of the unlicensed appearance matters, Winrow cooperated with the
bar's investigation, he demonstrated good character with a wide
range of references, and he has performed significant pro bono work.
JOHN ROBERT FUCHS [#82932], 55, of Los Angeles
was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of
probation, and was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE
within one year. The order took effect Sept. 21, 2001.
Fuchs stipulated that he maintained an unjust
action by pursuing a lawsuit against former clients for fees and
costs, despite entering into a settlement and agreement releasing them
from any further claim.
The clients originally were represented in a
civil action by another attorney on a 33 1/3 percent contingency
basis. That attorney then joined Fuchs' firm, which demanded a 40
percent contingency fee and said it would not advance costs. Although
the clients declined to enter into the agreement, trial was set to
begin a short time later, so they agreed to the arrangement.
Fuchs tried the case and won a judgment of
$575,000, including $100,000 in attorney fees and $21,000 in costs.
After trial, a dispute arose between the clients
and the firm over fees, payment of costs and allegations of legal
malpractice. Fuchs told the clients the firm would no longer represent
A new attorney received the settlement funds and
met with all the former attorneys to resolve the fee dispute. They
agreed to a division of funds and an exchange of mutual general
Fuchs signed a settlement and release agreement
in order to induce the clients to give him $151,500 of the settlement
funds. The agreement released the clients from all further claims
pertaining to payment of Fuchs' firm's lien for attorney fees and
Two weeks later, Fuchs demanded the clients pay
him an additional $93,831.74, or he would file suit.
Six days later, he sued and pursued the lawsuit
for more than a year. The clients won summary judgment; Fuchs appealed
both summary judgment and the judgment after trial. The court affirmed
the summary judgment against the Fuchs firm, reversed the judgment in
favor of the clients and remanded the case for the trial court to
enter a judgment against Fuchs for nominal damages and a determination
of reasonable attorney fees.
In mitigation, Fuchs has no record of discipline,
he had family and financial problems and he presented references
attesting to his good character.
JOHN BECKERICH BARRIAGE [#120462], 42, of
Torrance was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on two years
of probation with a 30-day actual suspension and was ordered to take
the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 22, 2001.
Barriage wrote more than 40 checks against his
client trust account to pay personal and business expenses. He
stipulated that he commingled client and personal funds in the
In mitigation, he has no record of discipline and
he cooperated with the bar's investigation.
JOHN DALE BIRD [#133628], 59, of Grand Terrace
was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on one year of probation
with an actual 30-day suspension and was ordered to make restitution
within a year and comply with rule 955. If he does not make
restitution, probation will be extended for four years. The order took
effect Sept. 22, 2001.
Bird stipulated to eight counts of misconduct in
four consolidated cases.
In a matter that began as a divorce in 1991, Bird
held the proceeds from his client's pension fund in his client trust
account. After the client died in 1997, Bird continued to hold the
pension funds by order of the court.
Bird then sued his late client's wife, who
administered the estate, for more than $17,000 in fees and costs. He
signed the name of another lawyer as attorney of record, but the other
lawyer had not prepared or reviewed the complaint. Judgment was
entered against the wife in the amount of $19,066.25. Bird wrote a
check against his trust account - containing the pension funds -
to the marshal's office. He also assigned his interest in the action
to his sister, who was his office administrator. His sister, in turn,
assigned to Bird her interest in a piece of property in Illinois, in
the amount of $19,066.25.
In the meantime, Bird divorced his wife and was
ordered to pay $10,724 in spousal support. The marshal released the
funds from the $19,066 he was holding from the other case. Bird
objected that the money was for his law office and could not be used
to pay a personal judgment. He stipulated, however, that he assigned
his interest in the funds to his sister to avoid attachment, failing
to comply with a court order. His action amounted to moral turpitude.
Unaware that the pension funds had been levied by
the marshal, an attorney from the original case moved for a hearing on
distribution of the money. The court ordered Bird to disburse more
than $20,000 from the estate. Bird's sister claimed she was entitled
to the funds.
Bird was found in contempt, sentenced to 10 days
in jail and ordered to pay a $2,000 fine.
Bird stipulated that filing suit against his late
client's wife, which resulted in a levy on his trust account,
constituted a bad faith violation of court orders involving the
pension fund. His violation of the orders amounted to moral turpitude.
By not maintaining funds in his trust account, he wilfully disobeyed
Bird also did not pay spousal support to his
ex-wife, was sentenced to 100 days in county jail and was ordered to
pay fees to his ex-wife's lawyer. Two writs - totaling more than
$40,000 - were issued
against him for spousal support and attorney's fees. He did not pay
In two other matters, he did not respond to
clients' inquiries about their cases or refund unearned fees.
In mitigation, Bird has no prior record of
discipline. He relied on advice of counsel in filing suit to receive
payment of his fees because he was worried about the ability of
creditors and the IRS to attach his client's pension funds.
In his own divorce case, he has been subjected to
large financial liabilities, including a tax bill of more than
$100,000. He was unable to make his spousal payments because of cash
ALLAN M. GOLDBERG [#158820], 52, of Canoga
Park was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on five years
of probation with a six-month actual suspension and until he proves
his rehabilitation, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with
rule 955. The order took effect Sept. 22, 2001.
Goldberg was arrested in 1998 on suspicion of
driving under the influence. Three days later, he was arrested again
following an automobile accident in which three people were injured.
He was convicted for the first arrest of driving under the influence
with one prior. On the second arrest, he was convicted of DUI and
causing injuries to more than one person, a felony, driving with a
license suspended for a prior DUI, a misdemeanor, and two counts of
possession of a controlled substance, a felony.
In mitigation, Goldberg cooperated with the
bar's investigation and he demonstrated remorse about his actions.
JAMES McCONE [#163918], 43, of Los Angeles 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 Sept. 22, 2001.
McCone handled a civil case which ended with a
$35,000 judgment against his client. At the time the judgment was
entered, McCone and the client agreed McCone would be paid a flat fee
of $5,000 plus costs.
A few months later, McCone told the client he had
filed a notice of appeal. A year later, the court dismissed the appeal
because no briefs had been filed. McCone did not notify the client the
case was dismissed and he did not return the client's phone calls.
He stipulated that he failed to perform legal
services competently or keep his client informed of significant
developments in his case.
In mitigation, McCone cooperated with the bar's
JOHN MICHAEL McKENNA [#91174], 52, of Tustin
was suspended for six months, stayed and placed on probation for two
years. The order took effect Sept. 22, 2001.
McKenna represented a client on a contingency fee
basis in a real estate action against her realty company. He filed a
complaint, but did not return his client's phone calls, respond to
an inquiry about the status of her case, return her file or appear at
two hearings. His failure to perform resulted in the dismissal of the
McKenna was publicly reproved in 2000 for failing
to maintain records of client funds in his possession and for sharing
fees with a non-lawyer.
DANNY JOHN MEEHAN [#49644], 56, of Kaneohe,
Hawaii, was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on four years
of probation with an actual one-year suspension and was ordered to
take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. Credit toward the actual
suspension will be given for a period of interim suspension which
began Nov. 30, 2000. The order took effect Sept. 22, 2001.
Meehan pleaded guilty in 1998 to possession of
cocaine, a felony, and possession of a device for smoking a controlled
substance. He had been arrested after a citizen reported a man
loitering near a park. When police searched his car, they found a
handgun, a rifle and small amounts of cocaine and methamphetamine in
the trunk of his car. One of the weapons was loaded. Meehan was not
under the influence of drugs or alcohol when he was arrested.
As a first-time offender, Meehan agreed to
participate in a drug diversion program, but he did not complete the
program and served six months in the county jail. He has complied with
his probation since.
In mitigation, Meehan has no record of discipline
since his 1971 admission to the bar, has complied with his probation
even though he resides in another state, has been clean and sober
since 1998, regularly attends Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics
Anonymous meetings, and is a volunteer for a local swimming program
for the mentally challenged.
RICHARD GERARD PRANTIL [#147764], 43, of San
Diego was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of
probation with an actual four-month 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 Sept. 22, 2001.
Prantil substituted in to a divorce case after
the dissolution was complete. At the time the judgment was entered,
the wife's claim for interest in the couple's property was to be
Almost four years later, Prantil demanded and
received $10,000 from a title company for the release of the claim,
without his client's knowledge. He filed a false and misleading
document with the court, committing an act of moral turpitude.
In mitigation, he has no prior record of
discipline, he cooperated with the bar's investigation and he
provided references attesting to his good character.
DIXON RICHARD WOLCOTT [#58667], 55, of Mission
Viejo was suspended for six months, stayed, placed on two years of
probation and was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE within
one year. The order took effect Sept. 22, 2001.
Wolcott stipulated to misconduct in two cases.
He was hired to handle an appeal of a criminal
conviction and was paid $2,500 by the client's mother. At one point,
Wolcott told the mother he had completed the appeal brief and planned
to file it three days later. In fact, he never filed the appeal and
did not respond to subsequent letters from the mother or return the
client's file for almost two years.
He failed to perform legal services competently,
refund an unearned fee or promptly release a client file.
In the second matter in which he represented a
criminal defendant, he failed to appear for two court hearings or
respond to 20 pages from his client and moved without telling her his
new address. The client eventually was referred to the public
defender's office. Wolcott refunded only $20 of her $1,000 fee.
He stipulated that he withdrew from employment
without protecting his
client's interests and failed to return an
In mitigation, he has no record of prior
discipline and he had health problems at the time of the misconduct
- he suffered a stroke, which had a disabling effect on his ability
STEVEN JACOB BARKIN [#91575], 49, of North
Hollywood was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on five
years of probation and was ordered to make restitution. The order took
effect Sept. 30, 2001.
Barkin stipulated to three acts of moral
turpitude. He received settlement funds for six clients, but did not
pay their medical bills, totaling more than $13,300, and instead
misappropriated the money.
He also was suspended for four years in 1996 for
failing to return client phone calls, promptly pay out client funds,
deposit client funds in a trust account, return client files or
cooperate with the bar's investigation.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's
STEPHEN JAMES BUCHANAN [#142640], 58, of Los
Angeles was suspended for 30 days, stayed, placed on one year of
probation and was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE within
one year. The order took effect Sept. 30, 2001.
Buchanan stipulated to misconduct in two matters.
In the first, he failed to properly maintain his client trust account
by issuing several checks against insufficient funds.
In the second case, he entered into a contingency
fee agreement with a client in a personal injury case which he settled
for $2,000. Buchanan or someone else issued a check to the client for
$666, which was cashed at a check-cashing service by someone other
than the client.
A new attorney asked Buchanan to explain why the
client had received no funds. The client sued for breach of contract
and general negligence. Buchanan offered to settle for $1,500 but the
client demanded $4,500 to $5,000.
Buchanan stipulated that he failed to promptly
pay out client funds.
ELLA SMITH CHATTERJEE [#149923], 49, of
Newport Beach was suspended for one year, stayed, and actually
suspended for 45 days and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to
terminate the suspension. If the suspension exceeds 90 days, she must
comply with rule 955; if it exceeds two years, she must prove her
rehabilitation. She also was ordered to take the MPRE. The order took
effect Sept. 30, 2001
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court
found that Chatterjee failed to perform legal services competently,
keep a client informed about significant developments in a case or
cooperate with the bar's investigation.
In a bankruptcy matter, Chatterjee collected all
the information she needed but did not file the petition until after
the client complained to the State Bar. She did not tell the client
the petition was filed, nor did she inform the client that a meeting
of creditors was scheduled. Chatterjee did not appear at the meeting,
and the petition was dismissed. Chatterjee did not inform the client.
In mitigation, she practiced law for more than
eight years without any discipline.
The previously ordered probation of MARCELLO
MARIO DIMAURO [#59302], 56, of Glendale was extended for six
months, effective Sept. 30, 2001.
DiMauro was placed on probation in September
2000, but did not file a quarterly probation report or a report from a
certified public accountant. The misconduct involved overdrafts from
his client trust account; the insufficient funds were a result of poor
bookkeeping and failing to wait the requisite period of time for
deposited checks to clear. In three separate matters, 27 checks were
written against insufficient funds.
DiMauro also was privately reproved in 1987.
In mitigation, he had family problems at the time
of the misconduct.
GLEN JOHN DRYER [#141682], 43, of Kamuela,
Hawaii, was suspended for one year, stayed, actually suspended for
90 days and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate his
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 Sept. 30, 2001.
Dryer was suspended for a year and a day by the
Hawaii Supreme Court in 2000 for misconduct relating to his handling
of a criminal case. His client was scheduled to appear for trial Sept.
9, 1998, but Dryer withdrew from representation, saying he was
retiring, on Aug. 26.
Although the client did not agree to Dryer's
withdrawal, Dryer advised him to contact the public defender's
office for representation. He did not advise the client to seek a
continuance of the trial, nor did he return his file and papers to
prepare for trial.
The client appeared for the trial but Dryer did
not. The court discharged Dryer, continued the trial and referred the
client to a public defender.
Dryer did not respond to or appear before the
Hawaiian disciplinary office and was disciplined for failure to
protect client interests, obey court orders, respond to a disciplinary
authority or cooperate with an ethics investigation.
He also was suspended in a second matter for two
years. He represented a client in two workers' compensation cases,
but did not pursue the cases with diligence, keep his client informed
about developments or make efforts to expedite the litigation. He also
did not respond to disciplinary authorities or cooperate with an
The State Bar Court in California determined that
his misconduct in Hawaii also would subject him to discipline in
California and recommended his suspension.
BRUCE GARY FAGEL [#103674], 55, of Beverly
Hills was suspended for 90 days, stayed, placed on four years of
probation and was ordered to take the MPRE. The order took effect
Sept. 30, 2001.
Fagel stipulated that he misled the court during
the course of a medical malpractice case stemming from alleged
negligence during the birth of a child. The child's father agreed to
settle the case for $1.35 million, but the mother, who was the
child's legal guardian, did not.
Fagel then sent the couple a petition which
required both of their signatures, as well as a proposed disbursement
of settlement funds in which he listed estimates of costs for which he
had not received final billings. The couple did not return either
Nonetheless, Fagel submitted a petition to court,
bearing his signature, and told the court he would submit an original
with the required signatures prior to a hearing. The petition asked
the court to approve a settlement purportedly reached between his
clients and the defendant. Fagel filed the petition without his
clients' knowledge, and he lacked standing to do so.
In a supporting declaration, he estimated costs
in the case at more than $15,000, although the actual costs to that
date were about $1,500. He did not make clear to the court that the
higher amount was an estimate for other experts still reviewing the
When the clients said they did not accept the
settlement, Fagel scheduled a settlement conference with a private
judge, although he did not have the clients' authority to do so.
Despite some changes in the proposed settlement, including an offer by
Fagel to reduce his fee by $50,000, the clients again rejected the
The clients terminated Fagel. A short time later,
he petitioned the court to have an independent guardian appointed for
the child to provide an independent evaluation of the settlement.
Fagel based the request on a claimed conflict of interest between the
parties and various counsel. In fact, the only conflict was between
him and his clients. He lacked standing to seek an independent
guardian and the court denied the petition.
The case eventually was settled over the
objections of the child's mother.
In mitigation, Fagel has no record of discipline,
the clients were not harmed and he provided character witnesses. He
also undertook remedial actions to improve client communications.