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Caution!

More than 155,610 attorneys are eligible to practice law in California. Many attorneys share the same names.

All discipline reports should be read carefully for names, ages, addresses and bar numbers. Attorneys must report address changes within 30 days.


Disbarments

SUZANNE QUINE MALTIN [#104084], 54, of Austin, Texas, was disbarred June 22, 1997, and ordered to comply with rule 955.

Maltin was found culpable of willfully failing to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court, as ordered by the court in a 1995 suspension order.

The 1995 discipline order resulted from Maltin's failure, in multiple cases, to provide adequate legal services to indigent criminal defendants in San Benito County. Maltin was employed on a contractual basis by the county public defender's office.

JOEL GELFF [#117210], 38, of Newport Beach was disbarred July 5, 1997, and ordered to comply with rule 955.

Gelff was found culpable in one case, of misappropriation, client trust account violations, failure to perform services and failure to respond to reasonable case status inquiries. In another matter, he was found culpable of altering the deed of a Beverly Hills residence for his benefit.

In the first case, Gelff was hired to represent a company in two civil matters on a contingency fee basis.

He was successful in obtaining judgments for his client in the amount of nearly $153,000. The county clerk issued a check to Gelff for about $83,000, which he deposited into his client trust account.

Gelff then wrote checks totalling about $32,000 to himself for attorney fees. He also informed his client that a check for $40,000 or $50,000 would be issued to him in a few months.

During this period, however, the balance of his client trust account fell below the amount due his client. The client never received his portion of the settlement funds and Gelff blamed the discrepancy on his now-deceased office manager.

Gelff never responded to the client's demand for his share of the funds.

State Bar investigators also had difficulty communicating with Gelff, who did not respond to numerous attempts to contact him.

Although Gelff's 13-year discipline-free record was offered in mitigation, it was determined to be insufficient to thwart a disbarment recommendation.

"The amount of funds misappropriated from Goodman is not insignificantly small," wrote the judge, "nor are there compelling mitigating circumstances that explain or justify the misappropriation." His alteration and filing of the grant deed also was considered "egregious," as was his failure to cooperate with the bar's investigation.


Suspensions/Probation

The probation of FREDERICK MICHAEL WALKER [#38357], 56, of Walnut Creek was revoked and the previous stay of suspension lifted April 30, 1997. He was placed on one year of actual suspension and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

Walker was placed on probation and given a stayed suspension in January 1996 for aiding another person in the unauthorized practice of law and for failure to cooperate with the bar's investigation.

As a condition of probation, he was required to file quarterly probation reports. His failure to do so led to the revocation proceeding.

Walker did not participate in either disciplinary proceeding.

The probation of JEROME ANTHONY DEFILIPPO [#55578], 54, of San Francisco was revoked April 30, 1997, and the previous stay of suspension lifted. He was ordered to comply with rule 955.

In 1995, Defilippo was disciplined and placed on probation for two years based on his stipulation that he failed to comply with the conditions of an agreement in lieu of discipline when he did not pass the California Professional Responsibility Examination in one year.

In an investigative matter, he stipulated that he failed to provide legal services competently or communicate with the client in a probate case.

Defilippo violated his probation by failing to submit a quarterly probation report.

He also was disciplined in 1994 with a private reproval.

ALBERT JOHN ASHKAR JR. [#46507], 54, of North Hollywood was suspended for three years, stayed, and placed on three years of probation with an actual one-year suspension and until he makes restitution. If the actual suspension exceeds three years, he shall remain suspended until he proves rehabilitation. He also was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 30, 1997.

Ashkar deposited a settlement check for $7,500 in his business account instead of a client trust account and did not quickly notify his client of receipt of the funds. He also wilfully misappropriated client funds.

Ashkar claimed that he did not pay his client the funds because the client owed money to Ashkar's father and to him for overdue fees for other legal work. The State Bar Court rejected the claim, saying even if the client owed money to Ashkar and his father, Ashkar "was not justified in using [the] settlement funds for his own use and purpose without [the client's] authorization or consent."

Although Ashkar did not participate in the disciplinary proceeding and offered no evidence in mitigation, the court noted he has practiced for more than 22 years without discipline.

In aggravation, because Ashkar's client still has not received the settlement funds, his wife has been unable to get a needed heart pacemaker.

The probation of ROBERT G. LEVENE [#66574], 52, of Tustin was revoked and the previous stay of suspension lifted May 11, 1997. He was given an actual 23-month suspension, with credit from the involuntary inactive enrollment which began Feb. 8, 1997. He also was ordered to comply with rule 955 and attend ethics school.

Levene was disciplined in February 1995 for failing to perform legal services competently or respond promptly to status inquiries from his client and he withdrew from representation without protecting his client's interests.

Levene violated his probation by failing to submit quarterly probation reports or complete six hours of MCLE instruction.

He has been suspended since 1994 for failure to pay bar dues and was placed on a second suspension last year for not taking the professional responsibility examination.

DAVID KAGEL [#58961], 58, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on two years of probation with an actual six-month suspension and until he proves rehabilitation. He also was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect May 11, 1997.

Kagel stipulated that he filed papers containing false and misleading representations with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a client and then attempted to cover up the misrepresentations by instructing his client to compile certain information to substantiate his representations to the SEC.

In response to an SEC inquiry and an auditor, Kagel made further representations regarding his filings.

As a result of his conduct, a U.S District Court found that Kagel violated federal law and he was permanently suspended from appearing before the SEC as of Sept. 16, 1994.

In mitigation, Kagel has no other discipline in 30 years of practice.

CONRAD A. SALUMBIDES JR. [#131472], 42, of Pasadena was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on three years probation with 90 days actual suspension, effective June 1, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955.

In this opinion on review, Salumbides was found culpable on two occasions of filing false declarations in order to obtain continuances in a case, and for failing to report to the State Bar the sanctions leveled by the municipal court for his misconduct.

In a separate matter, Salumbides was found culpable of depositing a portion of his client funds into his general account.

Salumbides' misconduct stemmed from his representation of a client who was involved in an auto accident in San Francisco. At the same time, he also represented the client in a rape and serious injury case in Los Angeles.

He sought two continuances in the San Francisco case, falsely stating that he had court date conflicts in Los Angeles. After defense counsel in the San Francisco matter discovered the fabrication, Salumbides was sanctioned $3,000.

In the second matter, Salumbides' bank would not deposit a Panamanian insurance company's check into his client trust account, so he deposited it into his general account. The funds remained in his general account and were not disbursed until four months later.

The hearing department recommended 89 days of actual suspension, but the bar's trial counsel sought review, unsuccessfully urging a one-year actual suspension.

The review judge noted several mitigating factors, including the testimony of 10 respected members of the legal community who vouched for Salumbides' good character. In addition, during this time, his brother was dying.

KEVIN G. GUPTON [#80135], 49, of Sacramento was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on probation for three years on the condition that he actually be suspended for six months and until he makes restitution.

If he remains actually suspended for more than two years, the suspension will continue until he has shown proof of his fitness to practice. He also was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect June 13, 1997.

After a hearing, Gupton was found culpable of multiple instances of misconduct. In one matter, he failed to perform competently by delaying the distribution of community property assets to a client and former spouse, thereby injuring the credit record of his client.

In another matter, Gupton's inaction led to a default and in another instance his lack of legal action jeopardized the parental rights of a client.

In addition, he failed to return un-earned fees or make restitution to several clients. Gupton also violated conditions of a private reproval issued in 1993.

The hearing department judge noted that evidence from a previous disciplinary matter indicated Gupton was suffering from stress and related illnesses during the period of his misconduct. However, Gupton did not choose to provide medical records or expert testimony to prove mitigation.

Considered also in mitigation were his years as a judge pro tem, hearing settlement conferences for the Sacramento Superior Court from 1988-95.

In aggravation, Gupton received a private reproval in 1993, after stipulating to "relatively minor" misconduct. However, he failed to file timely probation reports, a law office organization plan, statements from his psychologist or psychiatrist and attend ethics school. He also stopped participating in an alcohol abuse program, another probation condition.

Gupton's motion to recuse the Supreme Court justices and petition for writ of review were denied.

HENRY M. STEINBERG [#60054], 70, of San Francisco was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for one year, with an actual suspension of 60 days and until he passes the MPRE.

If he remains actually suspended for 90 days or more, he must comply with rule 955. If he remains actually suspended for more than two years, the suspension will continue until he has shown proof of his fitness to practice. The order took effect June 13, 1997.

Steinberg sought review of a hearing department recommendation of discipline after he failed to meet conditions of a 1993 private reproval. He did not take the CPRE within the one-year required period and when he eventually did, he failed the exam.

At that time, Steinberg was disciplined for failing to communicate with a client and a lienholder and for his lack of cooperation with the bar's investigation of the matter.

Among other things, Steinberg objected to the probation condition of the private reproval which required him to pass the MPRE and pay $350 to take the test, which he considered an excessive fee. In addition, he questioned the authority of the State Bar judges.

However, the judge wrote, "It is also clear that rule 956(a) of the California Rules of Court transfers a portion of that authority, subject to review by the Supreme Court, to the State Bar Court."

The bar court review judge noted that none of Steinberg's objections were raised in the action that led to his private reproval. In addition, he was represented by counsel when he entered into a stipulation agreeing to the conditions of the reproval.

The bar court review department agreed with the hearing judge's recommended discipline, but added a one-year stayed suspension and one year of probation to Steinberg's discipline.

Steinberg's petition for writ of review was denied.

The probation of LOUIS STEVEN SANCHEZ [#82775], 50, of Glendale was revoked and his previously ordered stay of suspension partially lifted, effective June 22, 1997. Sanchez was actually suspended for 90 days and placed on probation for 18 months. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.

In this decision, the hearing department of the State Bar Court found Sanchez culpable of violating probation conditions of a 1995 discipline order. He neglected to file quarterly probation reports on three separate occasions.

The 1995 discipline order resulted from Sanchez' stipulation to multiple violations of the Business & Professions Code and the Rules of Professional Conduct in seven client matters.

Considered as a mitigating factor were Sanchez' serious health problems during this period, which led to a diagnosis of severe congestive heart failure and a recommendation for a heart transplant.

The probation of BEN DARWIN HYDE [#134972], 39, of San Diego was revoked and the stay of the previously ordered one-year suspension was lifted on June 22, 1997. Hyde was actually suspended for one year, with credit for the period of involuntary inactive enrollment which began March 3. He was ordered to attend the bar's ethics school and comply with rule 955.

Hyde failed to comply with conditions of probation from a 1996 discipline order. He neglected to provide an accounting of legal fees for two clients and notify them of their right to fee arbitration.

ALAN G. KAROW [#131353], 37, of Santa Monica was suspended for 180 days, stayed, and placed on probation for 18 months, effective June 22, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.

Karow stipulated to improper withdrawal from representation in four cases and failure to perform competently and return files in another matter.

In one instance, the State Bar was contacted by a superior court judge after Karow failed to appear on behalf of clients in three separate criminal cases.

In mitigation, Karow was faced with very serious personal, emotional and psychological problems during the period of his misconduct. He was abusing drugs, but participated in a diversion program after criminal charges were brought. Prior to leaving his law practice for treatment at a drug rehabilitation facility, Karow attempted to properly withdraw from all his cases.

Karow admitted that he missed notifying some clients and has expressed remorse. He has been sober for more than a year and currently participates in Narcotics Anonymous.

MICHAEL DOUGLAS GODETT [#43385], 56, of Long Beach was suspended for four months, stayed, and placed on probation for one year with 60 days actual suspension, effective June 22, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.

Godett stipulated to the unauthorized practice of law while he was voluntarily enrolled as an inactive member of the State Bar beginning Jan. 1, 1995.

In February and April 1995, Godett sent two letters dealing with legal matters on letterhead which identified him as "attorney-at-law."

RAYMOND W. NOONAN [#89997], 44, of San Diego was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for two years on the condition that he is actually suspended for 90 days, effective June 29, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955.

Noonan failed to comply with conditions of a private reproval he received in September 1995. He did not file timely probation reports nor did he provide proof of completing required community service hours.

OLIVER ELLIOT JOHNSON [#76906], 41, of Los Angeles was suspended for six months, stayed, and placed on probation for two years on the condition that he be actually suspended for 30 days, effective June 29, 1997. He also was ordered to pass the MPRE.

In 1994, Johnson was placed on administrative suspension due to his failure to comply with MCLE requirements.

In April 1995, while on suspension, he became attorney of record for a client who hired him to handle her divorce. Johnson was not authorized to practice law at that time due to his suspension.

In mitigation, Johnson cooperated with the bar's investigation. He also acknowledged that he was inattentive to his MCLE requirements and took steps to remedy the situation when he learned he was not entitled to practice due to non-compliance.

SYDNEY JACK GORDON [#47916], 66, of Studio City was suspended for five years and until he shows proof of his fitness to practice. The suspension was stayed, and he was placed on probation for seven years, with 18 months actual suspension, effective June 29, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955.

Gordon's misconduct involved his failure to supervise employees who misappropriated nearly $65,000 of his clients' funds. He was ordered to make restitution.

Gordon, who worked for a law office in the Los Angeles civic center, was approached by the office manager of a another firm to take over about 100 cases. Gordon agreed and in April 1991 opened a law office on 5th Street. He hired the office manager's management company to administer the new law office. However, he stopped by the 5th Street office infrequently and did not negotiate or approve any of the settlements handled there, which consisted mainly of personal injury cases.

In July 1992, he closed the law office and severed his relationship with the office manager. However, he did not close his client trust or general office bank accounts, and the office manager continued to be listed as a co-signator.

Unknown to Gordon, the office manager and a former employee then opened a new office using Gordon's name, operating it until December 1992, when Gordon closed the bank accounts.

Generally, the office manager and his employees would endorse insurance settlement checks for clients and cash them for personal use. When clients called to inquire about settlement funds, they were told that their cases had not settled.

Seven of the 11 client complaints in the 42-count notice of disciplinary charges arose from improper handling of client cases by the 5th Street office. Allegations in four other cases involved Gordon's personal handling of client matters unrelated to the 5th Street matters.

In aggravation, Gordon's misconduct involved multiple acts of wrongdoing and significantly harmed clients. His formation of a partnership and division of fees with a non-lawyer violated the Rules of Professional Conduct.

In mitigation, Gordon was involved in a serious auto accident in 1981, in which the passenger, his secretary and friend of many years, died, leaving him emotionally and physically traumatized. In 1983, he underwent coronary bypass surgery after suffering a myocardial infarction. He had a second coronary bypass in 1990 and suffered a coronary thrombosis in 1993.

Gordon cooperated with the bar's investigation, was remorseful and reported his employees to the authorities when he learned of their illegal actions.

Gordon was unaware of and did not authorize his employees' fraudulent acts, nor did he receive any of the funds they stole.

He has not opened another law office since 1992 and has been working for other attorneys.

No weight was given to Gordon's discipline-free record since his admission to the bar in 1971 because of the serious nature of his misconduct.

PETER SMITH FULLERTON [#86798], 54, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for three years on the condition that he is actually suspended for 90 days and until he provides to a client an accounting of $10,000 in advanced fees.

If the period of actual suspension exceeds two years, he will remain suspended until he has shown proof of his fitness to practice.

He also was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect June 29, 1997.

In this default case, Fullerton was found culpable of failing to render an accounting to his client, return unearned fees and cooperate with the bar's investigation.

Fullerton was retained by a client to represent him in a dispute involving the purchase of property in Santa Monica.

The client advanced Fullerton $10,000 in fees, with billing time at $200 an hour. Monthly detailed billings were promised.

In December 1993, Fullerton left for England and asked another attorney to contact his client to sign the complaint. The client signed the complaint and the other attorney filed it with the court.

By August 1994, however, Fullerton was still in Europe and the other attorney called the client to tell him he had been asked to substitute in on the case.

The client agreed, signed a new retainer and asked that Fullerton provide an accounting of the $10,000 advanced fee.

Repeated written requests for the accounting were made by the other attorney, but he received no response from Fullerton and none of the fees was returned.

Communications sent to England by the State Bar also were unacknowledged. Because he did not participate in the disciplinary proceedings, Fullerton's discipline-free record since his admission to the bar in 1979, was not given any weight in mitigation.

Considered as aggravation was Fullerton's non-participation in the proceedings and the fact that his client was significantly harmed by his misconduct.

ROBERT TROY CARON [#114063], 39, of Oxnard was suspended for 90 days, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, effective June 29, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.

In 1995, Caron was hired by a petty officer in the U.S. Navy to handle a personal injury matter arising from an accident with an uninsured motorist.

The officer was treated for most of his injuries at the U.S. Navy Military Hospital where he incurred $8,000 in medical expenses.

At the time the officer received treatment, the Navy informed him it would not exert a lien against him for repayment.

However, upon learning that the officer had a $100,000 uninsured motorist coverage policy, Caron was informed that the government intended to exercise its right to execute a third party lien to recover medical expenses.

The insurance company issued a $100,000 settlement draft to the officer, which Caron deposited in his client trust account.

The officer asked Caron to withhold payment of the Navy's lien until the Navy's claim was researched and verified.

Over the next five months, Caron neglected to pursue the matter.

Because Caron's misconduct also involved the mishandling of client funds in a second matter, it was deemed serious and no weight was given in mitigation to his prior discipline-free record.

However, mitigating weight was given to the fact that Caron quickly secured the replacement of client funds in the second matter, as soon as he was notified of a shortage in his trust account.

In addition, Caron hired an accountant to reconcile his client trust account on a monthly basis and he cooperated fully with the bar's investigation.

STEVEN M. KUSHELOWITZ [#140762], 35, of Santa Monica was suspended for five years, stayed, and placed on probation for five years on the condition that he is actually suspended for 18 months and until he makes restitution, effective June 29, 1997.

If his actual suspension continues for two years or more, he will remain suspended until he has shown proof of his fitness to practice. He was ordered to pass the MCLE and comply with rule 955.

In this default matter, Kushelowitz was found culpable of recklessly failing to perform legal services and failing to keep his client apprised of the status of his case.

In one instance, a client's case was dismissed after Kushelowitz failed to make several court appearances and inform his client of significant developments. Costs of more than $4,000 were assessed against the client. The client sued Kushelowitz for malpractice and received a default judgment of $168,000, but never received the agreed-upon monthly payments to satisfy the judgment.

In another matter, he failed to return unearned fees. In both cases he did not cooperate with the bar's investigation.

In a third matter, he failed to comply with conditions of a 1995 disciplinary order, which included making restitution to two clients.

Kushelowitz did not participate in the proceedings and no mitigating factors were presented. Considered an aggravating circumstance was Kushelowitz' prior record of discipline. In addition, his current misconduct involved multiple acts of misconduct and he has not rectified the consequences of his actions by making restitution to a client he represented in a divorce case.

The bar's trial counsel had requested an increase in Kushelowitz' discipline, but the hearing judge determined that the original recommendation was appropriate.

MANUEL U. BLAS [#59154], 42, of Burbank was actually suspended for 90 days, effective June 29, 1997. Should the period of his actual suspension exceed two years, he will remain actually suspended until he has shown proof of his rehabilitation and fitness to practice. He was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955. Blas failed to comply with conditions of a September 1995 discipline order and neglected to keep the State Bar apprised of his current address.

In aggravation, Blas' misconduct involved multiple acts of misconduct and he has a prior record of discipline. He received a one-year stayed suspension in 1994, with 30 days of actual suspension and 18 months of probation.

In July, he was suspended for failure to pay bar dues. In September 1995, his probation was revoked and he received an 11-month suspension with two years of probation, 90 days of an actual suspension and credit for involuntary inactive enrollment.

He was ordered inactive and also was suspended in 1995 for failure to pass the professional responsibility exam.

In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation and experienced emotional difficulties during the period of his misconduct.

JOHN RAYMOND DEMPSEY [#102658], 41, of Fountain Valley was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on probation for two years, effective July 2, 1997. He was ordered to pass the MPRE.

Dempsey's misconduct involved his negligence in paying child support for 10 months. He failed to request the court to modify his child support order.

In July 1996, he was charged with one count of violating Penal Code §166(4), contempt, for failing to provide child support as ordered by the court.

Later that month, he fulfilled his child support obligations. In August 1996, he pleaded guilty to violating Penal Code §270, failure to provide, and the contempt charge was dismissed. He was sentenced to three years probation, a $100 fine and 16 days of community service with CalTrans.

His misconduct did not involve moral turpitude but involved disobedience of a court order and was considered misconduct warranting discipline.

In aggravation, Dempsey's misconduct involved repeated violations of the Oct. 24, 1995, court order. In mitigation, Dempsey has no prior record of discipline and his misconduct did not result in any harm to clients or his child.

[CALBAR JOURNAL]