California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 1999
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DISCIPLINE

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DISBARMENTS
BERNARD NEIL DICKINSON JR. [#99604], 67, of Redwood City was disbarred Feb. 10, 1999, and was ordered to comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court.

Dickinson stole $100,000 from his elderly, mentally incompetent client, illegally loaned another $100,000 of the client's money to a second client, tried to conceal his actions by filing false pleadings with the court, and finally entered into an agreement with the client's heir absolving himself of any personal liability.

Dickinson represented a retired physician who was confined to a nursing home after suffering a stroke in 1984. By 1989, the doctor had become mentally incompetent to handle his own affairs.

Dickinson was responsible for preparing his client's will and his tax returns and for handling his financial affairs. When the doctor died in 1995, he left an estate valued at approximately $1 million.

Dickinson did not file state or federal tax returns for his client for 1989 and filed the returns late for three other years. Subsequently, the federal and state taxing authorities began levying on the doctor's property. They also assessed large deficiencies, vastly overstating the doctor's taxable income. Dickinson did nothing to protect his client or to obtain a return of the funds.

Between 1989 and 1995, Dickinson received 56 checks from the doctor's account amounting to nearly $100,000. Some he wrote to himself using his power of attorney, others he convinced the doctor to write. He claimed most of the money was for his legal fees - $125 to $150 per hour for visiting the doctor in the rest home.

About 1993, Dickinson began to represent a couple for whom he provided tax advice and prepared tax returns. He also helped them in their divorce.

In July 1993, he loaned $50,000 of the doctor's money to the husband/client to pay the man's IRS debts and to provide money to the wife. The loan was secured by a third deed of trust on the man's home, although Dickinson did not have the home appraised or obtain a title report.

Six months later, he made another $50,000 loan, again using the doctor's funds. He did not obtain any security for this loan.

The client defaulted on both loans by September 1994, but Dickinson took no steps to collect upon the loans. He did not disclose the loans to the doctor.

Dickinson became executor of the doctor's estate upon his death, but filed a false inventory of the estate, deliberately omitting a bank account with a balance of about $54,000. And although he listed the two loans to the other client, he did not mention that they were in default or that the estate was entitled to payment of accrued interest amounting to nearly $15,000 on the loans.

Shortly after filing the misleading papers with the court, Dickinson agreed with the doctor's heir to resign as executor and waive any fees in exchange for not being held liable for his prior conduct. He did not tell the heir about the bank account, nor did he include it or the loans in subsequent documents.

The State Bar Court found that Dickinson's misconduct included failure to perform legal services competently, failure to provide written disclosure of his relationship with the three different clients, representing clients with adverse interests, misappropriating client funds, failing to keep complete records of client funds and charging an unconscionable fee. His actions also constituted moral turpitude, the court said.

"Given the magnitude of (Dickinson's) misconduct and considering the length of time over which that misconduct occurred, there is no question that disbarment is the only appropriate discipline," wrote State Bar Court Judge Eugene E. Brott.

MICHAEL ANTHONY PETRETTA [#40272], 62, of Solvang was disbarred April 8, 1999, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

Petretta violated a 1997 discipline order requiring him to comply with rule 955 by notifying all his clients and other pertinent parties that he was suspended from practice and then submitting an affidavit to that effect to the Supreme Court.

The original misconduct involved failure to place sufficient funds from a settlement into his client trust account and to promptly honor a medical lien, and failure to perform legal services competently or communicate with a client. Petretta was suspended for six months and was ordered to make restitution.

Although he apparently was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder, they were not considered factors in mitigation because there was no showing that they were responsible for Petretta's actions.

CLIFFORD R. WEBER [#67960], 51, of Pacific Palisades was summarily disbarred June 11, 1999.

He was convicted in federal court in 1994 of two felonies: mail fraud and aiding and assisting the filing of a false tax return. He had accepted kickbacks totaling $5,800 from a chiropractor in 1993 and 1994 for the referral of client accident victims and then concealed that income from the clients and the insurers.

Because Weber was convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude, State Bar prosecutors sought his summary disbarment.

Weber asked for review, arguing that summary disbarment is not automatic and mandatory, that the Supreme Court considers all relevant evidence in imposing discipline and that his offense warrants less than disbarment.

Included in Weber's submission to the bar court's review department was a letter from the judge who presided over his trial. He wrote, in part, "The facts presented . . . did not present the usual egregious facts found in federal felony convictions. At best, this was a case of a failure to disclose a rebate relationship between the medical provider and attorney. I sincerely believe that summary disbarment . . . would be tragic and excessive under the circumstances."

The review department rejected Weber's arguments, however, saying it is not required to consider such issues as an attorney's motive in committing a crime or the extent to which harm did or did not occur.

The judges also said that despite Weber's argument that his offense was not serious enough to warrant summary disbarment, all the facts were not before them, nor were those facts undisputed. What is undisputed, they found, is that Weber was convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude and therefore, no exception to the summary disbarment recommendation was warranted.

EDWARD ARTHUR JUDGE [#147156], 38, of Kensington was summarily disbarred June 11, 1999.

Judge was convicted in 1997 of one count of attempted robbery - a felony involving moral turpitude.

SUSPENSIONS/PROBATION
LOUIS STEVEN SANCHEZ [#82775], 52, of Glendale was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 90-day actual suspension, and was ordered to comply with rule 955.

The probation shall commence on the termination of an earlier probation. The order took effect Sept. 10, 1998.

Sanchez failed to comply with an earlier rule 955 requirement and the State Bar therefore sought his disbarment before the bar court's review department.

The review judges, however, declined to recommend disbarment, based in large part on Sanchez' congestive heart failure.

Sanchez has been disciplined three times since 1992.

In 1993, an earlier probation was revoked and he was ordered to comply with rule 955. He notified all clients he could locate that he was suspended and advised the court in the cases of the clients he could not find.

He also substituted out of the majority of his cases and worked with new counsel to make sure all his former clients were protected. He did not, however, file an affidavit of compliance with the Supreme Court.

Failure to comply with rule 955 normally is grounds for disbarment.

The review department found "great mitigating circumstances in the physical condition of (Sanchez) at the time of his failure to comply with rule 955 and in his mental condition at the time."

MARSHALL CURTIS SANDERS [#52769], 56, of San Francisco was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 75-day suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Sept. 10, 1998.

Sanders stipulated to 11 counts of misconduct, including failure to perform legal services competently, respond to client inquiries, account for client funds, deposit client funds in a client trust account, and promptly pay settlement funds. He also misappropriated client funds and made a misleading statement to the court. His conduct constituted moral turpitude.

In one matter, a case was dismissed because Sanders failed to file a complaint. He did not respond to his clients' inquiries over a 16-month period or refund their advance fees.

Sanders failed to appear at a status conference in another matter, and in response to a subsequent order to show cause and opposition to motions for sanctions, he told the court he had arranged for another attorney to appear for him. He then submitted a declaration by the other attorney, which in fact he had written and signed without the lawyer's consent or knowledge. He had actually made no arrangements for anyone to appear for him.

Sanders paid a medical lien for another client about 18 months late, and he did not properly hold another client's funds in trust.

In mitigation, Sanders' home was severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, causing substantial emotional upheaval and financial pressures. These disruptions impaired Sanders'judgment; he eventually sought therapy and has made good progress.

IRA SELTZER [#46225], 55, of Los Angeles was suspended for 90 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. 10, 1998.

Seltzer was employed to represent a client in a personal injury claim which he eventually settled for $160,000. At the same time, the client prevailed upon him to represent her before the Department of Social Services, which was threatening to revoke her day care license, and to represent her son in a juvenile proceeding.

Seltzer and the client had three separate employment agreements: he worked on a contingency basis in the personal injury case and on a lien basis in the other two matters. His fees were to be deducted from the recovery in the personal injury matter and were in addition to the contingency fee.

When the settlement was reached, Seltzer opened a Paine Webber money market account for $10,000, set aside to pay disputed medical liens. However, he did not clearly identify the funds as being kept in trust for the client.

Seltzer never provided billings for the two other matters and unilaterally determined an amount he claimed as liens. The client disputed the fee.

In a stipulation reached with the bar, Seltzer agreed to make restitution of $3,850 to the client.

Seltzer was disciplined in 1993 for mishandling a client trust account.

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

HASKELL JEROME SHAPIRO [#24904], 84, of Los Angeles was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension, and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 10, 1998.

Shapiro stipulated to nine counts of misconduct in four consolidated cases.

He represented a client in a pharmaceutical malpractice case and although he distributed her share of the settlement proceeds, he post-dated the check and allowed the balance in his client trust account to fall below the required level. He also did not provide an accounting to the client or maintain complete records of her funds, nor did he promptly return her papers when asked to do so.

After substituting out of a civil matter, Shapiro did not return his client's files or notify him about a status conference.

He settled another matter for $10,000 without his client's consent, and let the balance in his trust account fall below that amount. He also cashed the settlement check by simulating his client's signature, without verifying whether he had the power of attorney to do so.

Shapiro also employed an individual who had resigned from the State Bar without notifying the bar.

Shapiro has no prior record of discipline in 44 years of practice.

Although he failed to cooperate in one investigation, he did not do so intentionally, and has cooperated since then.

HAROLD D. THOMPSON [#69472], 54, of Citrus Heights was suspended for five years, stayed, and placed on five years of probation with an actual three-year suspension and until he proves his rehabilitation. He was ordered to take the MPRE. Credit will be given for the period of interim suspension which began March 13, 1997. The order took effect Sept. 10, 1998.

Thompson was convicted of forgery and attempting to pass a bad check after he sold a property which did not belong to him.

In 1996, he researched and found unencumbered pieces of real property in San Diego which belonged to a Jay Johnson. Thompson obtained false identification in Johnson's name, and advertised for an investor.

An investment firm responded and negotiated a loan with Thompson, who identified himself as Jay Johnson and used property owned by Jay Johnson to secure the loan.

He received a check for more than $200,000, payable to Jay Johnson, most of which he converted into five cashier's checks, including one for $50,000.

When he tried to cash the check in San Francisco, a suspicious teller contacted police.

Thompson subsequently was convicted in both Riverside and San Francisco counties.

In mitigation, Thompson practiced law for nearly 20 years without any discipline, he cooperated with the bar's investigation, and although his conduct was egregious, immediate restitution was made and the victims were not harmed. He also suffered from severe depression at the time of the misconduct.

HARRY EDWARD WEISS [#17469], 83, of Los Angeles was placed on probation for one year, subject to conditions including restitution. The period of probation is consecutive to a previously imposed probation. The order took effect Sept. 10, 1998.

Weiss stipulated to misconduct in two consolidated cases.

In the first, he failed to appear on behalf of his client in a criminal proceeding the day after he was hired. The client was represented instead by a public defender. When the client sought a refund of a $700 advance fee, Weiss did not return the money.

In another criminal matter, Weiss' client paid him $2,000. Weiss made one appearance, continued the matter, but subsequently failed to return any phone calls.

In both matters, Weiss did not cooperate with the bar's investigation.

Weiss has a prior record of discipline, including a private reproval in 1993 and a 1997 discipline for failure to perform legal services competently, return unearned fees, maintain records of client funds, promptly respond to client inquiries, or cooperate with the bar's investigation.

There was no mitigation.

ALBERT G. WIEMANS [#63464], 58, of Monrovia was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual suspension of 60 days, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Sept. 10, 1998.

Wiemans represented two clients in a probate matter. During the course of that representation, securities which were part of the estate were placed into a securities account at the request of one of the clients.

Wiemans' wife managed his law office. After the estate closed, she forwarded a letter, purportedly from the two clients, to the brokerage firm which held the securities account. The letter requested a transfer of securities and cash from the estate into an account for one of the two clients. The brokerage also maintained a cash account.

Neither client had any knowledge of the request. The signature card listed the client's address as c/o Albert Wiemans.

Over a period of months, Wiemans' wife caused of series of transactions that resulted in funds being withdrawn from the two accounts, which she converted to her own use.

When Wiemans learned about his wife's actions, he promptly made partial restitution of 75 percent of the withdrawn funds.

Wiemans stipulated that he failed to provide competent legal services to the two clients by not supervising his wife's activities.

In a second matter, Wiemans created a trust to provide for the education of his client's children. The trust instrument provided that he would account annually for transactions involving the trust.

Between June 1988 and January 1993, Wiemans failed to keep complete and accurate records regarding the trust as a result of his mistaken reliance on a waiver of accounting made by the client.

In mitigation, Wiemans had no record of discipline since his 1974 admission to the bar, he spontaneously took steps to make restitution in the first case, and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.

WILLIAM WONG WOO [#98489], 51, of Garden Grove was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 60-day suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE. The order took effect Sept. 10, 1998.

Woo stipulated to multiple counts of misconduct in four cases.

In the first, he was retained to handle both an unlawful detainer action and a quiet title action for a client. He asked opposing counsel to stipulate to a consolidation of the two actions but never submitted the stipulation. He later did not appear at trial and a default judgment was entered against his client. He also did not inform his client that some defendants were dismissed from the case due to failure to serve them.

Woo failed to perform legal services competently or keep his client informed of developments in her case.

Another client advanced $10,000 to Woo in an eminent domain case, but the client later hired a new attorney, who asked for a final billing. Woo did not provide a final accounting or a refund of about $2,600 for more than a year. The accounting listed a $4,000 geotechnical report, paid for by the advanced fees. Woo agreed to pay the $4,000 due the vendor, but has not done so.

Woo failed to appear in court twice in another matter, which was dismissed. After the dismissal, he met with his client and said he planned to sue a different party. He didn't tell the client the case was dismissed.

In the fourth matter, Woo did not obtain a client's written consent to a potentially adverse representation, nor did he take steps to resolve the litigation in question. When the client hired a new attorney, Woo did not sign the substitution forms or return client files promptly.

Woo did not cooperate with the bar's investigation of these matters.

In mitigation, he has no record of discipline since his 1981 admission to the bar.

RANJAN REIJI SANYAL [#109044], 46, of Los Angeles was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual 10-month suspension, and was ordered to make restitution, pass 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 Feb. 10, 1999.

Sanyal stipulated to misconduct in five consolidated cases, most involving failure to pay his clients' doctors with settlement funds. In most of the matters, he paid his clients what they were owed, gave partial payment to one doctor and no payment to the others.

He stipulated to one count of failing to perform legal services competently, six counts of failing to pay medical liens, seven counts of failing to maintain funds in his client trust account and misappropriating funds, seven counts of committing acts constituting moral turpitude, and three counts of failing to cooperate with the bar's investigation.

In one case, he negotiated a settlement for a client in wrongful death and personal injury actions. The client wanted to purchase a house in Whittier with part of the settlement proceeds, but was unable to do so because of previous financial difficulties. Sanyal took title to the Whittier house in his name so his client could purchase it.

Ten years later, he encouraged the same client to invest part of her settlement funds in a house in Pasadena, which Sanyal bought and took title to.

In both transactions, he did not advise the client she could seek independent legal advice, nor did he put the terms of the transactions in writing. He failed to avoid interests which were adverse to his client.

Sanyal later sold the Pasadena house, giving the client about $43,000 as her share of the sale. She retained another attorney who repeatedly sought an accounting from Sanyal, but he never provided one.

In another case, Sanyal had stipulated to a public reproval, but never complied with the conditions attached to the discipline.

In mitigation, one client never claimed she was harmed by Sanyal's actions, he closed his office and now works out of his home, and he applied for an extension to comply with part of his reproval requirements, but was denied.

He has been disciplined twice previously. He was publicly reproved in 1994 for failing to communicate with a client, maintain funds in trust, pay out funds and supervise an employee. In 1997, he stipulated to four counts of failing to comply with probation conditions.

GARY W. VERBOON [#102015], 42, of Los Angeles was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with a two-year actual suspension and until he proves rehabilitation, and was ordered to pass the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect Feb. 12, 1999.

Verboon stipulated that he failed to promptly notify his clients of the receipt of funds or pay out those funds, failed to maintain the funds in a client trust account, and misappropriated client money.

He was employed by a homeowners association to represent it in a defective construction claim against multiple defendants. The case settled for about $362,250, but when Verboon began receiving the funds, he did not have a client trust account and put the money in his general account. He did not notify the association of his receipt of funds.

Verboon had practiced abroad and served as an officer in a real estate company, and this case marked the first time he represented any client on a contingency basis. The settlement funds were the first he held for a client. He was building a new practice, had a credit line with a bank, and initially used the settlement proceeds as working capital for his fast-growing firm.

Nonetheless, the balance of his general account had fallen below what should have been maintained for the homeowners association.

When advised that he needed a client trust account, he promptly opened one. He also told the homeowners association to retain counsel to advise it concerning its rights to the settlement funds. Verboon has subsequently rectified the problem with handling client funds.

Both the bar and Verboon sought review of a hearing judge's recommendation about the level of discipline, and the review department attached additional conditions to his probation. It agreed with some of the mitigating factors found by the hearing judge (Verboon's efforts to correct the situation and his regular pro bono work), but rejected others. It noted Verboon committed multiple acts of misconduct, and found the misappropriation intentional and constituting moral turpitude.

"We find an attorney engaged in a new and growing practice with no prior trust account experience and no prior experience in handling client funds," the review judges wrote. "Within a day of his misconduct being called to his attention, he made a full disclosure of that misconduct to his client and made arrangements to pay the sums due the client as soon as the amount was agreed on with the aid of the client's independent counsel."

The misconduct does not require disbarment, the judges said, but did warrant significant discipline.

The probation of INDERJEET SINGH AULAKH [#47411], 67, of Visalia was revoked, the stay of suspension lifted and he was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual six-month suspension, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect April 18, 1999.

Aulakh failed to comply with the conditions of a 1997 disciplinary order by not submitting a quarterly probation report. He also did not participate in the probation revocation proceeding, although he apparently was out of the country for a period of time.

The 1997 order was the result of failure to perform competently, return unearned fees and render an accounting, and for improperly withdrawing from employment.

ROBERT JOSEPH BUSCHO [#122556], 40, of Glendora was suspended for 90 days, stayed, and placed on 18 months of probation. The order took effect May 8, 1999.

Buscho stipulated to misconduct in two consolidated matters.

In the first, he represented a client who paid $2,000 in advance fees in two civil matters. Buscho never filed the first matter, an action against San Bernardino County for a refund of a property tax penalty. He filed the second, a lawsuit against an escrow company, but judgment was entered in favor of the defendant. Although he opposed a motion for attorneys fees and costs, the appeal was dismissed when Buscho's check for the filing fee bounced. The court later awarded fees and costs of $6,525 to the defendant.

Buscho never informed his client of any of the developments in the second case and failed to respond to the client's requests for information. He abandoned the case, and failed to refund unearned fees or cooperate with the bar's investigation.

He did not cooperate with the investigation of another matter in which his employment was terminated, and he did not return client papers.

In mitigation, Buscho's infant daughter is seriously ill and underwent a heart transplant.

ROBERT F. DODENBIER [#113017], 46, of Manteca was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on a year of probation with a 30-day actual suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect May 8, 1999.

The State Bar Court found that Dodenbier committed several acts of misconduct in two matters.

In the first, he did not comply with the probation requirements of a 1997 discipline order resulting from his failure to provide services to clients in three cases.

In a divorce case, he filed a petition for dissolution of his client's marriage. He withdrew as attorney without taking steps to protect his client's rights and failed to communicate with the client.

He failed to communicate with his client in another divorce case as well, and did not cooperate with the bar's investigation.

TIMOTHY MARTIN HORNER [#127493], 42, of San Anselmo was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual six-month suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955. The order took effect May 8, 1999.

Horner stipulated to seven counts of misconduct.

He practiced law while suspended from practice, including representing a client in personal injury and dissolution matters.

During the divorce proceedings, his client gave him almost $13,000 to hold in trust. About a month later, the court ordered Horner to release the money to the husband for payment of the couple's taxes.

Horner sent a check to the husband's accountant, payable to the IRS, but he later stopped payment. He subsequently failed to pay any funds to the IRS, although he gave his client $5,500 from a non-trust account.

At a dissolution hearing a few months later, the court ordered Horner and his client to return the $13,000 to his trust account, but he failed to do so. The balance in his trust account at this time ranged from $1,099.58 to $1.58. He had written 22 personal checks on the account.

Horner stipulated that he was grossly negligent in handling his client trust account, that he breached his fiduciary duty to his client, that he violated court orders and that he failed to maintain client funds in trust.

In mitigation, he made amends to his client as soon as he discovered irregularities and improper actions by his office staff.

JAMES TERRILL LOCKE [#127516], 51, of Sacramento 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 a year. The order took effect May 13, 1999.

The State Bar Court found that Locke committed misconduct in two separate matters.

In the first, he was retained to represent a woman who was seriously injured in a car-train collision. Although Locke filed suit, over the next 15 months he failed to properly respond to discovery, and thus eliminated almost every triable fact and almost every viable theory of recovery in the case. He also eliminated all but one of the numerous defendants.

Locke ultimately settled the case for $12,500, an amount far lower than his client's outstanding medical bills. Locke knew when he accepted the case that his client was eligible for both Medi-cal and Medicare, and he knew both insurers had liens on any recovery his client might receive from third parties. He was obligated to negotiate payment of those liens before disbursing any settlement funds, but he failed to do so. In fact, he did not contact Medi-cal for months after distributing the bulk of the settlement to himself and his client, and he never paid the lien.

He never notified Medicare of his client's lawsuit or the settlement.

The bar court found that Locke failed to promptly pay out funds held on his client's behalf and that he failed to perform legal services competently.

In the second case, he represented a woman in her divorce proceeding. When his client refused to sign over a deed which she was obligated to sign over, her husband's attorney filed a motion to enforce the judgment and was awarded fees of almost $800. Locke was to pay those fees from a stock payment his client had received, but he did not do so.

When Locke's client's ex-husband died, his attorney filed a notice of claim with the estate and notified Locke's client, who instructed Locke to pay the outstanding fees. He did not do so until the client hired a new attorney.

The bar court found that by taking two years to pay the other attorney's fees, Locke failed to pay out a client's funds promptly. By taking his client's funds for his own use, he committed an act of moral turpitude.

JOSEPH MICHAEL TOSTI [#94451], 44, of Irvine was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 70-day suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect June 11, 1999.

Tosti stipulated to 24 counts of misconduct in four consolidated cases.

In every instance, he settled personal injury matters for his clients, presented them with settlement disbursement sheets which they signed, and then negotiated reduced payments to medical providers but never gave his clients the difference.

Tosti did this to 23 different clients, keeping a total of more than $23,000 to which he was not entitled.

In one matter, he bounced a check written on his client trust account.

In mitigation, Tosti has no record of prior discipline, he cooperated with the bar's investigation and he provided references attesting to his good character. As soon as he realized that it was inappropriate to receive an additional fee for collection of payment for doctor's liens, he changed his procedures. He now oversees all settlements and the writing of all distribution checks. He also made restitution to 16 clients.

The probation of GARY WENKLE SMITH [#87277], 51, of San Bernardino was revoked, the previous stay of suspension was lifted, and he was suspended for four years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual four-month suspension, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect June 11, 1999.

Smith tested positive for drug use twice, in 1996 and 1997, in violation of the terms of his criminal probation, and during a probation search of his residence, he was found to have access to a gun, also a violation of his probation.

As a result of his criminal conviction, he was suspended by the bar and placed on probation, with a condition that he not violate his criminal probation.

The violation of his criminal probation led to the new discipline.

In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation and has been forthcoming regarding the circumstances of his wrongdoing.

RONALD WILLIAM ASK [#103895], 64, of Riverside was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with a one-year suspension and until he makes restitution 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 June 11, 1999.

Ask stipulated to nine counts of misconduct in six client matters.

In the first, he shared fees with a non-attorney who operated a business preparing living trusts for sale to the public. At first, Ask received a fee for each trust he helped prepare and for attending group seminars on trusts.

He later changed the business arrangements so that he collected fees for preparing and reviewing the clients' living trusts, then shared those fees with the woman who operated the business.

He stipulated that he illegally shared fees with a non-lawyer and that he assisted her in the unauthorized practice of law.

In a child custody case, Ask's client made two advance fee payments totalling $2,250. Mistakenly believing only $1,500 had been paid, his staff demanded additional fees before Ask would appear at a scheduled hearing. When the client did not pay more fees, Ask did not appear. He then substituted out of the matter without giving his client proper notice or giving her enough time to find another lawyer.

Another client asked for minor changes in her living trust, but only received those changes five months later, after complaining to the State Bar.

In a bankruptcy case in which Ask was replaced by another attorney, he did not pay that attorney her share of the fees until he was notified by the bar that a complaint had been filed against him. Ask failed to perform legal services competently or refund unearned advance fees in another bankruptcy matter, and he wrote two bad checks, totaling $6,000, on his client trust account.

KENNETH IRWIN KAHN [#38006], 58, of Los Angeles was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on four years of probation with an actual 75-day suspension, and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect June 11, 1999.

Kahn represented a defendant who was charged with eight counts of forced sexual assault in a "three strikes" case. The trial was bifurcated, separating the criminal charges from the three strikes issue.

The client was convicted on four of the eight counts and a trial on the three strikes issue was set for the next day.

At the end of the day, the jury foreman ran into Kahn and asked if he had any questions. During a subsequent conversation, the foreman told Kahn his opinions about the case as well as some of what went on in the jury room. Kahn told the foreman that the defendant was a registered sex offender and that he was going to jail for life.

Other jurors witnessed the conversation and informed the court, which excused the foreman. Kahn first told the judge there had been no conversation between him and the foreman, and then admitted the conversation but said the foreman was the only one who spoke.

Kahn stipulated that he had an improper direct communication with the jury foreman and that he sought to mislead the court.

He also failed to cooperate with the bar investigation.

In mitigation, Kahn had a strong emotional reaction to the case which affected his judgment and behavior. He believed the judge was biased and the prosecutor engaged in misconduct, a belief which was partially vindicated by an appellate court's reversal of all counts.

Kahn also has performed substantial amounts of pro bono work, and gave up his law practice for eight months to develop an employment and training program for the homeless in Santa Monica.

CREIG ALAN DOLGE [#101651], 43, of Santa Barbara was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual two-year suspension and until he proves his rehabilitation, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. The order took effect June 11, 1999.

Dolge practiced law while suspended. In one matter, he represented a client during a four-day trial and did not inform the court of his suspension until the jury had begun its deliberations. His actions constituted moral turpitude.

He then told the State Bar in a probation report that he had not practiced law during the course of his suspension, also an act of moral turpitude.

After that, he did not submit five quarterly probation reports, and falsely told the bar he had completed eight hours of MCLE, as required by his probation, but did not submit proof of attendance. Three months later, he submitted evidence of attendance at four, not eight, hours of MCLE classes.

Dolge has been disciplined three times previously.

He was privately reproved in 1995 for failing to keep a client informed about developments in her case and for failing to perform legal services competently.

In 1996, he was suspended and placed on probation for failure to perform competently, cooperate with three disciplinary investigations, keep a client reasonably informed and promptly return a third client's property after he was dismissed, and for making a misrepresentation to a client.

He was disciplined again in 1998 for violating the conditions attached to the private reproval.

In mitigation, Dolge misunderstood the date the 1996 suspension order became effective.

Although his acts were negligent, he did not intend to disregard the suspension order. Once he learned he was suspended, he informed the court immediately.

LAZARO MACHADO [#134209], 42, of Garden Grove was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual nine-month suspension, and was ordered to comply with rule 955. Should the suspension exceed two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect June 11, 1999.

Machado represented a client in a personal injury matter which was settled in a court-ordered mediation. Machado's client was to receive $60,000 in monthly payments over a four-year period.

Machado notified the court that the case had settled, but he then failed to appear at two hearings regarding the status of his client's complaint. The complaint was then dismissed.

Machado received several payments from the defendant and paid his client a lump sum after several months went by. He never told his client the source of the funds or provided an accounting.

Although he told the client he would provide her additional settlement funds as they came in, he never sent her any more money because the defendant had stopped paying.

Machado then was suspended from practice, but did not notify his client of the suspension for five months. He did not advise his client that he was not receiving settlement funds or suggest that she obtain another attorney to enforce the settlement.

He stipulated that he failed to keep his client informed about developments in her case, respond to her inquiries, provide an accounting of the funds received or cooperate with the bar's investigation.

Machado also stipulated that he did not comply with the conditions attached to a 1996 disciplinary order.

Machado has a record of three previous disciplines.

The 1996 case resulted from six counts of failure to perform competently, seven counts of failure to communicate with clients and one count of improperly withdrawing from a case.

In 1997, he was suspended and placed on probation for failing to maintain client funds in his client trust account.

He was disciplined again in 1998 for practicing law while suspended and failing perform competently and communicate with a client.

In mitigation, he was hired to handle the lawsuit in the most recent matter and not to enforce the settlement. In addition, his failure to cooperate with the bar's investigation was due, in part, to his attorney's medical problems and unavailability.