|JAMES JOSEPH BROWN III [#169686], 43, of Thousand Oaks
was placed on probation for three years beginning Feb. 10, 1999.
Brown pleaded guilty to
driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher in 1998 and was sentenced to three
years of probation.
He has a record of prior discipline. He was publicly reproved in 1996 for reckless
driving and driving on a suspended license, was suspended and placed on three years of
probation in February 1998 for violating the terms of that probation, and two months later
was placed on five years of probation and given a one-year actual suspension for two
consolidated cases including a conviction for spousal abuse and another matter involving
failure to perform legal services competently, return a client's papers, refund unearned
fees and maintain proper records.
GARY LELAND ASHTON [#37361], 58, of Sonora was suspended for five
years, stayed, placed on seven years of probation with a six-month actual suspension, and
was ordered to make restitution, take the MPRE within one year and comply with rule 955.
The order took effect June 11, 1999.
In January 1994, Ashton was retained as the attorney of record in the probate of the
estate of his 84-year-old client's husband. The client was to receive $65,000 in May 1994
as the payoff on a piece of property she owned.
In May, Ashton asked the client for a $75,000 loan, to be secured with a second deed of
trust on his residence. The client agreed and signed a note which set the interest rate at
4 percent "until the principal balance reaches $50,000," when the rate would
increase to 6 percent.
Ashton did not explain that under those terms, the balance would never go down to
$50,000. He also did not advise his client to seek independent legal counsel about the
loan, and she did not consent in writing to the terms of the loan.
Ashton made monthly payments to his client totalling $750 and then stopped making
payments. His house was foreclosed on in August 1996, and the client became aware at that
time that there was a first deed of trust for $60,000 on Ashton's home.
Ashton did not take any action to probate the estate after January 1994, and his client
He stipulated that he entered into a business transaction that was adverse to his
client, and he failed to act competently.
In mitigation, Ashton has no record of discipline in 28 years of practice.
LEE SHERMAN MEYER [#174820], 28, of San Diego was suspended for one
year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual 20-day suspension, and was
ordered to make restitution, 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 July 3, 1999.
Hired to seek a modification of child support payments for a client, Meyer never filed
He also did not refund $1,200 in advanced fees, failed to respond to the client's
telephone, written and e-mailed inquiries, and did not cooperate with the bar's
DONALD JAMES SANDERS [#153933], 54, of Playa Del Rey was suspended for
one year, stayed, and placed on two years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension.
The order took effect July 3, 1999.
Sanders stipulated that he did not properly maintain client funds in trust, and did not
cooperate with a bar investigation of his conduct.
He had deposited a $10,000 check from a client in his trust account, and removed that
portion designated as advanced fees.
He then wrote three checks for the benefit of other clients.
In mitigation, Sanders made restitution to the client. He is suffering from depression
related to his divorce.
Sanders was disciplined last year for failure to perform legal services competently,
respond to client inquiries, or cooperate with the bar's investigation.
THOMAS EDWARD WHITE [#41181], 58, of Twain Harte was suspended for
four years, stayed, placed on four years of probation with an actual two-year suspension,
and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect July 3,
White represented a married couple and a third individual to handle the sale of their
business. At the same time, he represented the couple in unrelated matters and knew they
were having financial problems, a fact he did not disclose to the third client.
When the business was sold, White was the escrow holder, responsible for distribution
of the buyers' payments and for providing an annual accounting of the money he received.
Although he sent the third client itemized reports, they were either unclear in part or
did not include an accounting of payments made to the couple. The buyer of the business
stopped making payments, but White took no action to demand full payment. He also did not
respond to the third client's numerous requests for a full accounting of the payments.
When his dispute with the third client went to mediation, White did not produce
complete bank records, particularly those showing evidence of nine payments made by the
White sued the buyers on behalf of his three clients; at issue were the number of
payments made by the buyers and White's accounting for the money received. He did not
disclose his adverse interests in the litigation.
The third client eventually fired White, but he still did not produce the requested
The State Bar Court found that White represented adverse interests without the informed
written consent of his clients, failed to disclose to his clients a personal or
professional interest in the subject matter of the representation, failed to adequately
communicate with a client, misrepresented to a client and a mediator his handling of
escrow funds and failed to render an appropriate accounting.
Over an eight-year period, White also wrote 38 checks on his client trust account to
pay personal bills, commingling personal and client funds.
White has a prior record of discipline for failing to competently perform legal
services, communicate with clients, comply with court orders or cooperate with a bar
investigation, and for making false statements to a court.
MYRON ROY SIEGEL [#47145], 56, of Sherman Oaks was suspended for two
years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an actual suspension of 120 days and
until he makes restitution, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. If
the suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect
July 3, 1999.
Siegel stipulated to 12 counts of misconduct in six consolidated cases.
In the first matter, he mishandled an $11,000 settlement he received for a client.
Although the money was deposited in his client trust account, the balance fell to just
over $200, when he should have maintained at least $9,500 in the account. His paralegal
issued a $9,500 check to the client, which bounced. The client did not receive his funds
for five months.
Siegel stipulated that he failed to maintain client funds in a client trust account,
misappropriated client funds, did not deliver client funds promptly, and committed an act
of moral turpitude.
In a wrongful death case, Siegel's legal administrator contacted the family of a victim
regarding Siegel's possible employment. Siegel told his employee he was not interested in
handling the case. Nonetheless, the client hired Siegel and provided pertinent documents.
For about six months, without Siegel's knowledge, his employee gave the client updates
about the case. When the client hired a new lawyer, he sought the file and a substitution
of attorney form with Siegel's signature. For the next three months, Siegel's staff called
the client in an effort to be rehired.
Siegel stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently as a result of
not supervising his staff, and that he failed to return the client's file.
In a personal injury case, two clients employed Siegel's paralegal to represent them.
His signature was forged on a medical lien agreement with a doctor's office. When an
insurance adjuster contacted the office, the paralegal told him she was handling the case.
The clients eventually fired both Siegel and the paralegal. When questioned about the
matter by the State Bar, Siegel said he knew nothing about it. He stipulated that he
failed to supervise his staff.
Another personal injury case was dismissed because Siegel did not respond to discovery.
He failed to perform legal services competently or communicate with a client.
In other cases, he did not keep a client informed about developments in a case,
performed incompetently, and did not return advanced fees.
In mitigation, Siegel recognizes that his failure to supervise his staff led to much of
the misconduct. At the time of the problems, he was suffering from mild depression, which
affected his practice.
JAMES CHRISTOPHER WOODWARD [#73225], 47, of Newport Beach was
suspended for five years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual
three-year suspension, and was ordered to make restitution of $50,000 plus interest, take
the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect July 3, 1999.
Woodward stipulated to 17 counts of misconduct in three consolidated cases.
The first involved two personal injury cases for a client who faced medical bills of
more than $160,000. The client's former attorney had filed a lien for $7,744 for fees and
costs against any recovery from the insurance company.
One of the two cases settled for $25,000, and although Woodward told the client he
would pay a lien in favor of Orange County for more than $6,000, he did not do so because
there were insufficient funds after payment of other liens, costs and expenses and a
payment to the client.
Woodward settled the second case for $100,000, which he received in payments of $30,000
and $70,000. He did not tell the client about the larger payment, but she learned of it
from the insurance company and made repeated efforts to contact Woodward to receive her
She hired another lawyer, and Woodward made a partial payment of $30,000. Letters,
phone calls and faxes were unsuccessful and eventually the client went to the police. At
that time, Woodward paid the client another $30,000 and wrote a check to Orange County to
cover the lien, but he never sent it.
He stipulated that he failed to communicate with his client, keep her informed of
developments in her case, and misled the client and misappropriated her money, both acts
of moral turpitude.
Woodward settled a personal injury case for another client for $300,000. When he
deposited the check in his client trust account, it brought the balance to $300,036.01. He
paid co-counsel their fees, and then wrote a check for $30,000 to the client in the first
The clients in this matter were owed a total of about $141,000; Woodward wrote three
checks amounting to more than $112,000, but the balance in his trust account fell to
$1,341.59. When one client tried to cash a check for $42,000, she learned Woodward had
insufficient funds to cover the check. He later paid her $500 and said he was selling a
country club membership and would pay the remainder of her money from the proceeds of that
sale. However, he had been ordered to sell the membership to pay more than $90,000 he owed
judgment creditors in a malpractice case.
Woodward eventually paid the client the full amount she was owed, plus interest plus
$15,000 to compensate her for any damages.
He stipulated that he misappropriated funds, an act of moral turpitude, and misled a
In a third personal injury case, Woodward convinced his clients to reject a settlement
offer by agreeing to indemnify them in the event of a defense verdict and an award of
costs. Judgment was entered against his clients, as well as costs of $52,000. Although
Woodward said he would appeal, he never did.
For four months, Woodward's clients tried to contact him by phone and fax to determine
the status of the case and the costs. During that time, the malpractice judgment against
Woodward ordered the sale of the country club membership.
When the clients learned that a lien had been filed against their home, they hired a
new attorney. Woodward told the new lawyer about the club membership, but did not say
there were other potential claimants to the proceeds of the sale. The clients eventually
were forced to execute a note for $50,000, on which they continue to make payments.
Woodward failed to provide legal services competently, communicate with his clients, or
keep them informed of developments in their case, and by entering into the indemnification
agreement, he put his interests ahead of his clients', an act of moral turpitude.
Woodward was privately reproved in 1994, but failed to comply with the conditions
attached to the discipline. He also was publicly reproved a year later.
In mitigation, he made restitution to two clients and the malpractice judgment caused
severe financial problems. He has a long record of community service and pro bono
involvement and presented a wide range of references attesting to his good character.
ALAN PERRY THOMAS [#60096], 53, of Glendale was suspended for five
years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual four-year suspension, and
was ordered to take the MPRE. Credit will be given for an interim suspension which began
April 25, 1997. If the suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The
order took effect July 3, 1999.
Thomas pleaded no contest to three counts of insurance fraud in 1996 as a result of
spending four years in business with another attorney and three non-lawyers who engaged in
soliciting accident victims and receiving fraudulent settlements.
He allowed his name to be used by another lawyer, allowed others to process insurance
claims under his name, signed papers in cases he didn't handle, and had no access to
general and trust accounts bearing his name. A non-lawyer brought in cases, settled them,
and Thomas made the payments. The non-lawyer took 60 percent.
Thomas has cooperated with several law enforcement agencies in the investigation and
prosecution of criminals involved in capping, insurance fraud, extortion and related
violent crimes. He has potentially placed himself and his family in danger. He initially
became involved in the shady law practice because of overwork, stress and seizures that
clouded his judgment.
MARK MORRIS [#129656], 46, of Beverly Hills was suspended for four
years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with a 30-month actual suspension, and
was ordered to make restitution, prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE and comply with
rule 955. The order took effect July 3, 1999.
Morris stipulated to misconduct in 18 consolidated cases.
The majority involved his failure to maintain client funds in trust (16 counts),
allowing the balance in his client trust account to fall below the required amount (13
counts), and failure to pay medical providers (11 counts). Some of his conduct, such as
writing bad checks and letting his trust account balance fall, constituted acts of moral
He also failed to communicate with clients, perform legal services competently, or
return client files, and he withdrew from representation without protecting his clients'
In mitigation, Morris cooperated with the bar's investigation, took steps to rectify
the financial harm he caused, and voluntarily closed his law office. He also was an
alcoholic and drug addict, whose problems were exacerbated by the death of his brother
from a heroin overdose. He has been sober since 1996.
MARY FRANCES RICHARDSON [#112861], 53, of Claremont was suspended for
two years and until she proves her rehabilitation, and was ordered to comply with rule
955. The order took effect July 3, 1999.
In November, 1997, Richardson was disciplined for the unauthorized practice of law,
failing to advise her client she was suspended in 1994 for nonpayment of her bar dues,
failing to keep her membership records current and failing to cooperate with the bar's
She did not comply with the conditions of that discipline order: she did not change her
address with the bar's membership records, and failed to file two quarterly probation
Richardson did not appear in the disciplinary proceeding and her default was entered.
MITCHELL K. JAYSON [#108416], 51, of Palm Desert was suspended for
three years, placed on three years of probation with a one-year actual suspension and
until he makes restitution, and was ordered take the MPRE within one year and comply with
rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he will remain suspended until he
proves his rehabilitation. The order took effect July 3, 1999.
Jayson was disciplined in 1997 after stipulating to misconduct in three consolidated
cases, all involving client abandonment. He was placed on two years of probation and
actually suspended for 30 days.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that he violated the terms of that
probation by failing to file quarterly probation reports, provide proof that he joined the
bar's Law Practice Manage-ment Section, provide evidence of restitution payments or
maintain a current address.
In addition to the 1997 discipline, Jayson was privately reproved for failing to act
competently, return an unearned fee, and keep a client informed of developments in his
case, and for improperly withdrawing from employment.
MICHAEL H. INMAN [#160042], 37, of Los Angeles was suspended for one
year, stayed, placed on one year of probation with an actual 30-day suspension, and was
ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect July
In 1995, Inman represented three plaintiffs in a civil dispute regarding investments on
real property loans. After filing a complaint, he did not respond to or inform his clients
about any developments in the case: interrogatories and a request for production of
documents, depositions, motions to compel, and two orders for sanctions of $973 and
$1,092. The clients were forced to dismiss the action and subsequently faced a malicious
prosecution lawsuit which cost one client more than $20,000 plus $7,000 in attorney's
He failed to perform legal services competently or keep his clients informed about
significant developments in their cases.
At the time of the misconduct, Inman suffered from a serious amphetamine and marijuana
problem. He has been sober since February 1996. He has paid part of the sanctions and
continues to pay as he is financially able.
IAN LANE KERNER [#176616], 28, of Los Angeles was suspended for three
years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a six-month actual suspension, and
was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds
two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect July 3, 1999.
Kerner stipulated to 15 counts of misconduct in 15 consolidated cases.
A new attorney, Kerner's conduct resulted from the trust he placed in a longtime family
friend, Gus Luciano, who took advantage of him. Luciano, an attorney who is not licensed
in California, agreed to assist Kerner in establishing a personal injury practice. Kerner
did not realize until after the practice was set up that Luciano is not a California
Kerner opened a client trust account in his name, but provided Luciano with a signature
stamp bearing Kerner's name. For about a year, Luciano and his associates, some lawyers
and some not, operated a law firm under Kerner's name. They apparently opened dozens of
files in Kerner's name and forged his signature on retainer agreements, correspondence,
doctors' liens and insurance drafts. In addition, it appears that either Luciano or one of
his employees settled cases without authority, forged clients' signatures on documents and
drafts, either forged Kerner's signature or used his stamp on drafts, and misappropriated
thousands of dollars in settlement funds.
When Luciano was arrested, Kerner cooperated with law enforcement.
He stipulated to 15 counts of failing to supervise the handling of his client trust
account, acts of moral turpitude. However, he did not learn about the misappropriation
until after Luciano was arrested, and there is no evidence he misappropriated any funds.
Kerner stipulated that his conduct enabled Luciano and his associates to misappropriate
In mitigation, Kerner cooperated with law enforcement and the bar. His misconduct was
viewed as a single course of conduct relating to the mismanagement of his client trust
account, rather than numerous separate violations. He has changed his practice and takes
sole responsibility for his trust account.
Kerner found about 115 files in his name among the papers seized by the FBI after a
search of Luciano's property. He spent between $6,000 and $7,000 of his own money in
providing client representation in these personal injury cases. He represented 47 clients
and reached 11 settlements.
ROBERT JESS ORDUNA [#98182], 34, of Antioch was suspended for three
years, stayed, placed on four years of probation with an actual six-month suspension, and
was ordered to make restitution, attend the State Bar's client trust accounting course,
take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. The order took effect July 16, 1999.
The State Bar Court found that Orduna wrote a check against insufficient funds in his
client trust account, an act which constitutes moral turpitude.
In a bankruptcy matter, he failed to perform legal services competently because he did
not properly follow the court's rules: he failed to promptly seek approval of his
employment and he accepted certain payments without the court's permission. He also did
not seek the court's approval of his fees, and the bar court therefore found that he
charged and received an illegal fee. In addition, he failed to refund some of his client's
money to pay a creditor.
Orduna has a prior record of discipline: he was suspended and placed on probation in
1992 for failing to properly manage entrusted funds, he commingled personal and client
funds, and he did not cooperate with the bar's investigation of his conduct.
In mitigation, he has done considerable pro bono work for the Battered Woman's
Alternative program in Contra Costa County, he has hired a paralegal to assist him in his
practice, and he cooperated with the bar's investigation.
JOHN R. ORTEGA [#45716], 64, of Compton was suspended for one year,
stayed, and placed on probation for one year. The order took effect July 18, 1999.
The bar court found that Ortega misused his client trust account by permitting issuance
of six checks for personal expenses and one for a political contribution.
At the time of the misconduct, Ortega was seriously ill, suffering from congestive
heart failure, prostate disease, diabetes and a bleeding ulcer. Manage-ment of his office
fell to his wife, who was unaware of the regulations governing client trust accounts.
Because Ortega was having tax problems, the IRS had seized all his bank accounts except
his client trust account. His wife deposited rent checks from several properties the
couple owned in the client trust account, commingling that money with fees from some
personal injury cases. Ortega's secretary was paid with funds from the account, and Ortega
made a political contribution using trust account funds.
In mitigation, several witnesses attested to Ortega's good character, he does regular
pro bono work and is a community volunteer. His medical condition also was considered