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July 2018

| Jul. 2, 2018

Discipline Report

Jul. 2, 2018

July 2018

Recent attorney disbarments, suspensions, probations, and public reprovals in California.

DISBARMENT

Andrew Benjamin Aames State Bar #117380, Kansas City, Missouri (May 18, 2018)

Aames was disbarred after he stipulated to being convicted of a misdemeanor in Missouri: failing to register as a sex offender (POC ch. 55, Section 5521).

The California State Bar Court judge found that the facts and circumstances surrounding the violation did not involve moral turpitude, but involved other misconduct warranting discipline.

In mitigation, Aames entered into a pretrial stipulation, saving the State Bar time and money.

In aggravation, he had a prior record of misconduct. In recommending disbarment, the judge noted that the present misconduct was "significantly aggravated" that record -- which involved molesting a child 38 years younger than himself and an earlier failure to register as a sex offender.

James Rudolph Andrews State Bar #277734, Chandler, Arizona (May 18, 2018)

Andrews was disbarred by default from practicing law in California. He failed to participate either in person or through counsel at his disciplinary hearing; the California State Bar Court judge determined he had received adequate legal notice, as verified by a supporting declaration of reasonable diligence filed by the State Bar deputy trial counsel.

In an earlier proceeding in Arizona, the State Bar there found him culpable of several counts of professional misconduct, including failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to maintain client funds in a trust account, failing to cooperate in the State Bar's investigation of the wrongdoing alleged, committing acts prejudicial to the administration of justice -- wrongdoing involving moral turpitude, and two counts of failing to promptly pay clients funds received on their behalf. In addition, he was found culpable of the unauthorized practice of law by filing pleadings in Arizona while he was suspended for nonpayment of bar dues and of practicing law when not entitled to do so -- additional misconduct involving moral turpitude.

The Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar of California then initiated a proceeding to determine whether his misconduct in Arizona also warranted professional discipline in California, the degree of discipline to be imposed, and whether the Arizona proceeding lacked fundamental constitutional protection.

The California State Bar Court judge determined that the misconduct involved moral turpitude and also warranted professional discipline in this jurisdiction.

There was one non-public disciplinary matter pending against Andrews in California when he was disbarred.

Susan Marie Griffin State Bar #114882, San Francisco (May 18, 2018)

Griffin was disbarred by default after a contested disciplinary proceeding in which she was found culpable of eight of nine counts of professional misconduct with which she was charged.

Her wrongdoing, which occurred in a single client matter, included: failing to notify the client about settlement funds received, failing to maintain the client's funds in a trust account, failing to maintain complete records of settlement proceeds, failing to render an appropriate accounting of client funds, and breaching her fiduciary duty. An additional three counts all involved moral turpitude: misappropriating the client's funds, making intentional misrepresentations to the client, and making false statements to a State Bar complaint analyst.

In the present matter, Griffin was hired to represent a plaintiff in a personal injury matter, with a fee agreement entitling her to one-third of any net settlement proceeds after medical liens were paid. The case was subsequently settled, with the insurer issuing a settlement check to Griffin. She deposited it in her client trust account, without informing the client she had received the money, then wrote checks on the account, causing the balance to dip below the permissible amount.

She also delayed paying one of the medical liens for 14 months, in the meantime, misrepresenting to the client that the liens were still being negotiated and neglecting to mention she had received the settlement funds several months earlier. The client herself ultimately negotiated a reduction on the enduring medical lien.

When State Bar investigators questioned Griffin in response to the complaint the client filed, she misrepresented that she had negotiated the lien reduction and that she had not commingled funds in her client trust account.

In aggravation, Griffin committed multiple acts of misconduct and the client she wronged -- who was elderly, injured, and uneducated -- was highly vulnerable.

In mitigation, she stipulated to the facts and to culpability, had practiced law for more than 30 years without a record of discipline and provided evidence of community service -- albeit that was afforded only moderate weight as it occurred before she began the misconduct in the instant case. She was also allotted mitigation weight for suffering extreme emotional difficulties, though that was nominal, as she failed to offer evidence she no longer suffers from those difficulties, or that she has gained the tools to manage her problems, or that she has had a sustained period of rehabilitation.

Sarah Hembrow State Bar #175303, Santa Rosa (May 6, 2018)

Hembrow was disbarred by default after she failed to file a response to the Notice of Disciplinary Charges filed against her. She did not move to have the default order subsequently entered set aside or vacated.

She was found culpable of failing to file a declaration of compliance as required by the California Supreme Court in accord with an earlier discipline order (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20).

Hembrow had one prior record of discipline.

Michael William Newcomb State Bar #188321, Temecula (May 18, 2018)

Newcomb was disbarred after he stipulated to committing numerous acts of professional misconduct related to three separate client matters.

The wrongdoing included: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to comply with a court order, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, improperly withdrawing from representing a client, and providing legal advice when not entitled to do so -- an act involving moral turpitude; two counts of failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries; and three counts each of failing to render appropriate accountings upon terminating his representation of clients and failing to cooperate in State Bar investigations of the misconduct alleged. He was also culpable of failing to comply with conditions imposed earlier in a disciplinary probation -- specifically, failing to schedule an initial meeting with his probation officer and failing to file three quarterly written reports with the State Bar.

In all three cases at tissue, Newcomb accepted advanced fees, then failed to make court appearances or to communicate with opposing counsel or to respond to clients' requests for information and accountings. In one of the matters, he undertook representation of clients in a patent and trademark matter while on inactive status due to his failure to pay a fee arbitration award. In all three matters, he failed to respond to State Bar investigators' queries after complaints of misconduct were filed against him.

In aggravation, Newcomb had two prior records of discipline, committed multiple acts of misconduct in the instant matter, and demonstrated indifference to his wrongdoing by engaging in misconduct similar to that for which he had been disciplined in the past.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, saving the State bar time and resources.

Audrey Marie Ritter State Bar #212840, Northridge (May 18, 2018)

Ritter was disbarred by default after she failed to participate in her disciplinary proceeding after receiving adequate legal notice and opportunity to do so.

She was found culpable of one count of professional misconduct: failing to comply with disciplinary probation conditions by not filing three quarterly written reports with the Office of Probation.

Ritter had been disciplined by the State Bar for professional misconduct twice before.

Mark Lane Loomis Welker State Bar #113037, Quitman, Texas (May 18, 2018)

Welker was disbarred by default after he failed to appear at his California disciplinary proceeding, despite having adequate legal notice, nor did he move to have the default order set aside or vacated.

In an earlier proceeding, the Texas State Bar found Welker culpable of three counts of professional misconduct in that state, including: neglecting a legal matter entrusted to him, failing to keep a client reasonably informed, and failing to protect the client's interests.

The Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar of California then initiated a proceeding to determine whether his admitted misconduct in Texas also warranted professional discipline in California, the degree of discipline to be imposed, and whether the Texas proceeding lacked fundamental constitutional protection.

Because Welker failed to participate in the California State Bar proceeding, the record of discipline in Texas was determined to be conclusive evidence of his culpability in California, and the California State Bar Court judge recommended disbarment.

SUSPENSION

Nareg Levon Bardakjian State Bar #276240, Glendale (May 14, 2018)

Bardakjian was suspended in the interim pending final disposition of his conviction of petty theft (Cal. Penal Code Sections 484(a) and 490.2), a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude. The case was referred to the State Bar's hearing department for a hearing and decision recommending the appropriate discipline to be imposed.

David William Clark State Bar #264125, Port Hueneme (May 2, 2018)

Clark was suspended from practicing law in the interim pending final disposition of his conviction of shoplifting (Cal. Penal Code Section 459.5), a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude.

The case was referred to the State Bar's hearing department for a hearing and decision recommending the appropriate professional discipline to be imposed.

Herman Jason Cohen State Bar #188783, Encino (May 6, 2018)

Cohen was suspended for 60 days and placed on probation for two years following a probation revocation proceeding instigated by the State Bar's Office of Probation.

He was found culpable of violating several conditions imposed in an earlier discipline order. Specifically, he failed to timely file three written quarterly reports and to complete instruction in both the State Bar's Ethics and Client Trust Accounting Schools before the deadline that had been imposed.

Cohen acknowledged that the reports were late, but underscored that two reports were only one day late; he attempted to file the third report three weeks after its due date, but it was never received by his probation deputy, whose name he had misspelled. He also acknowledged he failed to attend the two State Bar schools as directed, citing a busy schedule.

The State Bar Court judge rejected these arguments, finding all violations willful.

In aggravation, Cohen committed multiple acts of misconduct, had one prior record of discipline, and showed indifference toward rectifying his misconduct by ignoring the State Bar's repeated warnings about the consequences of noncompliance.

In mitigation, his misconduct caused no actual harm to a client or other person and he also demonstrated candor regarding the circumstances of his wrongdoing.

Gabriel Eric Dorman State Bar #182340, Orange (May 18, 2018)

Dorman was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year. He had stipulated to committing 19 acts of professional misconduct in four matters.

In three matters involving clients, the wrongdoing included: failing to render appropriate accountings, failing to respond to reasonable inquiries, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, and misrepresenting facts -- misconduct involving moral turpitude; two counts each of failing to keep clients informed of significant case developments and failing to cooperate and participate in the State Bar's pending investigations; and three counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence, improperly withdrawing from employment, and failing to promptly return unearned advanced fees.

In one non-client matter, Dorman appeared in a case while he had been suspended for failure to pay State Bar membership dues and also failed to update his membership records within the required timeframe.

In all of the client matters, Dorman accepted advance fees, then failed to attend court hearings or file the requisite pleadings, and failing to respond to numerous client inquiries and to return unearned fees they had paid him.

In aggravation, Dorman committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and significantly harmed his clients by delaying the resolution of their cases and depriving them of the funds they had advanced.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for approximately 18 years discipline-free, and submitted letters from seven individuals selected from the legal and general communities -- all of whom attested to his good character.

Jose Castillo Escano State Bar #204718, Los Angeles (May 18, 2018)

Escano was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to failing to comply with six conditions attached to a disciplinary probation order imposed earlier.

Specifically, he failed to timely contact the Office of Probation to schedule an initial meeting, failed to timely submit three quarterly written reports and a final report, and failed to submit proof of attending the State Bar's Ethics School as required.

In aggravation, Escano committed multiple acts of misconduct and had one prior record of discipline.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation acknowledging his misconduct.

Pamela Stacey Gerber-Gressier State Bar #140353, Newport Beach (May 7, 2018)

Gerber-Gressier was suspended from practicing law in the interim pending final disposition of her conviction of conspiracy to commit a crime (Cal. Penal Code Section 182 (a)(1)). The underlying offense was collecting unlawful advance loan modification fees (Cal. Civ. Code Section 2944.7) with an enhancement for property damages of more than $1,300,000 (Cal. Penal Code Section 12022.6(a)(3)). The offense is a felony that may involve moral turpitude.

David Gregory Graziani State Bar #276009, Pasadena (May 6, 2018)

Graziani was suspended for one year and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing 12 acts of professional misconduct related to two client matters.

The wrongdoing included: including a provision in a settlement agreement requiring a client to withdraw a State Bar complaint filed against him, failing to inform a client of significant case developments, practicing law while he was on administrative inactive status, and billing a client for services he did not perform -- misconduct involving moral turpitude. In addition, he was culpable of two counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to provide clients with the written advisory related to loan modifications, collecting legal fees before fully performing promised loan modification services, and providing false documents in State Bar investigations -- acts involving moral turpitude.

In both underlying cases, Graziani was hired to obtain loan modifications. He accepted advanced fees from both clients, but provided neither of them with the written language required by statute (Cal. Civ. Code Section 2944.6). In one case, the client hired other counsel after seeing no action on his case for six months; in the other, judgment was entered against the client after Graziani was sanctioned by a court for failing to file responses to discovery requests, then submitting unverified answers.

In both cases, he misrepresented facts to State Bar investigators and provided them with falsified documents as they attempted to handle the complaints of misconduct the clients had filed against him.

In aggravation, Graziani committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his clients, and also failed to make complete restitution for the illegal fees he took, which totaled nearly $33,000.

In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation and had practiced law in California for three years and in New York for 12 years with no record of discipline.

Mark Robert Haddon State Bar #186480, La Verne (May 29, 2018)

Haddon was suspended from practicing law in the interim pending the final disposition of his convictions of grand theft (Cal. Penal Code Section 487(a)), identity theft (Cal. Penal Code Section 530.5(a)), and forgery related to identity theft (Cal. Penal Code Section $ 470(a) and 473(a)). The offenses are misdemeanors involving moral turpitude.

Nathan V. Hoffman State Bar #135155, Los Angeles (May 14, 2018) Hoffman was suspended in the interim pending the final disposition of his conviction of manufacturing marijuana (21 U.S.C. Section 841(a)(1)), a felony involving moral turpitude.

James Michael Ibold State Bar #157915, Chino Hills (May 29, 2018) Ibold was suspended from practicing law in the interim pending the final disposition of his conviction of possession of child pornography (Cal. Penal Code Section 311.11(a)). The offense is a felony involving moral turpitude.

Esther M. Kim State Bar #271155, Hesperia (May 29, 2018) Kim was suspended in the interim pending the final disposition of her conviction of accepting business intending to file a fraudulent claim (Cal. Penal Code Section 549). The offense is a felony that may involve moral turpitude.

Gregory Coe Pyfrom State Bar #72306, Burbank (May 18, 2018) Pyfrom was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to making a misrepresentation on a billing statement -- an act involving moral turpitude.

Pyfrom represented three clients over several years, ultimately prevailing in a bench trial of their case, and entitling them to receive attorneys' fees. He filed a motion and supporting declaration for those fees, attaching a billing statement erroneously representing that he had traveled to and attend seven court appearances; the error elevated the total bill by about $12,000.

Opposing counsel filed an opposition to the motion; in replying, Pyfrom attested to the veracity of the records -- and a judgment was eventually entered in his clients' favor. However, the fees and costs could not be collected, even after litigation pending for more than four years.

In mitigation, Pyfrom entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for approximately 34 years discipline-free before the present misconduct occurred, submitted letters from nine individuals taken from a range in the community attesting to his good moral character, and introduced evidence of community service and pro bono work.

Shane Andres Reed State Bar #158382, Jacksonville, Oregon (May 18, 2018)

Reed was suspended from the practice of law for two years and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to pleading guilty to failing to pay income tax for three years (26 U.S.C. 7203). He was charged in Oregon, where he was also licensed to practice law -- and the matter was subsequently referred to the hearing department of the State Bar of California for a hearing and determination of whether the facts and circumstances surrounding the offense involved moral turpitude or other misconduct warranting professional discipline in this state.

Reed filed federal income tax returns for the years 2006, 2007, and 2008 -- indicating a total tax obligation of $129,000, which he failed to pay. Initially unresponsive to IRS queries about the nonpayment, he used his client trust account to shelter his income, commingling earned fees and client funds and using the account to cover his personal expenses.

The California State Bar Court judge found the facts and circumstances surrounding the conviction involved moral turpitude due to the "dishonest conduct" involved.

In aggravation, Reed had a prior record of discipline imposed by the Oregon State Bar, acted dishonestly, and significantly harmed the public through his failure to pay the taxes due.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation.

Dean Edward Smart State Bar #130410, Mission Viejo (May 1, 2018)

Smart was suspended from practicing law in the interim pending final disposition of his convictions of assault likely to produce great bodily injury (Cal. Penal Code Section 245(a)(4)) and discharging a firearm with gross negligence that could cause injury or death (Cal. Penal Code Section 246.3(a)). Both offenses are felonies that may involve moral turpitude.

The presiding judge of the California State Bar Court granted Smart's initial request for a temporary stay and delay of the interim suspension to protect his clients in a matter with a trial scheduled for early April; he was instructed to inform the trial court of the terms of the order. However, the judge did not find good cause to delay the suspension to allow him to participate in a second trial scheduled for June.

PROBATION

Leslie Michael Alberts State Bar #194907, Wahiawa, Hawaii (May 18, 2018)

Alberts was placed on probation for one year after stipulating to pleading no contest to a criminal misdemeanor charge filed against him in Hawaii: resisting an order to stop a motor vehicle (Haw. Rev. Stat. Section 710-1027).

The matter was referred to the hearing department of the California State Bar for a hearing and determination of whether the facts and circumstances involved moral turpitude or other misconduct warranting professional discipline in this jurisdiction.

In the underlying matter, Alberts was driving nearly 20 miles over the speed limit, when a Honolulu police officer pursed him, with flashing lights and sirens activated. Alberts refused to stop, passing through two red lights. He then slowed, and the officer got out of his car with gun drawn, ordering him to stop. He drove on, even after the officer had smashed his car window with his gun, and turned himself into police at a local station about one week later.

In aggravation, Alberts had one prior record of professional discipline in California. Aggravating weight was also given to the uncharged violation of breaching his duty to support the law (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code Section 6068(a)) for Alberts' earlier conviction of driving without a valid license.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation in the present case.

Michael Joseph Baytosh State Bar #176189, Gold River (May 6, 2018)

Baytosh was placed on probation for two years following his successful completion of both the State Bar's Alternative Discipline and Lawyer Assistance Programs.

He had earlier stipulated to three acts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to obey court orders to provide discovery responses, and making misrepresentations regarding the status of those discovery responses to both his employer and client -- wrongdoing involving moral turpitude.

In aggravation, Baytosh committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that harmed his employer, his client, and the administration of justice.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for eight years without a record of discipline, and offered evidence from several individuals -- all of whom attested to his good character.

PUBLIC REPROVAL

Scott L. Adkins State Bar #194809, Grayson, Kentucky (May 1, 2018)

Adkins was publicly reproved after he stipulated to pleading guilty and being convicted of one count of being involved in a crash involving damage to a vehicle and neglecting to give information at the scene (Fla. Stat. Section 316.061/316.062) and one count of reckless driving (Fla. Stat. Section 316.192). Both offenses are misdemeanors.

The California State Bar Court judge determined that the offenses did not involve moral turpitude -- but involved misconduct warranting professional discipline.

In the underlying matter, Adkins was driving in the early morning hours on a highway in Florida, when he collided with the rear bumper of a car in front of him, but did not stop to provide his insurance information at the scene. Instead, he sped away at a high speed. Sheriff deputies then observed him driving recklessly, and he could not perform the field sobriety tests after they stopped him.

Adkins had been convicted of alcohol-related driving offenses in Florida three years earlier.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, saving the State Bar time and resources, and had practiced law for more than 11 years without a record of discipline.

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