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January 2019

| Jan. 2, 2019

Discipline Report,
Discipline

Jan. 2, 2019

January 2019

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

DISBARMENT

Eric Moises Camiling

State Bar #237881, Ontario (November 22, 2018)

Camiling was disbarred by default after he failed to participate either in person or through counsel at his disciplinary proceeding, despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. A default order was entered, which he did not move to have vacated or set aside. The Office of Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar then filed a petition for disbarment.

Camiling was found culpable of nine counts of professional misconduct related to two client matters.

In one case, his wrongdoing included: failing to maintain client funds in a trust account, failing to render an accounting of the client funds, failing to promptly return client papers and property after being requested to do so, failing to respond to multiple inquiries from the client about the status of the case, and intentionally misappropriating $500 of the client's funds--wrongdoing involving moral turpitude.

In the other matter, he was culpable of failing to respond to the client's reasonable inquiries, improperly withdrawing from representation, failing to provide an accounting of the client's funds, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar's investigation of the wrongdoing alleged.

Camiling had been disciplined by the State Bar once previously for professional misconduct.

Gabriel Gerardo Castillo

State Bar #256748, Modesto (November 17, 2018)

Castillo was disbarred by default. Though he filed an answer to the Notice of Disciplinary Charges filed against him and attended an initial status conference, he failed to appear at the trial in which he was charged with numerous ethical violations related to six client matters. He also failed to respond to the petition for disbarment or move to set aside or vacate the default order entered against him.

He was found culpable of all counts charged. The wrongdoing included: failing to perform legal services with competence and concealing his suspended status from a client--misconduct involving moral turpitude; two counts each of failing to render accountings of advanced fees to clients, failing to comply with conditions attached to a disciplinary order imposed earlier, collecting illegal fees, and failing to obey court orders; three counts of failing to inform clients he had been suspended from practicing law; four counts each of engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, holding himself out as entitled to practice law when he knew he was not, and filing false declarations under penalty of perjury--misconduct involving moral turpitude; five counts each of failing to respond to reasonable inquiries about the status of cases and wrongfully accepting fees from non-clients; and six counts each of failing to promptly refund unearned advanced fees and failing to cooperate with the State Bar's investigations of the alleged misconduct.

Castillo had one prior record of professional discipline.

Jennifer Marie Farris

State Bar #266923, Stockton (November 17, 2018)

Farris was disbarred by default after she failed to appear in the disciplinary proceeding in which she was charged with seven counts of professional misconduct related to two client matters. The State Bar Court judge determined that she had received adequate legal notice in advance.

She was found culpable of all counts charged: improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to return unearned advanced fees, and failing to notify the State Bar of the change in her membership records address within 30 days of moving, as well as two counts each of failing to obtain court permission to withdraw from representation and failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries.

Art Hoomiratana

State Bar #247253, Pasadena (November 17, 2018)

Hoomiratana was disbarred by default after he failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, in the disciplinary proceeding in which he was charged with one count of failing to comply with conditions imposed in an earlier probation order.

A default order entered earlier was vacated for failing to meet dur process requirements. Though Hoomiratana confirmed by email to the State Bar that he had received the Notice of Disciplinary Charges filed against him, he failed to file a response to it or to the default order subsequently entered against him.

Hoomiratana had been disciplined by the State Bar twice before for professional misconduct, and when the disbarment recommendation was made, there were two non-public disciplinary matters pending against him.

Charnel JeanneLousie James

State Bar #289326, Davis (November 17, 2018)

James was disbarred after stipulating to committing 24 acts of professional misconduct related to 10 separate matters. The wrongdoing included failing to communicate a significant legal development to a client; two counts of failing to refund unearned advanced fees; three counts each of failing to deposit client funds in a trust account and failing to perform legal services with competence; and four counts of counts of failing to maintain client funds in a trust account.

She was also culpable of numerous counts of misconduct involving moral turpitude--including five counts of making material representations (in claims, to clients and co-workers, and to the State Bar) and six counts of grossly and negligently misappropriating clients' funds.

Many of the counts related to James' mishandling and misappropriation of client funds, misappropriating more than $28,000 in funds they rightfully owned, sometimes falsely claiming she was actually entitled to those funds, and at least one claiming that her office assistant mishandled them without her knowledge.

In aggravation, James committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed numerous clients--interfering with the progress of their cases, and demonstrated an inability or refusal to account for entrusted funds.

In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation acknowledging her wrongdoing, saving the State Bar considerable time and resources.

In recommending disbarment, the State Bar Court judge noted that James's "misappropriations and pervasive misconduct were facilitated and concealed by her misrepresentations and acts of moral turpitude," concluding: "Her disbarment is necessary to protect the public from further misconduct."

Justin J. Kim

State Bar #237501, Atherton (November 22, 2018)

Kim was disbarred by default after he failed to file a response to the Notice of Hearing on Conviction with which he was served. He did not seek to have the default order entered against him set aside or vacated, and the State Bar's Office of Chief Trial Counsel then petitioned for disbarment.

In the matter below, Kim physically attacked his wife--causing her wrist to break. The next day, he vandalized his home using a wooden sword and again attacked his wife. Nearly two weeks later, he forced his wife to get on her knees and ask for forgiveness, then beat her again with his hand and with a wooden stick. After the attack, he remarked: "Thank you for making me a wife beater." The next month, he caused his wife to feel threatened after he placed a paper target riddled with bullet holes above her bed.

He eventually pled guilty to several charges of criminal misconduct. The felony charges included: committing domestic battery with corporal injury (Cal. Penal Code §273.5(a)), assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury (Cal. Penal Code §245(a)(4)), assault with a deadly weapon (Cal. Penal Code §245(a)(1)), and two counts of making criminal threats (Cal. Penal Code §422(a)). Kim also pled guilty to two misdemeanors: committing vandalism causing less than $400 in damages (Cal. Penal Code §594(a)(b)(2)(a)) and domestic violence battery (Cal. Penal Code §243(e)(1)). All of the offenses may or may not involve moral turpitude depending on the facts and circumstances involved.

After entering a guilty plea, Kim was sentenced to three years of formal probation and 12 days in jail, with additional conditions including completing a batterers' treatment program and performing eight hours of community service.

Jenna M. Maack

State Bar #268747, Bayside (November 22, 2018)

Maack was disbarred by default after an original disciplinary proceeding in which she was charged with nine counts of professional misconduct. Although she had adequate legal notice and actual knowledge of the trial date and location, she failed to appear, and did not subsequently move to have the default order entered against her set aside or vacated.

She was found culpable of three of the nine counts charged: violating a court order, seeking to mislead a judge by filing a false statement, and filing a notice she knew contained a false and misleading statement--misconduct involving moral turpitude.

The State Bar Court judge dismissed the other six counts charged, holding that the factual allegations were insufficient to support findings of violations.

Craig Eugene Munson

State Bar #143833, Alhambra (November 17, 2018)

Munson was disbarred by default after he failed to participate in his disciplinary proceeding despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He did not move to have the default order subsequently entered against him set aside or vacated.

He was found culpable of violating several conditions attached to a disciplinary order that had been imposed earlier. Specifically, he failed to submit two written quarterly reports and a final report to the State Bar, failed to attend Ethics School, and failed to reply to the Office of Probation's inquiry related to the misconduct.

In aggravation, Munson had three prior records of professional misconduct.

Edward William Pacheco

State Bar #91903, Los Angeles (November 2, 2018)

Pacheco was disbarred after a contested disciplinary proceeding involving two consolidated matters.

He was found culpable of all four acts of professional conduct with which he was charged. The wrongdoing included: violating a court rule by failing to notify opposing counsel of his disciplinary suspension and by failing to timely file a declaration of compliance with the State Bar (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20) and engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. He was also found culpable of two counts involving moral turpitude: falsely declaring in a 9.20 declaration that he had notified opposing counsel of his suspension in all pending maters and misrepresenting to a judge that he was entitled to practice law, when in fact he was suspended.

Pacheco argued that his misconduct warranted discipline short of disbarment.

In aggravation, he committed multiple acts of misconduct and had been disciplined by the State Bar for professional misconduct on three prior occasions.

In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation, essentially admitting culpability and also was allotted limited mitigation weight for emotional difficulties due to his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and to being sole caretaker of a son who has severe disabilities--that weight limited because the only evidence was his own uncorroborated testimony.

Barlow Smith

State Bar #80680, Marble Falls, Texas (November 17, 2018)

Smith was disbarred after he stipulated to committing several acts of professional misconduct: failing to timely report to the State Bar three felony indictments, one felony conviction, and three impositions of discipline against his medical license in another jurisdiction. He was also found culpable of committing violations in that jurisdiction that involved moral turpitude and warranted imposing professional discipline.

Smith, in addition to being licensed to practice law in California, was licensed to practice as a psychiatrist in Texas. While working as a psychiatrist, he fraudulently issued prescriptions for pain treatment narcotics and other controlled substances to two undercover agents when there was no medical need for the drugs.

He was convicted of the felony of knowingly delivering a prescription for other than a valid medical purpose (Texas Health & Safety Code §481.129(c)(1) and indicted by Texas authorities for committing sexual assault as a medical authority (Texas Penal Code §§22.011(a)(1)(B) and b(9)) as well as for three additional counts of knowingly delivering a prescription for other than a valid medical purpose. He was also disciplined by the Texas Medical Board on three occasions for violating various laws and for failing to maintain a patient's confidentiality.

He failed to self-report the conviction, indictments, or discipline to the State Bar of California as required.

In aggravation, Smith committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and showed indifference to the consequences of his misconduct by continuing to prescribe controlled substances outside the scope of his medical specialty even after he was informed that the Drug Enforcement Agency was monitoring his prescribing habits.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation. He had also practiced law for 34 years discipline-free before pleading guilty to the felony charged, though the State Bar Court judge lessened the "significant weight" of that due to Smith's repeated failures to self-report his misconduct as mandated.

Celeste Marie Vogler

State Bar #281332, Petaluma (November 2, 2018)

Vogler was disbarred after a conviction referral proceeding. The State Bar Court judge found that she had actual knowledge of the time and place of the proceeding, but elected to let it proceed by default. Vogler did not seek to have the default order subsequently entered set aside or vacated. As a result, the factual allegations set forth in the Office of Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar of California's statement of the facts and circumstances were admitted as true.

In the underlying matter, Vogler pled guilty to taking an automobile without the owner's consent (Cal. Veh. Code §10851(a)) and to attempting to elude a pursuing police officer without regard for safety while driving that automobile (Cal. Veh. Code §2800.2(a)). Both offenses are felonies; the State Bar Court judge determined that neither involved moral turpitude, but did constitute misconduct warranting other professional discipline.

At the time the disbarment recommendation was entered, there were four additional conviction proceedings pending against Vogler.

Steven Lewis Weiner

State Bar #87553, Walnut Creek (November 23, 2018)

Weiner was disbarred after the Office of Chief Trial Counsel (OCTC) of the State Bar appealed the hearing judge's recommendation that he receive discipline that included one year of actual suspension for the wrongdoing alleged.

He was found culpable of three counts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter: failing to maintain his client's funds in a trust account, commingling his personal funds in the trust account, and misappropriating the client funds due to gross negligence--an act involving moral turpitude.

The findings of culpability were not contested on appeal. The OCTC, however, contested the findings on aggravation and mitigation and urged disbarment as the appropriate discipline. Weiner asked that the hearing judge's discipline recommendation be affirmed.

In the underlying matter, Weiner was hired to represent a client who had suffered personal injuries in an attack by a dog. He negotiated and received a settlement of $30,000--depositing it in his client trust account, and eventually paying the client and her medical lienholders from that account. However, he also allowed the account balance to dip impermissibly low and wrote checks from it for personal expenses--ultimately commingling large amounts of money and misappropriating $17,304 from the account.

On appeal, the State Bar Court panel noted that the hearing judge had assigned aggravation for Weiner's two prior records of discipline, but did not specify the weight they should be given. The panel assigned the prior discipline "significant weight" because they involve both a failure to maintain client funds and commingling--misconduct similar to the current charges.

The panel affirmed the trial judge's findings of mitigating weight for Weiner's cooperation with the State Bar, good character evidence submitted, as well as evidence of his community service.

However, it disagreed with the hearing judge's finding of compelling mitigation for emotional and physical difficulties suffered during the misconduct--his wife's and his own medical conditions, daughter's divorce and father-in-law's diagnosis of dementia--finding he failed to establish a nexus between those difficulties and his misconduct.

The panel also noted that the hearing judge assigned mitigation for Weiner's demonstrated remorse, but again did not specify its weight. It concluded that only minimal mitigation weight should be allotted, because his actions of remorse--entering a partnership with another attorney charged with handling trust accounting and paying the client and lienholders--took place long after the misconduct occurred.

In recommending disbarment, the panel underscored: "This is his third discipline stemming from trust account violations, with escalating severity, culminating in culpability for misappropriation in this matter."

Benjamin Yu

State Bar #243005, New York, New York (November 22, 2018)

Yu was disbarred by default after failing to participate, either in person or through counsel, at the disciplinary proceeding in which he was charged with a single count of professional misconduct. The State Bar Court judge determined that reasonable diligence was used to notify him of the proceedings prior to the default being entered.

He was found culpable of failing to abide by a court order that directed him to comply with the notice requirements for disciplined attorneys (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20).

Yu had one prior record of discipline related to a criminal matter in New York. There, he was found culpable of numerous criminal charges including bribery and rewarding official misconduct; he was disbarred in the state of New York and sentenced to three to nine years in prison.

When the disbarment was recommended by the California State Bar Court judge in the instant case, there were additional disciplinary matters pending against Yu.

SUSPENSION

Douglas Alan Bader

State Bar #182315, Riverside (November 17, 2018)

Bader was suspended from practicing law for 18 months and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to committing five acts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter.

His wrongdoing included: failing to keep a client informed of significant case developments, improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to comply with conditions attached to a disciplinary probation order, and two counts of making material misrepresentations to the State Bar--misconduct involving moral turpitude.

Bader represented a client in a family law case--agreeing to a fee of $2,000 to represent him at two hearings. He appeared at the first hearing, and shortly thereafter, received the full $2,000 fee. Several months later, Bader moved offices, but did not inform the client, nor did he respond to voicemail and email messages from the client, and effectively abandoned him by failing to appear at second proceeding--this one a case status hearing.

After the client filed a complaint and the State Bar began an investigation, Bader gave investigators conflicting explanations: one that he had been hired only for a limited scope representation at the initial hearing; another that he agreed to make a general appearance and had handled protracted negotiations and strategy during the initial hearing.

As the State Bar's investigation continued, Bader, aided by a family member, secured seven letters from individuals attesting to his good character in hopes of garnering mitigation credit in the disciplinary matter. Bader did not review them for accuracy before they were submitted. In checking the authenticity of the letters, the State Bar discovered two of them were bogus.

In aggravation, Bader committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and had a prior record of professional discipline.

In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation.

Luis Walters Camacho

San Francisco, State Bar #163331 (November 13, 2018)

Camacho was suspended from the practice of law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam--one of the terms imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.

Scott Michael Cantor

State Bar #79851, Las Vegas, Nevada (November 13, 2018)

Cantor was suspended from practicing law pending proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination as required in the terms of a previous disciplinary order.

Sharron S. Williams Gelobter

State Bar #226936, Richmond (November 22, 2018)

Gelobter was suspended for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to failing to comply with several conditions attached to a disciplinary order imposed earlier. Specifically, she failed to submit to the State Bar: file four written quarterly reports, proof of attending and passing its Ethics School, and proof of passing the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam as required.

In aggravation, she committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and had a prior record of discipline.

In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation, saving the State Bar time and resources.

Thomas Matthew Gieser

State Bar #65916, Orange (November 22, 2018)

Gieser was suspended from the practice of law for nine months and placed on probation for two years after a contested disciplinary proceeding. The Office of the Chief Trial Counsel argued that the appropriate discipline to be imposed was disbarment; Gieser urged a public reproval.

In the trial below and on review, Gieser was found culpable of failing to maintain client funds in trust and negligently misappropriating more than $23,000 in client funds--misconduct involving moral turpitude.

In the underlying matter, Gieser was hired to handle the probate of an estate. When escrow closed on the decedent's house, which was the main asset in the estate, Gieser directed the co-executor to issue a check to his client trust account for $26,920--stating the funds would be used to pay executor's and attorney's fees, with the remainder held in reserve.

He did not obtain probate court approval to take any portion of the funds as attorney's fees, and a year later, after numerous electronic transfers and debits and credits unrelated to the estate, the account balance had dipped to an impermissibly low level. Giesler did not appear at an Order to Show Cause hearing, instituted on the probate court's own motion, regarding the status or distribution of the estate.

In the meantime, one of the co-executors died, and the surviving one hired a new attorney to handle the estate closing who sent Giesler a substitution of attorney form along with the co-executor's complaint to the State Bar about his inactions. Eventually he sent the new counsel a check for $26,920--drawn on another bank account. Giesler and his wife, who acted as his paralegal and office manager, had made a deposit to cover the check amount.

In aggravation, Giesler committed multiple acts of wrongdoing.

In mitigation, he had practiced law discipline-free for 39 years, cooperated by entering into a stipulation of facts and admission of documents, presented strong evidence of his good character and community work through the testimony of eight witnesses, and was remorseful about his substandard account management--revising his system for reconciling accounts in the future.

David Ryan Griffin

State Bar #76619, Escondido (November 22, 2018)

Griffin was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing three acts of professional misconduct related to his handling of client funds: failing to keep an accurate accounting of client funds and two counts of commingling personal funds in his client trust account.

In an eight-month period, Griffin deposited a total of $208,256 in personal funds into his client trust account, paid and withdrew funds from that account for personal expenses, and failed to maintain trust account records.

In aggravation, Griffin committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation and had practiced law for approximately 38 years without a record of discipline.

Gregory Lyle Jackson

State Bar #212265, Bakersfield (November 17, 2018)

Jackson was suspended from the practice of law for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing five acts of professional misconduct while representing three separate clients: failing to properly communicate, agreeing to an illegal fee-splitting arrangement, and three counts of failing to perform legal services with competence.

The incidents all related to a scam in which Jackson was mostly an unknowing party. Jackson entered an arrangement with a non-attorney mediator--who agreed to compensate Jackson by paying his office rent, advertising expenses, and monthly home mortgage. In consideration, Jackson was to provide mediation clients with any needed legal representation without further expense to them. Shortly after entering the agreement, Jackson suffered an active bout of viral encephalitis--rendering him unable to practice law--and he placed himself on inactive status.

However, the mediator, aided by a co-conspirator, continued in business--soliciting legal employment from various clients, creating fictitious business names and email accounts, filing cases using Jackson's name and bar number and forging his signature, and accepting legal fees for the work. The mediator would hire appearance counsel when needed at court hearings.

Jackson was largely unaware of the deceit--and cooperated in the police investigation that revealed more than 40 clients had been duped. The mediator and co-conspirator eventually pled guilty to several charges, including 10 counts of grand theft and three counts of filing a false instrument.

Several cases involved the mediator acting improperly or illegally--sometimes both; Jackson did not supervise the mediator's work, nor did he take steps to correct the clients' impressions that he was their lawyer or move to make appearances in their cases.

In aggravation, Jackson committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and had a prior record of professional discipline.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and was suffering from a health malady, viral encephalitis, during the misconduct that contributed to his inability to practice law competently. Jackson's doctor has since cleared him to return to work.

Mark Lawrence Levinson

State Bar #52084, Burbank (November 17, 2018)

Levinson was actually suspended for six months and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing a single count of professional misconduct related to one client: entering into a business transaction that adversely affected his client.

In the underlying matter, Levinson helped a longtime friend and client form a corporation in Nevada. The client transferred $300,000 into Levinson's client trust account, to be held in part to fund litigation the corporation was pursuing. Although the arrangement was never set out in writing, Levinson believed he could use or borrow portions of the money for his own purposes. He did so, using nearly half the money--$145,400--to cover personal expenses. At some point, the client presented Levinson with a bill and was surprised to learn that there were insufficient funds to cover it.

Levinson signed a note promising to repay the money he spent. However, the client died before being repaid--and no payments have since been made to the estate or successors in interest.

In aggravation, Levinson caused significant harm to his client and failed to make restitution for it.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and had practiced law for more than 42 years without a record of discipline.

Michael Ross Lewis

State Bar #247934, Upland (November 17, 2018)

Lewis was suspended from practicing law for one year and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing four counts of professional misconduct related to three matters.

His wrongdoing included: failing to pay court-ordered sanctions, failing to cooperate in the State Bar's investigation of the wrongdoing he was alleged to have committed, failing to comply with the terms of a disciplinary probation imposed earlier, and submitting falsified letters to the State Bar in a pending disciplinary proceeding.

In case involving a client, Lewis was ordered to pay a total of $5,328 in sanctions to opposing counsel after failing to comply with local rules. He made one payment of $500 two months after the due date, then made no more, nor did he respond substantively to State Bar investigators inquiries about the matter.

In a second matter, Lewis had been placed on probation, with stayed suspension and conditions attached, after violating six court orders. However, he failed to abide by the conditions--including failing to schedule an initial meeting with the Office of Probation and failing to file a written quarterly report.

In the third matter, Lewis and the State Bar discussed a proposed settlement to resolve the two prior cases--agreeing that a lower level of discipline would be imposed if Lewis submitted letters from individuals attesting to his good character. He submitted seven letters; however, when the letters were investigated for veracity, two of the witnesses denied they had written the letters presented.

In aggravation, Lewis committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and had a prior record of discipline.

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

John Francis Meyers

State Bar #116863, Atlanta, Georgia (November 2, 2018)

Meyers was suspended from the practice of law for two years and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to committing an act of professional misconduct in another jurisdiction.

The California State Bar Court judge determined that the disciplinary proceeding in the other jurisdiction provided fundamental constitutional protection, and that the misconduct there constituted an act of moral turpitude and warranted discipline in the state of California.

Meyers, licensed to practice law in both California and Georgia, was an equity partner at a large firm, performing legal services for a corporate client and its subsidiaries for many years. The in-house counsel at the corporation indicated that Meyers could also perform legal work for that counsel's private practice and personal clients--most of whom were prominent athlete and celebrities. When difficulties arose in collecting fees for this outside work, the in-house counsel suggested that Meyers edit the bills to make it appear that the outside work had actually been performed for the corporate client.

He did so, submitting 10 invoices over an eight-month period, ultimately falsifying more than $95,310 in charges. After the corporation's general counsel discovered the deception, the in-house counsel was fired and implicated Meyers. The State Bar of Georgia found him culpable of five violations of its Rules of Professional Conduct.

In aggravation, Meyers committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that caused significant financial harm to his corporate client.

In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation, had practiced law in California for more than 20 years without a record of discipline, and was allotted minimal mitigating weight for making restitution and resigning from his law firm after being confronted by the assistant general counsel there.

George Anthony Munoz

State Bar #291278, Visalia (November 17, 2018)

Munoz was suspended for six months and placed on probation for two years. He stipulated to committing nine acts of professional misconduct related to three separate client matters.

His wrongdoing included: holding himself out as entitled to practice law when he was not an active member of the bar, failing to return unearned advanced fees, and failing to provide the State Bar with a substantive response to its inquiries during the investigation of his alleged misconduct; and two counts each of failing to provide clients with an appropriate accounting of funds and failing to perform legal services with competence.

He was also found culpable of misconduct involving moral turpitude: knowingly making false statements to his client and the State Bar and misrepresenting his status as active on a fee agreement.

The first instances of misconduct were initiated even before Munoz was licensed as an attorney. Two months before being admitted to practice law, he entered a legal service agreement, executing it below a signature line reading "Law Office if George Anthony Munoz." The day after he was admitted, Munoz and the client executed a second agreement that mirrored the first. For the next year, Munoz billed the client $35,250 in fees; the client gave him a BMW to satisfy the fees shortly before he was incarcerated.

Suspecting Munoz had overcharged for his legal work, the client and his wife hired an attorney to pursue fee arbitration. When the attorney and later the State Bar investigators asked for copies of the fee agreement in the case, Munoz provided only the second one, executed after he had been admitted to the bar.

In the second case, Munoz agreed to represent a woman attempting to adopt her niece and nephew, who were living with foster parents. He failed, however, to investigate the children's guardianship status; the foster parents were already in the process of adopting them. Munoz advised the client not to sign a "post-adoption contact agreement" that would allow her some visitation rights with the children, but took no meaningful action on the matter for approximately a year. For most of that time, he also failed to respond to her numerous emails about the status of the case, nor did he meet with her to discuss his accounting services performed as promised. The foster parents' adoption became final; the client lost all visitation rights with the children.

In the third matter, Munoz agreed to represent a couple seeking a collaborative divorce--accepting a cash retainer of $3,000. The next month, he filed a dissolution petition, identifying one of the clients as in pro per. After more than four months passed without any substantive action in the case, a new attorney was hired. Munoz did not respond to requests for return of the advanced fee and an accounting, nor did he provide clarification of whether an attorney/client fee agreement had been executed.

In aggravation, Munoz committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his clients.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation.

Arturo Reyes, Jr.

State Bar #214473, Sacramento (November 26, 2018)

Reyes was suspended was suspended from practicing law pending his passage of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated by the California Supreme Court in an earlier disciplinary order.

Edward Joseph Roenker, Jr.

State Bar #181658, Norfolk, Virginia (November 30, 2018)

Roenker was suspended for 90 days and placed on probation for one year after he failed to comply with two conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary probation order.

Specifically, he did not provide proof to the State Bar's Office of Probation that he attended its Ethics School or completed six hours of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education-approved instruction in Legal Ethics.

In aggravation, Roenker had a prior record of discipline and showed indifference to his misconduct by continuing to fail to comply with the mandated probation conditions.

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

Jeffrey Filon Ryan

State Bar #129079, Redwood City (November 17, 2018)

Ryan was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing four acts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter. His wrongdoing included: failing to report court-ordered sanctions to the State Bar as required and seeking to mislead a judge by submitting false evidence, as well as two counts of making misrepresentations to opposing counsel and to the judge--misconduct involving moral turpitude.

In the underlying matter, Ryan and a Massachusetts-licensed attorney were hired to represent a client pursuing a wrongful discharge action in that jurisdiction. During a deposition of the client, opposing counsel asked about an answer in a response that contained an incorrect date. At that point, Ryan slipped a note to the client; opposing counsel demanded to see the note, but Ryan refused to reveal it. That afternoon, opposing counsel moved for an order revoking Ryan's pro hac vice admission in Massachusetts based on his behavior at the earlier deposition. He denied passing a note of substance--and presented the presiding judge with a piece of paper containing the address of the courthouse--falsely claiming it was the note at issue.

The judge ultimately revoked Ryan's pro hac vice admission, finding he was untruthful about the contents of the note, and sanctioned him $2,528; Ryan did not report the sanction to the California State Bar--even after it became final after an appeal.

In aggravation, Ryan committed multiple acts of wrongdoing.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law discipline-free for 25 years, and provided eight character references from a range of people in the legal and general communities.

Robert Michael Salomon

State Bar #194660, Chula Vista (November 22, 2018)

Salomon was suspended from practicing law for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing nine acts of professional misconduct related to two separate client matters.

The wrongdoing included: failing to inform a client he was ineligible to practice law, failing to refund unearned advanced fees, and failing to provide a substantive response to the State Bar's investigative letters concerning the alleged misconduct, as well as two counts each of failing to provide legal services with competence, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries about case status, and failing to render accountings of advanced fees paid.

The fact patterns in both cases were similar: Salomon agreed to represent clients in immigration matters, accepting advanced fees for the services, then failed to perform substantive work on the cases or to respond to the clients' repeated inquiries. In one case, he also failed to respond to several letters from State Bar investigators; in the other, he failed to provide the client with an accounting after terminating his services and being requested to do so.

In aggravation, Salomon committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed his clients.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and had practiced law for approximately 18 years without a record of discipline.

Mozell Toney Smith

State Bar #212197, Paramount (November 30, 2018)

Smith was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing two acts of professional discipline related to a single client matter. Specifically, he failed to obey a court order and willfully maintained an unjust action while handling the case.

Smith was hired to compel acknowledgment of satisfaction of a judgment on behalf of his client--a previous owner of a housing unit who was not a party to the underlying action. Their argument was that the proceeds from the earlier sheriff's sale of the property satisfied the judgment, and rents collected after it exceeded the claim. They also contended that the transfer of the property title was meaningless because the client had retained right to rescind it while it was conditionally transferred to secure a loan modification.

The court denied the requested relief and on its own motion, issued an Order to Show Cause why Smith and his client should not be sanctioned for bringing the "extremely frivolous" motion. At that hearing, Smith presented a document he maintained showed his client was the rightful property owner; in fact, it was merely a recent application for title insurance. The court issued sanctions of $2,500--agreeing to stay them as long as they filed no additional frivolous pleadings in the case. Only the client accepted those terms.

In imposing an increased sanction of $10,000 against Smith, the judge noted: "A reasonable attorney, under similar circumstances, would have known that the motion was frivolous and without merit."

Smith continued to fail to pay the sanctions until his wages were garnished.

In aggravation, Smith committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed the administration of justice.

In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation acknowledging his misconduct and had practiced law for 15 years without a record of discipline.

Lawrence Jacob Song

State Bar #127483, Playa del Rey (November 30, 2018)

Song was suspended from practicing law for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to pleading nolo contendere to committing an assault likely to produce great bodily injury.

The offense is a felony. The State Bar Court judge determined that the facts and circumstances surrounding it did not involve moral turpitude, but did involve other misconduct warranting professional discipline.

In the underlying matter, Song was driving when another driver made a lane change, pulling closely in front of his car. He then followed the other vehicle closely, and when both were stopped at a red light, exited his vehicle and argued with the other driver--ultimately striking him in the head with an extension cord. The attack caused a laceration that required six staples to close.

When investigating police officers later interviewed Song at his home, he admitted to being involved in the altercation and consented to a search of his vehicle, from which they recovered the extension cord.

In mitigation, Song entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for more than 30 years without a record of discipline, displayed candor and cooperation when dealing with the law enforcement officers, and provided letters from seven individuals taken from a mix of the legal and general communities--all of whom attested to his good character.

Gerald Howard Sternberg

State Bar #96110, Warren, Michigan (November 22, 2018)

Sternberg was suspended from the practice of law for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to failing to comply with several conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary probation order.

Specifically, he failed to timely file four quarterly written reports as well as the final report, failed to attend the State Bar's Ethics School and failed to complete six hours of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education-approved courses in Legal Ethics as mandated.

In aggravation, Sternberg committed multiple acts of misconduct, demonstrated indifference toward rectifying his wrongdoing by continuing to fail to come into compliance, and had a prior record of discipline.

In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation in the instant case.

Kevin Lee Thomason

State Bar #190377, San Francisco (November 13, 2018)

Thomason was suspended from practicing law in the interim, pending final disposition of several felony convictions. They include: resisting an executive officer (Cal. Penal Code §69) and making criminal threats (Cal. Penal Code §422)--both of which involve moral turpitude, as well as committing arson of another person's property (Cal. Penal Code §451(d)), threatening a public officer (Cal. Penal Code §71), committing vandalism causing more than $400 in damages (Cal. Penal Code §594(a)), engaging in unlawful firearm activity (Cal. Penal Code §29815), possessing ammunition when not permitted to do so (Cal. Penal Code §30305(a)(1)). In addition, he was convicted of two misdemeanors: drawing or exhibiting a firearm (Cal. Penal Code §417(a)) and committing vandalism causing less than $400 in damages (Cal. Penal Code §594(a)).

The State Bar's Office of Chief Trial Counsel (OCTC) indicated in its transmittal that it was requesting summary disbarment, but failed to file that request concurrently with the transmittal.

The State Bar Court judge also ordered the OCTC to provide analysis and legal support of its contention that committing arson of another person's property is a crime involving moral turpitude as a matter of law and that engaging in unlawful firearm activity may or may not involve moral turpitude. Thomason was given additional time to respond.

Paul Douglas Vanderwalde

State Bar #169332, Campbell (November 2, 2018)

Vanderwalde was suspended for 90 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing three acts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter: failing to perform legal services with competence, violating a state law, and making loans to a client without obtaining her written agreement to repay them.

In the underlying matter, Vanderwalde represented a client in a personal injury case, as well as an estate dispute, an unlawful detainer claim, and an eviction--providing much of the legal advice pro bono after the two became friends, and discounting his fee for the personal injury settlement from 40% to one-third. He also completed a form will for her, which specified he was to receive a testamentary gift of 70% of her estate. In addition, he helped her financially--co-signing a mortgage for her mobile home and making numerous loans to cover various of her personal expenses; the loans were interest-free and their terms were not specified in writing.

After the client died during emergency surgery, her nephew and heir filed a complaint with the State Bar regarding the testamentary provision giving Vanderwalde a share of the estate.

In aggravation, Vanderwalde committed multiple acts of wrongdoing.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for 16 years discipline-free, and provided witness and character statements from 23 individuals--many of whom attested to his genuine friendship with the client in addition to his good character.

PROBATION

Francis Rosse Henriquez

State Bar #286905, Whittier (November 2, 2018)

Henriquez was placed on probation for two years after stipulating to committing two acts of professional misconduct related to a single client: violating a federal law and signing a client's name to a petition when she was not legally entitled to do so--an act involving moral turpitude.

In the underlying matter, Henriquez represented a client in an immigration matter. After she prepared the requisite petition, the client indicated she should sign it on his behalf because his worksite was a great distance from her office. She did so, despite the specific legal provision requiring the applicant to personally sign such petitions (8 C.F.R. §103.2(a)(2)(2016)).

The petition was ultimately rejected on grounds other than the defective signature.

In mitigation, Henriquez entered into a prefiling stipulation, submitted six letters from individuals aware of the full extent of her misconduct who attested to her good character, and took proactive remedial steps by conducting staff trainings on proper document preparation.

The State Bar Court judge also noted she should be allotted "little to no weight" in mitigation for having practiced law for three years and 10 months without a record of discipline.

Stanislav Markov

State Bar #277811, Huntington Beach (November 2, 2018)

Markov was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to failing to perform legal services with competence and failing to inform a client of significant case developments in a single matter.

Markov represented a client who suffered personal injuries and property damages in a car accident. He received a payment from the other driver's insurer as payment for the property damages incurred and gave it to the client. He subsequently received three letters reiterating a settlement offer for the client's personal injuries, but rejected them. He was unable to negotiate a higher settlement and ultimately filed a civil complaint against the driver who caused the injuries, but failed to calendar the court dates for the status conference and trial of the case and to inform the client of those dates--and also failed to serve the civil complaint on any defendant.

He did not appear for trial and the case was dismissed, though Markov did not inform the client of that fact--and she submitted a complaint to the State Bar.

In aggravation, Markov committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his client.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation acknowledging his misconduct, saving the State Bar significant time and resources.

Jerry D. Rothman

State Bar #226686, San Fernando (November 17, 2018)

Rothman was placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to failing to perform legal services with competence in a single client matter.

Rothman represented a client pursuing a civil claim for theft of money and confidential information. He filed initial and amended complaints in the case and attended an Order to Show Cause hearing on his failure to obtain a default judgment against the defendant. Thereafter, Rothman failed to appear at two hearings, which led to the court dismissing the case--and while he filed a motion to vacate the dismissal, he did not appear at two court-ordered hearings in the matter and also failed to refile the case.

In aggravation, Rothman committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his client.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law without a record of discipline for 12 years, suffered from physical and emotional difficulties due to alcohol abuse and anxiety which is now being treated, and submitted evidence of community service work.

Kaine Wen

State Bar #255420, Azusa (November 22, 2018)

Wen was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing three acts of professional misconduct related to a single client: engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, collecting an illegal fee, and wrongfully sharing legal fees with a non-attorney.

Wen registered a group practice law firm in California, outsourcing tasks such as marketing and document preparation to a company that was not owned or run by a lawyer. The outsourcing company contacted a Pennsylvania resident, who hired Wen to perform legal services. Wen tendered two retained agreements to the client: one related to a home mortgage lender, the other for a loan modification package. He did not inform the client that he was not admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania, nor did he take any steps to comply with that state's multi-jurisdictional practice rule. The client paid a total of $2,900 in four installments; Wen paid $2,610 to the outsourcing company and kept the remainder.

In time, neither the client nor Wen was able to reach the outsourcing company, and Wen dissolved the law group. The client was eventually able to obtain a loan modification with a bank without help from either the outsourcing company or Wen, who repaid the client the unearned advance amount and interest.

In aggravation, Wen committed multiple acts of wrongdoing.

In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation, provided eight letters from individuals taken from the legal and general communities--all of whom attested to his good character, and was allotted minimal mitigating weight for having practiced law for about five years without a record of discipline.

PUBLIC REPROVAL

Richard C. Cheng

State Bar #135992, Skyforest (November 21, 2018)

Cheng was publicly reproved after he stipulated to failing to notify the State Bar of his change of office address within 30 days of moving as required to keep official membership records current (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §6068(j)).

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, acknowledging his culpability--though he was not allotted full mitigating weight since the violation in the instant case was an easily provable offense.

David Michael Korrey

State Bar #103927, Las Vegas, Nevada (November 7, 2018)

Korrey was publicly reproved after stipulating to committing professional misconduct in another jurisdiction. The State Bar Court judge determined that misconduct also warranted imposition of professional discipline in California.

In the underlying matter, Korrey, who was authorized to practice law in Nevada, closed his California law office and opened offices in both Reno and Las Vegas in Nevada. He hired a paralegal as his only employee, who worked 30 to 80 hours every month, assisting in a personal injury practice.

Eventually, a doctor filed a grievance with the State Bar of Nevada, alleging difficulties in communicating with and securing medical liens related to three patients from Korrey's office. A letter in response to the Nevada State Bar explained that payments for two of the patients had been made, and the third patient had been found dead, but that a payment covering the lien would be forthcoming. The doctor contended that he had not received any payments.

Korrey subsequently wrote to the Nevada State Bar, informing officials there that he had neither received nor responded to the initial grievance. Upon investigation, he found the paralegal had signed the correspondence to the State Bar without his knowledge or approval. Upon reviewing his client trust account for the four years during which he employed the paralegal, Korrey also discovered that 160 checks totaling $615,205 had been intercepted and fraudulently endorsed.

Korrey reported the fraudulent activity to the Nevada State Bar and reported it to local police; he sued the bank involved, contending it had cashed the checks without securing proper identification.

The paralegal subsequently pled guilty to felony theft; an accomplice pled guilty to forgery. Korrey made full restitution to the payees from his personal funds, and changed office procedures to hand deliver all checks or deliver them by certified mail.

In aggravation, Korrey committed multiple acts of wrongdoing in failing to supervise his non-lawyer assistant.

In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation, had no prior record of professional discipline in either California or Nevada, acted with candor and cooperation in dealing with the State Bar of Nevada and with law enforcement, and took prompt steps to correct the harm caused by his former employee--including making restitution to his clients and the lienholders involved. He also submitted evidence from 14 individuals taken from a range of the legal and general communities--all of whom attested to his good character.

As additional mitigation, the California State Bar Court judge noted that the misconduct in the instant case had occurred 10 years previously--and that Korrey had successfully completed his probation in Nevada and had no record of additional misconduct in that time.

Adam Michael Romney

State Bar #261974, Scottsdale, Arizona (November 14, 2018)

Romney was publicly reproved after he stipulated to committing professional misconduct in another jurisdiction The California State Bar Court judge determined that the misconduct also warranted professional discipline in this state.

In the underlying matter, in response to a Craigslist ad, Romney agreed to represent intervenors and two assignees of the intervenors' interests in an Arizona lawsuit; the assignment was determined to have been forged. He executed an engagement letter in which he agreed to represent the two assignees as the sole clients in interest, even though he would be appearing for the intervenors.

Romney filed a notice of appearance on behalf of the intervenors but did not speak with them about the representation beforehand.

The case was eventually ordered to be mediated, and settled for $200,000. Romney then discovered that the assignment of interest had been forged and sought advice from the Arizona State Bar and reported the matter to the local police. He then transferred the settlement funds to an attorney who represented the rightful intervenors in the lawsuit.

The California State Bar Court judge determined that the offenses in Arizona also constituted specific professional misconduct in California: failing to maintain disputed funds in trust and failing to avoid representing conflicting interests.

In aggravation, Romney committed multiple acts of misconduct.

In mitigation, he presented five letters from individuals attesting to his good character and proactive community involvement and demonstrated an honest belief there was no conflict of interest between the clients he represented. He was also allotted nominal weight for having no prior record of discipline in four years of practicing law in California.

David Jonathan Wooden

State Bar #177341, Santa Ana (November 6, 2018)

Wooden was publicly reproved after he stipulated to pleading guilty to numerous alcohol-related driving offenses that occurred in two separate incidents.

In one incident, his wrongdoing included: driving under the influence of alcohol (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(a)) and driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(b))--both enhanced as being the second DUI offenses with a 10-year period (Cal. Veh. Code §23540; making an unsafe lane change (Cal. Veh. Code §21658(a)); disobeying a special stop sign (Cal. Veh. Code §22450(a)); and making a sudden stop without using a proper signal (Cal. Veh. Code §22109).

In a previous incident, Wooden had been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol (Cal. Veh. Code §23152(a)) and ordered to complete a licensed First-Offender Alcohol and Drug Education Program.

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

In mitigation, Wooden entered into a pretrial stipulation and had practiced law for approximately 21 years without a record of discipline.

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