Oct. 1, 2019
Recent attorney disbarments, suspensions, probations, and public reprovals in California.
Robert Christian Crane
State Bar No. 197667, Rocklin (September 7, 2019)
Crane was disbarred by default after he failed to respond to the notice of disciplinary charges filed against him. The State Bar Court judge determined that the assigned deputy trial counsel had used the requisite reasonable diligence in attempting to notify him of the proceedings. Crane did not move to set aside the default order entered.
He was found culpable of three of the four counts with which he was charged: failing to perform legal services with competence, improperly withdrawing from representation, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the wrongdoing alleged.
Pamela Stacey Gerber-Gressier
State Bar No. 140353
Newport Beach (August 31, 2019)
Gerber-Gressier was disbarred by default. She had been convicted of conspiring to commit a crime (Cal. Penal Code Section 182(a)(1)) involving collecting unlawful advance loan modification fees (Cal. Civil Code Section 2944.7(a)(1)), with an enhancement for property damage of more than $1,300,000 (Cal. Penal Code Section 12022.6(a)(3)).
She initially filed a notice of waiver and finality and requested a referral; the Hearing Department was charged with determining whether the facts and circumstances surrounding her violations involved moral turpitude or other misconduct warranting professional discipline. However, Gerber-Gressier failed to file a response to the notice of hearing on conviction, and a default order was entered against her. Her counsel indicated at an earlier status conference that she intended to default in the matter.
In the actions underlying her convictions, Gerber-Gressier began operating a law office occupying three suites in a building along with three non-attorneys — changing the name of the practice several times. They advertised services by “attorneys” and mailed unsolicited missives to homeowners offering loan modification services for residential mortgages; the mailings reasonably appeared to have been sent by their mortgage lenders. Gerber-Gressier, the three non-attorneys, and three sales managers set up a system in which customers agreed to pay the full cost of the loan modifications — taking in more than $1.3 million in advanced fees. The sales managers convinced many people to hire the firm, when in fact those potential clients were not eligible for modifications.
The seven individuals involved were ultimately charged with 81 felony counts. Gerber-Gressier pled guilty to the charges.
Timothy Elwood Gomes
State Bar No. 168140
San Francisco (September 7, 2019)
Gomes was suspended for 30 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to failing to comply with probation conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order. Specifically, he failed to pay restitution to two clients as mandated and filed two noncompliant written reports to the Office of Probation as well as two late but otherwise compliant reports.
After the Office of Probation filed a motion to revoke Gomes’ probation, he began providing the required documentation.
In mitigation, Gomes was suffering from financial and family problems and cooperated with the State Bar in resolving the matter.
In aggravation, he had a prior record of discipline.
James Mark Meizlik
State Bar No. 62116
Los Angeles (September 7, 2019)
Meizlik was suspended from the practice of law for one year and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to sharing legal fees with non-lawyers.
Though the State Bar opinion contains sparse details about the underlying matter, Meizlik rented office space from a group of non-lawyers that was to provide administrative support for his law practice. He took on representation of a client, who paid the group $8,000 in legal fees; the group kept $5,500 of the fee and distributed the remaining $2,500 to Meizlik.
In aggravation, Meizlik had been disciplined by the State Bar for professional misconduct twice previously.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation.
Steven Joseph Renshaw
State Bar No. 132640
Ventura (August 31, 2019)
Renshaw was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days and placed on suspension for two years after he stipulated to committing six acts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter. His wrongdoing included: failing to perform legal services with competence, improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to pay court-ordered discovery sanctions, failing to take steps to avoid causing the client reasonably foreseeable prejudice after terminating his services, failing to respond to multiple reasonable client inquiries about the status of the case, and failing to keep the client informed of significant case developments.
In the underlying matter, Renshaw was hired to pursue a legal malpractice action. He filed two actions on behalf of the client, one of which was transferred so that both could be heard in the same county court. He subsequently failed to respond to four discovery requests by opposing counsel, as well as a letter warning of seeking future sanctions for noncompliance. Renshaw did not respond, nor did he appear at the related hearing on the motions to compel; the court ordered him and his client to pay sanctions. Similarly, he ignored other discovery requests and hearings.
His client’s case was ultimately dismissed with prejudice, though Renshaw did not inform him of the fact, nor did he respond to the client’s inquiries or take any further action in one of the cases. He did, however, continue to actively represent the client in the other case, which resulted in a settlement. The monetary award against the client in the other case was resolved as part of that settlement.
In aggravation, Renshaw committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed the administration of justice and had two prior records of discipline.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and was dealing with a troubled family member, requiring numerous trips out of town to lend support during the time of the misconduct.
Jose Arturo Rodriguez
State Bar No. 116541
Coachella (September 7, 2019)
Rodriguez was suspended from practicing law for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to failing to comply with conditions attached to a disciplinary order imposed earlier: a public reproval.
Specifically, he failed to timely attend and pass the State Bar Ethics School and to timely pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination.
In aggravation, Rodriguez had a prior record of discipline and showed indifference toward rectification by his continuing failure to comply with probation conditions that were imposed in November, 2016.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation.
Douglas Robert Shoemaker
State Bar No. 230379
(September 7, 2019)
Shoemaker was suspended from the practice of law for two years and placed on probation for three years after a contested disciplinary proceeding. A pretrial stipulation of facts established by clear and convincing evidence that Shoemaker was culpable of failing to comply with all conditions attached to the disciplinary order imposed earlier and failing to timely file a compliance affidavit with the State Bar Court as required (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20).
The instant trial was limited to determining the appropriate level of discipline. The Office of the Chief Trial Counsel (OCTC) of the State Bar recommended disbarment; Shoemaker requested any level of discipline short of that.
At trial, Shoemaker testified that he suffers from major depressive disorder, exacerbated by his unresolved emotions over his first wife’s death, as well as marital and financial problems related to his second marriage. A letter Shoemaker’s therapist sent directly to OCTC was revealed during the trial of the disciplinary matter. In it, she verified her diagnosis of depression dating back at least two years, and gave her opinion that the disorder had a negative impact on Shoemaker’s ability to function normally.
In aggravation, Shoemaker committed multiple acts of misconduct and had been disciplined twice previously for professional misconduct.
In mitigation, he spontaneously cooperated with the State Bar in the present proceeding, and established his emotional difficulties and progress toward rehabilitation with credible testimony and other evidence.
— Barbara Kate Repa