Dec. 2, 2019
Recent attorney disbarments, suspensions, probations, and public reprovals in California.
State Bar No. 110742, San Diego (November 30, 2019)
Bedford was disbarred by default after she failed to participate in her disciplinary proceeding, either in person or through counsel. The State Bar Court judge determined that all due process requirements, including adequate notice, had been satisfied.
Bedford was found culpable of five of the six counts of professional misconduct with which she was charged — all occurring in a single client involved in a probate matter. The wrongdoing included: failing to perform legal services competently, failing to account for the client’s funds, failing to respond to the client’s reasonable inquiries about case status, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the wrongdoing charged, as well as misappropriating more than $56,000 in client funds — misconduct involving moral turpitude.
Bedford had been disciplined for professional misconduct once previously.
Mark Robert Haddon
State Bar No. 186480, La Verne (November 15, 2019)
Haddon was disbarred after appealing the hearing judge’s recommendation of disbarment.
He was found culpable of 11 counts of professional misconduct. On the third day of his initial trial, he admitted culpability in eight of the counts charged — including failing to notify a client of funds received, failing to maintain client funds in a trust account, and failing to render an appropriate accounting of client funds. He also admitted culpability for several counts involving moral turpitude: providing a falsified accounting, misappropriating client funds, making misrepresentations to the State Bar, and presenting fabricated documents to both the State Bar and to his client.
After his admissions, the hearing judge also found Haddon culpable of failing to communicate a settlement offer to a client, failing to promptly pay client funds, and forging a client’s signature on a settlement agreement — misconduct involving moral turpitude.
In aggravation, Haddon committed multiple acts of misconduct, made false statements to his seven character witnesses in an attempt to diminish the seriousness of his wrongdoing, significantly harmed his vulnerable client who had limited language skills by withholding settlement funds, and demonstrated indifference toward rectifying the consequences of his misconduct. In addition, both the hearing judge and panel on appeal found him culpable of the “uncharged misconduct” of commingling client and personal funds in his trust account; evidence of that wrong was elicited in testimony at trial.
In mitigation, he had practiced law discipline-free for approximately 18 years and entered into a stipulation, albeit did so only after two days of trial.
On appeal, Haddon argued his due process rights were violated on “multiple occasions” during the disciplinary proceedings — a claim the panel rejected. He also contended he should be allotted significant mitigating weight for suffering from a brain aneurysm. The panel, however, refused to allot mitigating credit for that, finding Haddon failed to establish a causal connection between the brain condition and his misconduct.
Hilary Gail Shankin-Murphy
State Bar No. 93225, Oak Park (November 28, 2019)
Shankin-Murphy was disbarred by default. She failed to participate in her disciplinary proceeding despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity, and did not seek to have the default entered against her set aside or vacated.
She was found culpable of failing to comply with conditions imposed in a disciplinary order imposed earlier. Specifically, she failed to contact the Office of Probation to schedule an initial meeting, failed to meet with her probation officer, and failed to submit three written quarterly reports.
Shankin-Murphy had one prior record of discipline.
Benjamin Lawson Adams
State Bar No. 294295, Taylors, South Carolina (November 30, 2019)
Adams was suspended from practicing law in the interim pending final disposition of his conviction of committing a lewd act on a minor under the age of 14 (Cal. Penal Code Section 288(c)1).
The offense is a felony involving moral turpitude.
Leslie Victor Amponsah
State Bar No. 164434, Beverly Hills (November 30, 2019)
Amponsah was suspended from the practice of law for one year and placed on probation for two years. The State Bar Court judge below had recommended that discipline in his case, but the Office of Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar appealed, seeking disbarment.
In both forums, Amponsah was found culpable of failing to comply with the court rule requiring him to inform clients, courts, and counsel of his disciplinary probation (Cal. R. of Ct. 9.20), as well as failing to comply with two probation conditions requiring him to timely arrange an initial meeting with the Office of Probation and submit a quarterly written report.
In aggravation, Amponsah had a prior record of discipline and committed multiple acts of misconduct.
In mitigation, he cooperated in the State Bar’s investigation by entering into a stipulation admitting facts establishing his culpability and suffered extreme emotional difficulties at the time of his misconduct due to child custody and financial issues; he testified credibly at trial about these issues, and his condition was verified by testimony from his therapist.
Bruce Hall Atwater, III
State Bar No. 199011, San Francisco (November 30, 019)
Atwater was suspended for two years (with credit given for an earlier period of inactive enrollment) and placed on probation for three years following his successful completion of the State Bar Court’s Alternative Discipline Program.
In the underlying matter, he had stipulated to violating several conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order: failing to submit two quarterly written reports by their due dates, failing to submit one compliant report, failing to attend two mental health sessions and two AA meetings per month as required, and submitting six positive drug test results without providing a valid prescription.
In aggravation, Atwater had two prior records of discipline, committed multiple acts of misconduct, and showed indifference toward conforming his conduct despite repeated opportunities to do so.
William Dolph Beck
State Bar No. 114260, Los Angeles (November 30, 2019)
Beck was suspended from practicing law for 60 days and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing two acts of professional misconduct: repeatedly depositing and commingling funds in his client trust account.
In the underlying matter, Beck’s bank notified the State Bar that there were insufficient funds in his client trust account. As admitted in the stipulation, for nearly a year, he had mismanaged the account — issuing 31 checks totaling nearly $9,900 for personal expenses and making cash withdrawals totaling more than $28,500 for personal expenses, including rent and alimony. During that time, he also made 52 deposits of earned legal fees into the account — totaling more than $39,800.
In aggravation, Beck committed multiple acts of misconduct and demonstrated a lack of insight into his wrongdoing by continuing to mismanage his account after being informed he was violating controlling rules.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation acknowledging his misconduct, had practiced law for approximately 33 years without a record of discipline, and provided letters from seven individuals — two attorneys and five personal references — all of whom were aware of his wrongdoing, but attested to his good character and legal abilities.
Edward Robert Ramirez
State Bar No. 73655Clovis (November 28, 2019)
Ramirez was suspended from the practice of law for six months and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing three acts of professional misconduct: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to comply with a law, and making misrepresentations on a document filed with the court — wrongdoing involving moral turpitude.
In the underlying matter, Ramirez was hired to file a bankruptcy petition on behalf of a client — accepting $1,000 in advanced fees, though he had not executed a written fee agreement as required by federal law (11 U.S.C. Section 528).
He then completed and filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition on the client’s behalf, without asking her to review or sign it first; he filed using the client’s electronic signature — thereby falsely attesting that he retained a completed copy of the document bearing the client’s ink signature. He also falsely stated in the filing that his client had completed the mandated credit counseling and failed to disclose that he had received advanced fees in the matter as required. In addition, the petition as filed contained additional deficiencies — and though Ramirez knew of them, he took no steps to correct them.
After the petition was ultimately dismissed without prejudice, Ramirez filed a new one — again charging advanced fees, but failing to disclose them. He did ask the client to review that petition, but subsequently revised it without notifying her. He again filed the second petition, wrongfully using the client’s electronic signature.
The client eventually hired new counsel to represent her.
The bankruptcy court, suspecting abuse due to the multiple defective bankruptcy petitions filed, ultimately found Ramirez had acting in bad faith by violating several Bankruptcy Code provisions and rules of procedure, as well as several rules of professional conduct.
In aggravation, Ramirez committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his client and had a prior record of discipline.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation.
Fariba Bakshian Banayan
State Bar No. 166496, Beverly Hills (November 30, 2019)
Banayan was placed on probation for one year after she stipulating to committing six acts of professional misconduct related to two distinct client matters. Her wrongdoing included failing to respond to a client’s reasonable inquiries about the status of a case and failing to promptly refund unearned advanced fees, as well as two counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence and failing to maintain clients’ funds in a trust account.
The fact patterns in both client cases were substantially similar. In both, Banayan was retained by clients seeking to adjust their statuses to become U.S. citizens. She accepted their payments for legal fees and costs, but placed the checks into their client files rather than depositing them into her client trust account. In both cases, she did not file the petitions the clients had signed, and the petition forms expired. After that, she failed to communicate with the clients or to follow up on their cases.
After both clients filed separate complaints with the State Bar, Banayan refunded the amount of fees and costs they had paid earlier.
In aggravation, Banayan committed multiple acts of misconduct.
In mitigation, she entered into a prefiling stipulation, had practiced law for almost 22 years without a record of discipline, submitted letters from nine individuals taken from the legal and general communities attesting to her good character, and engage in a significant number of community service and civic activities. In addition, she was allotted mitigating weight for suffering extreme emotional difficulties related to her abusive husband who became ill and died; his family continued to berate her for participating in domestic violence counseling and blamed her for his illness and death — adding to her continuing emotional and physical distress.
Glen Christopher Shea
State Bar No. 96774, Roseville (November 28, 2019)
Shea was placed on probation for two years after successfully completing the State Bar Court’s Alternative Discipline Program.
In the underlying matter, consolidated as one case, he had two misdemeanor conviction for driving with a blood alcohol content over .08% (Cal. Veh. Code Section 23152(b)). He stipulated that the facts and circumstances surrounding his violations did not involve moral turpitude, but did involve other misconduct warranting professional discipline. He had also had a prior DUI conviction, as well as two prior DUI arrests, on his record.
In aggravation, Shea committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and demonstrated a pattern of alcohol-related misconduct over a period of several years.
In mitigation, he displayed cooperation and candor with the victims of his misconduct and with the State Bar and had practiced law for 36 years without a record of discipline.
— Barbara Kate Repa