Douglas Alan Bader
State Bar No. 182315, Riverside (May 19, 2021)
Bader was disbarred by default after he failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, in his disciplinary proceeding, despite having adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He did not move to have the default subsequently entered against him set aside or vacated.
He was found culpable of the single count of professional misconduct with which he had been charged: failing to comply with several conditions imposed in an earlier discipline order. Specifically, he failed to contact the Office of Probation to schedule an initial meeting with his assigned probation deputy, failed to submit two quarterly written reports, and failed to submit proof of attending the State Bar Ethics School and passing its final exam as required.
Bader had two prior records of discipline when he was disbarred in the instant case.
Derian D. Eidson
State Bar No. 138192, Aliso Viejo (May 12, 2021)
Eidson was disbarred after she stipulated to committing one count of professional misconduct: failing to comply with a court order by not filing an affidavit of compliance as required in a disciplinary order that had been imposed earlier (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20).
In mitigation, Eidson entered into a pretrial stipulation.
State Bar No. 181774, Los Angeles (May 12, 2021)
Eom was disbarred by default after he failed to participate in the disciplinary hearing in which he was charged with failing to comply with conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order. Specifically, he failed to timely file his final written report with the Office of Probation and to provide it with proof of completing the State Bar's Ethics School as mandated.
The State Bar Court found that all procedural requirements for notice had been met, that there was an adequate basis for disciplinary conduct, and that Eom had not moved to have the default order entered against him set aside or vacated.
At the time Eom was disbarred, there were other disciplinary matters pending against him, and he had one prior record of professional discipline.
Michael Anthony Hagemeyer
State Bar No. 143828, Long Beach (May 12, 2021)
Hagemeyer was disbarred after he was found culpable of 11 of the 14 counts of professional misconduct with which he had been charged.
The wrongdoing, which occurred in a single client matter, included: failing to promptly notify the client of funds to which she was entitled, failing to promptly pay those funds to the client, failing to render an appropriate accounting of the client's funds, and failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries; two counts each of failing to properly maintain client funds in trust and misappropriating client funds -- an act involving moral turpitude; and three counts of failing to keep the client informed of significant case developments.
Hagemeyer was hired to represent a client pursuing two cases stemming from serious injuries she had sustained in a car accident. Both cases -- one against the other motorist, one seeking underinsured motorist monies from her insurer -- were initially filed by another law firm. The retainer agreement that Hagemeyer and the client entered stated that he would be paid a contingency fee of 40% of the net recovery, but did not address specifics of how and whether the fees would be shared with the former firm. This later became a source of contention.
The case with the insurer settled for the policy limit of $100,000. Hagemeyer advised the client that $25,000 would be payable to the former firm and she would be paid the remaining $75,000. He received the portion of her settlement and deposited it into his client trust account. For two months, he failed to inform her he had received the funds -- and during that time, the balance in the trust account dipped to impermissible low levels.
The case against the other motorist was ultimately settled for the policy limit of $250,000 to be paid in two installments: one check payable to Hagemeyer, the client, and the former firm; the other check payable to Hagemeyer and the client. Hagemeyer received and endorsed the check payable to him and his client and deposited it into his client trust account -- which again, dipped to an impermissible low level following his withdrawals.
Six months after receiving that check, Hagemeyer still had not made any payments to the client or her lienholders. For the next several months, he did not respond to the client's inquiries about the settlement funds or agreements, nor did he inform her he had already received about 3/5 of the settlement nearly six months earlier.
Eventually, the client hired new counsel, who demanded that Hagemeyer turn over $147, 607 -- the full amount of the first settlement draft. He did so after replenishing his client trust account from various sources.
In aggravation, Hagemeyer committed multiple acts of misconduct that caused substantial financial harm to his client, who was deprived of funds to which she was entitled for a significant period and suffered the expense of hiring another attorney to secure the funds entrusted to him.
In mitigation, he had practiced law for 25 years without a record of discipline, cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation as to facts and admission of documents, and was allotted nominal mitigation credit for the good character declarations by 10 witnesses, which the State Bar Court judge found "were premised on the flawed belief that he would not and did not misappropriate any client funds" and thus, did not demonstrate the full extent of the misconduct at issue.
Johanna Danielle Hoffmann
State Bar No. 239654, Oakland (May 19, 2021)
Hoffmann was disbarred by default after she failed to participate in her disciplinary proceeding, either in person or through counsel, and did not move to have the default ordered ultimately entered against her set aside or vacated. The State Bar Court judge determined she had received actual notice of the charges and proceeding.
She was found culpable of five counts of professional misconduct in a consolidated matter: four counts of failing to notice the courts, opposing counsel and clients of her suspended status as ordered (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20); and one count of failing to comply with conditions imposed in an earlier discipline order. Specifically, she failed to submit six written quarterly reports to the Office of Probation and failed to provide proof of making both the minimum and complete restitution payments as required.
Hoffmann had one prior record of professional discipline when she was disbarred.
Katherine Elaine Lothrop
State Bar No. 210090, Sacramento (May 12, 2021)
Lothrop was disbarred by default after she failed to participate in the disciplinary proceeding in which she was charged with 10 counts of professional misconduct related to two client matters.
The State Bar Court judge found that all procedural requirements for adequate legal notice had been met, and that there was an adequate factual basis for disciplinary misconduct. The judge also verified that Lothrop had not moved to have the default entered against her in the case set aside or vacated within 90 days after the order was entered as required.
As a result, the factual allegations in the notice of disciplinary charges were deemed admitted as true, and she was found culpable of all counts alleged.
Her wrongdoing included: failing to release the client's file after being requested to do so, failing to render an appropriate accounting of client funds, and failing to notify the State Bar of her change of address within 30 days after vacating her office; two counts each of failing to refund unearned advanced fees and failing to perform legal services with competence; and three counts of failing to cooperate in the State Bar's investigation of the wrongdoing alleged.
Brian Gregory Magruder
State Bar No. 229675, Chula Vista (May 7, 2021)
Magruder was disbarred after he stipulated to pleading nolo contendere to brandishing a firearm in a vehicle (Cal. Penal Code Section 417.3). The court had sua sponte reduced the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.
The matter was referred to the State Bar's Hearing Department for a determination of whether the offense involved moral turpitude or other misconduct warranting professional discipline.
In the underlying incident, Magruder was driving on the freeway when another driver accidentally cut him off. In response, Magruder accelerated, changed lanes and pulled alongside the other car, which was being driven by a 17-year-old boy. Magruder then rolled down his car window and brandished a semi-automatic handgun at the boy; the gun had been illegally concealed under the front passenger seat. The driver, fearing for his life, stepped on the brakes, swerving the car -- scaring his younger sister, who was a passenger in the car.
The State Bar Court judge determined that the facts and circumstances surrounding the offense involved moral turpitude as a breach of a duty, underscoring: "Brandishing a weapon in the freeway while driving at a high speed with the intent to make the victim fearful and causing the other driver to make dangerous, evasive moves to avoid perceived danger displays a serious breach of duty owed to another or to society."
In mitigation, Magruder entered into a pretrial stipulation.
David James Quezada
State Bar No. 197439, Dana Point (May 7, 2021)
Quezada was disbarred by default after he failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, in his disciplinary proceeding, despite having actual notice and opportunity to do so.
When the Office of Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar notified him by email that his failure to respond to his default entry would result in his disbarment, he replied that he would allow the default to stand.
Quezada was found culpable of two counts of professional misconduct. One count involved failing to comply with a court's order by failing to take and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam and file proof of passing with the Office of Probation as ordered.
The second count was failing to comply with conditions imposed in an earlier probation order -- including failing to provide proof of attending and passing the final exam of the State Bar Ethics School and failing to file four quarterly written reports with the Office of Probation.
Quezada had been disciplined twice previously for professional misconduct before he was disbarred in the present case.
David Richard Schwarcz
State Bar No. 152896, Los Angeles (May 14, 2021)
Schwarcz was disbarred after waiving the finality of his felony conviction for committing a conspiracy to supervise and operate an unlicensed money-transmitting business (18 U.S.C. Sections 371 and 1960).
He agreed to plead guilty to that single count in a second superseding indictment, and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York agreed to dismiss two additional criminal counts that had been charged. The plea agreement also provided that the offense level for Schwarcz's crime would be increased by two because "he knew or believed that the transferred funds were the proceeds from selling illegal drugs."
The conviction was ultimately referred to the State Bar Hearing Department for a trial on the issues of whether the facts and circumstances surrounding the violation involved moral turpitude and whether discipline was warranted.
In the underlying matter, Schwarcz and two others were name partners in a law firm with offices in California and New York. Members of a Colombian drug trafficking organization paid the firm a total of $200,000 in advanced attorney's fees to handle various legal matters related to its money-laundering scheme. A confidential informant alerted the FBI to the operation and the law firm's involvement, and it arranged a sting operation -- initiating three money-laundering transactions involving a total of $1.5 million in cash; the informant also met with Schwarcz and a client of the firm concerning additional transactions involving much larger sums.
The State Bar Court judge found the scheme involved moral turpitude because Schwarcz used his position as an attorney and used the law firm's client trust account to facilitate the money laundering, where fake invoices were created to make it seem as if the money was used for work-related expenses.
The opinion noted that Schwarcz's testimony that he didn't know that the funds he transferred were the proceeds from illegal drug trafficking "not only lacks credibility, but it also lacks candor." It cited precedents that noted simply: "An attorney's practice of deceit involves moral turpitude."
In aggravation, Schwarcz had a prior record of discipline, and showed indifference to the consequences of his misconduct by denying the extent and reality of his involvement.
In mitigation, he was allotted slight weight for suffering from emotional difficulties during the time of the misconduct -- the weight reduced due to his ongoing refusal to accept full responsibility for his actions
Robert Lee Wood
State Bar No. 100515, San Jose (May 19, 2021)
Wood was disbarred by default. He failed to participate in the disciplinary proceeding in which he was charged with failing to comply with reproval conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order. Specifically, he failed to provide proof of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination by the specified due date.
The State Bar Court judge found that all procedural requirements were met in the case, and that there was adequate factual basis for the disciplinary order. Wood did not seek to set aside or vacate the default entered against him, and he was ordered disbarred.
Ann Penners Bergen
State Bar No. 163542, Tucson, Arizona (May 12, 2021)
Bergen was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to forging a signature on a document filed with the court -- an act involving moral turpitude.
In the underlying matter, Bergen represented a corporate client seeking to collect a sizeable court-ordered judgment from a debtor. In proceeding with the case, she authorized a registered process server to serve a writ of execution, notice of levy, and memorandum of garnishee on two investment companies. The judgment debtor received a copy of the documents served on one company, but not all documents served on the other. Believing that the client was engaging in a "fishing expedition" to discover assets he owned, the debtor did not respond.
A brokerage services company involved in the matter subsequently sent Bergen a memo stating it would not release any funds unless there was a writ or court order specifically naming it. Bergen contacted another attorney experienced in such matters, who prepared the revised required documents, including a new notice of levy and sent them to her, along with a note indicating he had cut and pasted the signature of the original process server onto the new documents -- with a query as to whether she wanted to seek a new signature.
Bergen sent the renewed levy to the brokerage service company, with a cover letter noting that the proof of service showed when the levy had been served. The company then liquidated the debtor's 401(k) funds, which totaled more than $482,000.
The debtor's attorney subsequently reviewed the documents, noting that the process server's signature had been scanned onto the second levy; the process server confirmed that he had not signed the second notice, nor had he authorized the use of his signature. The service date was also about a month earlier than the date indicated by the fax transmission.
The judgment debtor eventually filed a motion for sanctions against Bergen. In granting the sanctions award for $7,500, the court noted that the actions concerning the documents "just goes way, way, way beyond professionalism practice of law."
In mitigation, Bergen entered into a prefiling stipulation and had practiced law for more than 24 years without a record of discipline.
Gerard Louis Friend
State Bar No. 101718, Los Angeles (May 19, 2021)
Friend was suspended for one year and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing three acts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter.
His wrongdoing included failing to render an appropriate accounting of funds belonging to his client and two counts of failing to maintain those funds in a client trust account.
Friend was retained to represent a client in a personal injury matter; their agreement specified that his contingency fee was 33%. The matter was settled for $100,000; Friend deposited the check he received in that amount into his client trust account.
After his fee was deducted, lienholders were entitled to $14,615 and the client was entitled to the remaining $52,085. However, shortly after depositing the settlement check, Friend transferred $52,000 from his client trust account to his office manager's business account so that the manager, a non-attorney, could take on the task of maintaining and distributing the client funds.
The manager distributed nearly half the client's settlement in four cash payments. During that time, Friend closed his client trust account due to fraudulent activity on it and opened a new account, with a balance that dipped below the requisite amount.
Friend continued to negotiate with and satisfy all lienholders, eventually paying the client the remainder of her settlement -- as well as an additional amount he paid to her when he reduced his fee. He provided an accounting to the client about 21 months after she initially requested one.
In aggravation, Friend engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing and had a prior record of discipline.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation. In addition, he was allotted mitigating credit for a lengthy period of discipline-free practice and evidence of good character and extensive community service that had been received in connection with his prior discipline order. The misconduct in the prior and present matters overlapped -- and the prior record of discipline took effect just six months before the stipulation in the instant case had been executed.
State Bar No. 296073, Los Angeles (May 12, 2021)
Hidalgo was suspended from the practice of law for 30 months and placed on probation for four years after he stipulated to committing several acts of professional misconduct related to 31 separate client matters.
His wrongdoing included failing to perform legal services with competence, violating at least 13 court orders, improperly withdrawing from employment in four cases, and failing to report to the State Bar that he had been suspended and then disbarred from practicing before the Board of Immigration Appeals, the immigration courts, and the Department of Homeland Security.
The crux of the misconduct alleged was that in each of the 31 immigration client matters at issue, Hidalgo filed a generic, two-page petition and request for stay of removal. All of those petitions failed to identify the issues in the cases, the basis of the decisions under review, or the type of relief sought.
The court orders he disobeyed included requirements to provide the court with the underlying orders being challenged, file missing motions, and correct or clarify various maters, as well as the Ninth Circuit's order to timely file notices of withdrawal in the pending cases in which he was counsel of record.
The evidence also showed that in at least three cases, Hidalgo completely abandoned his clients without informing either the court or the clients. At least 14 of the cases were dismissed due to the failure to prosecute and at least two of his clients were removed due to the improprieties in their immigration proceedings.
In aggravation, Hidalgo committed multiple acts of wrongdoing demonstrating a pattern of similar misconduct in the multitude of cases involved, and caused significant harm to his clients -- all of whom were immigrants at risk of being removed from the United States.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, provided declarations from 10 individuals who attested to his good character and performance of extensive volunteer work, paid restitution to many of the clients without being ordered to do so, demonstrated remorse and recognition of his wrongdoing, and was undergoing severe financial and family stress during the time of the misconduct.
Timothy James Keck
State Bar No. 237700, Rancho Cucamonga (May 19, 2021)
Keck was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing six acts of professional misconduct related to two distinct client matters.
He was culpable of entering a settlement agreement with a client for malpractice liability without giving her the opportunity to consult with independent counsel, making gross misrepresentations about a settlement offer allegedly received on the client's behalf -- an act involving moral turpitude, as well as two counts each of failing to practice law with competence and failing to keep clients reasonably informed of significant case developments.
In one case, Keck was hired to represent a client in a personal injury case stemming from an accident in which the other party was determined to be at fault. In the course of representation, Keck sent a demand letter to the at-fault driver's insurer. The insurer responded it would first require an investigation, including securing a statement from the client, but Keck did not inform the client of the need for a statement, nor did he file a lawsuit on the client's behalf.
The statute of limitations on the claim expired. When the client called for a case status update, more than three years after retaining Keck, he was informed that the case could not be pursued in California because the underlying accident had occurred in Mexico. Keck had not researched the issue during the pendency of the case.
In the other matter, Keck was hired to represent a client in a personal injury case, also agreeing to take over a pending slip-and-fall case -- entering a contingency fee agreement entitling him only to fees on proceeds procured in the pending case. He then received a $5,000 payment for medical payment reimbursements, forwarded by the former attorney in the case, and deposited the check into his client trust account.
Keck's firm then sent a letter advising the client she could accept the $5,000 as a final "settlement," and advising her he would waive his fees. That letter was misleading, since the payment had not been tendered as a settlement, and Keck was not entitled to any fees since he had not personally procured any settlement in the matter.
The client rejected that "offer," but eventually visited Keck's office to prepare for a deposition in her personal injury case. He then informed her the statute of limitations had expired in the slip-and-fall matter, and presented her with a release stating she would accept the $5,000 as full consideration for all liability stemming from professional malpractice in his mishandling of the case. She signed, without being given the prior opportunity to seek independent counsel in the matter.
In aggravation, Keck committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his clients, who lost their abilities to pursue their causes of action.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation, submitted seven letters from a range people in the legal and general communities who attested to his good character, and was allotted minimal weight for having practiced law discipline-free for eight years before engaging in the misconduct at issue.
Charles Louis Lindner
State Bar No. 61908, Santa Monica (May 19, 2021)
Lindner was suspended for 90 days and placed on probation for two years. In his original disciplinary proceeding, he was charged with three counts of professional misconduct: failing to maintain client funds in trust, as well as two counts involving moral turpitude -- misappropriating client funds and concealment and breach of fiduciary duties.
The matter had a unique procedural history, as the case was abated shortly after trial commenced because the related underlying criminal matter involving Lindner's representation of an indigent defendant remained pending. Once the abatement was terminated, a mistrial was declared, as the original judge had retired; the trial commenced anew, with all evidence withdrawn or vacated and fresh testimony admitted.
In the underlying matter, Lindner was appointed lead counsel in a capital murder case. As part of that representation, the court ordered him to open a trust account in his own name, as required by statute. Lindner -- who uses a wheelchair and sometimes requires physical assistance -- did so, depositing an initial $5,000 from the county. He also authorized his son to assist in the case, compensating him at $25 per hour, up to 20 hours per week. Without Lindner's knowledge or consent, his son forged his name and took $640 from the trust account to which he was not legally entitled. Lindner did not monitor the account, nor did he safeguard its checkbook.
Lindner eventually filed for and was granted a second supplemental payment of funds in the amount of $13,000 to be used for ancillary services and expenses incurred in defending the client. The son again stole money -- an additional $4,302 -- by forging his father's signature on 18 checks issued from the client trust account. At some point, Lindner's co-counsel, filing a request under seal, secured additional funds for the representation; they were also deposited in the client trust account.
On April 1, 2011 -- about two years after Lindner's appointment in the case -- the court issued rules requiring capital case attorneys to file biannual expenditure reports for county funds received. Around that time, Lindner and his wife noticed cash and valuable property missing from their home and learned that their son, who confessed an addiction to heroin, was stealing to support his habit. After being admitted to a residential drug rehabilitation program, the son admitted he had also stolen funds from the client trust account. Lindner did not report the thefts to the court or the defendant.
Lindner was able to secure additional supplemental funds for this work on the criminal case, and more than four years after he was first appointed, again allowed his son to work on the case -- this time securing access to the trust account checkbook. When the superior court directed Lindner to prepare an accounting, he at last divulged his son's theft and made a deposit to the trust account to replenish the money taken.
He also then informed the client of the theft, which set off his request for new appointed counsel. Lindner was ultimately removed from the case.
The disputed issue in the instant case was whether Lindner should be found culpable of misappropriation stemming from the third-party theft. The State Bar Court judge found culpability, citing "grossly inadequate" management of the trust account, failure to keep proper accounting records, and failure to review bank statements and safeguard his checkbook. The judge also concluded the gross negligence in failing to maintain the trust account amounted to moral turpitude, as did concealing the misappropriation from the client and court.
In aggravation, Lindner's misconduct significantly harmed the court and a client who was particularly vulnerable while facing capital punishment, and demonstrated indifference by not promptly restoring the stolen funds to the client trust account.
In mitigation, he had practiced law approximately 36 years without a record of discipline, entered into a partial stipulation as to facts and admission of documents, submitted testimony by three individuals and letters from an additional nine people who attested to his good character and considerable community service, and was suffering from family and emotional difficulties during the misconduct due to his son's addiction and mental health issues.
Allan Earl Perry
State Bar No. 187568, Brea (May 19, 2021)
Perry was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing two acts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter: failing to promptly pay funds the client requested and is entitled to receive, and seeking an agreement that the client withdraw a pending complaint with the State Bar about his alleged misconduct.
In the underlying matter, Perry was retained to represent a client in a dissolution matter -- agreeing to a payment of $275 per hour, with $3,000 as advanced fees. The client paid the $3,000 and one additional payment of $250 in legal fees.
The opposing party in the case was ordered to pay monthly support payments of $1,178 -- that amount to be made in two equal payments made payable to the client; Perry initially received the payments and forwarded them directly to the client.
After months of representation, the client owed Perry just over $10,000 in fees. Over approximately the next four months, Perry endorsed eight of the support payments received and deposited them into his client trust account -- without the client's permission and contrary to his wishes. During that time, Perry wrote four checks to the client totaling $2,600 -- each with a notation specifying deductions taken for attorney's fees.
The client objected to this arrangement in an email -- emphasizing he had not given Perry permission to deposit the checks in his client trust account, and requesting that he stop doing so. Perry believed he had the right to hold the support payments and assert a "charging lien" on them to satisfy outstanding fees and costs.
Although the representation continued for a time, the relationship between attorney and client deteriorated over disagreements in handling the payments and over the legal course of action to take in the dissolution case. The client eventually filed a complaint with the State Bar.
Perry did not appear at the subsequent hearing on his motion to be relieved as counsel, so remained as counsel of record in the matter for the next month. Around that time, he received a ninth support payment check intended for the client but withheld it rather than depositing it. At that point he had withheld just over $3,600 in support payments from the client, despite the client's requests for the money.
Also around that time, Perry informed the client he had seen the negative review the client had posted about him on Yelp, and threated to sue him for defamation if he didn't remove it; he also expressed a willingness to return some of the support payments if the client agreed to remove the review and withdraw his State Bar complaint. The client agreed, in exchange for Perry's promise to return half the support payments; the other half was retained as legal fees and costs.
When Perry contacted the State Bar about withdrawing the complaint, he was informed about the proscription against prefacing a settlement with a client on withdrawing a complaint for professional misconduct (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code Section 6090.5). He then submitted a revised agreement that omitted the language referencing the State Bar complaint.
In aggravation, Perry committed multiple acts of misconduct, and entered a settlement with his client that contained overreaching.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation, cooperated in the State Bar's investigation of the complaint against him, had practiced law discipline-free for 21 years, and submitted evidence of his good character as attested by nine individuals taken from a range of the legal and general communities, as well as evidence of his community service activities and civic involvement.
Robert Kenneth Perun
State Bar No. 175281, San Francisco (May 7, 2021)
Perun was suspended from practicing law for two years and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to committing three acts of misconduct. He was given credit for the period of his interim suspension that began on March 23, 2020.
Two of the counts in the instant case were related to two separate criminal convictions: one for disturbing the peace (Cal. Penal Code Section 415) and the other for receiving or buying stolen property (Cal. Penal Code Section 496(a)) -- an act that involves moral turpitude per se. The third count was for failing to obey a court order by not timely filing a declaration as required by the earlier interim suspension order (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20).
In one incident, a resident reported that a laptop, cellphone, and watch had been stolen from her locked apartment. The next day, Perun, knowing the watch was stolen, brought it to a pawnshop, where he sold it to the owner for $2,200. Perun told the owner that he had purchased the watch at a flea market, and that he had owned it for more than a year. However, he later pled guilty to one count of receiving or buying stolen property when the charge was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. He was placed on interim suspension based on the conviction, which involved moral turpitude. The matter was referred to the State Bar's Hearing Department for a determination of whether discipline should be imposed.
About five months later, Perun loaded numerous rolls of copper and pipe onto a dolly while visiting a home improvement store and left the store without paying for it. He maintained that he intended to pay for the items at a cashier located outside the store, and investigators did not find sufficient proof of his intent to steal them. However, Perun pled no contest to an amended charge of disturbing the peace in the incident.
In the original proceeding involving the court order violation, Perun's 9.20 declaration was filed more than one month late, as the declaration he attempted to file earlier was deemed to be substantively noncompliant.
In aggravation, Perun committed multiple acts of misconduct -- one that involved dishonesty -- that caused significant financial harm.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law discipline-free for 17 years, provided letters from seven members of the legal and general communities attesting to his good character, and demonstrated evidence of rehabilitation -- as the misconduct occurred nine years ago, and Perun has not been arrested or convicted since then.
Jesse Nava Robles
State Bar No. 237263, Pasadena (May 7, 2021)
Robles was suspended for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to earlier pleading no contest to charges in two separate incidents involving driving while intoxicated.
In one matter, the charge was driving under the influence of alcohol (Cal. Veh. Code Section 23152(a)) with an admitted prior conviction of driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher (Cal. Veh. Code Section 23152(b)). The second plea involved driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher with a prior conviction within 10 years (Cal. Veh. Code Sections 23152(b) and 23540), with two admitted prior convictions, as well as an admission of driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .20% or more. The offenses are misdemeanors.
In one incident, Robles urinated on the wall in a city parking lot before getting into his car and driving recklessly -- failing to stop at a stop sign, making turns without signaling, and straddling traffic lanes while driving. When stopped by police, he was unable to produce a valid license, as it had been suspended for a previous DUI offense. After waffling several times about whether he opted for a blood or breath test for alcohol content, he was read the refusal admonition for refusing to provide a sample, and was booked.
In the second incident, Robles was driving his car when he struck the side of a parked truck, causing substantial damage to it. He continued driving, and then stopped about a block from the collision scene, where he was questioned by officers. He told them that the irregularities to his own car -- a deployed airbag and collision damage on the passenger side -- had occurred weeks earlier when his girlfriend had crashed his car. A subsequent blood sample indicated he had a blood alcohol concentration of .25%.
After the convictions became final, the matters were referred to the State Bar's Hearing Department for a determination of whether the facts and circumstances surrounding the offenses involved moral turpitude or other misconduct warranting professional discipline. The judge found no moral turpitude, but recommended discipline.
In aggravation, Robles committed multiple acts of misconduct and had a prior DUI conviction.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation.
Gerald Edward Smith
State Bar No. 171280, Las Vegas, Nevada (May 7, 2021)
Smith was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing three acts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter.
His wrongdoing included failing to maintain the requisite balance in his client trust account, failing to refund unearned advanced fees to a client, and failing to inform the client their fee agreement was voidable as not in writing.
In the underlying matter, Smith was hired to help a client settle his mother's trust and help represent his interests as trustee. Smith was paid an initial advance fee of $1,000 -- and a couple months later, an additional $20,000. He assured the client that if the matter did not go to probate, his fees would likely total between $4,000 and $5,000. There was no written agreement regarding the fees.
The case did not go to probate.
After the client requested an accounting and refund of unearned fees, Smith responded with an invoice listing his hourly rate of $350, and his paralegal's rate at $100 per hour -- and indicating the client was owed a refund of $8,710. The client objected, saying he believed Smith's hourly rate was to be billed at $200 per hour, and his paralegal at $40 hourly.
Lawyer and client were unable to agree on a repayment schedule. During negotiations, the balance in Smith's client trust account dipped to a level insufficient to cover the disputed fee amount.
In aggravation, Smith committed multiple acts of misconduct.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation, had practiced law for nearly 22 years without a record of discipline, presented character references from nine individuals taken from a range in the legal and general communities, and also presented evidence of performing volunteer and community service activities.
State Bar No. 287878, Alameda (May 12, 2021)
Estes was placed on probation for one year. The State Bar's Hearing Department was called upon to consider whether his earlier conviction for misdemeanor battery (Cal. Penal Code Section 242) warranted discipline.
In the underlying incident, Estes and his wife hosted his parents for dinner, where he became drunk and retired to bed. Some time later, his wife attempted to awaken him when she needed him to watch their two-year-old autistic son while she went to the bathroom. She testified he punched and choked her, and at some point, their son fell off the bed. She called police and agreed to press charges against Estes -- requesting that he be arrested "outside the view of their child."
Experiencing remorse, Estes sought a number of kinds of treatment -- including a chemical dependency recovery program, AA meetings, self-help meetings, and individual as well as couples' therapy.
The State Bar Court found that the facts and circumstances surrounding the conviction did not involved moral turpitude, noting that while "Estes's conviction highlights the potential consequences of his alcohol use and lack of control over his emotions and reflects negatively on the legal profession," the event at issue "was an outlier" and involved "brief and isolated misconduct."
-- Barbara Kate Repa