Peter Henry Bonis
State Bar No. 122016, Meridian, Idaho (October 22, 2021)
Bonis was disbarred by default. He initially responded to the notice charging him with 25 counts of professional misconduct relating to seven client matters. He participated in various status and settlement conferences in the matter, then indicated he did not intend to further contest the allegations and moved to withdraw his response.
He did not move to have the default then entered against him set aside or vacated.
He was found culpable of all counts charged. His wrongdoing included: failing to report three claims of malpractice filed against him and one judgment entered against him to the State Bar as required and failing to promptly release client files after being requested to do so; two counts of failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigations of the wrongdoing alleged; three counts of failing to inform clients of significant case developments; four counts of making misrepresentations to the court — acts involving moral turpitude; six counts of failing to comply with court orders: and seven counts of failing to perform legal services with competence.
There were two additional disciplinary investigations pending against Bonis at the time he was disbarred.
Robert Terrill Durbrow, Jr.
State Bar No. 53445, Fresno (October 14, 2021)
Durbrow was disbarred after failing to timely file three compliant written quarterly reports as mandated in a disciplinary probation order imposed earlier.
In aggravation, Durbrow had been disciplined by the State Bar three times previously and committed multiple acts of wrongdoing,
He contested his culpability, claiming his conduct was not willful and testified he just “has a problem with quarterly reports.” The Office of Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar did not seek disbarment, but recommended two years of actual suspension.
In recommending disbarment, however, the State Court Bar judge concluded: “Considering his extensive disciplinary history, including repetition of the same misdeeds, the dearth of mitigation, and the need for public protection, disbarment is the presumed and appropriate discipline.”
James Milton Fones, Jr.
State Bar No. 126743, Pensacola, Florida (October 14, 2021)
Fones was disbarred after he stipulated to earlier pleading guilty to a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor (Cal. Penal Code Section 272), a misdemeanor. He did not inform the State Bar of the conviction as required.
Over a 21-year period, Fones was found to have engaged in a pattern of repeated sexual misconduct toward six female minors — including two daughters, a step-daughter, granddaughter, half-sister, and another unrelated female. The youngest was three years old.
The State Bar Court found that the facts and circumstances surrounding the offenses involved moral turpitude.
In mitigation, Fones entered into a pretrial stipulation.
In aggravation, the misconduct involved a pattern that caused significant harm and trauma to several highly vulnerable individuals, and Fones remained indifferent to the consequences of his misconduct — continuing to blame his ex-wife for instigating the investigation against him in the matter.
William Craig Fuess
State Bar No. 125453, Escondido (October 22, 2021)
Fuess was disbarred. He entered into a stipulation of facts and admission of documents, which supported the charges of charges of professional misconduct against him: willfully violating court rules, violating conditions of disciplinary probation imposed in an earlier order, and committing misconduct in another jurisdiction.
The three charges were consolidated in the instant case, convened to determine the aggravating and mitigating circumstances and appropriate level of discipline to be imposed.
Fuess, a registered patent attorney, was found culpable of various counts of professional misconduct in violation of the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) Rules of Professional Responsibility and Professional Conduct. He was ultimately suspended from practicing before the PTO for three years. Based on that decision, the California Supreme Court also imposed discipline — including 18 months of actual suspension and the requirement of filing a declaration of compliance, as required of disciplined attorneys (Cal. R. of Ct., Rule 9.2). Despite several reminders from the State Bar, he failed to file the mandated declaration.
In the instant case, Fuess was found culpable of failing to comply with several conditions of probation. Specifically, he failed to schedule and participate in his initial meeting with the Office of Probation, failed to submit timely proof of having reviewed the California Rules of Professional Conduct and Business and Professions Code, and failed to submit three written quarterly reports as required.
In addition, Fuess was found culpable of two counts of professional misconduct in another PTO case: failing to obey a court order requiring him to pay sanctions and failing to cooperate in the related disciplinary investigation. The State Bar Court judge found that misconduct also warranted professional discipline in the instant case.
In aggravation, Fuess had a prior record of discipline, committed multiple acts of misconduct, and demonstrated indifference to his wrongdoing by failing to attempt to comply with any of the probation conditions imposed.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the State Bar by stipulating to facts establishing culpability and the admission of documents.
Timothy Lee McCandless
State Bar No. 147715, Capistrano Beach (October 14, 2021)
McCandless was disbarred after he stipulated to committing numerous counts of professional misconduct related to seven separate bankruptcy matters.
His wrongdoing included: failing to maintain the respect due the courts and judicial officers; four counts of failing to maintain only legal or just actions; five counts of failing to report court-imposed sanctions to the State Bar as required and 14 counts of failing to obey court orders.
In one case, McCandless filed a bankruptcy action of behalf of a client, with full knowledge that the client had previously filed for bankruptcy to delay being evicted. The parties involved eventually signed a settlement agreement that purported to resolve all legal disputes between them — though McCandless blatantly ignored this provision, filing lawsuits related to actions taken in furtherance of foreclosure, as well as lis pendens actions, and an additional bankruptcy petition. He was ultimately sanctioned, with the court noting he had engaged in “persistent bad faith tactics of twice filing frivolous complaints raising claims covered by the release for the sole purpose of requiring the moving defendants to needlessly waste time and money defending them.” Two years after the sanctions were imposed against McCandless, they were discharged as a debt when he filed for his own personal bankruptcy.
McCandless was also sanctioned in the other six cases in which he represented bankruptcy clients which encompassed various acts of misconduct — including filing an action deemed to have been filed for the sole purpose of frustrating the mortgager’s attempts to foreclose, often failing to disclose the prior bankruptcies had been filed, failing to provide proofs of service, and failing to include required tax returns, schedules, and payment plans with his filings.
In aggravation, McCandless committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and had six prior records of discipline — all of them involving actual suspensions.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation.
Nina Rae Ringgold
State Bar No. 133735, Northridge (October 14, 2021)
Ringgold was disbarred by default. She had earlier filed an answer to the notice of disciplinary charges filed against her. The case was subsequently abated for two years, and the trial was then continued or delayed numerous times. Despite receiving notice of the new trial dates, however, Ringgold did not appear at trial; the court denied her motion to have the default entered against her set aside. The Review Department also denied her later request for reconsideration.
Ringgold did not respond to the petition for her disbarment, and the default was entered — with the factual allegations in it deemed admitted.
She was found culpable of nine of the 21 counts of professional misconduct charged. Her wrongdoing, which occurred in five separate client matters, included: one count each of appearing for a party without authority to do so and acting in bad faith by habitually abusing the judicial system — misconduct involving moral turpitude; two counts of maintaining unjust actions; and five counts of failing to report court-imposed sanctions to the State Bar.
There were four additional disciplinary investigations pending against Ringgold when she was disbarred.
Bret Merrick Saxon
State Bar No. 205100, Santa Monica (October 22, 2021)
Saxon as disbarred after being found culpable of a single count of professional misconduct: misappropriating $1.5 million in funds entrusted to him — an act involving moral turpitude.
The case had an uncertain start — dismissed twice as time-barred because the proceeding was not started within five years of the original notice of charges (Rules of Proc. of the State Bar of Cal., Rule 5.21). The matter was remanded back to the Hearing Department, however, after the State Bar’s Review Department recalculated and found the original disciplinary charges were actually filed within the five-year limit, characterizing the misconduct as a continuing violation.
Saxon, who headed several film and media companies, entered a financing agreement in which a production company would invest $1.5 million and one of his own companies would put up $3.5 million to jointly finance a motion picture project. Saxon functioned as both an investor and escrow holder/producer in the deal. The detailed agreement, guaranty, and information certificate were held out to cover all terms; however, Saxon failed to disclose all relevant material information to the production company — including that he intended to use the money to reimburse some expenses already incurred in pre-production, and that he didn’t actually own the rights to the picture when the deal was made. In addition, the information certificate failed to indicate the bank account specified in the financing agreement.
The production company wired $1.5 million into an account, and Saxon immediately transferred the entire sum to an account he controlled. In short order, Saxon began making unauthorized and undisclosed transfers, withdrawals, and check issuances of the funds — two dozen payments in all, totaling more than $100,000.
The company’s counsel requested evidence that Saxon had contributed his promised $3.5 million in funding, which he was unable to provide. The company eventually filed a civil action in a Tennessee court against Saxon, alleging breach of contract, fraud, fraud in the enforcement of the guaranty agreement, and breach of trust. The parties then entered a settlement in which Saxon agreed to pay $2,250,000 by a specified date — or be subject to a final order requiring that payment. Saxon did not pay — and the company was able to collect $7,126 from a sheriff’s sale of some property he owned.
The company then sought and was granted a sister-state judgment against Saxon in California court. Saxon then filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, with the bankruptcy court eventually ruling the settlement judgment was a non-dischargeable debt — finding Saxon had made numerous fraudulent misrepresentations in inducing the financing agreement, then unlawfully converted the funds he received in breach of the financing agreement.
The State Bar Court judge rejected Saxon’s argument that the fiduciary relationship between him and the production company was extinguished when the parties executed the settlement agreement purporting to release and waive their rights. The judge reasoned that the release and waiver was expressly conditioned on Saxon’s full and timely payment of the stipulated damages, which was not made. The judge also reasoned Saxon could not “take advantage of his own fraud and subsequent agreement to pay resultant penalties in order to rebut the continuation of a fiduciary relationship and his ongoing duties to care and account for entrusted funds.”
The film related to this disciplinary matter, titled “A Fine Step,” was ultimately produced and released in 2014.
In aggravation, Saxon committed multiple acts of wrongdoing — from misrepresentations in the inducement of the agreement, transfer of funds for his own use, concealment, and continued improper use of the funds that significantly harmed another party and placed “unnecessary burdens on the administration of justice.” He also demonstrated indifference through his lack of remorse for his wrongdoing — which was given substantial aggravating weight, as well as his failure to make restitution.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a partial stipulation, and had been a licensed attorney for nearly 10 years before committing the misconduct at issue — though that weight was limited, as he was not a practicing attorney during that time.
Douglas Robert Shoemaker
State Bar No. 230379, North Hollywood (October 14, 2021)
Shoemaker was disbarred by default after he failed to take part in his disciplinary proceeding, despite having adequate notice and opportunity to do so. When contacted on the telephone by the Office of Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar early on, Shoemaker indicated he had received the notice of disciplinary charges filed against him, but did not plan on participating. He did not act to have the default ultimately ordered against him set aside or vacated.
He was found culpable as charged with two counts of professional misconduct involving failing to comply with conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order. Specifically, he failed to comply with a court order by failing to timely file a declaration of compliance for disciplined lawyers as mandated (Cal. R. of Ct., Rule 9.2) and failed to comply with other conditions imposed — including failing to schedule and participate in an initial meeting with the Office of Probation, failing to submit a quarterly written report, and failing to submit two mental health reports as required.
Shoemaker had three prior records of professional discipline at the time he was disbarred.
Charles P. Brown
State Bar No. 159358, Oceanside (October 14, 2021)
Brown was suspended from practicing law for 90 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing eight counts of professional misconduct related to a family law matter involving his son.
His wrongdoing included: failing to report judicial sanctions to the State Bar within 30 days after they were imposed and failing to pay those sanctions, as well as three counts each of seeking to mislead a judge and submitting intentionally altered exhibits to the court — misconduct involving moral turpitude.
Brown’s son was convicted of disturbing the peace (Cal. Penal Code Section 415) after pleading down charges of spousal battery and simple battery against his wife. Her counsel subsequently sought and secured a domestic violence restraining order against the son, alleging repeated acts of violence.
After two years had passed, Brown filed requests seeking fees, costs, and sanctions against opposing counsel — claiming misrepresentation. In support of his claims, he attached documents purporting to support the claim that no violence had occurred. In fact, these exhibits were altered copies of the wife’s written statements that omitted her sworn description of violent acts — including assaults, threats, and stalking. Brown submitted this same altered documentation to the court on three separate occasions.
The court ultimately sanctioned Brown and his son, who had also signed the altered documentation. Brown paid the sanction five months after being ordered to do so — and after the State Bar had initiated an investigation into the matter.
In aggravation, Brown had a prior record of discipline and committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that substantially harmed the administration of justice.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation.
Justin P. Cannon
State Bar No. 289715, Los Angeles (October 14, 2021)
Cannon was suspended from the practice of law for two years and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to committing 43 acts of professional misconduct related to eight matters and involving 11 clients.
His wrongdoing included: failing to inform a client he had received settlement funds, failing to promptly distribute settlement funds belonging to a client, failing to notify the State Bar of his IOLTA account, failing to take steps to avoid foreseeable prejudice to his clients when withdrawing from representation, and failing to report court-ordered sanction to the State Bar; two counts of acting outside the scope of representation and authority; and three counts each of failing to act with reasonable diligence in representing his clients and failing to respond to the clients’ requests to release papers and property after terminating representation.
He was also culpable of four counts of failing to keep clients apprised of significant case developments, five counts of failing to promptly respond to reasonable client inquiries, six counts of failing to perform legal services with competence, seven counts of failing to participate in the State Bar’s investigation of the alleged misconduct, and eight counts of failing to obey various court orders.
The various acts of misconduct occurred over the course of four years. In recommending the discipline imposing actual suspension, the State Bar Court judge noted that Cannon “severely harmed eleven clients by causing serious delays, sanctions being issued against them and, in at least three matters, the clients lost causes of action entirely.” The judge also underscored that Cannon had continued his misconduct even after he was placed on notice, both by courts and the State Bar, that he was causing harm.
In aggravation, Cannon, committed multiple acts of misconduct that severely harmed his clients in various ways, and demonstrated indifference to his wrongdoing by refusing to either take efforts to make his clients whole or to offer any statements of apology or remorse.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation.
Stevan Louis Denenberg
State Bar No. 159326, San Diego (October 14, 2021)
Denenberg was suspended for 60 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 perform legal services with competence and failing to respond to numerous reasonable client inquiries.
In the underlying matter, Denenberg was hired to represent a client with a personal injury claim, initially informing her about the case strategy and requesting additional documentation. Approximately one month later, she informed him that the insurer had “reassigned” the case, and requested additional assistance — though she did not provide the documentation requested earlier.
The statute of limitation lapsed on the claim; Denenberg did not inform the client of that, nor did he take any action to protect the claim. About 2½ years after he had last communicated with the client, he informed her that he didn’t know whether the claim had been properly opened.
In aggravation, Denenberg had a prior record of discipline and committed multiple acts of misconduct in the case at hand that significantly harmed his client, who was ultimately precluded from pursuing her claim.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation and was given reduced mitigation weight for expressing remorse and recognition of his wrongdoing — because he did so only after the State Bar investigation into the matter had commenced.
Philip Olu Falese
State Bar No. 222428, Inglewood (October 14, 2021)
Falese was suspended from practicing law for 18 months and placed on probation for three years.
He was culpable of committing two counts of professional misconduct to which he stipulated: failing to maintain client funds in trust and failing to promptly disburse funds belonging to the clients. He was also found culpable of an additional three counts of misrepresentation involving moral turpitude.
In the matter at hand, Falese was contacted by a real estate broker, who informed him that a couple wished to recoup a $20,000 deposit made in connection with a residential listing agreement they had subsequently canceled. The broker returned a retainer agreement he maintained had been signed by both parties in the couple. In reality, neither one had executed the agreement, nor had they authorized Falese to act on their behalf.
In the mistaken belief he was authorized to do so, Falese negotiated a return of the deposit, and again — at the direction of the broker — delivered the check to be endorsed by the couple. The broker tendered a negotiated check back to Falese, who then notified the couple he held their funds in trust and was acting on their behalf. In response, they hired a lawyer to obtain their deposit money.
The property buyer refused to accept cancellation of the sale and sued. The court found that neither the broker nor Falese had any right to the earnest money deposit, that they had obtained the $20,000 wrongfully, and that no attorney/client relationship existed between Falese and the couple. That judgment was affirmed on appeal.
The State Bar Court judge found that Falese had acted in an honest but mistaken belief, but that his actions constituted grossly negligent misrepresentation. The judge underscored that Falese should have “been prudent and confirmed” and
“should have performed due diligence” that he was authorized to act before doing so.
In aggravation, Falese had two prior records of discipline, and committed multiple acts of misconduct in the instant matter that significantly harmed the individuals who were deprived of their funds for years and had to hire another lawyer to recoup the money.
In mitigation, he entered into a stipulation as to facts and admission of documents and presented testimony from five individuals — all of whom attested to his good character.
David Ryan Griffin
State Bar No. 76619, Escondido (October 14, 2021)
Griffin was suspended from the practice of law for one year and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing 21 acts of professional misconduct related to six separate client matters.
His wrongdoing included: failing to inform a client of significant case developments, failing to adequately supervise others responsible for handling a client matter, and failing to secure advance written notice before accepting advance fees from a third party on behalf of a client; two counts of seeking agreements to have clients withdraw State Bar complaints about him; three counts each of failing to provide legal services with competence and failing to maintain client funds in a trust account; four counts of failing to timely withdraw from employment, and five counts of failing to provide appropriate accountings of client funds. An additional count involved moral turpitude: making a material misrepresentation to a client.
The misconduct addressed in the instant disciplinary case involving varied transgressions — though the California State Bar Court judge noted a common thread, opining: “Respondent’s behavior across multiple client matters indicates that he failed to appreciate the importance of his ethical duties.” Citing an example common to four of the client matters involving misconduct, the judge underscored that Griffin “failed to take active measures to address the fact that he determined some of the cases for which he had been hired lacked sufficient grounds to proceed, such as by simply withdrawing formally from representation.” This was deemed a waste of both judicial resources and client funds.
In addition, the court noted that Griffin retorted to a client with whom he was involved in a fee dispute: “Why would I care about a Bar complaint when I’m retiring NOW?”
In aggravation, Griffin had a prior record of discipline, committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed his clients and the administration of justice, and showed indifference toward rectifying his wrongful behavior.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and provided five letters attesting to his good character from a limited range of the legal and general communities, as well as some evidence of involvement with a nonprofit.
Barry P. King
State Bar No. 53890, Beverly Hills (October 14, 2021)
King was suspended for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing four acts of professional misconduct related to a single client. He was culpable of: entering into a business transaction with a client without first advising the client in writing of the right to seek the advice of an independent lawyer, failing to deposit the client’s funds in a trust account, failing to maintain the required balance in his trust account, and failing to provide the client an accounting of funds paid by and held for him.
King represented a client in a medical malpractice action — accepting nearly $60,000 in advanced costs in just over three years, depositing about half that amount in his client trust account. By the end of that time, however, King had paid more than $60,000 in costs and expenses related to the case, causing the trust account to dip to an impermissibly low balance.
Also, during the time King represented the client, he also entered into nine business transactions in which the client, a licensed contractor, performed various kinds of work on King’s home. King did not disclose the terms of these transactions in writing — thereby failing to “treat the attorney-clint relationship with the formality and seriousness it deserved,” according to the State Bar Court judge.
In aggravation, King committed multiple acts of misconduct.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation, had practiced law discipline-free for more than 40 years, and provided letters from eight individuals — all of whom attested to his good character.
Thomas D. Sands
State Bar No. 279020, Los Angeles (October 22, 2021)
Sands was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to committing an act of professional misconduct in another jurisdiction: knowingly making a false statement to a court and failing to correct a false statement previously made to that court.
In the underlying matter, Sands represented petitioning creditors, filing motions on their behalf in bankruptcy court, and attaching to one of them a sworn declaration enumerating numerous attempts to meet and confer with opposing counsel; those statements were false. When questioned in court about the veracity of the statements, Sands refused to answer or answer the underlying issues.
Sands also filed a second declaration accompanying telephone records in the case — again, repeated the falsehood that he had repeatedly attempted to contact counsel.
The bankruptcy judge then initiated disciplinary proceedings against Sands, and he was suspended from practicing in the bankruptcy court for two years.
The State Bar Court judge determined that Sands’ culpability in the bankruptcy court also warranted discipline in the instant case.
In mitigation, Sands entered into a prefiling stipulation and had practiced law discipline-free for approximately six years.
Grace E. Wilson
State Bar No. 168353, San Diego (October 14, 2021)
Wilson was suspended from practicing law for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to pleading nolo contendere to two counts of professional misconduct related to two separate client matters.
She was culpable of failing to maintain only legal and just legal actions in one case and failing to support applicable state law in the other.
In one case, another attorney filed a petition for a civil harassment restraining order against Wilson on behalf of his partner and her two minor children. The impetus for that action occurred at a child’s softball game, at which Wilson approached the complainant and her child in an agitated state and behaved aggressively. A court issued a temporary restraining order, as opposed to a permanent one, on the condition that Wilson complete a 12-session anger management course. At a subsequent hearing, opposing counsel objected to Wilson’s proof of course completion, claiming the course was online and not pre-approved by the court. A court subsequently agreed she had not met the conditions imposed, and ordered a permanent restraining order, valid for one year, as well as well as awarding attorney’s fees to opposing counsel. Wilson appealed — asserting several claims ultimately deemed frivolous, as well as a cross-complaint alleging defamation. All of Wilson’s actions were eventually defeated in anti-SLAPP motions and a demurrer — and after some additional legal machinations, Wilson was declared a vexatious litigant; she was ordered to pay $126,557 in anti-SLAPP prevailing party attorney’s fees.
The second case also involved a temporary restraining order secured against Wilson after she sent a series of harassing email messages to a woman she accused of breaking up her marriage. Despite the order, Wilson continued to send threatening emails to the protected party.
In aggravation, Wilson demonstrated a lack of insight into her wrongdoing — blaming others for the misconduct.
In mitigation, she entered into a prefiling stipulation and had practiced law for approximately 22 years without a record of professional discipline.
Donald Edward Bloom
State Bar No. 75859, San Francisco (October 22, 2021)
Bloom was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to failing to comply with several conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.
Specifically, he failed to submit one final written report and two quarterly reports by the specified deadlines, and failed to submit timely proofs of passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam and State Bar Ethics School.
In aggravation, Bloom committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and had a prior record of discipline.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, suffered from physical ailments at the time of the misconduct — and is now recovered, and presented letters from seven individuals taken from a range in the legal and general communities who attested to his good character.
Thomas Christopher Corcovelos
State Bar No. 70493, Manhattan Beach (October 14, 2021)
Corcovelos was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing two acts of professional misconduct related to a single client: giving legal advice potentially adverse to a client’s interest without obtaining the client’s prior written consent and failing to promptly release the client’s file after being requested to do so.
In the underlying matter, Corcovelos initially represented a couple facing foreclosure of their home — preparing trust and property transfer documents to effectuate a relative’s offer to pay off the couple’s mortgage. He acted as counsel for all three parties in the transaction.
Approximately two years later, the wife of the couple filed for divorce. The primary disputed issue in the matter was the disposition of the property then controlled by the trust. Though Corcovelos did not represent the wife in the dissolution matter, and in fact encouraged her to retain a divorce lawyer, he did “advise her informally and provided pro bono services to her on occasion.” That included a letter to a company in which the couple held stock — informing it that the stock was community property and that a court might opt to reissue the shares in the dissolution matter. He also issued a “status declaration” for her to file in pro per in the dissolution.
Served with a subpoena requesting the client files in the trust matter, Corcovelos objected — claiming attorney/client privilege based on his representation of the relative who had helped fund the mortgage. However, he did tender the file until four months after being requested in to so.
In aggravation, Corcovelos had a prior record of discipline.
In mitigation, he demonstrated evidence of rehabilitation, as he had not committed professional misconduct in five years, and also cooperated fully in the State Bar’s investigation in the instant case.
Michael Daniel Kolodzi
State Bar No. 255772, Los Angeles (October 14, 2021)
Kolodzi was placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing six acts of professional misconduct related to two clients: two counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to respond to clients’ reasonable inquiries, and failing to promptly refund advanced fees after terminating employment.
The two client cases had similar fact patterns: Kolodzi accepted a flat fee to file and process criminal records expungements — in one case, also promising to handle a name change. He then failed to take action or to respond to the clients’ inquiries about progress in their cases.
Kolodzi eventually refunded the clients the fees as they requested: in one case, 20 months after being asked to do so; in the other, three months after the initial request.
In aggravation, Kolodzi committed multiple acts of wrongdoing.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation, had practiced law for more than 10 years without a record of discipline, and suffered emotional difficulties during the time of the misconduct due an unexpected and significant loss of revenue in his practice.
Allan Merle Tabor
State Bar No. 52846, Orinda (October 14, 2021)
Tabor was placed on probation for one year after being found culpable of a single count of professional misconduct: failure to properly maintain client funds in a trust account. He had earlier stipulated to issuing 75 checks from his client trust account to pay personal debts over a five-month period. An additional charge for mishandling the funds in the instant case was dismissed with prejudice.
In aggravation, Tabor had a prior record of discipline and was given moderate weight for committing multiple acts of misconduct, as the wrongdoing occurred over a relatively brief period.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, caused no harm to his clients through his misconduct, and was allotted limited mitigating weight for performing community service, due to a lack of detail and independent verification.
State Bar No. 305071, San Jose (October 22, 2021)
Yuan was placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to committing nine acts of professional misconduct related to two separate client matters.
She was culpable of; failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to act with reasonable diligence in representing a client, and failing to render an appropriate accounting of client funds, as well as two counts each of failing to release clients’ papers and property after being requested to do so, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, and failing to participate in the State Bar’s investigations of the wrongdoing alleged.
Yuan represented two clients: one who sought help with a tax determination, the other seeking help in winding up a business based in Hong Kong.
She accepted $4,000 in advanced fees from the client with the tax matter and performed about 9.5 hours of work on the case — then stopped communicating with the client. The client’s new counsel requested the files, which Yuan delivered 15 months later.
In the second client case, no fee agreement was executed and no fees were paid. The client forwarded copies of relevant documents, and Yuan acknowledged receiving them, but then stopped responding to the client’s voicemail and email messages requesting a case status update. She returned the client’s case file and documents more than two years after being requested to do so.
In aggravation, Yuan committed multiple acts of misconduct.
In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation.
— Barbara Kate Repa