Steven M. Ahlers
State Bar No. 251151, Livermore (December 22, 2021)
Ahlers was disbarred by default after he failed to participate in his disciplinary proceeding, which concerned allegations of two counts of professional misconduct stemming from two probation matters.
He did not respond to the petition for disbarment, nor did he move to set aside or vacate the default order entered against him. The State Bar Court judge determined that Ahlers had proper service and actual notice of the proceedings. The court also found an adequate factual basis for disciplinary misconduct on both counts of failing to comply with probation conditions.
In one case, Ahlers failed to submit evidence of completing the State Bar Ethics School and passing its final test, failed to submit a timely written quarterly report, and two compliant quarterly reports, and failed to submit two quarterly reports when due. The other case included similar violations: a failure to complete Ethics School and pass its test, as well as failing to submit one compliant quarterly report, and failing to submit three quarterly reports when due.
At the time he was disbarred, Ahlers had three prior records of being disciplined for professional misconduct.
John Steven Blincoe
State Bar No. 146005, Scottsdale, Arizona (December 30, 2021)
Blincoe was disbarred by default after he failed to participate in his disciplinary proceeding, either in person or through counsel, despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity to do so. He did not move to have the default subsequently entered against him set aside or vacated.
He had been charged with two counts of professional misconduct and was found culpable of both of them: commingling personal funds in his client trust account and failing to remove personal funds from that account while issuing funds for personal expenses from it.
Michael T. Chulak
State Bar No. 194744, Agoura Hills (December 30, 2021)
Chulak was disbarred by default. The California State Bar Court judge determined that all procedural requirements for service and notice of his disciplinary proceeding had been satisfied, yet he did not respond or participate in any way.
He was placed on involuntary inactive status after a default order was entered against him in the case; he did not move to have the order set aside or vacated.
He was found culpable of the 17 counts of professional misconduct with which he had been charged — 16 of them related to a single client matter.
One count related to his violation of Supreme Court order by failing to file a declaration of compliance required of disciplined attorneys (Cal. R. of Court, Rule 9.2).
In the client matter, his wrongdoing included: failing to update his official State Bar records address within 30 days of moving, commingling personal and client funds in his trust account, and failing to comply with several conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order; two counts each of failing to deposit and maintain client funds and advanced fees in a trust account, improperly withdrawing from representation, and failing to promptly distribute funds belonging to the client; as well as three counts of failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the wrongdoing alleged. An additional four counts involved moral turpitude: two related to misappropriating client funds and two related to negotiating checks he knew he was not authorized to negotiate.
At the time he was disbarred, Chulak had a prior record of discipline and there were additional disciplinary matters pending against him.
Daniel Ray Gamez
State Bar No. 222578, Los Angeles (December 30, 2021)
Gamez was disbarred by default after he failed to appear at the trial of his disciplinary charges.
He had earlier filed an answer to the notice enumerating four counts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter — including failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to keep his clients reasonably informed of significant case developments, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the wrongdoing alleged.
Gamez was found culpable of all counts charged, and he did not move to have the default order entered against him set aside or vacated.
At the time he was disbarred, there were other disciplinary investigations involving him pending at the State Bar.
Ava Lee Goff
State Bar No. 282713, Sacramento (December 30, 2021)
Goff was disbarred by default after she failed to participate in the disciplinary proceeding in which she was charged with 33 counts of professional misconduct related to eight client matters.
The State Bar Court determined that the four procedural and factual factors for disbarment had been met in the case: proper service of the disciplinary charges, proper notice of the proceedings before a default was entered, proper entry of the default — and a satisfactory factual basis for imposing discipline.
Goff was found culpable of 32 of the 33 counts charged. Her wrongdoing included: disobeying a court order, failing to maintain the requisite balance in her client trust account, failing to promptly pay funds due to a client, and misappropriating client funds — an act involving moral turpitude, as well as seven counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to respond to clients’ reasonable case status inquiries, improperly terminating her employment by failing to take steps to avoid prejudice to her clients, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigations of the wrongdoing she was alleged to have committed.
Goff had no prior record of professional discipline, but there were two other disciplinary matters pending against her at the State Bar when she was disbarred.
Karen Barbara Miller
State Bar No. 183054, Torrance (December 30, 2021)
Miller was disbarred. Three cases were consolidated in the instant matter — charging her with a total of 75 counts of professional misconduct related to 13 clients.
The court at trial dismissed seven of the counts charged.
And Miller stipulated to misconduct in a number of counts: failing to refund unearned advanced fees, failing to render an account of client fees, and failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries; two counts of failing to deposit advanced fees into her client trust account; and 11 counts of failing to cooperate in State Bar investigations.
Her additional wrongdoing included: assisting another in the unauthorized practice of law and failing to obtain court permission before withdrawing from employment; two counts each of failing to deposit advanced fees in a client trust account and failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries — in one case, responding to only one of 38 requests for information; three counts each of failing to obtain clients’ written consents before accepting fees from third parties, and failing to inform clients of significant case developments; four counts of failing to release client files after terminating service or being requested to do so; and six counts of failing to render accounts of client funds. (In one matter, Miller failed to provide an accounting of funds though the client had made multiple requests for one over the course of two years.)
She was also culpable of seven counts of improperly withdrawing from employment, and nine counts each of failing to return unearned advanced fees and failing to perform legal services with competence. Additional counts involved moral turpitude: two counts of making material misrepresentations to clients in billing statements and three counts of misappropriating client funds.
In a voluminous opinion, the State Bar Court judge detailed the procedural history, findings of fact, and legal conclusions in the case. The 13 client matters spanned a range of concerns — including divorce, child custody, estate settlements, immigration, civil restraining orders, and landlord/tenant disputes.
The court noted that although Miller undertook representation in a number of immigration cases and sometimes held herself out as an experienced specialist, she “did not have sufficient learning and skill” to do so and “should have associated with or consulted with another attorney reasonably believed to be competent or acquired sufficient learning and skill.” Several clients were forced to hire subsequent attorneys to handle their immigration matters.
The opinion also devoted considerable space to analyzing the testimony given by the 27 witnesses who testified at trial on the issue of culpability — including Miller and her daughter. It characterized the other witnesses as “extremely credible, honest, forthright, direct, and specific.” It found that her testimony at trial, however, Miller was “evasive at times and frequently blamed for former clients for not completing the work she was hired and relied upon to perform.” For example, the judge noted she prepared documents that were never produced and submitted billing statements containing unsubstantiated, unnecessary and unauthorized charges.
The judge also underscored that Miller’s daughter, who had a “motive to fabricate evidence” offered testimony that “sounded rehearsed and did not fare well under cross-examination.”
In aggravation, Miller committed multiple acts of wrongdoing, caused significant harm to many clients — a number of whom were highly vulnerable due to age or uncertain immigration status, and failed to make restitution, still owing $43,835 to her former clients. The court also assigned substantial aggravating weight to Miller’s lack of remorse and insight into the seriousness of her misconduct, noting that throughout the trial, she repeatedly stated that her clients lied, sought to take advantage of her, or failed to follow up with her to further their cases.
In mitigation, she was allotted moderate weight for entering into two stipulations of facts and admission of documents and stipulating during trial to culpability on 16 counts, and limited weight for evidence of good character and community service offered by seven individuals who did not seem aware of the particulars of the charges against Miller and were not taken from a broad range in the community.
Michael Scott Miller
State Bar No. 158019, Fort Lauderdale, Florida (December 22, 2021)
Miller was disbarred after he stipulated to committing five acts of professional misconduct related to a single client matter.
His wrongdoing included failing to maintain the required balance in his client trust account, breaching his fiduciary duties regarding entrusted escrow funds, and intentionally misappropriating funds held in trust — an act involving moral turpitude, as well as two counts of failing to maintain written ledgers of and journal of client trust funds.
In the underlying matter, Miller represented a client with various financial and legal issues related to two parcels of real estate. In one transaction, he assisted in a refinance of a loan requiring that a total of $127,000 in prepaid interest be held in an escrow account, agreeing to hold and pay out sums to the lenders in equal amounts.
Miller made the first interest payments to the lenders, totaling $63,600 — though he failed to maintain a written ledger of the client funds held or a written journal of the client trust account. Soon after making the deposit and initial payments to the lenders, Miller began using the remaining funds for his own benefit — issuing eight checks to himself and eventually misappropriating $63,600 of the escrow funds.
He failed to make the second interest payment to the lenders as agreed, and when pressed by the broker to do so, responded that he had placed a lien on the funds following a dispute over attorney fees. Miller then terminated his representation of the client, who died a short time later. The client’s wife and daughter filed a complaint with the State Bar against Miller after the estate was required to secure a new loan to cover the interest payments and late and delinquency fees owed.
In aggravation, Miller had a prior record of discipline and committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed the client’s interests, and failed to make restitution after misappropriating the funds.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation.
Charles Edward Mullis
State Bar No. 130376, Stanton (December 22, 2021)
Mullis was disbarred by default after he failed to participate in the proceeding in which he was charged with two counts of professional misconduct: failing to comply with a court rule (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20) and failing to comply with probation conditions imposed in a prior disciplinary order.
The default order that the Office of Chief Trial Counsel filed and served included a supporting declaration of reasonable diligence enumerating the steps taken to provide notice to Mullis and informing him of the potential disbarment recommendation. He did not move to have the default entered against him set aside or vacated.
He was found culpable of both counts charged. The evidence showed Mullis failed to timely file a declaration of compliance as required for a disciplined attorney. He also failed to comply with probation conditions by not scheduling or participating in an initial meeting with his assigned probation officer, not filing an initial written quarterly report with the Office of Probation, and not providing a declaration attesting that he had read specified provisions of the California Rules of Professional Conduct and Business and Professions Code as directed.
Mullis had two prior records of professional discipline when he was disbarred.
Bruce Edward Nelson
State Bar No. 106119, Sacramento (December 15, 2021)
Nelson was disbarred after he stipulated to committing 30 acts of professional misconduct related to multiple client matters.
Specifically, his wrongdoing included: failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the misconduct alleged and breaching his fiduciary duty to a client and 11 counts of failing to safekeep and preserve client funds in his client trust account. The additional counts involved moral turpitude: three counts of making material misrepresentations to clients and 14 counts of misappropriating client funds.
In nine client matters, Nelson was retained to represent clients in personal injury cases — agreeing to a 25% contingency fee in some matters, and a 33% fee in others. In all cases he received settlement funds, depositing them into his client trust account. But before disbursing the funds to the clients or to others on their behalf, he failed to maintain the requisite balance in the account — misappropriating the client funds entrusted to him. In one case, he falsely told a client she was not entitled to a portion of the partial settlement payment made, knowing that was untrue.
In another case, Nelson was hired to act as property manager for the commercial building in which he was also a tenant. His duties involved collecting rents and other payments from the commercial tenants, and transferring them to a trust account, as well as paying building expenses on behalf of the trust. Instead, Nelson deposited funds received on behalf of the building trust into his own client trust account — misappropriating them for his own use. In addition, he provided false expense reports to the trust that contained amounts not incurred or paid on its behalf. After a trust representative confronted Nelson about the discrepancies, he executed a settlement agreement to rectify the matter, agreeing to pay the trust $45,213 in restitution. The trustee recovered $20,000 from its insurer, and Nelson paid $9,500 — still owing $14,713 under the settlement agreement’s terms.
In aggravation, Nelson had a prior record of discipline, committed multiple acts of misconduct that constituted a pattern of wrongdoing over a five-year period, and failed to make restitution to several of the clients.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation.
Gerald Howard Sternberg
State Bar No. 96110, Southfield, Michigan (December 15, 2021)
Sternberg was disbarred by default after he failed to file a compliant response to the notice of disciplinary charges filed against him. The State Bar Court judge determined that all requirements for procedure and notice had been fulfilled, and that Sternberg did not move to have the default entered against him set aside or vacated.
He was found culpable of the professional misconduct charged: failing to comply with conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary probation matter. Specifically, he failed to file two written quarterly reports with the Office of Probation when due, failed to file a final written report as required, and failed to provide proof of attending the State Bar Ethics School or of completing sic hours of MCLE credits in legal ethics as mandated.
Sternberg had two prior records of discipline when he was disbarred.
Michael Charles Weisberg
State Bar No. 78537, Elk Grove (December 30, 2021)
Weisberg was disbarred by default after he failed to participate in his disciplinary proceeding. The State Bar Court judge determined that all procedural elements had been met in the case, and that there was an adequate factual basis for disciplinary misconduct. Weisberg did not respond to the eventual petition for disbarment nor did he move to set aside or vacate the default entered against him.
As a result, the factual allegations in the notice of disciplinary charges were deemed admitted as true, and he was found culpable of all counts charged. The misconduct related to two client matters and his failure to fulfill conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order. Specifically, his wrongdoing included failing to keep a client informed of significant case developments and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the alleged wrongdoing, as well as two counts of failing to perform legal services competently. The violations of his disciplinary probation included failing to timely file a quarterly written report and a final report with the Office of Probation.
Weisberg had two prior records of being disciplined by the State Bar for professional misconduct.
Peter Louis Cook
State Bar No. 232742, Glendale (December 22, 2021)
Cook was suspended from the practice of law for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to violating several conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order.
Specifically, he failed to timely schedule an initial meeting with his assigned probation officer, failed to send a timely accounting to a former client as ordered, failed to provide satisfactory evidence of attending the State Bar Ethics School, and failed to file a final written report with the Office of Probation.
In aggravation, Cook had a prior record of discipline and committed multiple acts of misconduct. Aggravating weight was also given for his indifference to comply with the enumerated probation conditions, with the State Bar Court judge noting that conduct was “indicative of his complete failure to appreciate the significance of his misconduct and the discipline imposed upon him.”
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation, saving the State Bar and State Bar Court time and resources.
Alexander Scott Jester
State Bar No. 291145, Costa Mesa (December 22, 2021)
Jester was suspended from practicing law for one year and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing 24 acts of professional misconduct related to six separate client matters.
His wrongdoing included: three counts of failing to return unearned advanced fees; five counts each of failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, failing to perform legal services with competence, and improperly terminating his employment; and six counts of failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the wrongdoing alleged.
The fact patterns in the cases were essentially similar: clients hired Jester to represent them in family law or dissolution maters, paying advanced fees. He then took little or no action in their cases and did not respond to their requests for information about their proceedings, nor did he return the unearned fees to those who requested them.
One of the cases was not detailed in the State Bar Court’s opinion — simply noting that the former client filed a complaint after Jester failed “to competently represent him in a divorce matter after he had retained him for said legal services.” Jester did not then respond to the State Bar’s multiple requests for additional information in the matter.
In aggravation, Jester committed multiple acts of misconduct and failed to make restitution to three of the clients.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation.
Vincent Sungtae Kim
State Bar No. 225840, Carson (December 22, 2021)
Kim was suspended for one year and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing six acts of professional misconduct related to mismanagement of and misappropriation of his client trust account.
Specifically, he was culpable of failing to maintain the required balance in his client trust account and two counts of commingling his personal funds with trust account monies, as well as three counts involving moral turpitude: misappropriating client funds from the account, which was not properly reconciled and two counts involving concealing funds in the account from tax authorities and a creditor.
Kim, employed as in-house counsel, facilitated wiring $300,000 in investment deposits into his client trust account to conceal the funds from judgment creditors until his company reached a compromise on a judgment entered against it, He also deposited more that $125,700 of his own funds into the trust account to conceal them from tax authorities until he could negotiate a compromise on outstanding tax liens.
Over a six-month period, he issued 65 checks from the account, most of them made payable to his wife, to cover personal expenses. For several months, Kim maintained separate written ledgers for the company investment funds and his client trust account. However, he did not reconcile the ledgers and bank statements, and as a result, his trust account dipped to an impermissibly low balance.
In aggravation, Kim had a prior record of discipline, engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing, and significantly harmed the administration of justice by knowingly concealing funds.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, demonstrated candor in cooperating with State Bar investigators, and submitted declarations from eight individuals taken from a range in the community — all of whom attested to his good character.
Donald Joseph Melancon
State Bar No. 283347, Gilroy (December 15, 2021)
Melancon was suspended from practicing law for six months and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to being culpable of committing professional misconduct in another jurisdiction: mismanaging his client trust account, resulting in commingling and conversion. He was suspended for six months by that forum’s attorney disciplinary board.
The California State Bar Court judge determined that the disciplinary proceeding in the other jurisdiction afforded Melancon with fundamental constitutional protection, and also that as a matter of law, the professional misconduct determined there warranted imposing discipline in the state of California.
Melancon was admitted to practice law in Louisiana several years before being admitted to the California bar. After receiving information regarding overdraft notices for Melancon’s client trust account, the Louisiana Office of Attorney Disciplinary Counsel conducted an audit of the account over a seven-month period. It discovered that after Melancon received a $30,000 in a settlement on behalf of a client, he deposited the money, but then made distributions from the account, nearly depleting the settlement funds. He failed to pay the lienholder and third-party medical providers in the case, and also failed to remove his own attorney’s fees from the account as required.
In aggravation, Melancon engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing, deemed to constitute a pattern of misconduct.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation, had practiced law for more than 10 years without a record of discipline, and provided letters from eight individuals — all of whom vouched for his good character. The Louisiana authorities had also allotted Melancon mitigating credit for showing candor, cooperation, and remorse in the case.
State Bar No. 171342, Lake Havasu City, Arizona (December 15, 2021)
Mireles was suspended from practicing law for 90 days and placed on probation for three years after she stipulated to committing five acts of professional misconduct in five separate client matters. All counts concerned her failures to provide timely responses to allegations set out in the Office of Chief Trial Counsel’s letters of inquiry — a total of 14 in all. In each case, she submitted responses ranging from several days to several months after their due dates.
In aggravation, Mireles had two prior records of discipline, and committed multiple acts of misconduct in the instant matter.
In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation, was experiencing difficulties caring for her ill husband and maintaining her law practice — both made more complicated by COVID restrictions and potential infections. In addition, she was allotted mitigating weight for good character testimony offered by seven witnesses — the weight of that evidence reduced by the facts that they did not represent a wide range of references within the legal and general populations, nor were they aware of the full extent of her misconduct as required by the Standards for Attorney Sanctions (Standard 1.6(f)).
Rossana Pilar Mitchell
State Bar No. 210305, Chino Hills (December 15, 2021)
Mitchell was suspended for six months and placed on probation for two years after she was found culpable of four counts of professional misconduct related to three client matters. The parties filed a stipulation as to facts, admission of documents, and some amendments to the original notice of disciplinary charges.
Mitchell was found culpable of acquiring an interest adverse to a client, communicating with a represented party, failing to render an account of client funds, and collecting on a false lien — an act involving moral turpitude.
Some of the charges against Mitchell related to misunderstandings related to her practice of advising divorce clients to file a lis pendens to protect their marital property rights — asserting she could be sued for malpractice if she does not make the recommendation. She testified her clients always agree to the filing.
In one case, the client executed a retainer agreement with Mitchell that stated: “Attorney shall have a lien in any money or property awarded or payable to you in this proceeding for any sums due under this Agreement.” However, she did not advise him that he could seek the advice of an independent lawyer regarding the lien, nor did she give the client a reasonable opportunity to seek that advice.
In another case, Mitchell represented the wife in a divorce proceeding. Before legal proceedings began, the husband was not represented by counsel, but once the lawsuit was filed, he retained counsel for help on the issue of child custody, which was clearly indicted on the relevant pleadings. Mitchell testified, however, that her understanding was that the attorney was appearing in a limited scope — authorized only to appear at a particular hearing. When she contacted the husband directly to propose a custody settlement, he told her to communicate directly with his lawyer. Mitchell contacted the husband again by phone, and when he did not answer, sent a text asking that his attorney contact her. The husband replied: “Will do,” but Mitchell again telephoned him one minute later. A few days later, the husband’s attorney sent Mitchell a cease and desist later, requesting that she not communicate with the husband.
The third client matter also involved the fee agreement that contained a charging lien. The client, on Mitchell’s advice, recorded a lis pendens on at least two properties related to the dissolution in progress. Mitchell later substituted out of the case. When the then ex-husband later attempted to sell the property, he was told the lis pends must first be withdrawn. There was some confusion related to the subsequent paperwork tendered by the title company, which erroneously stated the property was subject to a lien. Mitchell’s assistant testified she then reviewed the file and determined the ex-wife — Mitchell’s former client — owed more than $10,000 for services rendered, and sent a payoff demand to the title company. The former husband eventually met with Mitchell, who reiterated that $10,000 in fees was still owed in the divorce matter, but provided no invoices and made no mention of an attorney’s lien. Feeling pressured to resolve the matter, he paid $8,000 to settle it. The State Bar Court judge determined that Mitchell’s client had not authorized a separate attorney’s lien, finding she dishonestly claimed she had a lien against the property, and used it to leverage payment of legal fees that were allegedly outstanding.
Mitchell had also claimed she could not provide her former client with an accounting in the case as requested because she did not have the file; she had asserted some files were lost in a flood and during office moves. The court did not find the contentions credible.
In aggravation, Mitchell engaged in multiple acts of misconduct and failed to make restitution.
In mitigation, she had practiced law for more than 16 years without a record of discipline and was allotted moderate weight for entering into a stipulation of facts that were mostly easily provable, for character evidence–none of which was offered by members of the legal community, and for performing community service — the scope and duration of which was unclear.
Anthony Michael Paglia
State Bar No. 275027, La Vegas (December 22, 2021)
Paglia was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing a single act of professional misconduct involving moral turpitude.
The facts in the case were found by authorities in Nevada, where Paglia is licensed to practice law; he was found culpable of misconduct, reprimanded and ordered to pay costs. The California State Bar Court judge found the Nevada disciplinary proceeding provided Paglia with fundamental constitutional protection before considering whether the actions warranted imposing discipline in California, where he was also a licensed attorney.
In the Nevada matter, Jester agreed to act as co-counsel with another attorney on three personal injury matters in that jurisdiction — sharing the workload and fees. Their relationship deteriorated, however, and only one of the clients chose to continue to be represented by Jester. However, Jester refused to sign substitutions of counsel or initially endorsing settlement checks as needed for the other two clients. He sent a text message to the other attorney’s paralegal — informing her he planned to write a letter to the law school to which she had applied (he was an alum), requesting that she be denied admission because if her role in helping “steal” three cases from him. The text included the admonition: “Don’t be unethical and immoral.” Though Jester’s text informed that he planned to “send the letter once a month until our three cases are settled just as a friendly reminder,” it was never sent.
In mitigation, Jester entered into a prefiling stipulation, had practiced law in California for nearly 13 years discipline-free, accepted responsibility for his misconduct by self-reporting it to California authorities, and received moderate mitigating weight for letters from five character witnesses — all of whom were members of the legal community, so did not represent a range of individuals.
State Bar No. 152655, Studio City (December 30, 2021)
Solomonian was suspended from practicing law for 15 months and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to committing two acts of professional misconduct — both related to his failure to follow the letter of the law related to filing a court-ordered compliance declaration as set out in an earlier disciplinary order.
Specifically, he failed to give timely and compliant notice of his suspension to relevant parties, and also failed to file a timely and conforming declaration with the State Bar Court (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20 (b) and (c)).
The contested issues in the instant case were the appropriate level of discipline and the amount of monetary sanctions to be imposed.
The relevant rule provision requires that suspended attorneys notify existing clients of their status by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested. Solomonian, however, notified his sole remaining client by email, later following up with a telephone call.
Another rule provision mandates that suspended attorneys file a compliance declaration specifying an address to which communications can be directed — information he failed to include in a timely manner.
In total, Solomonian filed five compliance statements after admonitions and communications from the State Bar informing him of deficiencies in his documents.
In recommending an actual suspension, the State Bar Court rejected Solomonian’s claims that he took “every prompt, concrete, and objective” step to comply, underscoring that his “multiple unsuccessful attempts to file a compliant 9.20(c) declaration do not amount to a recognition of wrongdoing or timely atonement, in light of the fact that he still had not filed a compliant declaration at the time of trial in this proceeding.”
The court also recommended that he pay monetary sanctions of $1,500 to the State Bar.
In aggravation, Solomonian had a prior record of discipline.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, saving judicial time and resources, and harmed no client through his misconduct.
James Lissant Conkey
State Bar No. 46616, San Juan Capistrano (December 30, 2021)
Conkey was placed on probation for one year after a contested disciplinary proceeding in which he was charged with a single count of professional misconduct: failing to report a civil judgment for breach of fiduciary duty to his clients within 30 days of knowing the judgment had been imposed as required.
In aggravation, Conkey had a prior record of discipline.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and offered testimony from 10 witnesses taken from the general and legal communities — all of whom vouched for his good character and involvement with civic and charitable organizations.
Conkey stipulated to the facts and culpability in the case. The only matter at issue was the appropriate level of discipline to be imposed. The State Bar Court judge affirmed the finding of culpability.
In the instant case, the State Bar’s Office of Chief Trial Counsel, which initiated the proceeding, argued that the misconduct at issue warranted a stayed suspension of one year, based on the fact that Conkey had a prior record of discipline, and contended there was no basis for deviating from the usual standards.
Conkey countered that an admonition was the appropriate discipline, maintaining that his ethical violation was minor, and that he presented compelling mitigation.
The court, however, found he failed to prove two mitigating circumstances — a good faith belief that civil judgments did not require self-reporting and emotional distress unsubstantiated by an expert — by clear and convincing evidence as required.
— Barbara Kate Repa