Feb. 18, 2022
Recent attorney disbarments, suspensions, probations and public reprovals in California.
Nicholas Jordan Alfano
State Bar No. 298566, Menifee (January 19, 2022)
Alfano was disbarred by default after he failed to respond to the notice charging him with four counts of professional misconduct arising from two matters. In a subsequent telephone call in which the Office of Chief Trial Counsel informed Alfano that his failure to participate would result in a disbarment recommendation, he informed that he intended to default. He did not move to have that default order set aside or vacated.
He was found culpable of all four counts charged: two counts each of failing to comply with court orders to pay monetary sanctions and failing to report the sanctions imposed to the State Bar as required.
Terrence Patrick Goggin
State Bar No. 43835, San Francisco (January 19, 2022)
Goggin was summarily disbarred.
He had earlier entered a guilty plea to a charge of entering into a monetary transaction in criminally derived property, or money laundering (18 U.S.C. Section 1957), and the judgment of conviction became final. The offense is a felony that involves moral turpitude.
Jerry S. Milliken
State Bar No. 45638, Los Angeles (January 19, 2022)
Milliken was disbarred by default after he failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, in his disciplinary proceeding.
The State Bar Court judge concluded that the requirements for proper notice had been satisfied; Milliken had initially responded to a State Bar communication about the case that was sent to his email address. He did not move to have the default judgment subsequently entered against him set aside or vacated.
He was found culpable of the single count of professional misconduct with which he was charged: failing to comply with several conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order. Specifically, he failed to timely contact the Office of Probation to schedule an initial meeting and to participate in that mandatory meeting, failed to timely submit eight quarterly reports and one final written report to the Office of Probation, and failed to attend the State Bar’s Ethics School and produce proof of passing its final exam as required.
Milliken had one prior record of discipline at the time he was disbarred.
John Fredrick Norris
State Bar No. 159001, West Covina (January 19, 2022)
Norris was disbarred by default. He failed to participate in his disciplinary proceeding, despite receiving adequate notice and the opportunity to do so. Norris spoke on the telephone with a representative from the Office of Chief Trial Counsel (OCTC) in the course of the notification process, who informed him of the status conference order requiring him to respond to the notice of disciplinary charged filed against him to avoid the entry of a default.
He did not file a response, and a default was filed. Eleven days later, Norris emailed the court and OCTC, inquiring about the case. The court invited Norris to submit his communication as a pleading, but he did not do so — nor did he move to have the default order set aside or vacated.
He was found culpable of failing to comply with several conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary order — including failing to timely submit three quarterly written reports to the Office of Probation and failing to submit proof of attending the State Bar’s Ethics School and Client Trust Accounting School as mandated.
Norris had one prior record of discipline when he was disbarred.
Jerry D. Rothman
State Bar No. 226686, San Fernando (January 19, 2022)
Rothman was disbarred after failing to participate in the disciplinary proceeding in which he was charged with failing to comply with the terms of a probation order that had been imposed earlier.
He did not file a response to the notice of disciplinary charges, nor did he move to have the default order eventually entered against him set aside or vacated.
He was found culpable of the count charged, based on evidence of his failure to timely files three quarterly reports, as well as a final written report, with the Office of Probation.
Rothman had two prior records of discipline and there were other disciplinary matters pending against him at the time he was disbarred.
State Bar No. 240662, Woodland Hills (January 19, 2022)
Shut was summarily disbarred. She earlier pled guilty to conspiring to commit an offense against the United States (18 U.S.C. Section 371), a felony.
The objects of her conspiracy included: mail and wire fraud (18 U.S.C. Sections 1341 and 1343), honest services mail and wire fraud (18 U.S.C. Sections 1341, 1343 and 1346), healthcare fraud (18 U.S.C. Section 1347), using the mails and interstate facilities in aid of bribery (18 U.S.C. Sections 1952(a)(1) and (3)), engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specific unlawful activity (18 U.S.C. Section 1957), illegally soliciting or receiving remunerations involving federal healthcare programs (42 U.S.C. Section 1320a-7(b)(1)), and illegally offering or paying remunerations involving a federal healthcare program (42 U.S.C. Section 1320a-7(b)(2)).
The underlying felony of conspiracy in this case involved moral turpitude, as did the objects of the conspiracy — which required proof that Shut knowingly engaged in unlawful activities.
John Shaffer Smith
State Bar No. 56107, Beverly Hills (January 19, 2022)
Smith was disbarred after he stipulated to committing seven counts 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 inform his client of significant case developments, failing to maintain complete records of his client’s funds and property, and two counts of failing to render an accurate accounting of his client’s settlement funds. An additional two counts involved moral turpitude: misappropriating client funds and making false and misleading statements to the client.
In the underlaying matter, Smith represented a client with personal injury claims arising from a car accident, eventually agreeing to settle for $30,000. Shortly after Smith deposited the settlement check in his client trust account, he withdrew $10,000 in accord with the contingency fee agreement in effect. He later made multiple withdrawals from the account, causing its balance to dip below the amount he was required to hold in trust for the client and lienholders.
He also represented to the client that he had paid three medical lienholders for their services, though none of them received or cashed the checks. After receiving notices of nonpayment from several of the lienholders, Smith paid some of them — again, causing his trust account to plummet unacceptably. After the client requested an accounting of the settlement funds disbursed, Smith provided one containing incorrect figures.
In aggravation, Smith had four prior records of discipline, and committed multiple acts of wrongdoing in the instant case that significantly harmed his client and, in conjunction with his prior discipline case, constituted a pattern of misconduct. He also demonstrated indifference through his failure to cooperate with the State Bar’s investigation — the State bar Court judge noting that the fact that the present case was Smith’s fifth disciplinary proceeding “is, in itself, a demonstration of indifference.”
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and suffered stress and mental emotional difficulties due to a close family member’s serious medical condition.
Andrew Whitney Taylor
State Bar No. 239869, El Cerrito (January 19, 2022)
Taylor was disbarred by default after he failed to cooperate in his disciplinary proceeding.
The State Bar Court judge determined that all procedural requirements were met in the case, that there was an adequate factual basis for disciplinary misconduct, and that Taylor did not move to have the default entered against him set aside or vacated.
The factual allegations in the notice of disciplinary charges were then deemed admitted, and he was found culpable of three counts of professional misconduct: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to respond to multiple reasonable client inquiries, and failing to cooperate in the State Bar’s investigation of the wrongdoing with which he was charged.
At the time Taylor was disbarred, there were three other disciplinary investigations pending against him.
Andrew Harris Wilson
State Bar No. 63209, Nevada City (January 19, 2022)
Wilson was summarily disbarred after the State Bar received finality of his conviction for conspiring to unlawfully sell unregistered securities (18 U.S.C. Section 371). The conviction is a felony involving moral turpitude per se.
Wilson had executed a plea agreement that contained factual admissions and legal conclusions — including that he had signed letters in his capacity as an attorney that knowingly contained false statements about shares of stock that other co-conspirators owned and intended to sell to third parties. He also acted as escrow agent for the sale of stock shares that he knew were based on false statements.
Joseph Cameron Barbarie
State Bar No. 250837, San Diego (January 19, 2022)
Barbarie was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to being found culpable of professional misconduct in another jurisdiction.
The California State Bar Court judge determined that the disciplinary proceeding in the other jurisdiction provided fundamental constitutional protection, and that the culpability determined there also warranted imposing discipline in this state.
Shortly after Barbarie was admitted to practice in California, he also became licensed in Connecticut, where he operated as a solo practitioner. He registered an IOLTA account there with a bank, but failed to register it again when that bank merged with another. Connecticut Bar Counsel contacted Barbarie after receiving a notice that his account had been overdrawn. Despite repeated requests for financial records, Barbarie failed to produce them. The documentation he subsequently provided to the local grievance panel revealed his IOLTA account had a negative balance even before the overdraft was issued. In addition, Barbarie did not complete his annual registration in Connecticut for two successive years, nor did he complete proof of meeting Minimum Continuing Legal Education requirements for those years.
In aggravation, Barbarie committed multiple acts of misconduct.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation, had practiced law discipline-free for 10 years in California and nine in Connecticut before the instant misconduct, submitted evidence of performing pro bono legal services, and presented declarations from six individuals who have known him for extended periods — all of whom attested to his good character.
Mary Theresa Keating
State Bar No. 116417, Oakland (January 19, 2022)
Keating was suspended for six months and placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to committing three acts professional misconduct in another jurisdiction, violating several provisions of controlling rules in that state.
The California State Bar Court judge determined that, as a matter of law, the culpability of misconduct in the other jurisdiction also warranted imposing discipline in California.
In the underlying matter, Keating represented a client in a Maryland in a range of legal matters — including employment, landlord/tenant, and estate planning. Over a 15-year span, she drafted several wills for him; in each, she was named as personal representative, and later versions of the will also named her as beneficiary of his $100,000 life insurance policy — with instructions to pay the proceeds to pay various debts and expenses, satisfy bequests, and keep any remaining for herself. After the client died, Keating reviewed the most recent will and noticed it had been signed by only one witness; Maryland law requires that two witnesses sign in the presence of the testator for a valid attestation. Keating then signed the will as the second witness, and submitted it for probate. She later admitted the will had not been properly witnessed, and self-reported her misconduct to the Maryland Bar.
In aggravation, Keating committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that substantially harmed beneficiaries of a previous properly attested will that entitled them to take estate assets, and also undermined the court’s ability to accurately administer the estate.
In mitigation, she entered into a prefiling stipulation, had practiced law for approximately 34 years without a record of discipline, submitted evidence of performing law-related volunteer services, and demonstrated remorse by self-reporting her misconduct.
State Bar No. 170482, Calabasas (January 19, 2022)
Koiman was suspended from the practice of law for six months and placed on probation for two years after she stipulated to numerous acts of practicing law while not entitled to do so.
Koiman had earlier been suspended from practicing before several tribunals: the Executive Office for Immigration Review, Board of Immigration Appeals, and the Immigration Court. However, during that suspension period, she practiced law by making appearances and filing forms in at least seven client matters.
In aggravation, Koiman had a prior record of discipline and committed multiple acts of wrongdoing in the instant case.
In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation and suffered from emotional difficulties during the time of the misconduct — currently being rehabilitated through therapy and participation in the Lawyer Assistance Program.
Gregory Henrick Mitts
State Bar No. 71981, Bakersfield (January 19, 2022)
Mitts was suspended from practicing law for one year and placed on probation for two years. He was found culpable of three of the four counts of professional misconduct with which he had been charged — all relating to violations of requirements specified in an earlier disciplinary order: failing to notify clients and opposing counsel of his impending suspensions and deliver papers and property, failing to give notice by registered or certified mail, and failing to file a declaration showing full compliance.
The State Bar Court judge noted at the outset of a lengthy opinion that “Mitts failed, though certainly not for lack of trying, to comply with California Rules of Court, rule 9.20” imposing obligations on disciplined attorneys.
When the California Supreme Court filed the previous order disciplining Mitts, he represented 39 clients assigned to him as a member of an indigent defense panel, and was also working with an out-of-state attorney on a limited contract basis, representing a client in a criminal probation modification case. After the order was issued, Mitts met with the administrator of the indigent defense panel to arrange to transfer and reassign his cases — filing substitution of attorney forms and returning the files in all 39 matters. He also met with the presiding judge, advising her of his impending suspension. In addition, he met with his assigned probation specialist, who informed him of the need to file a Rule 9.20 compliance declaration with the State Bar. He made several attempts, including resending notices by registered or certified mail as opposed to regular U.S. mail and including explanatory declarations of his history to comply with the declarations he filed, though he was stymied in technically complying with the letter of the law, which required him to check boxes on the form that did not accurately describe his circumstances.
The instant opinion noted Mitts’ “earnest and repeated efforts” to cure the deficiencies in the declarations, and underscored that in each of the declarations that the State Bar deemed non-compliant, “though the deficiencies were identified, no clear and detailed direction was given regarding how to cure the deficiencies.” Based on his good faith attempts to comply — and after weighing the mitigating and aggravating factors in the case, the court recommended actual suspension rather than disbarment.
In aggravation, Mitts had two prior records of discipline.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation regarding facts and the admission of documents, presented good character testimony from 11 witnesses taken from a range in the legal and general communities, took prompt objective steps to correct his wrongdoing, and was also allotted limited weight for performing community service — much of which took place before the instant misconduct and could not easily be quantified from the record.
John Carl Padrick
State Bar No. 155123, Davis (January 19, 2022)
Padrick was suspended from the practice of law for six months and placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to pleading nolo contendere to two misdemeanor offenses: embezzlement of less than $400 by a clerk (Cal. Penal Code Sections 503 and 508) — a conviction that involves moral turpitude per se, and shoplifting property worth less than $950 (Cal. Penal Code Section 459.5). He also stipulated to pleading no contest to alcohol-related driving offenses committed in two separate incidents: driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% (Cal. Veh. Code Section 23152(b)) with enhancements for excessive blood alcohol. His misconduct included two probation violations.
In the property-related matters, Padrick was employed at a department store, where he shoplifted $361.56 worth of merchandise — including a label maker, trash bags, and beverage cooler — over a six-month period. He cooperated with investigating officers when confronted, and admitted to the thefts.
In the first driving offense, Padrick hit a curb and drove onto a sidewalk. He admitted to police while stopped at the scene that he was driving while drunk, but refused to provide a breath or blood sample; a test obtained by warrant revealed a blood alcohol concentration of .277%. About a year later, he was again arrested after he got into an altercation with a neighbor over an abandoned exercise bike. After drinking, Padrick had driven about 200 feet across his apartment complex and loaded the bike into his car. Police called to the scene found him in his garage, and a breath sample taken there revealed a blood alcohol concentration of .27%.
In aggravation, Padrick committed multiple acts of misconduct.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for approximately 25 years without a record of discipline, provided six reference letters from a range of individuals who attested to his good character, and rehabilitated himself by entering residential treatment and attending an abstinence-based recovery program.
Padrick was given credit for the time his license was suspended in the interim.
Grenville Thomas Pridham
State Bar No. 120695, Orange (January 19, 2022)
Pridham was suspended for 60 days and placed on probation for two years after successfully completing the State Bar’s Alternative Discipline Program (ADP).
He had earlier stipulated to being culpable of committing numerous acts of professional misconduct related to a number of client matters. His wrongdoing, repeated in most of the cases, included: commingling personal expenses from his client trust account: two counts of intentionally making material misrepresentations to clients — misconduct involving moral turpitude; five counts of failing to render appropriate accountings of advanced fees; and six counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to inform clients of significant developments in their cases, and improperly withdrawing from employment.
In aggravation, Pridham committed multiple acts of misconduct that significantly harmed his clients — several of whom lost their causes of action.
In mitigation, he had practiced law discipline-free for 31 years before committing the underlying misconduct, and submitted evidence from several sources establishing his history and treatment of emotional difficulties.
Based on Pridham’s successful completion of the Lawyer Assistance Program and the ADP, from which he graduated early, the court recommended the lower level of discipline imposed in the instant case.
Nathan Daly Clark
State Bar No. 256472, Albany (January 19, 2022)
Clark was placed on probation for two years after he stipulated to earlier pleading no contest to driving under the influence (Cal. Veh. Code Section 23152(a)), with an admitted prior conviction.
In the current matter, a police officer stopped Clark, who was driving his vehicle the wrong way down a clearly-marked one-way street during the early morning. When stopped, he told the officer he was a lawyer, but refused to answer any questions or submit to any chemical test at the scene.
The California State Bar Court judge determined that the violation in the instant case did not involve moral turpitude, but did involve conduct warranting professional discipline.
In mitigation, Clark entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for more than six years before the first act of misconduct, and received limited mitigating weight for attending outpatient and abstinence-based programs — evidencing a strong desire to maintain sobriety, though rehabilitation was not deemed complete.
— Barbara Kate Repa