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May 2022

| May 10, 2022

Discipline Report

May 10, 2022

May 2022

Recent attorney disbarments, suspensions, probations and public reprovals in California.


Shahriar Adorbehi

State Bar #321593, Glendale (April 9, 2022)

Adorbehi was disbarred by default.

He was charged with committing nine counts of professional misconduct related to two client matters. He appeared at a status conference in the case, but thereafter, did not file a response to the notice of disciplinary charges or the petition for disbarment, nor did he seek to have the default entered against him set aside or vacated.

In the instant proceeding, Adorbehi was found culpable of all counts charged. His wrongdoing included: failing to respond to a client's reasonable inquiries about case status, failing to maintain adequate records of client funds in his possession, failing to promptly release a client's papers and property upon termination of employment, failing to withdraw from representation upon recognition that his mental condition made it unreasonably difficult to continue representation, and two counts of failing to maintain the required balance in his client trust account. He was also culpable of an additional three counts involving moral turpitude: intentionally making a material misrepresentation to a client and two counts of misappropriating client settlement funds.

There were three non-public disciplinary investigations pending against Adorbehi at the time he was disbarred.

David Lester Barg

State Bar #40108, Encino (April 9, 2022)

Barg was disbarred by default after he failed to participate, either in person or through counsel, in his disciplinary proceeding. When contacted by the Office of Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar, Barg confirmed that he had received notice of the charges against him and intended to file a response by the specified deadline. However, he did not do so, nor did he move to have the default ultimately entered in the case set aside or vacated.

The State Bar Court found him culpable of five of the six counts of professional misconduct with which he had been charged: failing to promptly provide a client with a written accounting of funds held, commingling his own funds in his client trust account, and misappropriating more than $125,300 in client funds--an act involving moral turpitude, as well as two counts of failing to maintain client funds in a trust account.

At the time Barg was disbarred, there was an additional disciplinary matter pending against him.

Thomas Scott Geraghty

State Bar #230271, Sacramento (April 13, 2022)

Geraghty was disbarred after he stipulated to committing 11 counts of professional misconduct related to two matters.

One case involved a single charge: failing to obtain informed, written consents before representing a mother and daughter who had potentially conflicting interests in a personal injury action.

In the other case, which involved numerous separate clients, Geraghty was found culpable of failing to promptly disburse settlement funds to clients and failing to promptly withdraw attorney fees from his client trust account, as well as two counts each of failing to render appropriate accountings of client funds, failing to properly maintain funds in his client trust account, failing to maintain the required balance in his client trust account, and misappropriating client funds--misconduct involving moral turpitude.

Geraghty received settlement funds on behalf of 25 separate clients--depositing the funds into his client trust account, but failing to disburse the funds to the clients entitled to them. He failed to provide appropriate accountings to five of those clients, and failed to promptly withdraw attorney fees from his client trust account on seven occasions. In total, he misappropriated more than $243,272 in client funds by either disbursing funds to clients that exceeded the amounts received for them or disbursing funds to clients without having received any funds on their behalf--misconduct involving moral turpitude.

In aggravation, Geraghty committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his clients and undermined confidence in the legal profession, and was unable to explain the "many discrepancies" in his client trust account records.

In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation and had practiced law for approximately 11 years without a record of discipline.

In recommending disbarment, the State Bar Court judge underscored: "In exchange for their privileged positions, lawyers are rightly expected to exercise extraordinary care and fidelity in dealing with money and property belonging to their clients. Thus, taking a client's money is one of the most serious breached of professional trust that a lawyer can commit."

Richard James Schnieders

State Bar #156649, Carlsbad (April 13, 2022)

Schnieders was disbarred by default after he failed to respond to the notice of disciplinary charges filed against him, and to participate in any way in the disciplinary proceeding charging him with six counts of professional misconduct.

The State Bar Court verified that he had been properly served and did not move to have the default order eventually entered against him set aside or vacated. As a result, the factual allegations in the charges were deemed admitted, and Schneiders was found culpable of all counts.

His wrongdoing included: failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, failing to release a client's papers and property, improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to render accounts of client funds, and two counts of failing to cooperate in the investigations related to the matter.

Schnieders had one prior record of discipline when he was disbarred in the present case.

Alexander Wailes Wallace

State Bar #78479, Lakewood (April 9, 2022)

Wallace was disbarred after a contested disciplinary proceeding in which he was found culpable of violating conditions imposed in an earlier probation order.

Specifically, he failed to file a declaration indicating he had complied with the requirement to review the Rules of Professional Conduct and failed to timely submit three quarterly written reports.

In aggravation, Wallace had two prior records of discipline, demonstrated indifference to the consequences of his misconduct, and was allotted limited aggravating weight for committing multiple acts of noncompliance related to obligations stemming from a single probation matter.

In mitigation, he was given limited weight for character reference letters submitted by four individuals who were not familiar with the specific misconduct at issue and for evidence of performing pro bono and community service work that had also been credited in previous disciplinary proceedings.


Carl Michael Cambridge

State Bar #86047, Los Angeles (April 13, 2022)

Cambridge was suspended from the practice of law for two years and placed on probation for three years after a contested proceeding in which he was found culpable of a single count of professional misconduct: failing to comply with conditions attached to a previous disciplinary probation.

In that earlier discipline order, Cambridge had been suspended from practicing law for one year and placed on probation for five years--with several conditions imposed. While he complied with several of the conditions, he failed to fulfill two of them. Specifically, he failed to timely contact the Office of Probation for an initial meeting--doing so six days after the deadline had passed. He also had requested and was granted extensions to pay restitution installments, but ultimately failed to make several of the payments as required.

In aggravation, Cambridge committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and had been disciplined four times previously for professional misconduct.

In mitigation, he suffered extreme financial difficulties, exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic by losing his home and work.

Gary Wayne Ervin

State Bar #91333, Fair Oaks (April 9, 2022)

Ervin was suspended for one year and placed on probation for three years following his criminal conviction for felony assault (Cal. Penal Code § 245(a)(1)).

The case was referred to the State Bar's Hearing Department to determine whether the facts and circumstances surrounding the conviction involved moral turpitude.

The incident leading to the conviction stemmed from an argument that occurred after Ervin drove his truck into a senior citizen mobile home park and attempted to claim a chandelier that had been discarded in a pile for a bulk waste pick-up. A maintenance worker in a golf cart on the site confronted Ervin and advised him he was on private property. The two argued and pushed one another. Hearing the disturbance, a resident of the mobile home park took out his cell phone to call the police and to get a photo of Ervin's truck. Ervin got into his truck and attempted to drive away, but returned to the location of the argument after he found he had turned onto a dead-end road.

A second maintenance worker then appeared and parked his golf cart behind the first one--partially blocking Ervin's exit onto the main road. Ervin then drove his truck between the carts and the pile of items slated to be recycled. Two of the men standing nearby leaped out of the way. The third testified he opted to leap on the hood of the truck rather than face the prospect of being run over; he then fell to the ground, sustaining abrasions, contusions, and a fractured foot. After driving home, Ervin inspected his truck, then phoned the sheriff and 911, and reported to the local police station.

In the instant case, Ervin filed a response to the hearing on conviction--admitting the jury's guilty verdict, but denying some of the underlying facts. He defended, as he had at his criminal trial, that he had acted in self-defense after being "terrorized" by the other three men at the scene--a claim rejected in both forums.

The State Bar Court determined Ervin had committed "disciplinable misconduct" that "approached moral turpitude," but fell short of it.

In aggravation, Ervin demonstrated indifference and a lack of insight regarding his criminal conduct.

In mitigation, he had practiced law for approximately 17 years before the instant misconduct.

Steele Lanphier

State Bar #146163, Sacramento (March 25, 2022)

Lanphier was suspended from practicing law for six months and placed on probation for two years after he appealed the hearing judge's recommendation of that same discipline.

He was found culpable of five counts of professional misconduct related to two client matters: failing to return unearned advanced fees, failing to render an accounting of client funds, failing to notify the State Bar of hiring a suspended attorney, and two counts of failing to perform legal services with competence.

In one case, a client hired Lanphier's firm to represent him in removal proceedings before the Immigration Court--identifying one of Lanphier's associates as lead counsel, and paying a total of $5,600 in fees. The associate appeared at an asylum application hearing, at which the presiding judge noted he had not properly consulted with the client or reviewed the specific charges in the case--and ordered him to file a written pleading in response, while also setting a date to file the application. The associate did not file either the pleading or application. He did file a late asylum application that was rejected for using an outdated form; a second filing was rejected because the associate did not properly sign it. Shortly after that, the associate stopped working for Lanphier's firm.

Lanphier subsequently attempted to file an asylum application and notice of appearance for the client--both rejected, because the associate was listed as attorney of record; Lanphier failed to file the required forms for substitution of counsel. At a subsequent hearing, an attorney present in the Immigration Court to act as counsel for unrepresented parties became the client's attorney of record.

The client terminated Lanphier's firm's services and requested a refund of the money paid and was informed the firm would prepare an accounting, but received neither an accounting nor a refund.

The State Bar Court found that Lanphier failed to take reasonable steps to ensure the associate's competent performance--especially after he knew or should have known of the repeated failures to file the asylum application in the case and to adhere to office policies. It also noted that Lanphier unsuccessfully attempted to substitute into the case five times, and did not timely submit an asylum application or attend an Immigration Court hearing on the client's behalf.

In the other client matter, Lanphier's firm took over a case--with the associate again named as lead counsel in place of an attorney who had been suspended. The associate submitted the client's asylum request to the wrong court, however, and the immigration judge denied the request for a telephonic appearance due to the associate's "previous poor communication" with the client. After the associate left the firm, a new and inexperienced associate at Lanphier's firm took over the case and filed an untimely motion to recuse the judge as biased against counsel, but failed to appear at the recusal motion hearing. Lanphier appeared instead, where the judge admonished him the issues in the case were "attributed to the low quality of legal services" the client was being provided. The client eventually terminated services from Lanphier's firm; new counsel discovered the asylum application had been prepared but never filed, severely prejudicing the client.

In aggravation, Lanphier had a prior record of discipline, committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed both highly vulnerable clients and the administration of justice, and demonstrated indifference toward rectifying the consequences of his misconduct.

In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation as to facts and culpability to a single and easily provable count and submitted testimony from two witnesses and references from five other individuals attesting to his good character.

George Vincent Vargas

State Bar #234005, Laguna Hills (April 13, 2022)

Vargas was suspended for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after the State Bar Court found clear and convincing evidence of culpability in two of the six counts of professional misconduct with which he was charged--both of them related to failing to cooperate in disciplinary investigations.

The misconduct alleged related to two client matters.

In one of them, Vargas was hired to represent a client in a DUI case, accepting $5,000 labelled a "true retainer," with an agreement that the client would be billed $450 per hour for any court appearances. The court docket confirms Vargas made 11 appearances, as well as assisting the client in enrolling in a sobriety program to avoid jail time. At one point, Vargas was enrolled as inactive due to another matter--and advised the client to appear alone at a court hearing. The client subsequently requested a full refund of the $5,000 advanced fee and filed a complaint with the State Bar. Vargas did not respond to two letters and three email messages from State Bar investigators related to his alleged misconduct.

In the other matter, Vargas again represented a client in a DUI cases, accepting $1,500. The case was scheduled for a court hearing--again while Vargas was enrolled as inactive--and he arranged for another attorney to appear in his stead. The client maintained that Vargas did not inform him of his inactive status prior to the court date, demanded a refund of fees paid, and filed a complaint with the State Bar. Vargas failed to respond to three letters posted and emailed by State Bar investigators.

In aggravation, Vargas had been disciplined for professional misconduct twice before.

In an unrelated disciplinary matter, Vargas was also suspended from the practice of law pending proof of passage the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam as mandated.


Mary Lynne Calkins

State Bar #212171, Arlington, Virginia (April 13, 2022)

Calkins was placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to pleading guilty to committing an offense in Virginia: a charge reduced to petit larceny (Va. Code § 18.2-96). The offense involved moral turpitude.

In the underlying matter, Calkins entered a clothing store with a large carry-on bag and placed several items of clothing inside it, then left the store without paying for them. Police officers summoned by a store employee found the items after Calkins consented to a search of her bag. She was arrested and charged, and placed on informal probation; she completed the mandated 40 hours of community service and paid $546 in criminal restitution.

In aggravation, the court allotted weight for the uncharged misconduct of failing to report the conviction as required (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 6068(o)(5)).

In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law in California discipline-free for more than nine years, and submitted satisfactory evidence of volunteering with two organizations that provided community legal services.

-- Barbara Kate Repa


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