State Bar #180216, Irvine (April 9, 2023)
Alemansour was disbarred after a contested proceeding involving three consolidated cases: an original disciplinary proceeding and two conviction referral matters.
In the original disciplinary proceeding, Alemansour was found culpable of failing to comply with probation conditions imposed earlier by failing to submit two quarterly written reports and one final report by their due dates.
As background for the conviction referral matters, Alemansour and her former spouse were involved in a contentious custody dispute over their minor son. The court had granted both legal and physical custody of the boy to the former spouse, and had issued a series of restraining orders limiting Alemansour's visitation.
She had earlier entered a nolo contendere plea to child abduction (Cal. Penal Code §278.59(a)), assault (Cal. Penal Code §240), battery (Cal. Penal Code §242), and contempt of court for violating a protective order (Cal. Penal Code §166(c)(1)). The criminal convictions were part of her prior record for professional discipline.
Despite the convictions and discipline, however, Alemansour committed additional violations of the stay-away orders in place; as a result, six additional restraining orders and two criminal protective orders were issued against her.
Despite the existence of a restraining order, Alemansour went to the child's school campus, inquiring about him. She was then charged and convicted of a misdemeanor violation of violating a restraining order (Cal. Penal Code §273.6(a)) and ordered to comply with a criminal protective order specifying that she stay 100 yards away from her former spouse, her son, their residence, and the son's school. She violated this order numerous times, however--appearing at the boy's school and residence. She pled nolo contendere and was convicted of six counts of violating the protective order (Cal. Penal Code §166(c)(1)), though there were additional documented occurrences of violations.
Despite the two criminal convictions and the restraining order and protective order in effect, Alemansour persisted in her illegal pursuit of the boy.
The State Bar Court determined that the facts and circumstances surrounding the convictions involved did not rise to the level of moral turpitude, but did warrant discipline. It noted that Alemansour's "continual and persistent defiance of court orders exhibits a dereliction of and disdain for her legal and ethical duties and to the laws she has sworn to uphold."
In aggravation, Alemansour had a prior record of discipline, which the court underscored "echoes the same unlawful conduct displayed in this current proceeding." She was also given aggravating weight for committing multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed her former spouse and young and vulnerable son--both of whom suffered extreme emotional distress due to her repeated actions, and demonstrated an indifference toward acknowledging her misconduct and rectifying its consequences.
Janice Dianne Dudensing
State Bar #279561, Sacramento (April 9, 2023)
Dudensing was disbarred after she stipulated to committing numerous acts of professional misconduct related to seven separate client matters.
Her wrongdoing included: attempting to mislead a judge, aiding a disbarred attorney to transact business on behalf of a client, employing a disbarred attorney to handle client funds, failing to deposit client funds in a trust account, failing to act with reasonable diligence in representing her client, and failing to maintain the requisite balance in her client trust account; two counts each of failing to report judicial sanctions imposed to the State Bar, failing to inform clients of significant case developments, and commingling personal and client funds in her trust account; three counts of failing to perform legal services with competence; and 17 counts of violating court orders.
Five additional counts involved moral turpitude: two counts of misappropriating client funds and three of making significant intentional misrepresentations to her clients and the court.
In a couple of the cases at issue, Dudensing mishandled funds received as settlements for personal injury clients--failing to hold the money in trust commingling it with her own funds, and misappropriating it in two instances. In three matters, she repeatedly failed to make personal appearances despite being ordered by the court to do so.
And in the case involving the bulk of the misconduct charges, Dudensing was hired to file a lawsuit on behalf of a client whose minor son had allegedly been punched by his teacher. She filed untimely responses to discovery requests, failed to respond at all to opposing counsel's motions to compel further responses, and also failed to appear for two case management conferences--misconduct for which she was sanctioned. She later informed the court in writing that she had asked defense counsel to step in for her at a proceeding related to the failure to pay sanctions--a statement she knew to be false. She did not inform her client of the failures to appear, the sanctions order, or the contempt hearing.
In aggravation, Dudensing committed multiple acts of wrongdoing--some of which constituted a pattern of misconduct, and significantly harmed both her clients and the administration of justice.
In mitigation, she entered into a pretrial stipulation.
Micah David Fargey
State Bar #240458, Santa Barbara (April 21, 2023)
Fargey was disbarred by default after he failed to respond to the notice of disciplinary charges against him. The misconduct alleged related to a single client matter.
The State Bar Court determined there was proper service of the notice of charges, that reasonable diligence was used to notify Fargey of the disciplinary proceedings, that the default order was properly entered, and that there was a factual basis for imposing discipline.
Fargey was found culpable of all seven counts charged: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries, improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to release the client's papers and property after being requested to do so, failing to refund unearned advanced fees, failing to cooperate in the State Bar's investigation of the charges, and failing to update his official State Bar records address within 30 days of moving as required.
At the time Fargey was disbarred, there were three additional disciplinary investigations pending against him.
Kenneth Neil Hamilton
State Bar #222586, Oceanside (April 9, 2023)
Hamilton was disbarred. He had been charged with 27 counts of professional misconduct related to three client matters. He filed responses to the two notices of disciplinary charges against him, but failed to appear at the trial at which they were consolidated. He did not respond to the petition for disbarment, nor did he move to have the default entered against him set aside or vacated.
Hamilton was found culpable of al counts charged. His wrongdoing included: failing to refund unearned advanced fees, failing to inform a client of significant case developments, failing to report judicial sanctions that had been imposed, failing to obey a court order, and failing to update his attorney records address with the State Bar; two counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence, improperly withdrawing from representation, and failing to respond to reasonable client inquiries; three counts each of failing to deposit advanced fees in a client trust account, failing to render accounts of client funds, and sharing legal fees with a non-lawyer; and four counts of failing to cooperate in the State Bar's investigation of the wrongdoing alleged.
Three additional counts involved moral turpitude: making a material misrepresentation to his client, as well as two counts of misappropriating advanced fees.
At the time he was disbarred, there was one additional disciplinary investigation pending against Hamilton.
David L. Kagel
State Bar #58961, Los Angeles (April 21, 2023)
Kagel was disbarred after he failed to respond to the notice of disciplinary charges with which he was served and the subsequent motions for entry of his default in the matter. The State Bar Court determined he had actual notice of the charges based on an earlier phone call he made to the Office of Chief Trial Counsel acknowledging the charges made against him.
He was found culpable of all seven counts, which stemmed from a single client matter: failing to deposit client funds in a trust account, failing to maintain the funds in the account, breaching the fiduciary duty owed to his client, failing to promptly distribute entrusted funds as requested, and failing to promptly account for entrusted funds. Two additional counts involved moral turpitude: making a material misrepresentation to the client and intentionally misappropriating $25,000 that the client was entitled to receive.
Kagel had two prior records of discipline, and at the time he was disbarred there were three additional disciplinary investigations pending against him.
Paul D. Stockler
State Bar #171401, Anchorage, Alaska (April 14, 2023)
Stockler was disbarred by default after he failed to file a response to the notice of disciplinary charges filed against him, and a default was entered in the case.
The State Bar Court determined that all of the procedural rules, including adequate notice, had been satisfied, and that Stockler did not move to have the default set aside or vacated.
He was found culpable of failing to obey a court order requiring a declaration of compliance setting out duties of disciplined attorneys as required (Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 9.20).
Stockler had one prior record of discipline at the time he was disbarred.
State Bar #280208, Chino Hills (April 21, 2023)
Tu was disbarred after he stipulated to committing 12 acts of professional misconduct--all of them related to a single matter.
He was culpable of: failing to provide legal services with competence, failing to disclose a personal interest in the subject matter of the representation in writing, failing to inform the client of both potential conflicts and foreseeable adverse consequences created by joint representation, failing to disclose to the client in writing that he had no professional malpractice insurance, and failing to report a judgment entered to the State Bar, as well as three counts of failing to enter into a fair and reasonable business transaction with the client.
Three additional counts involved moral turpitude: making false and misleading statements to his client and her husband, engaging in a scheme to defraud others through multiple nosiness transactions, and breaching his fiduciary duty to his client through self-dealing and fraudulent conduct.
In the matter at issue, Tu represented his wife and two other women entering numerous agreements to purchase gas stations in California and Washington. In reality, he lacked the legal expertise to provide such advice and services, and he did not associate with another attorney to help with the matters.
He gave false and damaging advice to one client, who was young, not a U.S. citizen, and unfamiliar with American business practices.
In one case, he fraudulently induced her to transfer $350,000 to a company through a transfer outside of escrow, then induced her to transfer control of the company to his wife for $1,000--ostensibly so that she could negotiate with the landlord and related company on the client's behalf. The transfer was not fair or reasonable for the client, and in addition, Tu's wife benefitted by receiving a $10,000 "finder's fee," unbeknownst to the client.
Tu also advised the client to pay more than $2 million to a company involved in purchasing gas stations in Washington in which Tu had a financial interest, and nearly $1.2 million more to another company in which he held an interest. In total, the client transferred more than $3.6 million to various entities and individuals to purchase gas stations.
Tu did not disclose his interest in any of the financial transactions, nor did he inform the client of any potential or actual conflict of interest in the matters.
The client eventually filed a complaint in superior court against Tu, his wife, and several others. The court ultimately entered against Tu and the others for $3.6 million in damages and $1.5 million in prejudgment interest. Additional punitive damages were also assessed--including $100,000 against Tu and $200,000 against his wife.
The judgment against Tu, which he failed to report to the State Bar as required, was affirmed on appeal.
In aggravation, Tu committed multiple acts of misconduct and engaged in overreaching that significantly harmed the administration of justice and his client, who was deemed vulnerable and subject to his undue influence and pressure.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation and provided letters from 14 individuals taken from the legal and general communities--all of whom vouched for his good character.
Steve Sunsoo Chang
State Bar #205082, Los Angeles (April 21, 2023)
Chang was suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to failing to comply with two of the conditions imposed in an earlier disciplinary probation order.
Specifically, he failed to timely submit a final written report to the Office of Probation; he filed that report nearly four months after the deadline had passed, after the State Bar had initiated an investigation. In addition, he failed to submit proof of completing the State Bar Ethics School as mandated.
In aggravation, Chang committed multiple acts of wrongdoing and had a prior record of discipline.
In mitigation, he entered into a pretrial stipulation.
Erick G. Garcia Hernandez
State Bar #278603, Glendale (April 21, 2023)
Hernandez was suspended from the practice of law for two years and placed on probation for three years after he stipulated to committing 21 acts of professional misconduct related to four client matters.
He was culpable of: two counts each of failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to keep a client reasonably informed of significant case developments, failing to render an appropriate accounting of client funds, failing to refund unearned advanced fees, and failing to return client files after being requested to do so; and three counts of failing to act with reasonable diligence in representing his clients. Additional counts included moral turpitude: one count of misappropriating client funds for his own use, and seven counts of making material misrepresentations to his clients and State Bar investigators.
In one client case, Hernandez was hired by a widow to help obtain title to property her husband had owned; their initial fee agreement provided for a fixed fee of $1,700. After the probate court dismissed the spousal property petition, the client executed a second fee agreement, specifically to submit a spousal property petition, for the fee of $500. A third fee agreement--for an additional $1,500--expanded Hernandez's representation to a "full probate matter" in the estate. However, Hernandez failed to file a petition for probate--though he made numerous false assurances to the client and her daughters that the case was progressing. The client eventually hired a new attorney to handle the matter, and when State Bar investigators queried Hernandez as to why he never filed a petition for probate, he gave several false excuses.
In another case, Hernandez represented a client with a medical malpractice claim, though he took no action to resolve the matter, and the statute of limitations lapsed nearly 16 months later. Despite that reality, Hernandez kept talking and meeting with the client for nearly seven more years--assuring her that the matter was being resolved, and once falsely stating that the matter had been settled, and the settlement check had been lost in the mail.
Two additional cases involved immigration clients Hernandez undertook to represent, but then failed to represent diligently--in one instance mispresenting that he had scheduled an interview for the client, then misappropriating the interview costs paid for his own use.
In aggravation, Hernandez committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed his clients--one of whom was highly vulnerable while facing deportation, and has failed to make restitution by not returning unearned advanced fees and costs to clients.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation.
Gerald Vernon Hollingsworth, Jr.
State Bar #145081, San Marino (April 21, 2023)
Hollingsworth was suspended for 90 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to committing one count of professional misconduct: seeking to mislead a judge through false statements and falsified documents.
In the underlying matter, Hollingsworth was hired to help a client with a property purchase dispute; the fee agreement provided for an hourly billing rate of $250. A three-week trial was held on a single remaining charge of breach of contract, with the jury returning a special verdict finding that the client had suffered $1.62 million in economic damages, as well as $1.2 million on the cause of action for breach of contract; it found against the client on an additional claim against the escrow company and its agent. There was also a bifurcated proceeding in which the court found that the parties were not alter egos as alleged.
After billing and collecting fees at the agreed $250/hour rate, Hollingsworth filed a motion for attorney fees misstating the total amount due, attaching a declaration erroneously stating that his billing rate was $350 per hour--submitting altered invoices to the court to support his false claim. In an appeal in the matter, he continued to perpetuate the misrepresentations by designating the attorney fees motion, with the fabricated invoices attached, as part of the record.
In aggravation, Hollingsworth committed multiple acts of wrongdoing that significantly harmed the administration of justice.
In mitigation, he entered into a prefiling stipulation, had practiced law for more than 31 years without a record of discipline, and submitted evidence of performing community service.
Daniel Matthew Maffeo
State Bar #259359, Broomfield, Colorado (April 21, 2023)
Maffeo was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days and placed on probation for one year after he stipulated to earlier pleading guilty to two offenses committed in Colorado: knowingly or recklessly causing child abuse (Colo. Rev. Stat. 18-6-401(1), (7)(b)(I))--a misdemeanor, and menacing (Colo. Rev. Stat. 18-3-206(1)(a)(b))--a felony.
In the underlying incident, Maffeo was visiting his ex-wife at her home, when the two began arguing and scuffling over both of their cell phones while at dinner with her three children. When she left the room, he followed her, threatened to kill her, choked her until she lost consciousness, and then left. Investigating deputies from the sheriff's office who were summoned to the scene instructed the police to arrest Maffeo.
The State Bar's Review Department classified both convictions as misdemeanors, and the Hearing Department found that the facts and circumstances surrounding the offenses involved moral turpitude.
In mitigation, Maffeo entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law for 12 years discipline-free, presented evidence from medical personnel that his severe depression and irregular mood swings--now being treated--contributed to his misconduct, and submitted character reference letters from 14 individuals taken from a range in the legal and general communities.
Marissa Joy McDonald
State Bar #303539, Orange (April 14, 2023)
McDonald was suspended from practicing law for 60 days and placed on probation for one year after she stipulated to earlier pleading guilty to one count of committing a hit and run accident that caused property damages (Cal. Veh. Code § 20002(a)).
The incident occurred when McDonald drove a rental car into several parked cars, then abandoned the vehicle about 100 yards from the scene--and falsely reported to police that it had been stolen, fabricating the story that the car key had been taken by "several creepy looking guys."
The State Bar Court determined that the facts and circumstances surrounding the violation, a misdemeanor, involved moral turpitude.
In mitigation, McDonald entered into a pretrial stipulation and presented evidence of performing community service with several organizations.
Robert Kenneth Perun
State Bar #175281, San Francisco (April 21, 2023)
Perun was suspended for three years and placed on probation for three years after the court found by clear and convincing evidence that he had failed to comply with several conditions attached to an earlier disciplinary order.
Specifically, he failed to timely schedule and participate in an initial meeting with the Office of Probation, failed to timely submit a Review Declaration as mandated, failed to timely submit four quarterly written reports, and failed to timely submit proof of completing the State Bar Ethics School.
Perun contacted the Office of Probation more than a year after he was informed both by U.S. mail and email that he was not incompliance with several probation terms. He asserted by email reply that he had, in fact, complied with the terms--and attached the overdue quarterly reports (noncompliant in various ways) and as well as a declaration attesting he had reviewed the Rules of Professional Conduct and Business & Professions Code--though he cited code sections other than those he was obligated to review.
The probation case specialist testified she had not received those documents earlier, nor had she spoken with him by phone or met with him in person.
In its decision recommending a heavy suspension period, the State Bar Court rejected Perun's testimony as "incredible," "conclusory," and "self-serving."
In aggravation, Perun had a prior record of discipline, demonstrated indifference to the seriousness of his misconduct, and committed multiple acts of wrongdoing--albeit flowing from a single discipline order.
Cyrus Mark Sanai
State Bar #150387, Beverly Hills (April 14, 2023)
Sanai was suspended from practicing law for 60 days and place on probation for one year after a contested disciplinary proceeding in which he was originally charged with nine counts of professional misconduct. Eight of the counts were dismissed--two for lack of proof and six eventually barred by the limitations period. He was then found culpable of a single count: encouraging an action from a corrupt motive of passion or interest.
The State Bar Court noted that the case, "thoroughly contested since its inception" in 2014, and "exhaustively litigated at each juncture," had a "complex and extensive" procedural history.
The opinion in the present matter included a recap of the factual and procedural background of the underlying civil action involved in the first five years of litigation. Sanai's landlord had notified him of an impending rent increase by mail and a post on his apartment door. The notice contained a typo, implying the monthly rent of $2,165 would actually be reduced to $1,410. Sanai signified he accepted the new rental rate and enclosed a check in the reduced amount. Within a day, the owner's representative advised Sanai of the typo and the new rate that was to take effect.
Sanai, however, insisted the lower rate constituted a binding offer and paid that amount for four months, until he moved out of the apartment. When he did, the owner demanded $2,781 in back rent. When Sanai refused, the owner, through counsel, reported the unpaid rent claim to consumer credit reporting agencies; Sanai was subsequently denied a credit card and increased line of credit due to the disputed debt. He then sued the credit reporting agency, alleging slander and libel, among other grounds--and seeking more than $5 million in damages.
Attorney fees and costs in the matter were also litigated. Sanai sought $4,922.95 in costs through a "memorandum on costs," which was paid. He then filed a "memorandum of costs after judgment" seeking $137,800 in attorney fees for his work to enforce the costs award--serving only the corporations involved, but not their counsel. When counsel learned of it, he gave notice of the intention to strike the memorandum. Though there was no underlying judgment in the matter, Sanai obtained a document from the courtroom clerk, and wrote in the amount and his name as the intended recipient by hand. The superior court ultimately struck the memorandum of costs, but Sanai secured an abstract of the judgment from the clerk and recorded it--creating an impediment to the defendants, who were then prevented from closing various business transactions due to the purportedly unsatisfied judgment.
The opinion in the instant case contains excerpts from a hearing finding that Sanai had wrongfully recorded the abstract of judgment. Sanai contended that he took the actions he did "to demonstrate another point about how post-judgment things work," and to "forward his litigation goals."
An exasperated judge, however, recalled and quashed the abstract of judgment. He intoned that Sanai's actions constituted "pure malice," that his position was "so ridiculous that it is not propounded in good faith," "redefines conventional notions of bad faith" and is "inexplicable to me other than game playing."
In aggravation, Sanai significantly harmed the administration of justice and the defendants through his misconduct, and demonstrated a lack of insight as to the wrongfulness of his actions and his indifference to the consequences.
In mitigation, he was afforded nominal weight for having practiced law for nearly 16 years without a record of discipline, as the court found the misconduct at issue was "highly likely to recur."
State Bar #249713, Monterey Park (April 21, 2023)
Yang was suspended from the practice of law for 30 days and placed on probation for one year. She had earlier been suspended for 30 days by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for professional misconduct in that jurisdiction, and the Office of Chief Trial Counsel initiated a reciprocal proceeding in the State Bar Court.
Yang has been a registered patent attorney practicing before the USPTO since 2007. She entered into an agreement with a Chinese company to act as its attorney of record on trademark applications, in keeping with a USPTO rule requiring trademark applicants domiciled outside the U.S. to be represented by a member in good standing within this country. Their agreement provided that Yang would receive $1,500 per month for the 200 to 300 applications the company intended to file. After several months, however, the company began filing many more applications--as many as 7,000 in a four-month period--without Yang's consent, electronically signing her name in contravention of procedural requirements. Though Yang was listed as attorney of record, she did not discuss, prepare, or review the applications with company representatives.
After the USPTO's discipline authorities filed a complaint against Yang based on the filings, she entered a settlement agreement stipulating to her culpability. The instant proceeding was limited to whether the culpability determined in the USPTO proceeding warranted discipline in California, the degree of any discipline to be imposed, and whether the USPTO proceeding lacked fundamental constitutional protections.
The State Bar Court determined that the misconduct previously adjudicated also violated several rules of professional misconduct. Specifically, it found that Yang had failed to perform legal services with competence, failed to act with reasonable diligence when representing a client, failed to inform her client of significant developments, failed to act with candor to a tribunal, failed to supervise nonlawyers with whom she was affiliated, knowingly assisted in the unauthorized practice of law, and engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
It noted that she had stipulated to culpability and did not assert that the USPTO proceeding lacked fundamental constitutional protections.
In aggravation, Yang committed multiple acts of wrongdoing.
In mitigation, she had practiced law discipline-free for approximately 12 years, demonstrated some candor by stipulating to easily provable facts and conclusions of law, presented declarations from 27 individuals attesting to her good character, demonstrated spontaneous remorse for her wrongdoing, and submitted evidence of performing pro bono and community service.
John Christopher Burton
State Bar #86029, Pasadena (April 21, 2023)
Burton was put on probation for one year after he stipulated to two prior dui-related convictions.
In the earlier one, he pled nolo contendere to the misdemeanor of driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more (Cal. Veh. Code § 23152(b)). The incident reports were purged and the conviction was ultimately dismissed pursuant to statutory provisions (Cal. Penal Code § 1203.4) after Burton successfully completed the terms of his probation.
In the second incident, which occurred nearly 11 years later, Burton crashed his car into a rock wall on residential property, then called his wife at their nearby residence to come to the scene to help get their damaged car towed. He told his wife to tell investigating highway patrol officers that she was the one who had been driving. She did so. However, the officers at the scene noticed Burton's unsteady gait and smelled alcohol on him--though he repeatedly denied having been the driver of the crashed car. A witness verified that Burton had been alone at the crash scene, and that his wife arrived later in a different car. A blood sample indicated his blood alcohol content was .15%.
The State Bar Court determined that the facts and circumstances surrounding the conviction involved moral turpitude.
In mitigation, Burton entered into a pretrial stipulation, had practiced law discipline-free for nearly 37 years at the time of his second arrest, and provided letters from eight individuals taken from the legal and general communities--all of whom vouched for his good character. He was also allotted mitigating weight for exhibiting remorse by refraining from drinking alcohol and enrolling in a treatment program after his second conviction--and for demonstrating his rehabilitation by continuing to abstain from drinking alcohol and participating in weekly recovery meeting--Barbara Kate Repa