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Current California State Bar Disbarments as of May 2011

Current California State Bar Disbarments as of May 2011

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Published by Judgebusters
List of current attorneys disbarred State of California
List of current attorneys disbarred State of California

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Published by: Judgebusters on May 22, 2011
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CURRENT CALIFORNIA STATE BAR DISBARMENTS AS OF MAY 2011DISBARMENTS
1.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 8.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
MARYELLEN LAUMBACH [#141093], 53, of Sacramento
was disbarred Aug. 21, 2010, and was ordered to make restitutionand comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Laumbach committed nine acts of misconduct in three matters, includingmisappropriating nearly $60,000 from two clients, and failures to maintain client funds in trust, pay out client funds promptly,
release client files, perform legal services competently or cooperate with the bar’
s investigation, and she improperly withdrew fromrepresentation.
In a divorce matter in which she represented the husband, Laumbach received a check for $100,020 from the sale of her client’
shome and made authorized distributions of $34,403. However, she then transferred the $68,373.22 balance into her client trustaccount and spent about $12,000 for her personal use. She later gave her client everything he was owed. However, shemisappropriated $29,007. She eventually paid the wife $32,329.29, representing what she was owed from the sale of the house,
using another client’s funds.
 
In a second matter, a client hired Laumbach to handle distribution of his mother’s estate. She sued a construction company th
at hadnot repaid a loan from the mother; the lawsuit settled when the construction company agreed to repay the money and gaveLaumbach a check for $30,000. The son was entitled to the full amount. Instead, Laumbach used the money to pay the wife in thedivorce case described above. A new attorney unsuccessfully demanded that Laumbach pay her client the $30,000.In the third matter, a husband and wife hired Laumbach to represent them regarding a fraudulent real estate transaction. She filed alawsuit and represented the couple for two years, but when the court denied a motion to compel discovery due to shortcomings in
Laumbach’s motion, she didn’t refile or notify her clients and stopped working on the case.
 Laumbach was disciplined in 2003 for misconduct in two client matters, including failing to perform legal services competently,
communicate and or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.
 
LEWIS R. WIENER [#41186], 69, of Corte Madera
was disbarred Aug. 21, 2010, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. Wiener failed to comply with a rule 9.20 requirement that was part of a 2008 probation revocation order. He filed a declarationstating that he notified his clients, opposing counsel and other interested parties of his suspension after the deadline. He alsosubmitted two quarterly probation reports late. Wiener has a record of five prior disciplines, beginning with a 1990 private reproval. According to a bar investigator, he held himself 
out to be an attorney in 2009 although he was suspended. In mitigation, Wiener’s wife wa
s in the hospital and his mother was very sick at the time that the Office of Probation filed a motion to revoke probation that was later granted by the State Bar Court. Wienerhimself was sick and was not able to file a quarterly probation report.In reco
mmending his disbarment, State Bar Court Judge Lucy Armendariz said Wiener ―completely lacks credibility whenever hetestified about not receiving correspondence from the State Bar.‖ Failure to comply with rule 9.20 is grounds for disbarment.
 
JAMES ALAN WALKER [#152261], 51, of El Dorado Hills
was disbarred Aug. 21, 2010, and was ordered to comply with rule9.20 of the California Rules of Court. Walker stipulated to three acts of misconduct involving 70 or more clients to whom he offered Medi-Cal and estate planningservices. He declared bankruptcy, listing his clients, who had paid an advance fee, as creditors. He stopped doing any legal work for
them because he was unable to handle his large volume of practice and couldn’t hire additional staff.
  Walker owes some clients unearned fees but says he did some work for some clients. The stipulation indicates the bar expects toreceive additional complaints about Walker.He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently or refund unearned fees, an
d by habitually disregarding his clients’
interests, he committed acts of moral turpitude.
 
CRAIG KENNETH MARTIN [#74750], 62, of San Francisco
was disbarred Aug. 21, 2010, and was ordered to comply withrule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.The State Bar Court found that Martin committed six acts of misconduct, including failing to perform legal services withcompetence, respond to client inquiries, inform his client of significant developments, account for client funds and refund unearnedfees, and he improperly withdrew from representation. Although he faced charges in a second matter, the bar court dismissed it.
Martin was hired to attempt to resolve issues with an attorney who had been handling his client’s late husband’s estate. He t
ook a$5,000 advance fee and filed a complaint that alleged negligence. However, he did not serve the defendants by the requireddeadline, obtain an answer or file an acceptable default against the defendants, appear at repeated hearings or file a Second Amended Complaint. The case was dismissed with prejudice, but Martin did not inform his client for four months.
He also didn’t send the client a monthly accounting of her fee or refund the unearned portion of the fee when the case was
dismissed. He stipulated that he wit
hdrew from representation without protecting his client’s interests.
 In the second matter, he sued two people for slander. The bar alleged that by not filing an arbitration brief, not appearing atarbitration and summary judgment hearings or at oral argument before the Court of Appeal, Martin maintained an unjust action.Bar court Judge Pat McElroy disagreed and dismissed the charge.
However, she recommended Martin’s disbarment. He was disciplined four times previously, beginning in 1991, but McElroy said,―the present matter reflects some of the same misconduct that (Martin) has been disciplined for in the past —
namely failing to
perform with competence and failing to communicate significant developments to his client.‖ The judge said she had little ass
uranceMartin would not commit similar misconduct in the future.
In mitigation, he presented what the judge called an ―extraordinary demonstration of good character‖ and evidence of substant
ialpro bono work.
DAVID GERARD MENDEZ [#99953], 54, of San Leandro
was disbarred Sept. 2, 2010, and was ordered to comply with rule9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
Mendez committed two acts of misconduct while defending a hotel that was sued for barring a tenant’s companion animal –
a 16- year-old cat
from living with him. The tenant accused the hotel of housing discrimination, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and unfair business practices.Mendez did not respond to discovery requests or various motions, was sanctioned twice and a default judgment was entered against
the hotel for $151,200 plus attorney’s fees and costs of $26,987. Although he did not notify his client about the sanctions o
r theoutcome of the case, he asked another lawyer for help in setting aside the default judgment. The client only learned about the courtorder when the sheriff arrived with a notice of levy against the hotel. The hotel was forced into bankruptcy.Judge Lucy Armendariz found that Mendez failed to perform legal services competently or keep his client informed of significantdevelopments in his case. Although he repaid $11,000, Armendariz noted that Mendez has been disciplined three times previously.
―The present matter reflects a continuing inability to fully appreciate the duties he owes to his clients,‖ the judge wrote. ―Moreover,the lack of compelling mitigating circumstances involved in the present matter and (Mendez’s) stated indifference . . . give
the court
little justification to recommend a level of discipline short of disbarment.‖
 
JILL A. SCHOLTEN [#164629], 49, of Crescent City 
was summarily disbarred Sept. 2, 2010, and was ordered to comply withrule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.She was convicted of grand theft, a crime that meets the criteria for summary disbarment
it is a felony that involves moralturpitude.Court records indicate Scholten stole about $13,000 from a client in a divorce proceeding, using the money to pay personal expensesand at casinos. She was sentenced to 16 months in prison.
FRANK ANGELO D’ALFONSI [#146104], 72, of San Francisco
was disbarred Sept. 8, 2010, and was ordered to makerestitution and comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
In a default matter, the State Bar Court recommended that D’Alfonsi be disba
rred for failing to comply with rule 9.20, as required by a 2009 disciplinary order, and for misconduct, including misappropriation, while representing a client in the purchase of a business.
The client gave D’Alfonsi a check for $35,000 as his down paymen
t for the purchase of the business as well as a $1,500 advanceattorney fee. He put the money in his general bank account rather than a client trust account and misappropriated the $35,000. At
one point, D’Alfonsi wrote a check to his client for $35,000 bu
t it bounced. He said bank error was to blame.
D’Alfonsi also did not prepare the purchase agreement, licensing papers or do any other work connected to purchasing his client’s business. The client bought the business without D’Alfonsi’s help.
 
D’Alfonsi st
ipulated that he commingled funds, failed to hold funds in trust, communicate with his client, perform legal services
competently, refund unearned fees or cooperate with the bar’s investigation, and he committed acts of moral turpitude by 
misappropriating client funds and making misstatements to his client.In the probation violation matter, he did not submit to the bar court an affidavit stating that he notified his clients, opposing counseland other interested parties of his suspension from practice. F
ailure to comply with rule 9.20 is grounds for disbarment. D’Alfonsialso violated probation requirements by not contacting the bar’s probation office, submitting a quarterly report or complying
withlaboratory testing conditions.He was disciplined previo
usly and in that matter, the court considered as mitigation his cooperation with the bar’s investigation, no
prior discipline, physical and emotional difficulties and participation in the Lawyers Assistance Program.
THOMAS BREEN KIDWELL [#66413], 62, of Campbell
was disbarred Jan. 13, 2011, and was ordered to make restitutionand comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.The State Bar Court found that Kidwell committed 17 acts of misconduct in four matters, including misappropriating approximately $235,518.71 from three clients. He also failed to perform legal services competently, deposit client funds in a trust account, promptly pay out client funds or communicate with clients and he committed acts of moral turpitude. During a five-day trial, Judge Lucy  Armendariz concluded that his testimony lacked credibility and was often evasive.In one matter, for example, Kidwell represented an insulation business that was one of more than 100 defendants in asbestos-related litigation. The company president also was getting a divorce and the company was joined to the divorce action. During thecourse of the divorce, Kidwell received $158,095 from the sale of a country club membership. After making court-ordered payments,he should have kept have a balance of about $76,275 in trust pending written agreement of the parties or further order of the court.The couple authorized Kidwell to use the remainder of the funds to pay them monthly salaries and appropriate payroll taxes asemployees of the insulation business. However, he did not pay the payroll taxes. He also did not make the required quarterly wagereports to the Employment Development Department.
 
The attorney handling the divorce case asked Kidwell for a full accounting of the funds he held in trust, records showing taxpayments, cancelled checks for tax payments and quarterly reports. Kidwell did not provide the information. However, he claimedhe made regular disbursements to the IRS and provided fabricated checks he supposedly wrote on behalf of the company. When the
client fired him and directed him to disburse all remaining company funds, he didn’t do so for nine months. He also disobeyed
courtorders.In another matter, Kidwell represented a couple in pending litigation regarding the dissolution of a partnership and the allocation of its assets. He received $118,761 from the clients, representing 40 percent of the sale of a duplex, and misappropriated the fullamount. When the case was resolved, he prepared a statement that contained misrepresentations. He also received another $49,292for the clients but spent most of that on matters unrelated to them. In total, he misappropriated $159,170.87.He misappropriated $3,729.47 in another divorce case as well.In mitigation, Kidwell had no discipline since his 1975 admission to the bar and he has done significant pro bono work. However, in
recommending his disbarment, Armendariz said he has demonstrated indifference and shown no remorse. She wrote, ―The serious
and unexplained nature of the misconduct, the lack of participation in these proceedings as well as the self-interest underlying
(Kidwell’s) actions suggest that he is capable of future wrongdoing and raise concerns about his ability or willingness to co
mply withhis ethical responsibilities to the p
ublic and to the State Bar.‖
 
ERIC THEODORE SMITH [#133287], 58, of Irvine
was disbarred Jan. 29, 2011, and he was ordered to make restitution andcomply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.Smith stipulated to six acts of misconduct stemming from his promises to obtain loan modifications for more than 30 clients in 13states who paid advance fees ranging from $1,247.50 to $4,500. Together, those clients paid a total of nearly $68,000 in advancefees. Smith was not licensed in states other than California and he was suspended for part of the time he handled the loanmodification matters.He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees or inform his clients of significantdevelopments and he improperly withdrew from representation, collected illegal fees and practiced in jurisdictions where he w 
asn’t
licensed.He was disciplined in 2009 for practicing law while not entitled.
 WON SOK LEE [#199957], 40, of West Palm Beach, Fla.,
was summarily disbarred Jan. 29, 2011, and was ordered tocomply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.Lee was convicted in 2009 of one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and one count of wire fraud. The crimesmeet the criteria for summary disbarment
they are felonies that involve the specific intent to deceive.
GERARD LIONEL GARCIA-BARRON [#159092], 45, of La Habra
was disbarred Jan. 29, 2011, and was ordered to makerestitution and comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Garcia-Barron committed 42 counts of misconduct in 14 matters. Herepeatedly failed to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees, communicate, return client files, avoid representing
adverse interests or cooperate with the bar’s investigation, and he practiced law while suspended for failing to pay bar dues
andmisappropriated client funds, committing acts of moral turpitude.He represented several criminal defendants but did little work, and when they hired new lawyers he neither refunded unearned fees
nor provided their files. One client’s mother paid an advance fee of $25,000 and although Garcia
-Barron filed an appeal, he neverfiled the opening brief and the matter was dismissed by default. Clients who hired him to handle other issues
unpaid overtime wages, personal injuries, child and spousal support, real estate
complained he did little or no work and they were not able tocontact him or get a refund of unearned fees.
HOWARD MICHAEL COHEN [#170490], 50, of Los Angeles
was disbarred Jan. 29, 2011, and was ordered to comply withrule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.Cohen failed to submit to the State Bar Court an affidavit stating he complied with rule 9.20 by notifying his clients, opposingcounsel and other interested parties of his 2009 suspension. Failure to comply with the rule is grounds for disbarment.
The underlying discipline was imposed for Cohen’s failures to perform legal ser
 vices competently, communicate with clients, return
unearned fees, return client files, update his membership records address and cooperate with the bar’s investigation.
 Cohen defaulted in both the disbarment proceeding and the underlying discipline.
ROBERT MICHAEL NUDELMAN [#67006], 63, of Woodland Hills
was disbarred Feb. 10, 2011, and was ordered to makerestitution and comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.Nudelman stipulated to 12 counts of misconduct in eight matters. He engaged in a pattern of accepting legal fees from clientsthroughout the country and then doing no work. He owes refunds totaling $356,635 and was ordered to make restitution plus 10percent interest.In one matter, for example, a defendant in a criminal matter in Pennsylvania paid Nudelman $50,000 to represent him. Nudelmanhired local counsel who worked on the case at his direction, but otherwise Nudelman did no work. He paid the local lawyer $19,045for his work, but owes the client more than $30,000. He owes t
 wo other clients $50,000 each for work he didn’t do. Nudelman filed
for bankruptcy.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and his business collapsed as the costs of his Internet advertising
 unexpectedly soared.
SHERRI FORD COUSER [#93904], 56, of Los Angeles
was disbarred Feb. 10, 2011, and was ordered to make restitution andcomply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Couser committed numerous acts of misconduct in seven matters, includingfailing to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, refund $22,300 in unearned fees, return a client file, obey acourt order, account for client funds, pay client funds promptly, maintain a current address with the State Bar or cooperate with the
 bar’s investigation. She also abandoned clients.
 Couser was publicly reproved in 1993 for collecting an illegal fee and failing to obey a court order.In one case, for example, a client hired Couser and paid her $2,500 to
represent him in a divorce. The court entered her client’s
default when she did not file a response to the dissolution petition on his behalf. She agreed to expedite a dissolution for anotherclient who paid an advance fee of $4,000, and although she filed a petition, she conducted no discovery, did not request a trial anddid not appear or represent her client at a trial setting conference.She took several months to file a petition for a client who was seeking joint physical and legal custody of his son. She did not appearat a hearing and the court ordered her to pay $5,500 for fees for opposing counsel and $2,167 per month for child support.

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