CURRENT CALIFORNIA STATE BAR DISBARMENTS AS OF MAY 2011 DISBARMENTS

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 11. MARYELLEN LAUMBACH LEWIS R. WIENER JAMES ALAN WALKER CRAIG KENNETH MARTIN DAVID GERARD MENDEZ JILL A. SCHOLTEN FRANK ANGELO D’ALFONSI THOMAS BREEN KIDWELL ERIC THEODORE SMITH GERARD LIONEL GARCIA-BARRON

10. WON SOK LEE 12. HOWARD MICHAEL COHEN 13. ROBERT MICHAEL NUDELMAN 14. SHERRI FORD COUSER 15. 17. THOMAS WHITTIER BURTON GREGG LEE KAYS 16. SCOTT EUGENE GILPIN 18. BRIAN J. COLOMBANA 19. EDGAR LOUIS BORNE III MARYELLEN LAUMBACH [#141093], 53, of Sacramento was disbarred Aug. 21, 2010, and was ordered to make restitution and 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, including misappropriating 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 from representation. In a divorce matter in which she represented the husband, Laumbach received a check for $100,020 from the sale of her client’s home and made authorized distributions of $34,403. However, she then transferred the $68,373.22 balance into her client trust account and spent about $12,000 for her personal use. She later gave her client everything he was owed. However, she misappropriated $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 that had not repaid a loan from the mother; the lawsuit settled when the construction company agreed to repay the money and gave Laumbach a check for $30,000. The son was entitled to the full amount. Instead, Laumbach used the money to pay the wife in the divorce 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 a lawsuit 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 declaration stating that he notified his clients, opposing counsel and other interested parties of his suspension after the deadline. He also submitted 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 was 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. Wiener himself was sick and was not able to file a quarterly probation report. In recommending his disbarment, State Bar Court Judge Lucy Armendariz said Wiener ―completely lacks credibility whenever he testified 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 rule 9.20 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 planning services. 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 to receive additional complaints about Walker. He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently or refund unearned fees, and 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 with rule 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 with competence, respond to client inquiries, inform his client of significant developments, account for client funds and refund unearned fees, 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 took a $5,000 advance fee and filed a complaint that alleged negligence. However, he did not serve the defendants by the required deadline, 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 withdrew 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 at arbitration 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 assurance Martin 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 substantial pro bono work. DAVID GERARD MENDEZ [#99953], 54, of San Leandro was disbarred Sept. 2, 2010, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 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 16year-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 or the outcome of the case, he asked another lawyer for help in setting aside the default judgment. The client only learned about the court order 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 significant developments 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 with rule 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 moral turpitude. Court records indicate Scholten stole about $13,000 from a client in a divorce proceeding, using the money to pay personal expenses and 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 make restitution 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 disbarred 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 payment for the purchase of the business as well as a $1,500 advance attorney 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 but 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 stipulated 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 counsel and other interested parties of his suspension from practice. Failure to comply with rule 9.20 is grounds for disbarment. D’Alfonsi also violated probation requirements by not contacting the bar’s probation office, submitting a quarterly report or complying with laboratory testing conditions. He was disciplined previously 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 restitution and 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 asbestosrelated litigation. The company president also was getting a divorce and the company was joined to the divorce action. During the course 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 as employees of the insulation business. However, he did not pay the payroll taxes. He also did not make the required quarterly wage reports 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 tax payments, cancelled checks for tax payments and quarterly reports. Kidwell did not provide the information. However, he claimed he 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 court orders. 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 full amount. When the case was resolved, he prepared a statement that contained misrepresentations. He also received another $49,292 for 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 comply with his ethical responsibilities to the public and to the State Bar.‖ ERIC THEODORE SMITH [#133287], 58, of Irvine was disbarred Jan. 29, 2011, and he was ordered to make restitution and comply 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 13 states who paid advance fees ranging from $1,247.50 to $4,500. Together, those clients paid a total of nearly $68,000 in advance fees. Smith was not licensed in states other than California and he was suspended for part of the time he handled the loan modification matters. He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees or inform his clients of significant developments and he improperly withdrew from representation, collected illegal fees and practiced in jurisdictions where he wasn’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 to comply 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 crimes meet 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 make restitution 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. He repeatedly 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 and misappropriated 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 never filed 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 to contact 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 with rule 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, opposing counsel 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 services 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 make restitution 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 clients throughout the country and then doing no work. He owes refunds totaling $356,635 and was ordered to make restitution plus 10 percent interest. In one matter, for example, a defendant in a criminal matter in Pennsylvania paid Nudelman $50,000 to represent him. Nudelman hired local counsel who worked on the case at his direction, but otherwise Nudelman did no work. He paid the local lawyer $19,045 for his work, but owes the client more than $30,000. He owes two 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 and comply 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, including failing to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, refund $22,300 in unearned fees, return a client file, obey a court 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 another client who paid an advance fee of $4,000, and although she filed a petition, she conducted no discovery, did not request a trial and did 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 appear at a hearing and the court ordered her to pay $5,500 for fees for opposing counsel and $2,167 per month for child support.

―Based on the severity of the misconduct, the serious aggravating circumstances, in particular, (Couser’s) pattern of client abandonments, and the lack of any mitigating factors,‖ Judge Pat McElroy recommended her disbarment. THOMAS WHITTIER BURTON [#55508], 64, of Newport Beach was summarily disbarred Feb. 10, 2011, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. He pleaded guilty in 2009 to aiding and abetting money laundering. Because the crime is a felony involving moral turpitude, it meets the criteria for summary disbarment. SCOTT EUGENE GILPIN [#133782], 59, of Oakland was disbarred Feb. 11, 2011, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Gilpin committed 16 acts of misconduct in three client matters, including misappropriating more than $23,600. He handled several lawsuits and other legal matters for a company that sued the city of Oakland, which won a $14,126 stipulated judgment against Gilpin’s clients. The company or its representative gave Gilpin funds totaling more than $20,000 to pay property taxes and to satisfy the judgment. He deposited the money in a general bank account and allowed the balance to fall to a negative amount. Gilpin also did not provide information to the company about bills, receipts and tax records. The court found that he misappropriated $23,629.77, committing acts of moral turpitude, and failed to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients or maintain client funds in trust. He wrote checks for insufficient funds against his client trust account and used the account to pay personal expenses. He also practiced law while suspended for not paying his bar dues, misrepresenting his status to the court. Gilpin was privately reproved in 2002 for writing checks against insufficient funds and when he did not comply with probation requirements, he was publicly reproved the following year. GREGG LEE KAYS [#82052], 58, of San Jose was disbarred Feb. 11, 2011, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. Kays was suspended in 2009 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 by submitting an affidavit to the State Bar Court attesting that he notified his clients, opposing counsel and other interested parties of his suspension. He did not do so. Failure to comply with the rule is grounds for disbarment. The underlying discipline was imposed because Kays failed to comply with probation conditions attached to a 2008 suspension for failures to perform legal services competently or communicate with a client and he abandoned a client. He also was privately reproved in 1992. BRIAN J. COLOMBANA [#238272], 30, of Ecuador was disbarred Feb. 11, 2011, and was ordered to make restitution and comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. Colombana, who practiced in Laguna Hills, stipulated that he committed nine acts of misconduct in 12 matters. He accepted fees totaling nearly $36,000 from 12 distressed homeowners but did not obtain a single loan modification. Eight of the clients live in states where Colombana is not licensed to practice, and he admitted to engaging ―in a scheme to defraud these clients, by exploiting them for personal gain and accepting employment where he was not licensed to practice law.‖ Two of Colombana’s clients lost their homes to foreclosure, one had to sell his home at a loss and another cashed in insurance policies to bring the mortgage current and avoid foreclosure. Colombana affiliated with several loan modification companies, including Loan Negotiators of America, Housing Law Center and Mortgage Relief Law Center. In most cases, he never met his clients. His associates, however, advised them to stop making their mortgage payments. When State Bar Court Judge Richard Honn ordered Colombana to stop practicing in June, he said many homeowners were current but then fell behind. Many ―were worse off after retaining (Colombana’s) services,‖ Honn said. In agreeing to disbarment, Colombana admitted that his misconduct ―resulted in significant harm to multiple clients (and) . . . constituted a pattern of willfully failing to perform and a habitual disregard for . . . clients’ interests.‖ The 30-year-old Colombana, who has been a lawyer only since 2005, received some mitigation for cooperating with the bar’s investigation and recognition of his wrongdoing. EDGAR LOUIS BORNE III [#87315], 57, of Los Angeles was disbarred Feb. 11, 2011, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. A State Bar Court review panel upheld a hearing judge’s recommendation that Borne be disbarred. It rejected the judge’s findings in one matter but agreed with findings in another matter that Borne committed an act of moral turpitude because he threatened to accuse his incarcerated client of perjury and to testify against him at a parole hearing unless the client withdrew his complaint to the State Bar. He also did not cooperate with the bar’s investigation. In addition to his record of four previous disciplines, the review panel found that Borne failed to appreciate the serious consequences of his misconduct. ―Borne suggests that his 23-year disciplinary record does not reflect a common thread or a pattern of serious misconduct warranting disbarment,‖ noted Judge Judith Epstein, who commended Borne for progress in dealing with alcoholism. Borne had argued that the hearing judge wrongfully denied admission of evidence about his rehabilitation, and he presented testimony about his good character. However, Epstein and the other panel members recommended his disbarment, ―given his extensive discipline history and his present lack of cooperation.‖