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Disbarments
  1. JOSEPH GUY MAIORANO
  2. EDGAR JAMES STEELE
  3. RAYMOND GERARD HELLWIG
  4. JOHN STEPHEN HAW
  5. GREGORY THOMAS FLAHIVE
  6. ROY NEWMAN
  7. RICHARD JOHN NIKAS
  8. JOSEPH EDWARD SHEERIN
  9. DENNIS E. POWELL
  10. EARL THOMAS DURHAM
  11. SEAN CURTIS HICKEY
  12. RONALD DENNIS JAMAN
  13. ANTHONY JOSEPH KASSAS
  14. FRANCIS HOTCHKISS LEWIS JR.
  15. THOMAS D. GRABINSKI
  16. DAVID A. COHN

JOSEPH GUY MAIORANO [#113876], 58, of San Diego was disbarred Jan. 30, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

The State Bar Court found Maiorano culpable of failing to promptly pay client funds in one client matter and misappropriation and loaning money to a client without complying with the requirements of Rule of Professional Conduct 3-300 in another matter.

In the first matter, Maiorano did not return funds to his client trust account after a client disputed fees Maiorano charged him. In the other matter, he misappropriated $8,950 in settlement funds he was holding for a client who had been injured in a car accident and loaned the man money, but did not advise him in writing of the terms of the loans and of his right to seek the advice of an independent attorney.

Maiorano had been disciplined on one prior occasion. In November 2008, he was suspended after representing to an insurance company that he was holding $72,000 in a client trust account and agreeing to “freeze” that amount, when the balance in his account at the time was only $4,075.

He received some mitigation for entering into an extensive stipulation with the State Bar. He also made restitution and a number of character witnesses testified on his behalf.

EDGAR JAMES STEELE [#104928], 68, of Sagle, Idaho was disbarred Jan. 30, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Steele was disbarred after his default was entered when he failed to respond to a notice of disciplinary charges filed by the State Bar. Because he did not move to have the default set aside within 120 days, as required by rule 5.85 of the Rules of Procedure, he was disbarred and the charges against him were deemed admitted.

Steele failed to obey a court order by not complying with rule 9.20 as required by a 2011 order by the Review Department. Steele was in federal prison when the notice of disciplinary charges was sent to him, but he did not reply or seek to have the matter abated because he was incarcerated. 

Steele was convicted in May 2011 of use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire, use of explosive material to commit a federal felony, possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence and tampering with a victim. All are felonies involving moral turpitude.

RAYMOND GERARD HELLWIG [#100897], 62, of Alhambra was disbarred Jan. 17, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and pay restitution.

Hellwig was disbarred after his default was entered when he failed to respond to charges that he misappropriated funds due to gross negligence, wrote checks against insufficient funds, made misrepresentations and failed to perform with competence, deposit client funds in a trust account, maintain records of client funds or comply with probation conditions. Under rule 5.85 of the State Bar’s Rules of Procedure, a lawyer can be disbarred if he or she does not seek to have the default set aside within 180 days. In addition, the charges are deemed admitted.

Hellwig was ordered to pay $8,500 plus interest in restitution.

Hellwig had one prior record of discipline, a 2011 suspension for committing an act of moral turpitude by not properly supervising his office allowing misappropriation to occur and failing to deposit client funds in a trust account, maintain the balance of client funds in his trust account,  refund unearned fees, or perform legal services with competence.

JOHN STEPHEN HAW [#194869], 63, of Aliso Viejo was summarily disbarred Jan. 14, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Haw was convicted in 2013 of two counts of mail fraud involving deprivation of honest services. Because his crimes were a felonies that involved moral turpitude, they met the criteria for summary disbarment.

GREGORY THOMAS FLAHIVE [#190088], 41, of Folsom was disbarred Feb. 6, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and make restitution.

Flahive stipulated to misconduct in four client matters in 2010, three of which involved loan modification work: charging upfront fees for loan modification work,  aiding in the unauthorized practice of law and failing to perform legal services with competence or promptly return unearned fees.

In one matter, in 2010, a couple hired Flahive to negotiate and obtain a loan modification for their home mortgage, paying him $1,495 in advanced attorney’s fees, but he did not make any effort on their behalf and the bank foreclosed on their home. In another matter, a couple gave him $1,395 in advanced fees and costs to handle their bankruptcy matter, but Flahive took no action and did not return the money.

Flahive also provided a couple with what was purported to be a “do-it-yourself” loan modification package, for which they paid $1,295 in advanced fees, but it was “so deficient so as to be worthless.” Flahive failed to return any portion of the unearned fees.

In the last matter, Flahive agreed to negotiate loan modifications simultaneously on a couple’s first and second mortgages, but failed to do so and did not perform any service of value. He also charged them $3,485 in advanced attorney fees and allowed his non-attorney staff to be the primary contact between the couple and the bank, to review and process the loan modification paperwork, to advise them and to perform other services.

He was ordered to pay $2,690 plus interest in restitution.

Flahive had one prior record of discipline, a 2012 suspension involving 15 client matters and one referral from the bankruptcy court with 52 acts of misconduct.

ROY NEWMAN [#260156], 78, of La Jolla was disbarred Feb. 6, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and make restitution.

Newman was disbarred after his default was entered for failing to respond to a notice of disciplinary charges against him. The bar moved to disbar Newman under rule 5.85 of Rules of Procedure because he made no attempt to set aside the default within 180 days.

The charges are deemed admitted. Newman engaged in 11 counts of misconduct involving three client matters. He failed to competently perform legal services, refund unearned fees, respond to client inquiries, cooperate in a State Bar investigation, release a client file or update his membership address.

He was ordered to pay $8,000 plus interest in restitution.

RICHARD JOHN NIKAS [#183768], 45, of Newport Beach was disbarred Feb. 6, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and make restitution.

Nikas was disbarred after his default was entered for failing to respond to a notice of disciplinary charges filed against him. Under rule 5.85 of the Rules of Procedure, the State Bar may move to disbar an attorney if he or she does not seek to have the default set aside within 180 days. The charges are also deemed admitted.

Nikas committed six counts of misconduct in one client matter. Nikas improperly withdrew from employment by ceasing to work on a client’s matter and not giving the client notice of his withdrawal from representation. He also failed to competently perform legal services, return unearned fees, render accounts, respond to client inquiries or update his membership address.

Nikas was ordered to pay $6,345 plus interest in restitution.

JOSEPH EDWARD SHEERIN [#219244], 51, of Calpine was disbarred Feb. 6, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Sheerin failed to respond to a notice of disciplinary charges filed by the State Bar related to three client matters, and his default was entered. Because he did not seek to have the default set aside within 180 days, the bar moved to disbar him under rule 5.85 of the Rules of Procedure. As a result, the charges against him were deemed admitted.

Sheerin failed to perform legal services with competence in one of the matters by not preparing adequate discovery responses, repeatedly failing to timely serve discovery responses, permitting monetary and evidentiary sanctions to be issued against his client, and ceasing to take any additional actions to pursue the matter. He also violated a court order by failing to pay $1,000 in sanctions.

In another matter, he permitted sanctions to be issued against his client and failed to prepare and serve discovery responses, serve discovery responses on time or take any action on behalf of his client. In the third matter, he failed to pay $2,000 in court-ordered sanctions, report the sanctions to the State Bar or participate in a disciplinary investigation.

DENNIS E. POWELL [#68376], 67, of Sequim, Wash. was disbarred Feb. 14, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Powell was disbarred after his default was entered for failing to respond to charges that he did not comply with rule 9.20 as required by a 2011 disciplinary order. Because he did not seek to have the default set aside within 180 days, as required by rule 5.85 of the Rules of Procedure, the State Bar moved to disbar him and the charges were deemed admitted.

Powell’s 2011 discipline case resulted in a suspension for violating the terms of a private reproval imposed in 2009 for failing to perform legal services competently in one matter. He violated the reproval by filing a defective probation report, failing to file three others and providing late proof that he passed the MPRE.

EARL THOMAS DURHAM [#74349], 77, of Mexico was disbarred Feb. 6, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Durham’s default was entered when he failed to appear at trial after he was charged with violating rule 9.20 in connection with a 2011 suspension. Because he made no effort to have the default set aside within 90 days, as required by rule 5.85 of the Rules of Procedure, he was disbarred and the charges against him were deemed admitted.

Durham’s 2011 suspension was for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law and engaging in acts of moral turpitude involving dishonesty. In 2008, while he was suspended for failing to pay bar dues, Durham filed an appellant’s opening brief in which he identified himself as the appellant’s attorney and signed the brief as the attorney for the appellant. In April 2009, while he was still suspended from the practice of law, Durham made an appearance at a hearing in the appellate matter.

SEAN CURTIS HICKEY [#159116], 52, of Fremont was disbarred Feb. 6, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Hickey failed to respond to a notice of disciplinary charges filed by the State Bar and his default was entered. Because he did not seek to have the default set aside within 180 days, he was disbarred and the charges were deemed admitted.

Hickey was charged with two counts of misconduct stemming from two separate disciplinary probation matters. He failed in one matter to comply with the terms of his probation by not filing quarterly reports, paying and showing proof of restitution, attending and completing Ethics School or attending and completing Client Trust Accounting School. In the other matter he failed to submit quarterly reports on time.

He has three prior records of discipline. In 2010, he was suspended for nine counts of misconduct stemming from two client matters, including improper withdrawal from representation, seeking an agreement to withdraw a State Bar complaint, and failing to perform legal services with competence, respond to client inquiries,  return a client file, refund unearned fees or cooperate in a State Bar investigation. In 2011, he was suspended after stipulating to three counts of misconduct stemming from a single client matter, including failing to perform legal services with competence, refund unearned fees or return a client file. Lastly, in 2012, he was suspended after stipulating to one count of misconduct involving his failure to comply with the conditions of his first disciplinary probation.

RONALD DENNIS JAMAN [#48057], 70, of Alhambra was disbarred Feb. 6, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Jaman failed to participate in disciplinary proceedings against him, leading his default to be entered and the State Bar to file a petition to disbar him under rule 5.85 of the Rules of Procedure. Because he did not move to have the default set aside within 180 days, he was disbarred and the charges were deemed admitted.

Jaman’s discipline case involves three different matters. In one client matter, he failed to maintain $732.66 of a client’s settlement funds in his client trust account and dishonestly or negligently misappropriated the money. In another matter, he engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by preparing and sending a settlement demand letter on behalf of clients to an insurance carrier while he was suspended for nonpayment of his State Bar membership fees. Jaman also violated the conditions of his disciplinary probation by not filing three quarterly reports on time in 2012, not contacting or conducting a meeting with the Office of Probation to discuss the terms and conditions of probation, not making restitution payments and not providing proof he had begun participating in the Lawyers Assistance Program.  

Jaman had been disciplined on two prior occasions. In 2010, he received a 60-day stayed suspension and two years’ probation for not performing competently or promptly informing his client about the receipt of client funds. He also commingled personal funds in his client trust account and did not cooperate with a disciplinary investigation.

In 2011, his probation was revoked and he was placed on probation for two years on conditions including 60 days’ actual suspension because he did not comply with probation conditions imposed in the prior disciplinary matter.

ANTHONY JOSEPH KASSAS [#227647], 37, of San Francisco was disbarred Feb. 14, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and pay restitution.

Kassas was disbarred after his default was entered when he failed to appear at trial and personally appear for a hearing. As a result, a judge struck his responses to the disciplinary charges. Because he did not move to have the default set aside within 180 days as required under rule 5.85 of the Rules of Procedure, he was disbarred and the charges against him were deemed admitted.

Kassas was convicted on two separate occasions of violating a protective order. In a separate matter he was charged with 52 counts of improper solicitation, 65 counts of aiding in the unauthorized practice of law, 56 counts of charging upfront fees for loan modification services, 56 counts of failure to render appropriate accounts, 55 counts of moral turpitude, five counts of failure to perform legal services with competence, three counts of failure to return unearned fees, one count of forming a partnership with a non-lawyer and one count of sharing fees with non-lawyers.

Kassas was ordered to pay $201,706 plus interest in restitution.

FRANCIS HOTCHKISS LEWIS JR. [61894], 76, of Daly City was disbarred Feb. 14, 2014 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Lewis’ default was entered after he failed to respond to a notice of disciplinary charges alleging that he had violated rule 9.20, which he was required to comply with as the result of a 2011 disciplinary order. Because he did not seek to have the default set aside within 180 days, as required under rule 5.85 of the California Rules of Procedure, the default was set aside and the charges against him were deemed admitted.

Lewis had one prior record of discipline, a 2011 suspension for accepting representation of clients when the interests of the clients potentially conflicted and without the clients’ informed written consent, committing an act of moral turpitude with gross negligence by misappropriating client funds and failing to render appropriate accounts to a client, promptly pay or deliver client funds or maintain client funds in his client trust account.

THOMAS D. GRABINSKI [#147442], 54, of Grinnell, Iowa was summarily disbarred Feb. 6, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Grabinski was disbarred based on his 2006 conviction for fraudulent schemes and artifices, a felony. From January 1994 to August 1999, while he acting as vice president and general counsel of a charitable corporation, Grabinski fraudulently obtained approximately $345 million in investment funds. He was sentenced to a six-year prison term as a result and had been suspended since that time for his conviction.

DAVID A. COHN [#184380], 55, of Woodland Hills was summarily disbarred Feb. 14, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Cohn was convicted in 2010 of attempted contact with a minor for a sexual offense, possession of matter depicting a minor engaging in sexual conduct, arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes, attempting to send harmful material to a minor and attempting a lewd act upon a child, all felonies. Because Cohn’s crimes involved moral turpitude, he met the criteria for summary disbarment.