Below is a list of nine attorneys who were suspended and/or placed on probation by the State Bar as a result of misconduct. The list covers Feb. 1 through 28, 2017. See an explanation of common discipline terms.
Discipline-related resources from the State Bar:
- MARC A. GARCIA
- KIMBERLY ALLYSON HANSEN
- EMORY LUTHER KING, JR.
- LOUIS ALLEN LIBERTY
- WILLIAM WEST SEEGMILLER
- LEONARD MICHAEL SIKES
- JESSE SOTO ORTIZ III
- JOHN CHRISTEN TORJESEN
- SCOTT BUNKER HAYWARD
MARC A. GARCIA [#179822], 48, of Merced, was suspended from the practice of law for a minimum of two years and until he shows proof of his rehabilitation. He was also ordered to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, placed on three years' probation and faces a three-year suspension if he fails to comply with the terms of his disciplinary probation. The order took effect Feb. 4, 2017.
Garcia repeatedly failed to file financial disclosures while acting as a Merced County Superior Court judge between 2007 and 2013. While still an attorney, Garcia was part of a joint venture agreement to provide indigent defense services when the Merced Public Defender had a conflict. When Garcia became a judge, the partnership was dissolved and the other partners agreed to pay him a remaining $250,000 through monthly payments.
Garcia received the checks from January 2008 through August 2012 including during a point in 2009 when he was a judge in the criminal department. He never disclosed he was receiving the checks and did not disqualify himself in matters that one of his former partners appeared in. That attorney appeared almost monthly in his courtroom.
None of Garcia's statements of economic interest from 2008 to 2012 disclosed any of the $250,000 in income he received. In 2014, after the Commission on Judicial Performance advised Garcia they were investigating the matter, he filed amended statements of interest that reflected the payments. On April 6, 2015, he entered into a stipulation for a public censure and agreed to resign from judicial office.
Garcia engaged in multiple acts of misconduct and his misconduct resulted in significant harm to the administration of justice. He had no prior record of discipline and provided character evidence from 10 witnesses who testified regarding the extensive community and pro bono work he has done over the years. He also demonstrated remorse and recognition of his wrongdoing and was facing personal turmoil in his life when some of the misconduct occurred.
KIMBERLY ALLYSON HANSEN [#167597], 52, of Euless, Texas, was suspended from the practice of law for 18 months and until she shows proof of her rehabilitation. She was also ordered to take the MPRE, comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court, placed on three years' probation and faces a three-year suspension if she fails to comply with the terms of her disciplinary probation. The order took effect Feb. 4, 2017.
Hansen's misconduct arose from her representation of two defendants before the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, which imposed sanctions against Hansen and three other attorneys from her firm after concluding they intentionally misled the board.
A State Bar Court hearing judge recommended, among other things, an 18-month suspension. Both Hansen and the Office of Chief Trial Counsel appealed. A three-judge review panel agreed with the hearing judge"s recommendation for an 18-month suspension although it found Hansen's lack of insight into the seriousness of her misconduct warranted her suspension being continued until she provided proof of rehabilitation.
The panel found Hansen culpable of acts of moral turpitude for misleading the board. The board sanctioned Hansen and three other attorneys from her law firm after finding it had been misled about Hansen"s efforts to obtain a Qualified Medical Evaluator Panel in the case.
Hansen had two prior records of discipline, her misconduct significantly harmed the administration of justice and she showed indifference to her misconduct. She presented evidence in support of her good character and cooperated with the State Bar.
EMORY LUTHER KING, JR. [#71491], 71, of Carmichael, was suspended from the practice of law for six months and ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. He was also placed on two years' probation and faces a two-year suspension if he fails to comply with the terms of his disciplinary probation. The order took effect Feb. 4, 2017.
While serving as a member of the indigent defense panel in Sacramento County, King convinced a client to come to his house where he solicited her for sex and conditioned his further representation of her on her having sex with him. The 22-year-old client, a single mother charged with three felonies, did not give into his demands and left. The woman reported his conduct to the indigent defense panel and King resigned.
King called the client to his house under the false pretense of discussing her case, abused his power and significantly harmed his client, who was vulnerable and had never been in the justice system. However, a number of factors spared him from disbarment. There was no sexual relationship. Also, King had no prior record of discipline in 30 years of practice, provided character references and demonstrated remorse by resigning from his panel role after being confronted with the allegations.
LOUIS ALLEN LIBERTY [#147975], 61, of Foster City, was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. He was also placed on two years' probation and faces a two-year suspension if he fails to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. The order took effect Feb. 4, 2017.
Liberty engaged in improper solicitation in a partnership with two non-lawyers to locate and represent consumers who had purchased used cars with frame damage. Their plan was to sue the car dealers and lenders for not disclosing the true condition of the cars.
From February to August 2011, Liberty sent out 180 solicitation letters to automobile owners whose information he received from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Liberty claimed in all of the letters he was contacting the car owners in regard to a DMV notice and that their cars were worth significantly less than the purchase price and may be unsafe to drive. Some versions of the letters claimed erroneously that the consumer would lose his or her legal rights if they contacted the seller or that there would be no cost to get an “investigation," or for the consumer to get their refund. The letters did not disclose that purchasers could be exposed to attorney fee and cost awards in the event there was litigation.
Liberty had been disciplined on two prior occasions. He also engaged in multiple acts of misconduct and demonstrated lack of insight regarding the misleading and confusing statements in his solicitation letters, claiming, among other things, there was insufficient evidence to prove he"d sent the solicitation letters.
WILLIAM WEST SEEGMILLER [#98740], 66, of Newport Beach, was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and take the MPRE. He was also placed on two years' probation and faces a one-year suspension if he fails to comply with the terms of his disciplinary probation. The order took effect Feb. 4, 2017.
Seegmiller admitted he failed to promptly pay a medical lien on a client's behalf. In March 2011, he was hired to handle a personal injury case. Prior to the settlement, he deposited five checks totaling $10,000 from the client"s insurance company in his client trust account for reimbursable medical payments. The insurance company was supposed to be fully reimbursed with payments from the settlement.
Despite receiving the settlement money, Seegmiller did not pay any funds to resolve the insurance reimbursement claim for more than three years despite multiple demands from the insurance company.
As a result, the insurance company sued Seegmiller's client in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Though he told the client he would take care of the matter, Seegmiller did nothing, leading to a judgment being entered against his client for $12,849.93. After a State Bar investigator sent Seegmiller a letter informing him of a complaint against him, he paid a negotiated $10,000 to resolve the matter.
Seegmiller had two prior records of discipline. He cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation and presented evidence from 10 people who attested to his good character. He had also done extensive community service and pro bono work.
LEONARD MICHAEL SIKES [#131797], 60 of Warren, Ohio, was suspended from the practice of law for 60 days and ordered to take the MPRE. He was also placed on three years' probation and faces a one-year suspension if he fails to comply with the terms of his disciplinary probation. The order took effect Feb. 10, 2017.
Sikes falsely reported under penalty of perjury he had complied with his Minimum Continuing Legal Education requirements when he had not. He also failed to respond to letters from a State Bar investigator looking into the allegations against him and did not notify the State Bar of a change in his office address within 30 days.
Sikes expressed indifference when it came to his ethical obligations and engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing. He had no prior record of discipline and entered into a prefiling stipulation with the State Bar.
JESSE SOTO ORTIZ III [#176450], 47, of Sacramento, was placed on two years' probation and faces a one-year suspension if he fails to comply with the terms of his disciplinary probation. He was also ordered to take the MPRE. The order took effect Feb. 4, 2017.
Ortiz's suspension follows his successful completion of the Alternative Discipline Program. In the underlying discipline, which involved an appeal in a murder case, Ortiz failed to file the opening brief in his client"s appellate matter in violation of a court order, did not perform legal services with competence, did not inform his client of his failure to file the appellate brief and did not take any further action in his client"s case. As a result, the judge dismissed the case.
Ortiz had one prior record of discipline and was dishonest with the client's wife when she called him for information, telling her the appeal was ongoing before admitting it had been dismissed. Ortiz"s misconduct also caused significant harm to the client.
He entered into a prefiling stipulation with the State Bar.
JOHN CHRISTEN TORJESEN [#141664], 64, of Tacoma, was placed on two years' probation and faces a two-year suspension if he fails to comply with the terms of his disciplinary probation. The order took effect Feb. 10, 2017.
In January 2013 while on suspension for his failure to pay child support, Torjesen appeared in court on behalf of a client and filed a motion. Torjesen dealt with his client support delinquency after leaving court that day.
He had two prior records of discipline and entered into a prefiling stipulation with the State Bar.
SCOTT BUNKER HAYWARD [#138582], 57, of Santa Ana, was placed on five years' probation and faces a two-year suspension if he fails to comply with the terms of his disciplinary probation. The order took effect Feb. 19, 2017.
Bunker's suspension resulted from his conviction for assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury and false imprisonment, both misdemeanors.
Bunker, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, started having problems in 2013 after he asked his physician to wean him off his psychiatric medications. Months later, his mental state began to deteriorate and his wife left him. In December 2013, he offered to let a woman he met at a train station stay in the guest room at his house.
The second night of her stay, Bunker was out with the house guest and began driving recklessly. When the woman got upset about how he was driving and asked to be taken back to his house to collect her belongings, he refused, at one point slamming her head into the passenger side window. They eventually arrived back at his house and the woman ran into the guest room and locked the door, which Bunker soon kicked open. He then struck her in the head with a coffee cup, threw a shoe and a pair of binoculars at her and pinned her down on the bed. When he left, the woman dialed 911 and he was arrested.
Bunker ultimately received psychiatric treatment and began taking medications again that ended his manic state. Bunker"s bipolar symptoms have been in control since leaving the hospital, he now participates in a support group and, as of the date of the judge"s discipline recommendation, had not exhibited similar behavior in two years.
Hayward had one prior record of discipline.
More than 200,000 attorneys are eligible to practice law in California. Many attorneys share the same names. All discipline reports are taken from State Bar Court documents and should be read carefully for names, ages, addresses and bar numbers. Read the Discipline Key
for an explanation of common disciplinary terms. Use Attorney Search
to check an attorney's official bar record.