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Luminary Award California Bar Journal
 
Disbarments
  1. JAMES ALLAN NATIONS
  2. ERIC ALAN ROVANG
  3. MICHAEL EDWARD SCHOLTES
  4. KARLA C. SHIPPEY
  5. JUAN JOSE GONZALEZ
  6. GEORGE LEE BAUGH III
  7. REZA BAVAR
  8. WILLIAM STEPHEN BONNHEIM
  9. ROBERT JEFF CLASTER
  10. FRED RAYMOND HUNTER JR. 

JAMES ALLAN NATIONS [#229219], 60, of Alameda, was disbarred Oct. 4, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and make restitution.

Nations was disbarred after his default was entered for failing to respond to a notice of disciplinary charges filed against him. Because he did not seek to have the default set aside within 180 days as required under rule 5.85 of the State Bar’s Rules of Procedure, he was disbarred.

The charges were deemed admitted. Nations engaged in seven acts of misconduct involving two matters. He failed to comply with rule 9.20 following his suspension in 2013. In the other matter, he accepted fees from a non-client without permission and failed to competently perform legal services, refund unearned fees, promptly release a client’s file, or account.

He was ordered to pay $2,500 plus interest in restitution.

Nations was previously suspended for failing to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees, account for client funds or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

ERIC ALAN ROVANG [#236835], 39, of Anaheim, was disbarred Oct. 4, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Rovang was disbarred after his default was entered when he failed to respond to charges that he commingled personal funds in his client trust account by repeatedly issuing checks drawn upon his client trust account to pay his personal expenses.

MICHAEL EDWARD SCHOLTES [#87695], 67, of Alameda, was disbarred Oct. 4, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and make restitution.

Scholtes stipulated to misconduct in one client matter: misappropriation, seeking to mislead a judicial officer and failing to notify a client of the receipt of funds, maintain client funds in his trust account or promptly pay client funds.

In 2006, Scholtes was hired to litigate a claim against an estate. In March 2008, the parties entered into a settlement agreement whereby Scholtes’ client was to receive 50 percent of any preliminary or final distribution of the estate. Scholtes repeatedly told opposing counsel and the court that the client was living in Mexico and that he could not reach her, which was untrue, and continued to work on her case and charge her fees. When the client received her settlement checks, he did not contact her, taking out $10,000 for legal fees without her knowledge and misappropriating the rest.

In November 2012, the woman’s new attorney sent Scholtes a letter demanding he pay her the $78,565 he owed her. At the time of his stipulation, he had only paid $25,000 back. He was ordered pay $43,565.79 plus interest in restitution.

In mitigation, Scholtes had no prior record of discipline and entered into a pretrial stipulation with the State Bar.

KARLA C. SHIPPEY [#113107], 57, of La Cañada, was disbarred Oct. 4, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Shippey was disbarred after her default was entered when she did not respond to charges that she failed to comply with the terms of her disciplinary probation. Because she did not seek to have the default set aside within 180 days as required by rule 5.85 of the State Bar’s Rules of Procedure, she was disbarred and the charges against her were deemed admitted.

Shippey was previously suspended in 2011 for misconduct in seven loan modification matters. She recklessly, repeatedly or intentionally failed to perform legal services with competence in four matters and failed to refund unearned fees in three matters.

JUAN JOSE GONZALEZ [#243647], 35, of Santa Ana, was disbarred Oct. 4, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and make restitution.

Gonzalez 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 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. Also, the charges are deemed admitted.

Gonzalez was charged with 16 counts of misconduct stemming from three client matters. In the first matter, he failed to perform legal services with competence and failed to communicate, refund unearned fees, account or release a client’s file. In another matter, he failed to competently perform legal services, failed to notify clients they didn’t need to hire a third-party to negotiate a loan modification, collected unlawful advanced fees, did not promptly inform his client of significant developments, maintained an unjust action, sought to mislead a judge and aided in the unauthorized practice of law.

In the third matter, he sought to mislead a judge, failed to obey court orders, failed to report judicial sanctions and failed to cooperate in a State Bar investigation. He was ordered to pay $3,500 plus interest in restitution.  

Gonzalez has had one prior record of discipline. In 2013, he was suspended after stipulating to misconduct that included aiding in the unauthorized practice of law, making a misrepresentation constituting moral turpitude, improper withdrawal and failing to refund unearned fees, account, perform legal services with competence, respond to reasonable status inquiries, return a client file or obey a court order.

GEORGE LEE BAUGH III [#97407], 62, of Corona, was disbarred Oct. 16, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and make restitution.

The State Bar Court found Baugh culpable of 13 counts of misconduct in three separate matters. The charges included failing to inform a client of significant developments, render an appropriate accounting, perform legal services with competence, refund unearned fees, obey a court order or report judicial sanctions to the State Bar.

In one matter, Baugh was hired in 2011 to assist a client in a bankruptcy matter. A month or so later, Baugh failed to show up at a bankruptcy court hearing, leading a judge to dismiss the client’s bankruptcy. When confronted, Baugh failed to explain why he didn’t show up but urged the client to move forward on a mortgage litigation case. Baugh filed a complaint on her behalf but it was ultimately dropped because his filing-fee check bounced. Baugh refiled but then failed to provide the appropriate proof of service with the summons and complaint. A series of other missteps followed that ultimately led to the case being dismissed.

Baugh failed to tell the client her case had been dismissed. Several months later, the client requested her file along with an accounting. He did not return it until more than two months later.

In another matter he was disciplined for, Baugh represented the plaintiffs in a quiet title action. In June 2011, the court issued an order to show cause as to why sanctions shouldn’t be issued for Baugh’s failure to file proof of service as to the second amended complaint. Baugh didn’t show up for that hearing or subsequent ones, leading to further sanctions. Ultimately, the court dismissed the entire action and sanctioned him $1,000 for his failure to file the required proof of service, and another $1,000 for his failure to appear at a case management conference.

Baugh was ordered to pay $13,220 plus interest in restitution as a result of the State Bar action.

Baugh had two prior records of discipline. In 1992, he was suspended for misconduct in 10 separate matters, including misappropriating client funds, receiving three separate criminal convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol, improperly withdrawing from representation and failing to promptly pay out client funds, communicate, perform legal services with competence, refund unearned fees or account.

In 1997, his probation was revoked after he stipulated to violating the terms of his State Bar probation.

REZA BAVAR [#218811], 40, of Los Angeles, was disbarred Oct. 16, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Bavar was found culpable of six acts of misconduct in a single client matter: committing moral turpitude, failing to maintain client funds in his trust account, failing to notify his client of receipt of funds, misappropriation, altering a copy of a settlement document and making misrepresentations.

In 2009, the wife of one of Bavar’s friends hired Bavar to represent her in a motor vehicle warranty and lemon law claim involving a defective Aston Martin she had recently purchased. That October, he filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the Aston Martin and the dealership that sold her the car. In early September 2010, the defendants offered to settle the suit for $15,000. At the time of the settlement, Bavar was experiencing financial problems and didn’t want to get into a dispute with his client about the amount of fees he could take from the settlement funds. As a result, he told the client’s husband that the defendants had agreed to settle the case with the proviso that $6,500 would go to the client and the remaining $8,500 to him. Thinking there was no reason Bavar would deceive him, the man agreed to the deal on his wife’s behalf.

Because the settlement agreement did not say anything about dividing the money and Bavar wanted to keep the money longer, he altered the settlement document before forwarding it to his client to say that the settlement wouldn’t be funded until a certain date. He then sent only the signed signature page to the defendants without disclosing that his client had signed a different document. 

When Bavar received the settlement check, he did not inform the client and forged her name on the back, depositing the money into his client trust account for his own use. When the date came that his client expected to receive her money, he began making excuses as to why he had not received the money. This continued until April 2012, more than 18 months after he received the settlement check. That month, Bavar sent an email to the client’s husband admitting to various acts of misconduct. The couple initially agreed to allow Bavar to pay them back, but when that didn’t happen on schedule the couple’s new attorney urged them to file a complaint with the State Bar.

In mitigation, Bavar had no prior record of discipline, cooperated with the State Bar, showed remorse and repaid half of the money he owed his clients prior to a complaint being filed with the bar. He also presented evidence of his good character and evidence of his community service and pro bono work.

WILLIAM STEPHEN BONNHEIM [#68693], 68, of Palm Desert, was disbarred Oct. 16, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Bonnheim stipulated to holding himself out as entitled to practice law when he was suspended, committing acts involving moral turpitude and failing to comply with the conditions of his disciplinary probation.

In July 2012, Bonnheim agreed to represent a retired doctor in disputes he had with his stockbroker and insurer even though Bonnheim was suspended from the practice of law at the time. Bonnheim did not tell the client about his suspension, nor did he inform the insurer when he was negotiating the terms of a settlement on the client’s behalf.

While representing the client, Bonnheim submitted four quarterly reports to probation falsely stating that he had complied with the terms of his probation. Bonnheim failed to submit three other reports altogether.

Bonnheim received some mitigation for entering into a pretrial stipulation with the State Bar.

Bonnheim’s one prior record of discipline was a 2011 suspension for the misappropriation of $63,304.10 of settlement funds held on behalf of a client.

ROBERT JEFF CLASTER [#70548], 68, of Van Nuys, was disbarred Oct. 16, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Claster was disbarred for failing to abide by a Review Department order requiring he comply with rule 9.20.

Claster was previously suspended in 2010 as a result of three convictions between 1987 and 1993 for making annoying telephone calls and stalking two different victims.

FRED RAYMOND HUNTER JR. [#165381], 48, of Riverside, was disbarred Oct. 16, 2014 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Hunter stipulated to misconduct in one client matter including failing to perform with competence, communicate promptly to a client all terms and conditions of an offer or maintain client funds in his trust account. He also committed acts involving moral turpitude, willfully and without authority, appearing as attorney for a party and commingled client funds with his own funds.

Starting in 2010, Hunter represented a client in his personal injury and property damage claims arising from a car accident. Several months later, the client’s insurer issued two checks that were supposed to cover the client’s medical bills. Instead, Hunter forged the client’s signature, deposited them in his client trust account and did not tell the client about the money. Hunter then entered in to an agreement with the defendant’s insurance carrier without the client’s knowledge and signed the client’s name when he received the check.

Hunter should have maintained $13,609 in his trust account on the client’s behalf, but instead allowed it to drop to $237. At some point, the client hired another firm to handle his matter, which Hunter was made aware of. The client filed a small claims suit against the defendant on Aug. 22, 2011. Hunter was present at the small claims hearing where he acknowledged the client did not authorize the settlement and that he no longer represented him. The settlement was determined to be ineffective and Hunter was forced to return the proceeds.

Despite his having been fired, Hunter continued working on the case filing, among other things, a complaint on behalf of the client to protect against the running of the statute of limitations.

In mitigation, Hunter entered into a pretrial stipulation with the State Bar.

He had prior one record of discipline. In 2003, he was suspended after he admitted culpability for failing to maintain client funds in trust account, commingling and misusing his client trust account, writing checks against insufficient funds and misappropriation.

. Caution!  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 the different levels of disciplinary action. Use Attorney Search to check an attorney's official bar membership record.