Suspensions/Probation
  1. LEODIS CLYDE MATTHEWS
  2. SUREKHA MELISSA WEINBERG
  3. JAY CURTIS COX
  4. THOMAS JAMES BAYARD
  5. RICHARD ALAN BRUBAKER
  6. KULVINDER SINGH
  7. LORI SMITH
  8. CHRISTOPHER JOHN VanSON
  9. MICHAEL HOWARD CROSBY
  10. THOMAS VICTOR DILLON
  11. JAMES BLINN SANBORN
  12. LARRY GENE NOE
  13. MARGARET ALICE SELTZER
  14. ELIOT SCOTT GORSON
  15. CARLA RUTH McBEATH 

LEODIS CLYDE MATTHEWS [#109064], 63, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 30-day actual suspension and he was ordered to take the MPRE. The order took effect Nov. 8, 2012.

Matthews stipulated that he did not provide adequate written disclosure of a conflict of interest or obtain a supplemental written waiver about the conflict.

He was hired to provide advice to Westland Architecture and Development Corp., a company that bought and developed distressed properties; the company had accused two parties of violating a contractual obligation to sell an option on a Wilshire Boulevard property. If Matthews were successful in acquiring the option for Westland, he was to receive an interest in the option himself.

After bankruptcy proceedings, changes in company management and Matthews’ dismissal as Westland’s attorney, Matthews formed Retra Financial Inc., a group of investors that wished to acquire the option on the property. Although he informed Westland of his intentions, he did not provide a written conflict of interest disclosure. After the company sold the option to Retra, Westland accused Matthews of malpractice and breach of fiduciary duties to his former client. A jury awarded damages of more than $2 million to Westland.

Although the trial court found there was no substantial evidence to support the jury’s verdict that Matthews breached his fiduciary duties, an appellate court ultimately directed the trial court to reinstate the verdict in favor of Westland and against Matthews.

In mitigation, Matthews had no prior discipline record and he cooperated with the bar’s investigation.

SUREKHA MELISSA WEINBERG [#244039], 34, of Agoura Hills was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on four years of probation with an actual three-year suspension and until she proves her rehabilitation and she was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. She receives credit for the period of interim suspension that began April 25, 2010. The order took effect Nov. 8, 2012.

Weinberg drove the wrong way onto the Santa Monica freeway, hitting a car that carried four passengers in addition to the driver, who was killed. The passengers all were seriously injured. Weinberg’s blood alcohol level was .23 percent. Four years earlier, she was convicted of misdemeanor DUI. That complaint was dismissed after she completed drug and alcohol education and counseling.

At the conclusion of a 2009 jury trial, Weinberg was convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence and causing body injury with a prior DUI, and driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or more with a prior. The court declared a mistrial on a murder count when the jury was deadlocked. The murder count was dismissed and Weinberg was sentenced to 16 years in prison; she has been incarcerated since Feb. 20, 2009. A writ of habeas corpus challenging the sentence is pending.

In mitigation, Weinberg cooperated with the bar’s investigation, demonstrated extreme remorse, including paying the victims her $300,000 insurance policy limit although she acknowledged it did not provide full compensation. She also presented extensive evidence of her good character. Weinberg says she has not had any alcohol since the night in question.

The probation of JAY CURTIS COX [#147858], 50, of Santa Ana was revoked, the previous stay of suspension was lifted and he was suspended for one year, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. The order took effect Nov. 14, 2012.

In 2011, after Cox stipulated that he failed to comply with conditions attached to a 2010 public reproval, he was placed on two years of probation and given a one-year stayed suspension. He filed one quarterly report one day late and did not file another. In addition, he did not comply with a requirement that he provide blood/urine samples to show he had abstained from alcohol and/or drugs, nor did he file proof of attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

The public reproval was imposed after Cox was convicted of driving under the influence. He also was disciplined in 2001 for four convictions for possession of methamphetamine (on two separate occasions), reckless driving related to alcohol, and driving with a suspended license.

THOMAS JAMES BAYARD [#226247], 43, of Diamond Bar was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on four years of probation with a 60-day actual suspension. The order took effect Nov. 16, 2012.

Bayard stipulated to 12 counts of misconduct in five matters. The misconduct occurred at the same time as other misdeeds for which he was disciplined in January 2012. In the earlier case, he stipulated to 13 counts of misconduct in seven matters.

In two of the new matters, he represented clients who were facing foreclosure and stipulated that he did not account for client funds. One client had been scammed by individuals who moved to Tennessee and declared bankruptcy, leading Bayard to conclude that an action against the client’s lender was untenable. He represented her in an eviction proceeding and filed her bankruptcy petition. The bankruptcy case was closed by the court because the client failed to complete a required financial management course.

In the second foreclosure matter, the client paid an advance fee of $9,500  for Bayard to determine her options, prepare a possible bankruptcy petition and handle any ongoing litigation regarding her loan. A skeletal bankruptcy petition was filed and her home was foreclosed. Together Bayard and the client decided to allow the initial bankruptcy to be dismissed in order to come up with a strategy that would be most beneficial to her. Ultimately a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition was filed but it was dismissed because the client made only a couple of required plan payments and she insisted on keeping two luxury cars that the bankruptcy trustee felt were excessive. Bayard attempted unsuccessfully to obtain a loan modification for the client. He did not account for her funds.

While representing another client in an ongoing dispute over a construction loan, Bayard missed several court appearances and the complaint he filed was dismissed. He did not inform the client, who had paid fees totaling $8,400. He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently or refund unearned fees.

Bayard filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition for another client but it was rejected when the court listed nine deficiencies. Although he tried to correct the problems, he could not find his client’s file and she either could not understand or was unable to assist with the missing documentation. A revised petition was not filed and the court dismissed the original. Bayard asked the client for an additional $299 to refile the petition, and although she gave him the money, the petition was never refiled and the court closed the case.

The client won a small claims award of  $3,128, representing her fee plus $1,000 in punitive damages. Bayard paid the amount in full but he did not respond to three letters from a bar investigator. He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees or cooperate with a bar investigation.

In the final matter, Bayard was hired to handle another ongoing dispute with a lender and although the client made an initial payment of $1,500 and $370 for a filing fee, she did not make further payments she had agreed to. Bayard did not tell the client her complaint would not be filed because she missed her monthly installments. Six months later, her home was sold and Bayard told her he had stopped working on her case because she had not paid her fee. Bayard eventually refunded the $1,870 the client had paid. He did not provide a written response to a bar investigator’s questions.

He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, refund unearned fees, account for client funds, communicate with a client or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

In mitigation, Bayard had health issues, including a heart attack, related to financial problems and a large caseload. Those problems were related to his misconduct.

RICHARD ALAN BRUBAKER [#134130], 53, of Los Angeles was suspended for two years, stayed, and placed on two years of probation with credit for nine months of inactive enrollment.  The order took effect Nov. 16, 2012.

Brubaker successfully completed the State Bar’s Alternative Discipline Program after demonstrating a connection between his substance abuse and his misconduct. He had stipulated to 26 ethical violations in eight client matters, including failures to maintain client funds in trust, perform legal services competently, properly supervise his staff, communicate with clients, return client files or cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

In four cases, he failed to appear at hearings or case management conferences and his clients’ cases were dismissed. He did not account for $25,000 he held in trust for one client and didn’t file a lawsuit on her behalf. He held $3,900 in insurance proceeds for another client but didn’t account for the money. He did not tell that client that he missed a hearing on his motion to set aside the dismissal of a lawsuit and the case was never reinstated.

In mitigation, Brubaker had no discipline record in 22 years of practice and he completed the ADP.

KULVINDER SINGH [#182109], 46, of Roseville was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 30-day actual suspension and he was ordered to take the MPRE.  The order took effect Nov. 16, 2012, although the actual suspension was delayed until Dec. 17, 2012.

A complaint Singh filed was dismissed as the result of an anti-SLAPP motion and Singh ultimately entered into a settlement agreement to pay the defendants $21,600. As part of the settlement, he was to dismiss a motion to tax costs and dismiss his complaint with prejudice. His request to dismiss the case was rejected but Singh made no further effort to have a dismissal with prejudice entered. And although he asked the opposing counsel to remove from the calendar his motion to tax costs, he never asked the court to do so. Six months later, Singh wrote to two judges saying he wanted his motion to tax costs to be heard.

The motion was heard and denied. The court also found that Singh misled opposing counsel into thinking he had withdrawn his motion

Singh stipulated that he committed an act of moral turpitude by misleading both the court and opposing counsel. He also admitted he made misstatements to the court.

In mitigation, Singh had no discipline record in 14 years of practice, was embroiled in a contentious divorce at the time, and suffered severe financial stress as a result. He presented evidence of his good character.

LORI SMITH [#196156], 66, of Riverside was suspended for one year, stayed, and placed on two years of probation with an actual 30-day suspension. The order took effect Nov. 16, 2012.

She stipulated that she failed to perform legal services competently for a plaintiff who hired her to represent him in a case already pending. When the defendant filed for bankruptcy protection and Smith filed an adversary action, she did not respond to discovery requests, nor did she filed a required status report with the court. When she did not oppose a motion to dismiss the adversary action, it was dismissed.

Smith was disciplined in 2010. She stipulated to 11 counts of misconduct in three client matters and then successfully completed the State Bar’s Alternative Discipline Program for lawyers with substance abuse or mental health issues. In mitigation, she cooperated with the bar’s investigation.

CHRISTOPHER JOHN VanSON [#133440], 50, of Oak View was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with an 18-month actual suspension and he was ordered to make restitution, take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. The order took effect Nov. 16, 2012.

In 2011, VanSon and another lawyer formed Consolidated Litigation Group to process clients for mass joinder litigation and loan modification. The group sent out mailers that resulted in seven California cases for VanSon. He did not negotiate loan modifications for any of them, performed no legal services on their behalf and did not refund any unearned fees. His practice was taken over by the Los Angeles Superior Court and the attorney general won a temporary restraining order against his law office.

He stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently, abandoned his clients and violated state law by accepting advance fees for loan modification work.

VanSon also was employed by clients in five states where he was not licensed to practice. He stipulated that he collected illegal fees from those clients and held himself out as entitled to practice in jurisdictions where he was not licensed.

In mitigation, VanSon had no prior discipline record. He signed on with the Consolidated Litigation Group based on misrepresentations made by another attorney and was not involved in any false advertising. He also provided information to investigators and demonstrated remorse.

VanSon was ordered to make restitution totaling $49,994.

MICHAEL HOWARD CROSBY [#125778], 61, of San Diego was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on one year of probation and he was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect Nov. 16, 2012.

Crosby stipulated to four counts of misconduct in a wrongful termination suit he filed for a client. The defendants offered a $5,000 settlement and said they would file bankruptcy if Crosby’s client rejected the offer. The client made a counter-demand of $95,000 and the defendant filed for bankruptcy, listing the client as a creditor. She believed Crosby represented her in the bankruptcy.

However, Crosby did not attend several meetings and conferences and the wrongful termination case was dismissed. He never informed the client or took any steps to reopen her case. Crosby did not respond to the client’s many attempts to reach him or to a bar investigator.

He admitted he failed to perform legal services competently, respond to client inquiries, inform a client of significant developments or cooperate with a bar investigation.

In mitigation, Crosby had no prior discipline in 24 years of practice, he performed community service and he belatedly cooperated with the bar’s investigation.

The probation of THOMAS VICTOR DILLON [#236380], 45, of Fresno was revoked, the previous stay of suspension was lifted and he was suspended for one year and until he makes restitution. If the suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Nov. 22, 2012.

Dillon was disciplined in 2010 but the State Bar Court found that he violated the terms of his probation. Although he met with the bar’s probation office and frequently communicated about restitution requirements, Dillon did not file three quarterly probation reports on time and did not file three more at all. He made one $500 installment payment but made no further restitution, nor did he provide proof of attendance at ethics school.

In the underlying matter, Dillon stipulated that he failed to return client files, perform legal services competently, communicate with a client or refund unearned fees and he improperly withdrew from employment.

JAMES BLINN SANBORN [#80626], 63, of Chatsworth was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation and he was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE. The order took effect Nov. 23, 2012.

Sanborn stipulated to five counts of misconduct while representing a client in divorce and guardianship matters. He did no work on either case, missed several appointments with his client, who requested a refund of his $1,500 advance fee, did not respond to voicemail messages and took no steps to protect his client’s interests.

In mitigation, Sanborn had no discipline record in 32 years of practice and he cooperated with the bar’s investigation.

LARRY GENE NOE [#128640], 63, of Tustin was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on one year of probation with an actual 60-day suspension, and he was ordered to take the MPRE. The order took effect Nov. 23, 2012.

Noe stipulated to five counts of misconduct in two matters.

While working as corporate counsel for WLC Mortgage Services/ConquistAmerica, Noe hired the company to process loan modifications under his supervision. Under a fee agreement with one client, Noe could use WLC for loan modification services and the client agreed to indemnify the company against any judgments or claims. The case actually conflicted with WLC/ConquistAmerica.

Despite assurances that everything was fine, the client’s home was scheduled for auction by the lender. The client sought a refund of his $2,000 fee from ConquistAmerica, which agreed if the client would free the company “of all responsibility.” More than two years later, Noe paid the client $1,250.

Noe stipulated that he represented more than one client whose interests conflicted, he improperly split fees with WLC and he did not promptly refund a client’s advance unearned fee.

In a second matter, a client hired Noe to handle a loan modification after hearing a radio advertisement about his company, Loss Mitigation Firm (LMF). Although Noe faxed a borrower’s authorization to the lender to authorize it to speak with LMF, he did no further work and the property faced foreclosure. The client’s co-owner obtained a loan modification on his own.

Noe stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently or promptly refund a $3,000 unearned fee.

In mitigation, Noe had no prior discipline and he cooperated with the bar’s investigation.

MARGARET ALICE SELTZER [#87707], 66, of San Francisco was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a 60-day actual suspension and she was ordered to make restitution and take the MPRE within one year. If the actual suspension exceeds 90 days, she must comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. The order took effect Nov. 23, 2012.

Seltzer sought review of a hearing judge’s findings that she committed seven acts of misconduct resulting from practicing law while suspended for non-payment of bar dues. The review department upheld the hearing judge with one exception and found additional aggravation due to client harm.

“This case illustrates the problems that can arise when office management practices are inadequate to ensure timely payment of State Bar membership fees,” wrote Judge Judith Epstein. Although Seltzer practiced for 28 years without any discipline, she was suspended for two weeks in 2009 for not paying her bar dues. The bar sent her four notices warning of her delinquency, but Seltzer said she never saw them. When she discovered her suspension, she immediately paid her fee and reactivated her license.

However, Epstein said, during the two weeks in question, Seltzer performed legal services for two clients, one of whom paid more than $10,000 that Seltzer refused to refund. She also failed to forward litigation files and records the client requested and did not respond to bar inquiries in a timely fashion.

Seltzer challenged the hearing judge’s findings, asserting procedural, evidentiary and constitutional errors. A three-judge review panel rejected her claims as meritless. It found she did not cooperate with the bar’s investigation, charged an illegal fee, failed to return a client’s file or keep her client reasonably informed of a significant development (her suspension from practice), and engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.

The judges took particular note of Seltzer’s 28 years of discipline-free practice and called her misconduct “fairly isolated.” However, the panel criticized Seltzer’s “lack of insight” and said it found her “failure to understand the nature and consequences of her misconduct to be very troubling.”

ELIOT SCOTT GORSON [#99717], 61, of Oakland was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a one-year actual suspension and he was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. The order took effect Nov. 30, 2012.

Gorson stipulated to 17 acts of misconduct in five loan modification matters. In each case, he admitted he failed to perform legal services competently and violated a state law that prohibits lawyers from accepting advance fees for loan modification work before any services are performed.

In one matter, he allowed his non-attorney staff to provide legal advice to a couple, including explaining the terms of the fee agreement to the clients and advising them to file for bankruptcy after their loan modification was denied. Gorson did not file a bankruptcy petition and the couple’s home was sold. They never met Gorson, who never did any work on the case. He has not refunded any of the unearned $3,874 fee the couple paid for the bankruptcy.

Gorson did not respond to another client’s five phone calls or refund any of his $3,600 fee. The request for a loan modification was denied.

He improperly solicited another client through a non-lawyer who promised a 100 percent success rate in obtaining a loan modification, and he did not cooperate with a bar investigation of one matter.

In mitigation, Gorson had no discipline record since his 1981 admission to practice.

The probation of CARLA RUTH McBEATH [#106047], 61, of Fort Lee, N.J., was revoked, the previous stay of suspension was lifted, she was placed on three years of probation and suspended for one year and until she makes restitution. If the suspension exceeds two years, she must prove her rehabilitation. She also was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. The order took effect Nov. 30, 2012.

McBeath was disciplined in 2010 after stipulating that in a single client matter, she failed to perform legal services with competence, keep a client reasonably informed of significant developments and refund an unearned fee. Although she communicated regularly with her probation monitor and received extra time to complete continuing education requirements and a deferral of a restitution payment, she did not comply with other probation conditions. She filed two quarterly probation reports late and missed another entirely, did not submit proof that she completed MCLE courses by the extended deadline, and filed proof of restitution payments late or not at all.

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