- STEVEN ROBERT LISS
- HOKYUNG KIM
- GARY MICHAEL APPELBLATT
- CYNTHIA B. SILVERSTEIN
- MICHAEL G. SHARPE
- STANLEY HOWARD ROZANSKI
- ANDREW JAMES PRENDIVILLE
- DONALD EUGENE ROY
- RITA CATHERINE CLEGG
- MARIBEL NIETO
- CATHYE ELAINE LEONARD
STEVEN ROBERT LISS [#129527], 55, of La Jolla was disbarred Sept. 24, 2010, and was ordered to make restitution and comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
The State Bar Court found that Liss committed 13 acts of misconduct involving five clients that included unconscionable bills, the unauthorized practice of the law, illegal fees, failure to return unearned fees, failing to put client funds into a client trust account, and moral turpitude. He also did not comply with probation conditions attached to a previous discipline.
While suspended for about a week for not paying his bar dues, Liss agreed to represent a woman in a matter related to her divorce. The client signed a fee agreement and paid Liss $6,000 – a $5,000 fee and the remainder for costs. The client later became concerned when it appeared Liss was doing little or no work for her and she was unable to reach him. When his paralegal called her to say he was taking over the case, she fired Liss and demanded that he account for her fees and refund any unearned portion.
They apparently later reconciled and Liss continued to represent the client. However, she was in a financial predicament, rejected Liss’s suggested solutions and hired a new lawyer. She also complained to the bar.
Liss did not refund any part of the $6,000 and instead billed the client for an additional $3,578.75 nearly a year later.
The bar court found that Liss committed acts of moral turpitude by misrepresenting his practice status to the client, charged her an illegal fee, failed to respond to client inquiries, deposit client funds in a trust account or account for client funds.
In a second matter, Liss represented a client in a family law matter; she paid a $10,000 advanced fee and $2,500 in costs. Liss did not deposit any of the money into his client trust account. About two weeks later she fired him, although he substituted back in due to a conflict the new lawyer had. When the client sought a fee refund, Liss agreed to refund the $12,500 in four monthly installments of $3,125. When the second payment was due, Liss sent two checks for $1,000, one written against a closed account that Liss said he wrote by accident. The client was charged a service fee for a bounced check.
He paid a total of $7,250 and 18 months after being terminated, Liss billed the client for another $4,640.
The court found he failed to refund unearned fees, deposit client funds in a trust account, account for client funds, and he charged an unconscionable fee.
Two months after being hired in another family law matter, Liss was terminated but did not promptly return his client’s documents. When she received a file, it was incomplete. In another divorce matter, he did not deposit client funds in trust. Liss also violated probation conditions attached to a 2007 suspension.
Liss has a record of three prior disciplines and although he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and presented character evidence, Judge Donald F. Miles recommended his disbarment. “At the end of the trial,” Miles wrote, Liss “continued to assert that he had done nothing wrong. Worse, his demonstrated willingness to mislead the State Bar, to obstruct the disciplinary process, to disregard the orders of both this and the Supreme Court, and to lie under oath to this court to avoid responsibility for his misconduct, makes clear that the three prior orders of discipline have not served any significant rehabilitative function.”
HOKYUNG KIM [#151373], 48, of Los Gatos was disbarred Sept. 24, 2010, 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 Kim violated an earlier rule 9.20 requirement by failing to submit to the court an affidavit attesting that he notified his client, opposing counsel and other interested parties of his suspension.
In the underlying discipline, also imposed as the result of Kim’s default, the bar court found that he committed three acts of misconduct: he failed to provide competent legal services, account for client funds or refund unearned fees.
In recommending Kim’s disbarment, Judge Lucy Armendariz wrote that he “has demonstrated an unwillingness to comply with the professional obligations and duties imposed on California attorneys, although he has been given opportunities to do so.”
GARY MICHAEL APPELBLATT [#144158], 59, of Sacramento was summarily disbarred Sept. 24, 2010, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
Appelblatt was convicted in 2009 of sexual battery and attempted sexual battery. Because the crimes were felonies involving moral turpitude, they met the criteria for summary disbarment.
CYNTHIA B. SILVERSTEIN [#111294], 55, of San Francisco was disbarred Sept. 24, 2010, 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 Silverstein failed to comply with a rule 9.20 requirement attached to a 2009 disciplinary order. In the underlying case, she was suspended for failing to obey a court order or keep her address current with the State Bar and she breached her fiduciary duties to a client.
MICHAEL G. SHARPE [#123965], 53, of Redding was disbarred Sept. 24, 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 Sharpe committed seven acts of misconduct in two client matters. The misconduct marks the sixth time Sharpe has been disciplined.
In the first, he represented a client facing criminal charges in Trinity and Shasta counties. The client transferred ownership of his 1962 Oldsmobile, valued at $15,000, as payment of his legal fees. In his application to the Department of Motor Vehicles to transfer title of the car, Sharpe deliberately lied, stating he bought the car from the client for $3,000 so he would not have to pay the applicable use and sales taxes on the full $15,000. He also performed limited work on the cases and was relieved from representing the client in both cases.
Sharpe was hired by a second client to expunge the record in two criminal cases and to file a motion to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor in one of them. Although the client paid a $500 fee, Sharpe did no work and didn’t return any of the client’s phone calls or refund the fee.
The State Bar Court found that Sharpe failed to perform legal services competently, communicate with a client, refund an unearned fee or cooperate with the bar’s investigation and he committed acts of moral turpitude.
The prior disciplines involved alcohol abuse and although the court said there was no common thread with those and the current misconduct, which involves clients, it recommended Sharpe’s disbarment. His “prior disciplinary proceedings involved serious misconduct (i.e., four DUI convictions, at least one of which was a felony conviction, and repeated violations of the Supreme Court’s disciplinary orders),” wrote Judge Pat McElroy.
STANLEY HOWARD ROZANSKI [#81362], 58, of Los Angeles was disbarred Sept. 24, 2010, and he was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
Rozanski stipulated to 13 counts of misconduct in six cases. Each matter involved Rozanski’s failure to maintain his client’s settlement funds in trust and he committed acts of moral turpitude by allowing the balance in his trust account to fall below the required amount in each instance. He also did not cooperate with the bar’s investigation.
Rozanski was disciplined in 2001 for misconduct in four client matters. Although he cooperated with the bar’s investigation, the stipulation notes that he failed to maintain more than $150,000 on behalf of 16 clients over several years.
ANDREW JAMES PRENDIVILLE [#93003], 58, of Newport Beach was disbarred Sept. 24, 2010, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
Prendiville sought review of a recommendation by the State Bar Court that he be suspended for two years for failing to comply with conditions attached to a private reproval, but the review department instead recommended his disbarment. The panel said the private reproval was Prendiville’s fourth disciplinary proceeding. For 10 years, he continually misused his client trust account and despite a suspension and completion of trust accounting school (twice), “his ethical transgressions continued. . . . Prendiville’s repeated encounters with attorney discipline have neither rehabilitated him nor deterred him from committing further misconduct,” wrote Judge JoAnn Remke.
The earliest case involved Prendiville’s misdemeanor convictions for battery, abuse of a cohabitant, driving under the influence and other traffic offenses, as well as repeated commingling of personal funds in his trust account, misappropriating client funds and issuing checks against insufficient funds.
The underlying private reproval was imposed in 2004 for repeatedly commingling and failing to maintain client funds in trust. Prendiville did not comply with probation conditions by failing to submit five quarterly reports on time and not submitting other reports at all.
In recommending Prendiville’s disbarment, Remke wrote that his “repetition of misconduct over a prolonged period suggests that he is either ‘unwilling or unable’ to conform his behavior to the rules of professional conduct.”
DONALD EUGENE ROY [#96043], 65, of Alturas was disbarred Sept. 24, 2010, 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 Roy failed to comply with an earlier rule 9.20 requirement ― he did not submit to the court an affidavit stating that he notified his clients, opposing counsel and other interested parties of his suspension. Failure to comply with the rule is grounds for disbarment.
In the underlying matter, he was suspended for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, collecting an illegal fee and committing acts of dishonesty.
RITA CATHERINE CLEGG [#194060], 63, of Hanford was disbarred Oct. 15, 2010, and she 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 Clegg committed 28 counts of misconduct in seven matters. In all four matters, she failed to perform legal services competently, communicate with her clients, return unearned fees, cooperate with the bar’s investigation or comply with court orders. In three cases, she abandoned her clients. Three had to hire other attorneys and another substituted in to represent herself.
“Due to the nature and extent of this misconduct, the court finds that (Cleggs’) disregard of her clients’ interests is habitual,” wrote Judge Pat McElroy.
In one matter, for example, a client paid Clegg $2,500 to represent her in a divorce proceeding. Although she filed a petition for dissolution and some declarations, she did not serve the client’s husband or otherwise pursue the case and the client hired a new lawyer. Clegg moved without telling the lawyer or notifying the court, and she did not refund the unearned fee.
She represented another client whose divorce was already filed and requested a continuance of the trial. Although she met with the client to sign a fee agreement, she did no further work and was fired five days before the trial was scheduled to begin. Clegg did not respond to the client’s many phone calls or refund her advance fee.
She violated court orders by not appearing at hearings, she did not account for one client’s funds, and another client’s dissolution was delayed and he had to appear at a hearing without a lawyer.
MARIBEL NIETO [#219077], 39, of Ceres was disbarred Nov. 4, 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 Nieto committed 15 acts of misconduct in four matters. She failed to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, comply with court orders and probation conditions or cooperate with the bar’s investigation and she practiced law while not entitled. She has a record of two prior disciplines.
She filed suit in a personal injury case but did not serve the defendants for three years and 10 months. Nieto did not tell her client the case was dismissed. She worked on a divorce case while suspended and in a case in which she represented the plaintiff, Nieto was sanctioned for repeated failures to appear. She also was sanctioned for missing court appearances and not responding to discovery in another personal injury case that ultimately was dismissed because of her inaction. Nieto and her client were jointly sanctioned $1,120, but she did not notify him or show up for six appointments. Two of her clients’ cases were dismissed and one client was subject to a judgment due to Nieto’s misconduct.
CATHYE ELAINE LEONARD [#177791], 54, of Berkeley was disbarred Nov. 4, 2010, and she 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 Leonard committed four acts of misconduct in a dissolution matter. She did not provide monthly statements or account for any of the $3,000 advance fee.
While she was suspended for not paying bar dues for two different periods in 2007 and 2008, the dissolution was still pending and Leonard remained counsel of record. She never informed her client of the suspensions. When the court discovered the suspensions, it issued an order to show cause for Leonard’s failure to attend a mandatory settlement conference and to advise the court of her ineligibility to practice law. However, she had moved without informing the court of her new address and the order was returned as undeliverable.
The bar court found that she failed to communicate with her client, account for funds, refund unearned fees or keep her address current with the bar.
Leonard was disciplined in 2006 and 2010. In recommending her disbarment, Judge Pat McElroy wrote, “The present matter reflects some of the same misconduct for which (Leonard) has been disciplined in the past — namely failing to communicate with her client and failing to pay unearned fees.”
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