- FRANK HENRY WILLIAMS JR.
- KURT ANTHONY MILLER
- DANIEL DAVID DYDZAK
- DEBRA LOUISE KASTELIC
- CHRISTOPHER ALLEN ZAJIC
- BARRY STEPHAN TABACHNICK
- DAVID DEAN MANGAR
- NATHAN PACO
- RICHARD GARY TARLOW
- CLYDE OLIVER WEST
- JAMES MICHAEL KORDELL
- RAYMOND D. KITLAS
- MAXIMILIAN J. B. HOPKINS
- IRA DAVID HAZELKORN
FRANK HENRY WILLIAMS JR. [#193991], 43, of Long Beach was disbarred May 30, 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 Williams failed to comply with an earlier disciplinary order and committed acts of moral turpitude.
He was hired by two people to represent a third individual who faced criminal charges. Although he received a $2,000 advance fee, Williams did not appear for his client’s arraignment and the client hired a new lawyer. Williams did not refund the fee although he told the client he had sent the refund. He also didn’t respond to five letters from a bar investigator.
Williams was disciplined in 2009, but represented a client in a criminal matter while suspended. He did not notify his client, the prosecutor or the judge of his suspension. As part of the discipline, he was required to comply with rule 9.20 by submitting a declaration with the bar court stating that he had notified pertinent parties of his suspension. He stated under penalty of perjury that he had no clients when the discipline order was filed.
He also did not contact the probation office, develop a law office management plan or submit a quarterly probation report. Failure to comply with rule 9.20 is grounds for disbarment and submitting a false declaration involves moral turpitude.
Williams was publicly reproved in 2003 for failing to perform legal services competently and unauthorized practice, and the 2009 discipline was imposed for 13 counts of misconduct in six matters, including five counts of failing to perform legal services competently.
In recommending his disbarment, Judge Lucy Armendariz wrote, “The serious and unexplained nature of the misconduct and the lack of participation in these proceedings suggest that (Williams) is capable of future wrongdoing and raise concerns about his ability or willingness to comply with his ethical responsibilities to the public and to the State Bar.”
KURT ANTHONY MILLER [#184143], 56, of South Pasadena was disbarred May 29, 2010, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
The State Bar Court review department found that Miller misappropriated $75,000 and presented false documents to the bar to conceal his actions.
The review panel dismissed three findings of misconduct by the bar court in an immigration matter. However, it agreed with four findings in a patent infringement case involving Miller’s failure to deposit client funds in trust. The plaintiff agreed to pay $250,000 in installments to Miller’s client. Miller deposited the first check, for $75,000, in his personal checking account and told the client he was keeping half as his contingency legal fees or as a partnership interest. The client objected, estimating Miller’s work at no more than $6,000. Miller wrote a check to the client for $37,500. The client didn’t cash the check because the bank said the account held insufficient funds despite Miller’s bank records showing adequate funds.
Miller deposited a second installment check, for $50,000, in his bank account and sent the client a check for half. The client didn’t cash the check, and asked the attorney for the plaintiff to stop payment and send all future checks directly to him.
Miller accused the client of trying to prevent him from getting “any monies for my hard work.” He later moved $75,000 out of his bank account, saying it didn’t belong in his “trust account” since he had earned it as legal fees. The balance in the account fell below $500.
Still seeking the original $75,000, the client eventually sued Miller for breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, misrepresentation and fraud, and filed a complaint with the bar. Miller produced two retainer agreements, one calling for 50 percent of claims arising out of “any and all infringements of client’s intellectual properties.” An expert who analyzed the client’s purported signature on the documents said there was a “strong probability” the client had not signed either document. Miller settled the lawsuit by giving $60,000 to the client, who said he received $25,000-$28,000 after paying attorney fees.
The review department found that Miller failed to deposit client funds in a trust account or provide an accounting to the client, and he committed acts of moral turpitude by misappropriating at least $75,000 from the client and submitting documents to the bar that the court concluded were forged.
The review department offered limited mitigation for Miller’s seven years of discipline-free practice and his showing of good character. It recommended his disbarment because of the misappropriation and the risk that he might commit other professional misconduct.
DANIEL DAVID DYDZAK [#121857], 51, of Marina Del Rey, was disbarred June 11, 2010, and was ordered to comply with Rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
“Dydzak seriously compromised the rights of his clients and engaged in acts of moral turpitude, including making significant misrepresentations to his clients,” according to the opinion by the State Bar Court review department. “His misconduct is extremely serious and threatens the public because it has not only continued unabated during his decade-long involvement with the State Bar disciplinary system, but it has been increasing in severity.”
The court noted that Dydzak was the subject of five disciplinary proceedings in the last 10 years. In 1998, he was suspended for 30 days for wide-ranging misconduct in five client matters, including failure to promptly pay client funds, maintain client trust account funds, communicate with a client, return client files and unearned fees and cooperate with the bar's investigation.
In 2002, he received a private reproval for neglecting to report $3,500 in sanctions for filing a frivolous appeal. Also in 2002, Dydzak was publicly reproved for failure to show respect for the court by making a scurrilous remark about a judge while leaving the courtroom. And in 2004, he received a one-year stayed suspension and two years’ probation for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law (UPL) while on suspension from his first discipline.
The most recent discipline case involved misconduct in four matters: filing an appeal with an incomplete case information statement and then failing to file the documents in a timely manner, delaying his client’s appeal; failing to appear for his clients; settling and dismissing a case without their consent; and holding himself out as eligible to practice while he was suspended.
DEBRA LOUISE KASTELIC [#144682], 49, of Montclair, was disbarred June 13, 2010, and was ordered to comply with Rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
The State Bar Court found that Kastelic failed to comply earlier with rule 9.20, as required by a 2008 disciplinary order. She did not submit to the bar court an affidavit stating that she notified her clients, opposing counsel and relevant courts of her suspension. Failure to comply with rule 9.20 is grounds for disbarment. Kastelic also did not respond to the initial discipline charges.
In the underlying matter, she was suspended in 2008 for failing to perform services competently in an estate planning matter, return unearned fees and cooperate with the bar’s investigation and she improperly withdrew from employment.
CHRISTOPHER ALLEN ZAJIC [#123878], 56, of Santa Barbara was disbarred June 13, 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 Zajic committed five acts of misconduct while serving as a trustee for an estate, including misappropriating $300,000 in trust funds.
At the time Zajic became trustee, the trust held a personal residence valued at $465,000, a $17,000 promissory note, $10,000 in a checking account and a $110,000 certificate of deposit. Zajic liquidated the CD and placed the money into the trust’s checking account, where he commingled his law firm’s income and his personal income. The bank assessed more than $1,000 in fees for more than a dozen checks written against insufficient funds.
Zajic didn’t make more than 60 mortage payments on time, resulting in five foreclosure proceedings, costing $16,632 in foreclosure fees and late payments. He also didn’t rent the property, for a loss of $20,000, and withdrew funds purported to be attorney’s fees for himself, his wife and his father, who were also attorneys.
When Zajic did not account for funds, he was removed as trustee and agreed to provide a formal accounting. The court required him to submit two amended reports and eventually found that none of the fees he paid to himself were earned. He owed more than $300,000 to the trust and the beneficiaries, as well as attorney fees and costs advanced by the beneficiaries.
The bar court found that Zajic also submitted misleading accountings with the court with the intent of concealing his misappropriation. It found he committed five acts of misconduct — he failed to obey a court order, violated the probate code, tried to mislead a judge and committed acts of moral turpitude by making misrepresentations to the court and misappropriating client funds.
In recommending Zajic’s disbarment, Judge Lucy Armendariz pointed to the misappropriation and wrote, “As (Zajic’s) conduct clearly demonstrates, no resolution short of disbarment would provide adequate protection to the public, the courts and the legal community.”
BARRY STEPHAN TABACHNICK [#91923], 60, of Folsom was disbarred June 13, 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 Tabachnick did not comply with a 2008 disciplinary order — he did not submit to the court his proof of compliance with rule 9.20. Among other things, the rule requires submission of an affidavit attesting that clients, opposing counsel and other pertinent parties were notified of a lawyer’s suspension. Failure to comply with rule 9.20 is grounds for disbarment.
The underlying discipline was imposed for commingling and misusing funds in Tabachnick’s client trust account.
DAVID DEAN MANGAR [#172628], 45, of Hillsborough was disbarred June 13, 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 Mangar committed four acts of misconduct while handling a personal injury matter for a client who suffered serious injuries in a boating accident. Mangar and another attorney went to the victim’s home in 2002 to solicit her business. At the time, she was heavily medicated for pain.
Mangar said the other lawyer, Daniel Eisan, who resigned with charges pending in 2006, was an expert in personal injury cases who had never lost a summary judgment motion. In fact, he had lost many such motions and Mangar knew it when he made the statements.
Based on those misrepresentations, the woman hired Mangar and Eisan, who told her the fee agreement included a 30 percent contingency fee if the case settled before trial and a 40 percent fee if it went to trial. In reality, the agreement called for Mangar to collect 40 percent of settlement funds if the case settled at arbitration. He did not give the fee agreement to the client.
During the arbitration, Mangar misrepresented that the fee agreement entitled him to a 30 percent contingency. Bar Court Judge Lucy Armendariz said Mangar was trying to induce the client to accept a settlement offer believing she would get 70 percent of the money. As a result, she agreed to settle her claim for $315,000.
Although Eisan did most of the work on the case, he and Mangar agreed to split the fees equally, without telling the client. When the client received the settlement check, Mangar said he couldn’t deposit it in his trust account because his assets were frozen. He suggested he forge Eisan’s name and the client could deposit the money in her account and write a check to Mangar. This was the first time he told the client he was entitled to 40 percent. The client fired Mangar and gave Eisan the settlement check.
Armendariz found that Mangar committed acts of moral turpitude by making misrepresentations to the client and the arbitrator, he failed to keep the client reasonably informed about developments in her case, he entered into a fee-splitting agreement with Eisan without obtaining the client’s written consent, and he failed to participate in the bar’s investigation.
Mangar was suspended and placed on probation in 2003 for misusing his client trust account and in 2009, he was disciplined after a conviction for occupying real property without the owner’s consent, a misdemeanor.
In recommending his disbarment, Armendariz said she was “very concerned about (Mangar’s) overreaching such a vulnerable client for his own financial benefit in this case” and said his actions suggest “he is capable of future wrongdoing and raise concerns about his ability or willingness to comply with his ethical responsibilities to the public and to the State Bar.”
NATHAN PACO [#151490], 66, of San Mateo was disbarred June 20, 2010, and he was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
In a default proceeding, the State Bar Court found that Paco committed 17 acts of misconduct in five bankruptcy cases.
In the first, he improperly advised his clients to stop paying their bills, told them a property they owned in Arizona would not be an issue since it was not in California, understated the client’s income and overstated the medical expenses and he failed to amend court documents to reflect true expenses.
The clients repeatedly gave Paco corrected information, but he took no steps to correct the information submitted to the court. The bankruptcy trustee moved to review Paco’s fees and he was ordered to refund the fee, which he never did.
Paco filed an individual bankruptcy for a client under chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code; however, individuals are not allowed to file under that chapter. In addition, the bar court found that Paco deliberately failed to disclose the client’s financial holdings and incorrectly listed his employer’s debts as the client’s personal debts. The mistake could have subjected the client to liability for those corporate debts.
Paco collected more than $19,000 in attorney’s fees without complying with federal rules and eventually was ordered to refund those fees. Some of the fee was paid to Paco to create business entities to shield his assets from creditors, but Paco never created the entities. He also was sanctioned for failing to appear at a hearing, but neither paid the sanction nor reported it to the bar, as required.
Paco himself declared bankruptcy for a Nevada business in which he was the general partner, listing himself as both debtor and attorney. The court disqualified him as counsel for the business. He didn’t respond to the trustee’s numerous requests for information but at one point filed an objection to a motion as the “attorney for debtor.”
He was sanctioned $1,500 but the court permitted him instead to take continuing legal education classes. He did not do so.
Paco’s misconduct included failures to perform legal services competently, communicate with clients, obey court orders, report sanctions to the bar or cooperate with the bar’s investigation. He also filed a frivolous appeal, collected illegal fees, misled judicial officers and committed acts of moral turpitude.
In recommending his disbarment, Judge Pat McElroy found that Paco repeatedly violated court orders and his “misconduct evidences a disdain and contempt for the orderly process and rule of law.”
Paco was publicly reproved in 2002 for charging and collecting an unconscionable fee.
RICHARD GARY TARLOW [#72889], 66, of Calabasas was disbarred June 20, 2010, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
The State Bar Court found that Tarlow committed five acts of misconduct in two matters.
He practiced law and collected an illegal fee while suspended from practice between August 2005 and December 2007. His actions involved moral turpitude.
Tarlow substituted in to a case, prior to his suspension, on behalf of plaintiffs who were seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Nonetheless, he continued to handle the case after he was not entitled to practice, accepted fees and costs totaling more than $17,000 and settled the case. He never told the clients about his suspension.
He worked on a second matter as well, filing complaints and summonses, receiving answers from the other side and signing a stipulation. His co-counsel notified the bar that Tarlow informed him of his suspension and said he was hiring Tarlow as a paralegal to assist in the case. However, neither lawyer ever notified the court of Tarlow’s status or of his withdrawal.
Tarlow also did not respond to the bar’s repeated attempts to reach him. He testified that he was “on survival mode” due to several problems in his life and did not answer his mail. However, Judge Richard Platel said his “actions constitute gross negligence” that did not justify his lack of awareness of his status. He cooperated with the bar’s investigation, had emotional difficulties and presented nine character witnesses.
Tarlow has been disciplined three times previously. Platel recommended his disbarment “based on the facts and circumstances involved in the present matter, the substance and nature of (his) extensive record of prior discipline, and the lack of compelling mitigating circumstances.”
CLYDE OLIVER WEST [#51796], 70, of Sacramento, was disbarred June 20, 2010, and was ordered to make restitution and comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
In a default matter, the State Bar Court found that West committed seven acts of misconduct in two matters.
He substituted in to a product liability lawsuit on a contingency fee basis but did not respond to discovery until the court ordered him to do so, did not respond to a motion to compel or appear at a hearing, resulting in sanctions of $1,983, failed to respond to a motion for summary judgment or appear at a hearing, and did not obtain expert witnesses. He didn’t keep his client informed about developments in his case and withdrew from the case without protecting his client’s interests.
In the second matter, he accepted $2,500 from a client to assist her with a mortgage modification but took no action. The client fired him, asked for a return of her file and a refund of her fee, but he did not respond.
West was disciplined twice previously, in 2002 and 2009, when he was terminated from the Alternative Discipline Program for lawyers with substance abuse or mental health issues. Judge Pat McElroy recommended his disbarment based on, among other things, her concern “about the possibility of similar misconduct recurring. (West) has offered no indication that this will not happen again.”
JAMES MICHAEL KORDELL [#90869], 63, of Woodlake, was disbarred June 20, 2010, and was ordered to comply with Rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
Kordell pleaded no contest in 2008 to felony charges of maintaining a place for selling or using methamphetamine. He was placed on interim suspension which was abated because he had serious health problems that prevented him from participating in the bar meetings. When the abatement ended, Kordell filed no response.
RAYMOND D. KITLAS [#69075], 66, of Vista, was disbarred June 25, 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 Kitlas committed misconduct in four instances, including moral turpitude and failures to maintain client funds in a trust account, keep accounts of trust funds and obey a court order.
In a case in which Kitlas represented one of the parties in a lawsuit involving ownership of a parcel, Kitlas wrote himself numerous checks from the client trust account, reducing the money in the account from $121,000 to $65,000 and violating a court order prohibiting him from withdrawing the funds. When the court ordered Kitlas to give the full amount that had been put in the trust account to his client, he paid the client only $61,000. While she was trying to reclaim the remaining amount, a $121,000 judgment was issued against her. Because she had only the $61,000 Kitlas had given her, she had to sell her house and other assets to come up with the money.
Kitlas claimed that he was entitled to the money he took out of the trust account because of a contingency agreement, but the State Bar Court said there was no record of such an agreement. Also, if there were such an agreement, he would have been required to withdraw the funds all at once, the court said.
The court said the fact that Kitlas had no discipline record in more than 30 years of practice “is more than offset by the serious nature of the misconduct, by the substantial harm caused by it, and by (Kitlas’) continued attitude of denial and lack of remorse.”
MAXIMILIAN J. B. HOPKINS [#133944], 51, of Novato, was disbarred June 25, 2010, and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
The State Bar Court found that Hopkins, despite having no earlier record of discipline, committed misconduct serious enough in four matters, including misappropriating $69,000 from a client, to warrant disbarment.
Hopkins stipulated to the charges of misappropriation in one matter and failing to communicate, perform legal services competently or obey court orders, and he committed acts of moral turpitude and two trust account violations. He argued that disbarment was too severe a response to his misconduct.
Hopkins withdrew funds from his client trust account, ending up with what should have been a $32,000 balance that instead was just over $100. The court said Hopkins then made up false accounting statements and blamed his wife for the unauthorized withdrawals. The court said his claim about his wife lacked credibility.
In other matters, Hopkins failed to perform work in an employment contract case or return unearned fees. In a personal injury case, he was sanctioned by the court for failing to appear at scheduled hearings. He said he was substituting out of the case but did not file the proper substitution papers on time. In another case, he said someone else had signed his name as attorney of record in a lawsuit but he did not file papers withdrawing his name as attorney of record and therefore was expected at court hearings, which he did not attend. He also wrote a check for more money than he had in his client trust account.
IRA DAVID HAZELKORN [#75607], 62, of Newport Beach, was disbarred July 4, 2010, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
Hazelkorn stipulated to practicing law without a license. He was suspended in 1993 for being in violation of probation relating to three convictions of driving with a suspended license. He never met the requirements of the State Bar Court discipline and has been prohibited from practicing law since 1993. In what was supposed to be paralegal work for other lawyers, however, he provided legal advice, analysis that amounted to practicing law.
In aggravation, he had been disciplined on five other occasions. In mitigation, he caused no harm to clients.
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