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California Bar Foundation
 
Disbarments
  1. JAMES WILLIAM BIEDEBACH
  2. JENNIFER F. BLACKBURN
  3. WILLIAM CHIPMAN MILES
  4. CRAIG JONATHAN SHABER
  5. GHASSAN G. BRIDI
  6. DOUGLAS EVAN MACKENZIE
  7. DAMON CHRISTIAN WATSON
  8. STEVEN HOWARD HERTZ
  9. STEPHAN ADRIAN RODRIGUEZ
  10. RONALD EARL BEHLING
  11. CHARLOTTE SPADARO
  12. BRION L. ST. JAMES  

JAMES WILLIAM BIEDEBACH [#152980], 47, of Del Mar, was disbarred June 21, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Biedebach was found culpable of three counts of misconduct including failing to timely file a compliance affidavit, failure to comply with conditions of his probation and moral turpitude. The charges stemmed from his failure to comply with the requirements of a 2011 disciplinary order.

In 2011, Biedebach received a 15-month actual suspension after stipulating to five counts of misconduct in two matters. As a condition of his probation, Biedebach was required to file an affidavit stating he had complied with rule 9.20. Biedebach did not file the affidavit until after he learned his case was being referred to the Office of Chief Trial Counsel. He also did not timely schedule a meeting with his probation deputy and did not meet the deadlines for filing two quarterly reports with probation. Biedebach also did not timely provide proof of having completed ethics school and client trust accounting school. Biedebach was found to have committed moral turpitude because in one of his quarterly reports, he claimed to have met all of the deadlines for meeting the conditions of his probation.

Biedebach’s prior discipline was for two counts of failing to deposit and maintain funds in his client trust account, misappropriating funds totaling $78,241.93 and failing to render appropriate accounts to a client.

JENNIFER F. BLACKBURN [#214781], 39, of Keaau, Hawaii, was disbarred June 30, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Blackburn stipulated to violating the terms of a 2011 disciplinary order by not timely filing a declaration stating she had complied with rule 9.20.

Blackburn was previously disciplined for not complying with the terms of a 2008 disciplinary order. The 2008 discipline was for eight counts of misconduct in two matters. She failed to perform legal services competently, respond to client inquiries, keep a client informed about developments in his case or refund unearned fees. She also did not cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

In mitigation, no clients were harmed as a result of Blackburn’s misconduct, she has shown remorse, she cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation and showed evidence of her good character. Blackburn received limited mitigation for the fact that she suffers major depression which has contributed to her problems.

WILLIAM CHIPMAN MILES [#40970], 70, of Walnut Creek, was disbarred June 30, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Miles was found culpable of not complying with the terms of a 2009 disciplinary order. Miles initially tendered his resignation from the State Bar with charges pending, but the Review Department recommended his resignation be declined because he did not comply with a previous California Supreme Court order requiring he pay restitution. The Review Department was also concerned that allowing his resignation would not serve to protect the public.

Miles was suspended in 2009 for 15 acts of misconduct in a matter in which he represented 44 landowners. They included representing clients with conflicting interests, improperly splitting fees, agreeing to an aggregate settlement without obtaining a client’s consent, withdrawing from employment without protecting the client’s interests, not maintaining disputed funds in trust or account for client funds and failing to perform legal services competently. He also misappropriated funds, committed acts of moral turpitude and attempted to convince a client to withdraw a complaint to the State Bar.

Miles did not abide by the terms of his probation by failing to timely file seven quarterly probation reports and client funds reports and by not attending Ethics School and Client Trust Account School or providing proof of his attendance.

CRAIG JONATHAN SHABER [#159151], 57, of San Diego, was disbarred June 30, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Shaber was disbarred as a result of his 2010 conviction for felony tax evasion, which the State Bar Court found to have involved moral turpitude. Shaber and his accountant business partner made significant amounts of money by fraudulently obtaining control of public shell companies and selling their stock in the companies for a substantial profit. They also received income through the sale of retained shares of the shell companies through brokerage accounts. Shaber signed and filed tax returns for 2000, 2001 and 2002 in which he failed to report his income from the sales of the shell companies and retained stock. Shaber attempted to evade paying taxes on a sum somewhere between $325,000 and $950,000.

Shaber received minimal mitigation for having no prior discipline in seven years of practicing law.

GHASSAN G. BRIDI [#188070], 42, of Encino, was disbarred June 21, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court, pay restitution and pay sanctions.

Bridi was disbarred after his default was entered for failing to respond to the notice of disciplinary charges 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. The charges are also deemed admitted.

The State Bar Court found that Bridi committed 13 acts of misconduct in three client matters, including failing to perform legal services with competence, violation of a court order, failing to report sanctions, failing to cooperate in a disciplinary investigation, failing to return client papers, failing to communicate with his clients and failing to return unearned fees.

Bridi was ordered to pay $2,500 plus interest in restitution  to a couple he represented and to pay $2,350 in sanctions.

DOUGLAS EVAN MACKENZIE [#212953], 60, of Mountain View, was disbarred June 21, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Mackenzie was disbarred after his default was entered for failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding stemming from discipline he received from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 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.

The charges were deemed admitted: Mackenzie was found to have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by holding himself out as authorized to represent clients before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office when he was not entitled to practice law by the State Bar. He also failed to withdraw in a timely manner from a former client’s trademark matter, failed to inform clients of potential conflicts and accepted fees from a non-client.

DAMON CHRISTIAN WATSON [#187866], 45, of Santa Monica, was disbarred June 21, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Watson was disbarred after his default was entered when he failed to file a response to the notice of disciplinary charges against him. Rule 5.85 of the State Bar’s Rules of Procedure states that that an attorney may be disbarred if he or she does not seek to have the default set aside within 180 days. The charges were deemed admitted:

Watson failed to comply with the terms of a 2011 public reproval, which followed his conviction for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

STEVEN HOWARD HERTZ [#153971], 57, of Mission Viejo, was disbarred June 27, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and to make restitution.

Hertz was disbarred after his default was entered for failing to file a response to the notice of disciplinary charges against him. The State Bar filed a petition for disbarment under rule 5.85 of the California Rules of Procedure, which permits disbarment of a lawyer who makes no move to have a default set aside within 180 days. The charges were also deemed admitted.

Hertz was found culpable of 10 counts of misconduct in two client matters including failure to perform legal services with competence, failing to promptly return unearned fees, failure to return client files, failure to respond to his client’s inquiries about his case and failing to cooperate with a State Bar investigation. Hertz also failed to file a bankruptcy petition on behalf of a client.

Hertz has three prior records of discipline. In 2012, his probation was revoked after he violated the terms of a 2011 disciplinary order by failing to contact the State Bar’s probation office, to file his first quarterly probation report or comply with a fee arbitration condition.

Hertz stipulated to misconduct in two client matters in 2011—failing to pay out client funds and failing to account for client funds. In 2001, he was disciplined for mishandling his client trust account, writing checks against insufficient funds and committing acts of moral turpitude. He also did no work on a case and moved without telling his client or providing new contact information.

Hertz was ordered to pay $5,909 in restitution.

STEPHAN ADRIAN RODRIGUEZ [#219019], 41, of Pasadena, was summarily disbarred June 21, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Rodriguez was convicted in 2012 of multiple counts of grand theft.

RONALD EARL BEHLING [#89042], 77, of Los Angeles, was disbarred July 6, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and to make restitution.

Behling stipulated to six counts of misconduct in two client matters. In one of the matters, Behling failed to maintain funds in his client trust account, misappropriated a client’s settlement money, then used money misappropriated from other clients to pay the man’s medical bill. In the other matter, Behling misappropriated $13,789.25 in settlement money that should have gone to his client by instead writing a check to a company that had no claim to her money.

Behling has two instances of prior misconduct. The first involved failure to account and to communicate and misappropriation involving six client matters. His second resulted from his failure to comply with the terms of his probation related to that earlier discipline.

CHARLOTTE SPADARO [#47163], 72, of Riverside, was disbarred July 6, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and to make restitution.

The State Bar Court found Spadaro culpable of 16 counts of misconduct including failure to perform legal services with competence, failure to communicate, failure to avoid interests adverse to a client, moral turpitude, failure to maintain client funds and commingling personal funds in her client trust account.

In one client matter in which Spadaro committed misconduct, she failed to perform competently by filing deficient schedules and forms in a couple’s bankruptcy case, among other errors, and failed to provide any legal services of value on their home loan modifications.

In another matter, Spadaro was hired to represent residents of a mobile home park in a class action against the mobile home park’s owner. One of the plaintiffs in the suit was a woman who had fired Spadaro after she failed to file the necessary paperwork in her personal case and to perform the services promised. Although Spadaro’s employment in the class action was not terminated, she failed to properly prosecute the class action after filing the complaint, leading to the dismissal of the case. Despite collecting more than $16,000 in advanced fees from the clients, Spadaro failed to repay any of the money.

Spadaro also borrowed one of the class-action client’s cars, but failed to properly spell out the terms on their agreement, failed to get the client’s written consent and failed to advise him he could seek the advice of independent counsel. The vehicle was later found parked and vandalized at a gas station. Spadaro’s son, who had been driving the vehicle, paid for only a small portion of the damage, and the client was ultimately forced to donate the vehicle to charity. The client also had to pay for two parking tickets that were issued during the time that Spadaro had responsibility for the vehicle.

Spadaro was ordered to pay $22,975.08 in restitution.

Spadaro had one prior record of discipline. On March 22, Spadaro was suspended for three counts of entering into an improper business relationship with a client, failing to account for client funds and failing to return advanced fees and unused advanced costs totaling $7,500.

BRION L. ST. JAMES [#181977], 54, of Sacramento, was disbarred July 6, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and pay restitution.

St. James stipulated to nine counts of misconduct in three client matters involving loan modifications: sharing legal fees with non-lawyers, failing to perform services and failing to return unearned fees promptly. In June 2012, the California Supreme Court returned the disciplinary matter to the State Bar for further consideration of the recommended discipline – 30 days of actual suspension.

In finding his conduct warranted disbarment, the State Bar Court wrote that St. James and the company he worked for, My US Legal Services, “had clearly swindled vulnerable, desperate clients.

“Even after USLS was shut down by the Attorney General, respondent was still trying to renegotiate with his clients to continue the shenanigan of providing loan modification services,” the court wrote. “The serious nature of the misconduct as well as the self-interest underlying respondent’s actions suggest that 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.”

From July to October 2010, My US Legal Services paid St. James $25,500 to handle predatory lender lawsuits on behalf of its clients, using money that had been unlawfully charged to clients through advanced fees. St. James did not draft the pleadings for the client matters My US Legal Services referred to him, but instead filed boilerplate complaints prepared by non-attorneys. He did not achieve any positive results on behalf of his clients.

St. James was ordered to pay $27,500 plus interest in restitution.

St. James has two prior records of discipline. In 2006, he stipulated to a public reproval for filing a frivolous appeal and for failing to report judicial sanctions to the State Bar. In 2009, he stipulated to a one-year stayed suspension for violating the probationary conditions tied to his earlier public reproval.

. 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.