Tarzana attorney Steven C. Wilheim has been disbarred by the California State Bar following five counts of misconduct in a single client matter, according to a recent state bar filing.
In one client matter, a civil action in which Wilheim had been hired to represent his client, he failed to perform legal services with competence according to the six-page decision and order of involuntary inactive enrollment issued Sept. 6 by the state bar, disbarring Wilheim. In the same matter, Wilheim also was accused of failing to respond to his client's numerous status inquiries, telling the client he'd filed a wrongful death lawsuit on the client's behalf when he knew he had not, terminated his employment without notice and then failed to cooperate in the state bar's disciplinary investigation, according to the order.
The state bar's decision is pending final action by the California Supreme Court, an appeal before the state bar's review department or expiration of time in which parties may request further review within the state bar court. Wilheim's recommended discipline was among the dispositions filed earlier this month by the state bar court's hearing department for September.
Wilheim was admitted to the bar in California on Dec. 10, 1996, according to his profile at the state bar website. He had had no prior discipline before the state bar, according to his profile.
Wilheim failed to participate in person or via counsel and state bar's decision and order for disbarment was entered by default. In such cases, in which an attorney fails to participate in a California State Bar disciplinary proceeding despite adequate notice and opportunity, the bar invokes Rule 5.85, which provides the procedure for the state bar to recommend an attorney’s disbarment.
Wilheim did attend and participate in an initial status conference April 11 in his disciplinary process but did not otherwise participate either in person or through counsel, and his default was entered, according to the order. The state bar filed its notice of disciplinary charges the previous month, according to the order.
A state bar representative did have a telephone conversation with Wilheim's counsel four days before the April 24 entry of default, and the counsel indicated Wilheim intended to proceed by default and be disbarred, according to the order.