Thursday, June 22, 2017

You're the Puppet!!!

Kinney v. Clark, No. B265267 (D2d1, as modified Jun. 14, 2017)

This appeal is just the latest in a lengthy saga where a Disbarred Lawyer has been trying to duck a ten-year old order that he pay an adversary’s attorneys’ fees. He’s also been declared a vexatious litigant pretty much everywhere in Southern California and has pre-filing orders against him. This case is no different and the court dismisses the appeal as frivolous because the arguments D.L. raises have already been raised and lost in many other cases over and over again.

As a sanction, the court enters an expanded pre-filing order against D.L. that applies even to cases where he is represented by counsel! Code of Civil Procedure § 391.7 facially authorizes pre-filing orders only against pro se filings, on the theory that the ethical obligations of lawyers should be enough to prevent truly vexatious filings. But prior cases permit expanded orders when a vexatious litigant recruits attorneys to act as “puppets” in the filing of new frivolous litigation.

Dicta in the Supreme Court’s recent decision in John v. Superior Court, 63 Cal. 4th 91 (2016), doesn’t bode otherwise. There, the court held that a pre-filing order doesn’t apply to an appeal in a case where the vexatious litigant appeals a judgment in a case where he is a defendant. In passing, the Court referenced that “the “vexatious litigant statutory scheme [citation] applies exclusively to self-represented litigants.” But that statement alone doesn’t mean that the scheme can’t apply when attorneys act a mere puppets to vexatious litigants without exercising any independent professional judgment.

In any event, the court here finds that the puppet standard is met because the attorneys representing D.L. are just regurgitating old arguments that D.L. has made and lost on in a bunch of old resolved cases. Moreover, since prior orders have been ineffective, the court further notes that it can impose the limits under its inherent powers, as a means necessary to protect from abuse of the judicial process. But the expanded order applies only to additional filings in connection with the long-dead dispute that underlies this case.

In addition, the court issues $10,000 in monetary sanctions against the disbarred lawyer and orders the opinion sent to the state bar, lest he seek reinstatement at some point in the future.

Appeal dismissed and sanctions awarded.

No comments:

Post a Comment