November 2, 2008
"Basically An Extortionist"
An interesting bar discipline matter is described by the California Bar Journal as follows;
Brar [the attorney] gained notoriety in 2003 for filing hundreds of lawsuits that then-Attorney General Bill Lockyer said violated the state Unfair Competition Law, also known as §17200 of the Business & Professions Code. Lockyer accused Brar of engaging in illegal business practices and called his firm “a quick-buck racket that has inflicted financial harm on law-abiding small business owners.”
In recommending his disbarment, State Bar Court Judge Richard Honn said Brar “has engaged in a nearly continuous course of serious misconduct” since shortly after his 2000 admission to the bar. He “used the legal system as part of a scheme to extract settlements from small businesses for his own enrichment and in violation of court orders preventing him from doing so,” Honn wrote in the disbarment recommendation. The judge said Brar’s actions amount to “serious breaches” of an attorney’s fundamental ethical mores.
Brar sued more than 400 nail salon owners in Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, alleging they violated health and safety codes by using the same bottle of nail polish on more than one customer. His firm, Brar & Gamulin, also sued 140 ethnic grocery stores, charging them with video piracy for not labeling videotapes correctly. In 2004, Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Polos ordered Brar to pay nearly $1.8 million in civil penalties as well as sanctions and enjoined him from filing any more cases under 17200 without meeting requirements in the Civil Code. The judge called Brar “basically an extortionist.”
Despite the order, Brar filed three new lawsuits under 17200 within nine months, accusing 237 named defendants and 750 “Doe” defendants of not posting notices of fees charged at ATM machines in their stores. Most of the defendants owned liquor or convenience stores. There was no relationship among the defendants and no question of common fact among them. As was his pattern in earlier lawsuits, Brar sent the defendants threatening letters in which he offered to settle the matter for roughly $750 and encouraged a quick settlement in order to avoid additional fees and costs.
Polos held Brar in contempt and sentenced him to 15 days in jail.
Prior to the Orange County judgment, Brar had filed suit against 55 named defendants and 100 Does for allegedly violating the Immigration Consultants Act by failing to post a bond required by the code. Honn found that Brar filed the matters “for an improper purpose, namely to conduct volume litigation . . . with minimal overhead so as to maximize profits from settlements.” By improperly joining defendants, Brar avoided paying filing fees of $185 each for separate actions.
The bar court found that Brar committed 17 acts of misconduct: he disobeyed court orders, filed unjust actions, committed acts of moral turpitude, failed to pay court-ordered sanctions and did not cooperate with the bar’s investigation. He never paid any civil penalties or sanctions.
Brar also was convicted of five felony counts of tax evasion last July and is currently serving one year in the county jail. The bar placed him on interim suspension following the convictions. He has been ineligible to practice law since March 2007.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "Basically An Extortionist":
Presuming that Brar was suing under statutes which allow a party to act as a private attorney general (and this is not at all clear from the information provided), what is the difference between what Brar was doing and what the class action industry does every day?
Posted by: FixedWing | Nov 2, 2008 6:12:31 AM