Thursday, December 24, 2009

Failure To Grant Continuance Leads To Remand

The Supreme Court of Washington has rejected by a 5-4 vote a recommendation for disbarment and remanded the matter for a hearing. The attorney practices in Oregon and obtained admission in Washington in order to handle his mother's divorce from his father. The case led to disciplinary charges involving charges of instituting frivolous lawsuits disobeying court orders and related misconduct. On the day of the scheduled hearing, he sought a continuance for health reasons. The motion was denied and the matter proceeded in his absence. The court here found that the failure to continue the matter amounted to a violation of due process, requiring a new hearing.

A dissent would find no abuse of discretion in the denial the continuance under the circumstances:

Viewed in isolation, I would have sympathy for Fredric's plea that his health
prevented his appearance at his disciplinary proceeding and that he should be given another chance. Viewed in context, the hearing officer was fully justified in denying another frivolous motion brought only for the purpose of delay. This was Fredric's third request for a continuance on a hearing that had already been delayed two years. Fredric's attempt to delay was not limited to his own discipline case; the record (which the hearing examiner was well aware of when he denied the motion for a continuance) establishes a long standing pattern of delay through myriad tactics, including the filing of frivolous motions for reconsideration and appeal, failing to properly serve documents, refusing to appear for depositions, refusing to produce documents pursuant to orders, and numerous other excuses for his or his client's failure to comply with rules and orders of the courts. These excuses have included automobile collisions, office moves, press of existing motions, a sick mother, and the birth of a child.
Any one of these excuses might deserve judicial sympathy. But Fredric has
an unprecedented record of engaging in abusive and vexatious practices by filing baseless lawsuits and endless motions and appeals (often in direct violation of court orders) in courts up and down the West Coast.

The dissent quotes two judges who were involved in the litigation. The first judge calls the behavior an "indescribable abuse of legal process." The second judge laments that "the unwarranted grief and expense it has spawned, are an outrage." The dissent notes that the lawyer has not challenged by findings of misconduct. (Mike Frisch)

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