September 1, 2011
From Tenacity To Truculence To Disbarment
From the latest California Bar Journal:
[An attorney] was disbarred April 29, 2011, and was ordered to make restitution and comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
The disbarment is the result of a 10-year dispute between [the attorney] and his former longtime secretary, Barbara Dailey, over ownership of a piece of commercial property in Corona. Dailey consistently maintained that she acquired the property as a retirement asset at [his] urging. [He]repeatedly and unsuccessfully sued Dailey, asserting that he owns the property.
Dailey eventually complained to the bar, after spending thousands of dollars defending her right to the property and weathering years of litigation. After the bar filed charges against [him], he engaged in extensive pretrial proceedings, a 24-day trial in which he filed 144 motions. The hearing judge found he committed six acts of misconduct, including moral turpitude for repeatedly lying under oath, and misappropriating more than $88,000 in settlement proceeds from Dailey and an additional $60,000 security deposit from a tenant on the property. He also failed to provide her file, pay her additional funds he owed and he filed an unjust action against Dailey.
[He] appealed the hearing judge’s disbarment recommendation to the State Bar Court review department, which upheld the recommendation and said it was affected by two factors: Numerous trial and appellate courts found that Dailey owns the property, and the hearing judge found that much of [his] testimony lacked credibility because it was “evasive, hostile, and inconsistent and implausible.”
Dailey, who was [his] secretary in the 1960s, acquired the property, a 3.2 acre commercial parcel that included a dilapidated gas station and restaurant. She said she bought the land at [his] urging to secure her retirement. [He] claimed Dailey held the property in trust for his benefit. He managed the property, collected rent and paid expenses until 1998, when his relationship with Dailey deteriorated and she stopped working for him.
She hired a lawyer, asked for copies of contracts and an accounting of all financial matters [the attorney] had handled. [He] said he owned the property.
In seven lawsuits, some filed against Dailey in which Wells acted as her attorney, the courts confirmed Dailey as the property owner. In one case, the court ordered that Dailey should receive $88,029 from the opposing side and a bank transferred more than $118,000 to [the attorney] to satisfy the judgment and his $28,000 fee award. He never gave Dailey any of the funds. Nor did he give her a $60,000 security deposit she was owed.
The review department also found that Wells brought a frivolous lawsuit in his wife's name challenging Dailey’s ownership after the court found that Wells did not own the property.
“[The attorney] engaged in a 10-year vendetta against Dailey,” wrote review Judge Judith Epstein. “He continues the same relentless tactics in this court, filing 144 motions, almost all of which were denied as unmeritorious. . . . Put simply, [he] went beyond tenacity to truculence.”
In mitigation, [the attorney] practiced for 35 years without any discipline prior to 1994, when the court found he misappropriated settlement funds.
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