Friday, February 3, 2017

California Seeks Reciprocal Discipline For Federal Disbarment

The web page of the California State Bar Court reports  bar charges recently brought against an attorney as reciprocal discipline for a federal district court order of disbarment.

On or about March 22, 2013, the United States District Court - Northern District of California ordered that respondent be disciplined upon findings that respondent had committed professional misconduct in that jurisdiction as set forth in the Order Granting Petitioner’s Motion for Summary Judgment and a separate Order of Disbarment. Thereafter, the decision of the foreign jurisdiction became final.

The misconduct is described in the lengthy federal court order appended to the charges.

In litigation 

Counsel for the Regents [of the University of California] , R. Wesley Pratt, asserts that while he was attempting to fulfill his meet-and-confer responsibilities prior to the initial case management conference, Mr. Haynes refused to cooperate, and also responded to Mr. Pratt’s e-mails with profanity and unprofessional comments. For example, Mr. Haynes wrote an e-mail to Mr. Pratt accusing him of having "bitched repeatedly about receiving email," and telling Mr. Pratt to "read your fucking email." When Mr. Pratt responded in a professional manner, Mr. Haynes replied, "Fuck you. I got no respect for you because you are a lying bitch."

After Mr. Pratt reported this conduct and other uncivil behavior to the court, the Hon. Jeffrey S. White issued an order to show cause why Mr. Haynes should not be sanctioned for failure to meet and confer in good faith. Mr. Haynes responded with a declaration asserting that he had always met and conferred in good faith, and that many of Mr. Pratt’s allegations were false or incomplete. At the hearing, Judge White admonished counsel regarding appropriate conduct towards each other, but declined to impose sanctions at that time.

Eventually the attorney's conduct led to an investigation

The Committee contends that Mr. Haynes has demonstrated, by his conduct in a number of cases, that he cannot be expected to conform his future conduct to professional norms, as he has repeatedly treated his duties to his clients as optional, failed to meet court deadlines, disregarded his discovery obligations, and mistreated opposing counsel and court personnel. Even in this proceeding, the Committee notes, Mr. Haynes has ignored the court’s directions, filed papers that lack any coherent argument, filed documents that are not authorized under the local rules, arrived late for court, raised innumerable irrelevant issues, engaged in baseless delaying tactics, and generally shown contempt for the process. In many respects, the Committee asserts, his conduct of this litigation resembles that of a pro se litigant, but he is a lawyer.

Key conclusions

It is undisputed that during the October 8, 2009 incident outside Judge James’ courtroom, Mr. Haynes told Mr. Zaheer to "grow the fuck up" and to "shut the fuck up;" called Mr. Zaheer "a little fuckhead;" and said "I should have knocked the shit out of you earlier." Mr. Haynes does dispute that he called Mr. Zaheer a "little bitch" or a "goddamn bitch," although he conceded that he might have said "goddamn bitch" with reference to the "whole process" because he was "frustrated" by Mr. Zaheer. However, Ms. Phillimore, the only witness who was not personally involved in the incident, clearly recalled hearing Mr. Haynes call Mr. Zaheer a "bitch" and a "little bitch." Mr. Larsen also heard Mr. Haynes call. Mr. Zaheer a "little bitch."

Mr. Haynes also disputes that his actions were abusive or threatening, but the witnesses who appeared at the evidentiary hearing confirmed that Mr. Haynes was yelling, that he walked towards Mr. Zaheer making threatening and abusive remarks, and that he pushed up close to Mr. Zaheer, forcing him to move backwards towards the courtroom doors. Mr. Zaheer testified that he felt physically threatened, and both Ms. Phillimore and Mr. Larsen testified that they were afraid Mr. Haynes was going to strike Mr. Zaheer, because of Mr. Haynes’ actions and his words. The witnesses also confirmed that Mr. Haynes continued yelling and directing profane language towards the court security officers who arrived after having been summoned by Judge James’ courtroom deputy...

During that three-year period, Mr. Haynes has responded in exactly the opposite way one would expect from an attorney whose conduct is being scrutinized by a peer review committee and the court. He has refused to cooperate with the Committee at every turn. Every deadline set by the court has been met with multiple requests for continuances. His written work product is sloppy, bordering on incomprehensible, and replete with typographical and grammatical errors, making it difficult for the court to even understand his arguments. In short, he has failed to practice competently.

Readers may recall that the Georgia Supreme Court has declined to impose reciprocal discipline based on federal court orders. 

We discuss the majority view of the intersection between federal and state bar reciprocal discipline here. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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