Monday, February 24, 2020

Kissing Distance

A federal court disbarment was reduced to a nine-month actual reciprocal suspension by the California State Bar Court Review Department

In 2007, Cheryl Cotterill retained Haynes to represent her in connection with claims arising from her involuntary confinement for 10 days at San Francisco General Hospital in 2006. Haynes filed a complaint on her behalf, alleging federal civil rights and common law tort claims against a variety of defendants, including the City and County of San Francisco (the City), and the Regents of the University of California (the Regents). During the meet-and-confer stage of the litigation, Haynes refused to cooperate and responded with profanity and unprofessional comments to emails from the Regents’ counsel, R. Wesley Pratt. Pratt reported this conduct to the court, but the district judge declined to impose sanctions against Haynes at that time.

Defendants moved for summary judgment

On October 20, 2009, the district judge granted the City’s motion for summary judgment, stating that Haynes’s conduct during the prosecution of the case was "reprehensible." The order noted that Haynes had been sanctioned for discovery abuses and had repeatedly been late in filing his submissions.  The district judge found Haynes’s conduct and submissions to be "consistently dilatory, rambling, and legally deficient." A final judgment was issued on October 21.

The City and the Regents filed motions for attorney fees and costs. Haynes did not inform Cotterill of the summary judgment ruling or the defendants’ motions. Cotterill discovered the ruling while reviewing her case through the federal court’s electronic public access service.

In an unrelated case

After a hearing on October 8, 2009, Haynes and two defense attorneys, Daniel Zaheer and Dirk Larsen, walked from the courtroom into the adjoining corridor to discuss discovery-related matters. During this discussion, Haynes flew into a rage, accosting Zaheer and shouting profanities at him. Zaheer feared for his personal safety and sought help. United States Marshals and Federal Protective Services (FPS) officers arrived on the scene, and Haynes yelled profanities at them too. The attorneys were separated and interviewed. Haynes resumed yelling profanities and several law enforcement officers escorted him out of the building. Codelle Phillimore, a bystander who did not know anyone involved in the incident, testified that Haynes stood very close to Zaheer—"close enough to kiss him"—while yelling profanities at him. She was frightened for Zaheer’s safety from the events she observed.

On October 21, 2009, Zaheer wrote a letter to the district judge, asking that all future depositions be taken at the federal courthouse because of Haynes’s behavior during the October 8 incident. Haynes filed a declaration in response to Zaheer’s letter, claiming that the allegations were without factual support. He stated that "[t]he allegations of profane name calling is [sic] disproved," that he "did not lose his composure during the events of [October] 8, 2009," and that he "did not cause a disturbance." On November 20, the district judge advised that any further fighting would result in sanctions. The district judge denied the request to hold depositions at the federal courthouse, and he ordered that further disputes were to be brought to him, not the magistrate judge.

That case was dismissed.

Reciprocal but lesser discipline was deemed appropriate

Considering the standards, the comparable case law, and the facts of this matter, we affirm the hearing judge’s recommendation of a nine-month actual suspension.

The rest of a two-year suspension is stayed with three years of probation. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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