Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Richard I. Fine Asks State Bar Court to Reinstate Right to Practice
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A prominent Beverly Hills attorney whose disbarment was recommended by a State Bar Court hearing judge earlier this month has asked the court to stay an order that bars him from practicing while his disciplinary case remains pending.
Richard I. Fine argued that his involuntary inactive enrollment would seriously hurt his clients because of the nature of the litigation in which he is involved in and the inability of those clients to find other counsel who will protect their interests.
He explained that he has a petition to the state Supreme Court, two appellate briefs, several hearings, and two trials scheduled in the next two weeks, and that:
“Some of these cases are highly political cases involving suits against governments (including illegal campaign contributions), on government abuse of power issues, CEQA issues, and sophisticated legal issues which other lawyers refuse to litigate because of the political consequences they perceive to occur to their careers such as this State Bar Proceeding. If a stay is not immediately imposed, these clients will lose their attorney, will not be able to find new counsel, and will lose their cases.
“The refusal to impose the immediate stay will send a message to the legal community and the public that the State Bar has targeted the lawyers who have successfully taken on corruption in the political system for removal to allow the corruption to continue, unabated.”
Hearing Judge Richard Honn, in an order filed Oct. 12, directed that Fine be placed on temporary inactive status and ordered that he be disbarred for “improper and vindictive reactions” to rulings of Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Bruce Mitchell and other judicial officers.
If the action stands, it could mark the end of a legal career which began in 1973 and has included significant cases in antitrust and constitutional law, among other areas.
In his order, Honn said that Fine had “beginning in November 1999 and continuing until at least August 2006...engaged in what amounts to an almost never-ending attack on anyone (including attorneys and judicial officers) who disagreed with him or otherwise got in his way.”
Among other things, Honn found, Fine went on a “litigation rampage” against Mitchell after the commissioner awarded him less than the amount of interim attorney fees he was seeking for representing the plaintiffs in a class action regarding a phony doctor who had performed about 1,000 insurance physicals.
Fine, the hearing judge found, filed 12 meritless challenges to Mitchell, including one challenge that had no apparent legal basis and was brought solely for harassment; filed a meritless appeal of a nonexistent order purportedly made by Mitchell; filed frivolous challenges and petitions in another case solely to harass Mitchell and other bench officers; attempted to mislead the Court of Appeal by filing to disclose the applicability of a controlling statute that was directly contrary to his position with regard to the issue of judicial disqualification, and made misrepresentations to the courts by claiming that a visiting superior court judge had found that Mitchell was “not impartial” with respect to a case in which his disqualification was sought, when, Honn found, Fine knew that the judge had found that Mitchell was impartial and that the contrary statement in the minute order was a typographical error, as the judge later explained in a clarifying order.
In his papers filed Friday, Fine insisted that he had done nothing improper, and that he was entitled to take the necessary actions to correct what he says was an abuse of power by Mitchell. He took issue with Honn’s statement that what was at issue in the discipline proceedings was not the correctness of Mitchell’s rulings but the attorney’s “improper and vindictive reactions to those rulings.”
“This statement as the basis of the Decision manifests the denial of due process which occurred in this case. An analogy to the criminal law would be:
“If someone points a loaded gun at you and says I am going to kill you, you, (the victim) do not have any right to defend yourself and protect your life.
“Any person knows this to be absurd. The law gives you the right of self defense. So it is also absurd to ignore the illegality and unlawfulness of the actions of the Bruce E. Mitchell, the Superior Court Judges and the Court of Appeal Justices in relation to the actions of Respondent.”
Fine also reiterated the charge, which he made in a MetNews interview last week, that he was targeted by the past president of the State Bar.
“In particular, Respondent is opposed by Sheldon Sloan...who represents Marina Pacific Associates, a major developer in Marina del Rey, in a case which will determine the validity of the Master Leases, amongst other things...
“ There is no other counsel who can represent the plaintiffs. If Respondent is not available, the plaintiffs and the taxpayers lose and Sheldon Sloan’s client wins. A manifestation of the State Bar conflict of interest....”
Sloan told the MetNews last week that he never involved himself in Fine’s or any other State Bar disciplinary case, and that no State Bar prosecutor would have allowed him to become involved.
Prior to the issuance of Honn’s opinion, Sloan elaborated, the only knowledge he had of the proceedings came when he received a complaint—he said he could not recall who from—as to the length of time the case was taking. As with all similar complaints he received during his tenure as president, and on the Board of Governors before that, he merely passed the communication on to the State Bar’s executive director or the chief trial counsel, he said.
Sloan added that he was not involved in, and knew nothing about, any of the cases in which Fine was cited for misconduct.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company