Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Santa Monica Alleges False Advertising by Former Attorney
By Steven M. Ellis, Staff Writer
The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit has filed an unlawful business practices lawsuit against the publisher of the Santa Monica Observer newspaper, former attorney David Ganezer.
A complaint filed June 8 in the Los Angeles Superior Court alleges that the Observer and its website falsely claim that the newspaper is authorized to publish legal notices and that Ganezer’s businesses are entitled to provide legal services.
Ganezer resigned from the State Bar in 2001 in the face of misconduct charges related to his handling of trust accounts for the Ganezer Law Firm, which he operated with his brother, attorney Elliott Ganezer.
According to the lawsuit, David Ganezer’s corporations include the Santa Monica Media Company, Ivory Towers LDA and SM Outlook, and he operates the Observer, Easy Legal Services and MyDBA.com through those companies.
City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie alleges that Ganezer violated California’s Unfair Competition Law by claiming that the Observer is a “legally adjudicated” newspaper that can publish legal notices—including property notices such as foreclosures—and that it is the only paper allowed to do so in Santa Monica.
The lawsuit contends that Ganezer has not obtained the required court authorization to publish notices, and that at least two other local newspapers have done so.
It also asserts that Ganezer has held himself out as entitled to practice law—offering attorney consultations, “family law” services and general legal assistance—while providing services through MyDBA.com and Easy Legal Services.
The State Bar initially suspended Ganezer from the practice of law for five years in March 2001, and he resigned after the State Bar Court’s Review Department upheld most of the findings of a hearing judge in a second disciplinary action.
According to the State Bar’s website, Ganezer admitted treating the firm’s trust accounts “as a convenience,” and the Review Department characterized his handling of client funds as “grossly careless and negligent.”
The department also found that in looking at Ganezer’s misconduct, “a picture of total indifference to the ethical responsibilities of the practice of law emerges.”
Deputy Santa Monica City Attorney Gary Rhoades said that “It’s easy to believe statements we read on websites and it’s also easy to make them,” but cautioned that “[a]nyone using legal services should always double-check the provider on the State Bar website.”
Rhoades added that anyone seeking to publish a legal notice should verify the authority of the newspaper to do so with the county.
Ganezer’s office referred a request for comment to the Observer’s counsel, Adam Telanoff of Telanoff & Telanoff, who could not be reached.
The lawsuit seeks a court order barring the allegedly unlawful practices, as well as a $2,500 civil penalty for each separate alleged violation.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company