Wednesday, June 24, 2009
C.A. Upholds Revocation of Lawyer’s Broker License for Code Violations
By Kenneth Ofgang, Staff Writer
A landlord’s criminal violations of local housing ordinances were sufficiently related to his activities as a real estate licensee to justify the revocation of his broker’s license, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled yesterday.
Div. Eight ruled in the favor of state Real Estate Commissioner Jeff Davi and upheld the revocation of Lance Jay Robbins’ broker’s license.
In an opinion by Orange Superior Court Judge Ronald Bauer, sitting by assignment, the appellate panel agreed with an administrative law judge, the commissioner and a Los Angeles Superior Court judge that there was good cause to revoke the license of Robbins, who is also a Hollywood attorney and has a long history of housing violations.
The revocation resulted from a 2003 accusation based on Robbins’ 2001 convictions of unlawful obstruction of buildings, failing to test a fire signal system, and failing to inspect fire extinguishers. Robbins was fined $100, placed on summary probation for 18 months and required to pay investigative costs to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
As aggravating circumstances, the department cited Robbins’ convictions of some 50 violations between 1986 and 1994, and his two reprovals by the State Bar, which were also related to housing violations.
Robbins has been quoted in newspaper accounts as claiming that he is a victim of political harassment in Los Angeles and has turned his attention to the East Coast, where he has been developing historic properties in Connecticut and Rhode Island.
In 2005, the commissioner adopted the ALJ’s findings that the crimes were substantially related to the qualifications, functions or duties of a real estate licensee and that they involved moral turpitude because they threatened the health and safety of the tenants. Robbins’ petition for a writ of administrative mandate was denied by Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs, who has since retired.
Bauer, writing for the Court of Appeal, noted that legislative changes have eliminated the former requirement that a misdemeanor involve moral turpitude in order to form the basis for discipline of a real estate licensee, so the department was only required to prove that there was a substantial relationship between the convictions and the qualifications of a licensee.
The jurist cited Robbins’ declaration that he bought, upgraded, managed and sold apartment buildings because it was a very profitable business, and that he “represents owners of over twenty properties with over 1,000 apartment units and the owners continue to upgrade buildings and achieve significant operating income increases.”
DRE regulations, Bauer noted, state that one of the criteria for determining whether a crime is sufficiently related to the activities of a licensee is whether it involves “the intent of conferring a financial or economic benefit upon the perpetrator or with the intent or threat of doing substantial injury to the person or property of another.”
The jurist rejected Robbins’ contention that he should retain his license because he always performed his “professional duties to his clients in an honest and faithful manner.”
Nothing in the law “supports the proposition that crimes must involve a failure of ‘honesty or truthfulness’ in order to be substantially related to the fitness of a real estate licensee,” Bauer wrote. “Moreover, while a licensee’s integrity may not be implicated by three convictions for code violations, when those convictions are placed in the context of an extensive history of similar violations, one may well question the claim that the licensee’s integrity is not implicated.”
The case is Robbins v. Davi, B199013.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company