Monday, January 11, 2010
Ricardo Torres II Abandons Legal Practice, Quits Scene
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A Los Angeles attorney whose family is well known in local legal and political circles has abandoned his practice, friends and colleagues said, leaving them to wonder about his whereabouts.
In interviews over the past few days, lawyers who know Ricardo A. Torres II say his files were delivered to another lawyer about a month ago, and that they were not told and do not know where he is.
The lawyer, now 45, lost a June 1997 runoff election for a seat on the commission that wrote the current Los Angeles City Charter, then lost a special election for a vacant state Assembly seat that fall.
His father, Ricardo A. Torres, was a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner and judge for more than 25 years, was the court’s presiding judge in 1991 and 1992, and still sits by assignment. His uncle, William Torres, is a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner who ran for judge, and his sister, Kathleen Torres, ran in a 1991 special election for the Assembly.
Files Dropped Off
Attorney Manuel Duran confirmed to the MetNews that boxes containing “around 20” Torres client files were dropped off at his office in early December. He said he has “no idea” what Torres had in mind, and that he has not spoken to the lawyer, only to Torres’ former paralegal, whom he declined to identify by name.
He said the dropping off of the files was “a total surprise.” He said he had not been in touch with Torres recently, but that “I know him and I represented him in a case.”
Duran said he spoke to a State Bar investigator, who told him to return the files to the clients, which he said he has been doing.
He said he could not name those clients for privilege reasons, and also declined to identify other attorneys who may be picking up the cases. Fewer than half of the files were for open cases, he said.
One of the lawyers who has been drawn into the situation is Nick Pacheco, a former Los Angeles city councilman who described himself as a longtime friend of the younger Torres and who once clerked for his father. Pacheco said he received a phone call from a Torres client who had no idea what to do when her lawyer disappeared on the eve of trial.
The client, he explained, was someone he did not know, but who was suing the city. Torres apparently dropped his name in discussing the case with the client, he said, although Pacheco said he had never heard of the client or the case before he got the call.
Pacheco added that, like Duran, he had not heard from his friend in a while.
Father Declines Comment
William Torres said he had not spoken to his nephew in over a year, and had not heard anything about him abandoning his clients. The elder Ricardo Torres, reached at his home Friday, refused to discuss the situation.
“I don’t talk to the MetNews,” the former presiding judge, who has a long history of antagonistic relations with this newspaper, said after being told the subject of the call. “Bye.”
Voter registration records list the elder Torres’ residence as being his son’s address. Several sources said the son is estranged from his second wife.
Torres no longer practices at the mid-Wilshire address shown on the State Bar’s website, and a recording says the phone has been disconnected. A State Bar spokesperson confirmed that the address and phone number are the only ones currently listed by Torres with the State Bar, whose rules require attorneys who are no longer reachable at their listed addresses to provide a new address within 30 days.
The younger Torres was the subject of favorable news coverage early in his career, when he founded the Legal Corps of Los Angeles, which used private donations to pay a cadre of young lawyers representing civil clients whose income was just above the level at which they could qualify for publicly funded services.
But he has spent the last several years embroiled in legal and political ethical controversies that left his star tarnished.
State Bar Records
State Bar records show that he served a 30-day suspension in early 2002 after admitting that he wrote two checks against his trust account for personal expenses and did not cooperate with the bar’s investigation of his actions, and that he bounced a trust account check in connection with a different matter.
Later that year, he admitted sending out mailers claiming Antonio Villaraigosa, who was then trying to unseat Pacheco, had “sold out the Latino community” and referencing “his white advisors” and “consultantes gringos.” It was followed up by a mailer charging Villaraigosa with marital infidelity.
Pacheco disavowed any connection with the mailers and called Torres’ action “stupid.” The incident drew a good deal of publicity and may have been a factor in Villaraigosa winning the election.
In 2006, the Fair Political Practices Commission fined a committee called the “Voters for Honesty and Integrity in Politics” and Torres, who was its treasurer, $1,500 for failing to disclose contributor information in a late independent expenditure report in connection with a state Assembly race in 2002.
In an earlier incident, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge held Torres in contempt, and imposed a brief jail sentence, for persisting in asking a witness in an excessive-force suit against the Los Angeles Police Department a question that the judge had ruled improper.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company