Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Torres Named Guardian After Son Abandons Minors
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A former Los Angeles Superior Court presiding judge and his wife have been named guardians of two minor grandchildren after their father abandoned them, along with his law practice, and apparently left the country.
Court records show that letters were issued by order of Judge Mitchell Beckloff to retired Judge Ricardo A. Torres and Mary Feliciana Torres on June 17, naming them as temporary guardians for the minors, ages 10 and 8. The couple petitioned for guardianship in March, asserting that Ricardo A. Torres II “abandoned the minors on Nov. 12, 2009” and that the children had lived with the grandparents since then.
Attached to the petition was a letter to the Torreses from Marina del Rey attorney Eric Nishizawa, dated Nov. 18 of last year and informing them that the lawyer had been instructed by their son “to inform you that he is not sure when he will be returning home” and asking them to care for the children.
In the event they could not do so, Nishizawa wrote, “he would like Y— to go live with his sister, Cynthia, and he would like R— to go live with his brother, Bill.” Nishizawa added that he did “not know where Ricardo is and I do not when expects to return.”
“This is not a pleasant task for me, and I did not ask for it. In fact, I thought that Ricardo was joking when he asked me to do this.”
He apologized to the Torreses “if the manner in which I am delivering the aboive information makes this already tragic situation more tragic for you.” Nishizawa could not be reached yesterday for comment.
Also attached to the guardianship petition was a handwritten declaration purportedly signed by Ricardo A. Torres II on Dec. 2 of last year, reciting that he was awarded custody of the children in 2002 and stating, in part:
“Due to my indefinite absence from the United States, I am abandoning R— and Y— to the exclusive care and custody of my parents, Ricardo and Mary Torres, or their specific designees. It is my view that Ricardo and Mary Torres will provide for the children in a manner which will achieve the best interests of R— and Y—....”
“My decision herein specifically excludes any change in custody or guardianship to their mother, Janell, or her family. Janell has been previously adjudged unfit and has demonstrated a wreckless [sic] lifestyle and infrequent visitation...over the past 7 years.”
Janell Torres, who lives in Hesperia, has filed opposition to the guardianship, saying it “is not in the best interests of the minors” and asserting that the children want to live with her. She asserted that she has, since the couple’s 2002 divorce, “used my visitation with the minors except when I lived out of state or my former husband frustrated my visitation.”
She also asserted that Ricardo Torres II “was awarded sole legal custody since we could not agree on many decisions” and that “I was not deemed to be an unfit mother.”
She added that the Torreses did not tell her that her former husband had abandoned the children, and that she was unaware of his having done so until about a month prior to filing her objection May 11.
The guardianship proceeding is awaiting assignment to a judge for trial.
The original assigned judge, Michael Levanas, was disqualified on a Sec. 170.6 declaration by Janell Torres’ lawyer, Vincent Landeros of Pasadena. A trial was to be held next month, but those plans were vacated because the Torreses’ lawyer, Robert D’Angelo of Pasadena, filed a declaration against the second assigned judge, Marvin Lager.
In a related development, the State Bar has filed disciplinary charges against Ricardo Torres II, accusing him of failing to return an unearned $15,000 fee that he obtained from a client, and falsely telling the client that he had obtained a dismissal when in fact the prosecution chose not to file.
He is also accused of failure to cooperate with the State Bar investigation.
The MetNews reported in January that Torres, 45, had disappeared, arranging to have his client files delivered to another lawyer who called the delivery “a total surprise.” Torres had stopped practicing at the mid-Wilshire address listed on the State Bar website, and a recording said the phone had been disconnected.
A candidate for the state Assembly and the Los Angeles City Charter Commission in separate 1997 elections, Torres is also a nephew of Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner William Torres, who said in January that he had not heard from his nephew in over a year. A sister, Kathleen Torres, ran for the Assembly in 1991.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company