Thursday, March 31, 2011
S.C. Declines Torres’ Resignation From State Bar
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court yesterday rejected Ricardo A. Torres II’s resignation from the State Bar and ordered that disciplinary proceedings against the former Los Angeles attorney and legislative candidate “proceed promptly.”
The justices also said in their order, which was adopted unanimously, that Torres “may move in the State Bar Court to be restored to active status, at which time the Office of Chief Trial Counsel may demonstrate any basis for his continued ineligibility to practice law.”
The order further provides:
“The State Bar Court will expedite the resolution of any request by Ricardo Anthony Torres II to be restored to active status. Any return to active status will be conditioned on Ricardo Anthony Torres II’s payment of any dues, penalty payments, and restitution owed by him. The underlying disciplinary matter should proceed promptly that Torres shall remain on inactive status, pending an application for return to active status.”
Torres tendered his resignation last June, two months after the State Bar filed charges that he failed to return an unearned $15,000 fee that he obtained from a client and falsely told the client that he had obtained a dismissal when in fact the prosecution chose not to file. He was also accused of failure to cooperate with the State Bar investigation.
The MetNews reported in January of last year that Torres, 46, 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.
Torres reportedly had left the country, but appeared last July—about two weeks after he tendered his resignation—at a guardianship hearing concerning two of his children. The teenagers, whom he apparently abandoned around the same time as his law practice, were living with his parents, Ricardo A. Torres and Mary Torres.
The senior Torres is a former presiding judge of the Los Angeles Superior.
A candidate for the state Assembly and the Los Angeles City Charter Commission in separate 1997 elections, the younger Torres is also a nephew of Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner William Torres. A sister, Kathleen Torres, ran for the Assembly in 1991.
In other conference action, the justices:
•Ordered that a a Sacramento Superior Court judge reconsider his order requiring a juror to disclose his Facebook postings from a case involving a gang beating.
The justices unanimously ordered that the Third District Court of Appeal, which had summarily denied the juror’s petition for a writ of prohibition, vacate that order and “issue an order directing respondent superior court to show cause why the relief sought in the petition should not be granted.”
The high court last month had temporarily blocked Judge Michael Kenny’s order requiring the juror to execute a consent form allowing Facebook to turn over the postings. The juror was identified in the order only as “Juror Number One,” but the Sacramento Bee has reported that his name is Arturo Ramirez.
Ramirez, the newspaper said, had posted during the “Killa Mob” trial that he was on the jury and that on at least on one occasion he found the proceedings “boring.” Defense lawyers in the case are asking for a new trial on the ground of juror misconduct, and want to see if the postings support their claim of bias.
Five reputed members of the gang who were convicted in the beating of a man in a gas station are awaiting sentencing, the Bee reported.
Facebook had said that federal computer privacy law precluded it from turning over the postings on its own and that the company needed either a search warrant, a court order or the consent of the user before it would make them available to the court. The judge said the postings violated the routine judicial admonition that jurors not discuss ongoing cases.
An Assembly committee recently AB 141, which would revise the admonition to state explicitly that electronic communications while the trial is in progress are prohibited.
•Left standing the dismissal, on forum non conveniens grounds, of a suit by several thousand banana workers from Guatemala and Panama who sued Dow Chemical Company, Chiquita and Del Monte over the effects of chemical pesticide.
Div. Two, of this district’s Court of Appeal held last December, in an unpublished opinion in Abrego v. Dow Chemical Company, B222612, that Michigan, where Dow is headquartered, was a suitable alternative forum.
The plaintiffs brought suit in 2005 alleging that they suffered “sterility and other serious injuries” after being exposed to a pesticide called Dibromochlorpropane, sold under the brand names Nemagon and Fumazone. The substance, which Dow manufactured, has been banned in the United States since 1979, but the plaintiffs claimed Chiquita and Del Monte—and Dole, which is no longer part of the litigation—continued to use it in Panama despite its harmful qualities.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ann Jones granted dismissal after the defendants stipulated to submit to Michigan jurisdiction, to allow discovery from the California litigation to be used, and to waive the assertion of any statute of limitations defenses in Michigan that arose after the case started.
Jones found that public and private interest factors warranted litigating the claims in Michigan because none of the litigants was a California resident and no injuries or tortious conduct occurred in California, and she opined that the case would place a substantial and undeserved burden on California courts and taxpayers.
On appeal, Presiding Justice Roger W. Boren said Jones did not abuse her discretion in ruling that the claims might be more appropriately tried in Michigan, noting that California had no connection to the plaintiffs or the defendants. Chiquita and Del Monte are headquartered in Ohio and Florida, respectively.
The plaintiffs pointed to Dow’s activities in California before 1977 mixing and finalizing the pesticide in California, selling it here and maintaining sales offices, but Boren said “such unrelated activities by Dow in California do not create a California interest in plaintiffs’ subsequent and geographically unrelated claims.”
He rejected the plaintiffs’ challenge to Jones’ reliance on the factor of court congestion. He also said she did not err in dismissing the action outright rather than staying it and retaining jurisdiction because the plaintiffs were not California residents and the court had no “drastic concerns” about the ability to obtain a fair trial in Michigan.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company