Friday, September 28, 2012
C.A. Rejects Ex-Lawyer’s Racial Bias Suit Against Labor Union
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The Fifth District Court of Appeal has rejected a suit by a former lawyer who claims he was fired from his job as a labor relations representative for a union because he is not Hispanic.
The court yesterday certified for publication a Sept. 4 opinion in which it affirmed a Fresno Superior Court judge’s grant of summary judgment to Service Employees International Union Local 1000.
The union hired Ray I. Batarse, a former Orange County practitioner, in March 2008 and fired him less than five months later. The union said he provided false information during the hiring process, including when he claimed that he resigned from the State Bar in 2006 because of conflicts with his law partners.
The union discovered that Batarse had no law partners, and that he had resigned with disciplinary charges pending. He also had previous discipline, which he did not disclose to union officials, resulting from a stipulation that he had committed misconduct in three matters.
In one of those matters, he acknowledged having failed to notify a client in writing that he concluded her medical malpractice claim could not be filed because he lacked a supporting expert opinion, and did not respond to his client’s inquiries about the case or return her files.
In another matter, he submitted a complaint to an administrative agency on a housing matter, but named the wrong party. When the client notified him of the error, the State Bar said, he did not correct it or respond to the client.
In the third matter, he failed to file a lawsuit on behalf of a client who paid him a $10,000. After failing to hear from him for months, the client went to Batarse’s office and asked for a refund, but Batarse only gave him $9,000. Batarse also stipulated that he failed to cooperate with the State Bar investigation.
In the discrimination suit against SEIU, he claimed that conflicts with his supervisor and co-workers were a product of their desire not to work with non-Hispanics. They disputed this, and Batarse admitted in his deposition that his belief they were biased against him was based on conversations he had with other workers who were not involved in his termination.
Superior Court Judge Donald R. Franson Jr., later elevated to the Court of Appeal, granted summary judgment on the ground that Batarse, who represented himself, failed to submit a proper statement of disputed and undisputed facts. He denied the plaintiff’s motion for a continuance to file a proper statement, and another judge later denied his motion for reconsideration.
With Presiding Justice Brad Hill writing the opinion, the Court of Appeal said there was no abuse of discretion by the trial judge, either in granting summary judgment or in denying a continuance.
Legitimate Business Reason
Even if the denial of a continuance was erroneous, Hill added, the error was harmless because none of the matters set out in the motion would have precluded summary judgment as a matter of law.
The falsehoods and concealments in Batarse’s employment application were a legitimate business reason for firing him, the presiding justice said, and there was no evidence that the reason was pretextual.
“Plaintiff did not show SEIU’s reason for his termination was untrue; he admitted in his separate statement that he made misrepresentations about his state bar resignation during the application process,” Hill wrote. “He admitted he concealed the fact that he resigned with charges pending and he stipulated to wrongdoing….There is nothing unreasonable or incredible about the asserted reason for plaintiff’s termination that would indicate it was a pretext for discrimination or retaliation. Plaintiff cited no substantial evidence of any racial or ethnic discriminatory animus. “
The case is Batarse v. Service Employees International Union Local 1000, 12 S.O.S. 4898.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company