Friday, September 25, 2015
S.C. Declines to Stop Proceedings Against ‘Vexatious’ Valley Lawyer
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court has declined to dismiss State Bar disciplinary proceedings against a Northridge attorney accused of filing 11 separate frivolous appeals in connection with a dispute over a family trust, among other things.
In a brief order, following its Wednesday conference in San Francisco, the court denied Nina Ringgold’s petition for review. Ringgold had challenged the State Bar Court’s jurisdiction over charges of maintaining an unjust action (five counts); failure to obey a court order (nine counts); appearing for a party without authority; moral turpitude, demonstrated by filing meritless appeals and failing to obtain pre-filing orders after being declared a vexatious litigant; and failure to report sanctions (six counts). The charges were filed in March of this year.
The Columbia Law School graduate, admitted in California since 1988, claimed among other things that the tribunal cannot hear the matter while she is challenging those proceedings in federal court, and that she was improperly denied an “early neutral evaluation conference.”
She also argued that the charges against her were improperly joined with those against Amy P. Lee, a Monterey Park lawyer who was her co-counsel in several lawsuits and is charged with three of the same violations—one count each of maintaining an unjust action, failure to obey a court order, and failure to report sanctions.
The most serious charges, including moral turpitude, stem from litigation over a family trust, which led to Ringgold being declared a vexatious litigant in 2007 by Div. Five of this district’s Court of Appeal. That court said that she had repeatedly tried to “frivolously litigate her right to appeal on her own behalf notwithstanding her refusal to abide by a court order.”
In a putative federal class action, Ringgold claimed that designation was made “in order to penalize Ringgold for exercising her First Amendment rights and limit the legal issues which could be raised by clients of [her] Law Office.”
In 2009, that same division imposed a $10,000 sanction after Ringgold appealed, for the third time, court orders denying her son standing to appeal orders in the trust litigation. The trial and appellate courts held that the possibility of Justin Ringgold-Lockhart inheriting from his mother in the future did not give him an interest that would allow him to appeal orders adverse to her.
Ringgold, a former trustee of the trust, had been held in violation of a probate code order, and had numerous appeals in the case dismissed due to that violation before she began filing appeals on behalf of her son raising the same issues.
Writing for Div. Five, Presiding Justice Paul Turner rejected Justin Ringgold-Lockhart’s claim that he was an “interested person” with a future interest in the trust and a current right to trust principle as the issue of an income beneficiary.
“We have reviewed the trust provisions and find no support for plaintiff’s assertions,” Turner said. Absent any evidence that Ringgold-Lockhart was a beneficiary of the trust or that his mother was an income beneficiary of the trust, Turner reasoned that Ringgold-Lockhart had no interest providing him with standing.
He further concluded that sanctions were appropriate “as the contention now for the third appeal that Mr. Ringgold-Lockhart is an interested party thereby having standing to appear and appeal the probate court’s orders is frivolous and any reasonable attorney would believe the appeal totally and completely without merit.”
Copyright 2015, Metropolitan News Company