Wednesday, April 1, 2015
C.A. Rejects Disbarred Lawyer’s Defamation Suit Against State Bar
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The First District Court of Appeal has affirmed the dismissal of a disbarred lawyer’s defamation suit against the State Bar, based on the anti-SLAPP statute.
Div. Four Monday upheld a San Francisco Superior Court judge’s ruling that Patrick A. Missud’s complaint, in which he claimed to have been libeled by the publication of a State Bar Court opinion recommending his disbarment, arose from protected activity in connection with an official proceeding, and that he failed to show a likelihood that he would prevail.
The Review Department recommended in 2013 that Missud’s right to practice be lifted, in part due to vexatious litigation in which he represented himself against various defendants involved in the sale of a Nevada home that he bought in 2004, two years after being admitted in California.
Missud filed multiple lawsuits in Nevada and California, and in March 2012, a federal district judge declared him a vexatious litigant and referred him to the State Bar for disciplinary action. Several opposing lawyers filed complaints with the State Bar as well.
Review Department Findings
In the allegedly defamatory opinion, the Review Department found that the litigation was baseless, that Missud repeatedly used the media and websites to make false statements and unsupportable accusations against defendants, communicated with defendants he knew were represented by counsel, and violated court orders, including a stipulated order of a Nevada court that required him to remove allegedly false statements from the Internet and to cease making attacks on defendants, their counsel, and the Nevada judiciary.
The Review Department also found that Missud had filed papers attacking State Bar Court judges and prosecutors, disrespectfully and without factual or legal basis, and that his ongoing misconduct harmed the administration of justice.
Missud’s Superior Court complaint sought $192 million in damages and equitable relief, including the dissolution of the State Bar.
Presiding Justice Ignacio Ruvolo, in an unpublished opinion for the Court of Appeal, said the trial judge ruled correctly in granting the anti-SLAPP motion.
Because the State Bar disciplinary action was a “public proceeding,” and the published opinion a “public record,” Ruvolo said, the first prong of the anti-SLAPP inquiry was satisfied and the burden shifted to the plaintiff to show a likelihood of prevailing. Missud failed to meet that burden, Ruvolo said.
The plaintiff’s response to the motion, the presiding justice explained, was that the State Bar filed the anti-SLAPP motion in retaliation for his efforts to expose corruption in the organization.
“First, we find no evidence to support these inflammatory accusations,” Ruvolo wrote. “Second, appellant can neither satisfy nor avoid his burden of proving a probability of prevailing on the merits of his claim by questioning respondent’s motivation for defending itself in this action.”
The appellate court also upheld the trial judge’s award of $10,700 in attorney fees and costs and rejected Missud’s claim that he was entitled to fees under the private attorney general statute.
Ruvolo said Missud failed to show why fees and costs should not be awarded as per the statute, and that he wasn’t entitled to an award under the private attorney general statute because the litigation was unsuccessful.
The case is Missud v. State Bar of California, A141459.
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