Thursday, February 25, 2016
Supreme Court Declines to Review Dismissal Sanction Against ‘Outrageous’ San Diego Lawyer
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The state Supreme Court yesterday declined to review a Court of Appeal decision upholding terminating sanctions against an attorney brought pepper spray and a stun gun—which he discharged near opposing counsel—to a deposition and called the trial judge “sick and demented,” among other insults, in court papers.
The justices, at their weekly conference in San Francisco, unanimously declined to hear the appeal by Douglas J. Crawford of San Diego, who claimed that JPMorgan Chase improperly allowed his since-deceased mother to invest in an annuity—which the bank later cancelled—and then refused to reimburse him for lost interest.
Crawford is currently barred from practicing. He was placed on involuntary inactive status last February after his default was entered in a disciplinary proceeding, and in July, State Bar Court Judge Lucy Armendariz recommended he be disbarred.
Armendariz explained that Crawford’s default was entered after he walked out on the second day of a hearing and did not return. Disbarment was recommended on the basis of the misconduct deemed admitted, which overlapped with that for which the terminating sanctions were imposed.
Ventura Superior Court Judge Vincent J. O’Neill Jr. ordered Crawford’s suit against JP Morgan dismissed as sanction for what the veteran jurist called “the most outrageous behavior that I have ever heard of in my life by an attorney.”
That conduct occurred, in part, at an April 21, 2014 deposition in Crawford’s lawsuit. The deponent was Crawford’s brother, whom Crawford was representing along with himself.
Threat to Counsel
The deposition was set for that date by O’Neill, who had sanctioned Crawford after the brothers walked out of a previous deposition, claiming they were afraid for their personal safety. When the brothers appeared, Douglas Crawford—according to Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert’s opinion for Div. Six of this district’s Court of Appeal—pointed a can of pepper spray at Chase lawyer Walter Traver’s face from approximately three feet away.
Crawford told Traver that the spray was “legal,” and that he would use it if Traver got “out of hand.” He then pointed what he described as “a flashlight that turns into a stun gun” at Traver and suggested he would use it if the pepper spray “doesn’t quell you.”
He discharged the stun gun close to Traver’s face, at which point Traver terminated the deposition. Crawford opposed the motion for terminating sanctions, calling Chase “Heavenly Father,” questioning the validity of the order compelling his brother to appear for the deposition, describing O’Neill as a former prosecutor “masquerading as a Superior Court Judge,” and describing opposing counsel as “our Heavenly Father’s only begotten son.”
Terminating sanctions, Gilbert acknowledged, are reserved for “extreme situations, such as where the conduct was clear and deliberate and no lesser sanction would remedy the situation.” But “If ever a case required a terminating sanction, this is it.”
Crawford was an unsuccessful candidate for San Diego Superior Court judge in 2014, drawing 18 percent of the vote against incumbent Judge Ronald Prager.
The case is Crawford v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., B257412.
In other action, the court denied rehearing in Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association v. Padilla, S220289, in which the justices held that the Legislature has the authority to place on the ballot an advisory measure soliciting voters’ views on a proposed federal constitutional amendment. The vote to deny rehearing was 6-1, with only Justice Ming Chin, who dissented from the ruling, voting to grant.
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