Friday, August 26, 2016
High Court Disbars Lawyer Involved in Stun Gun Incident
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court has ordered the disbarment of a San Diego attorney who 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 Wednesday, ordered that Douglas J. Crawford’s license be lifted, as recommended by State Bar Court Judge Lucy Armendariz in July of last year.
Crawford was placed on involuntary inactive status in February 2015 after his default was entered in the disciplinary proceeding. Armendariz explained that Crawford’s default was entered after he walked out on the second day of a hearing and did not return, and held that the misconduct thus deemed admitted was sufficiently serious to warrant disbarment.
That misconduct stemmed in part from his actions in connection with a suit in Ventura Superior Court, in which he 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.
Superior Court Judge Vincent J. O’Neill Jr. ordered the suit dismissed as a sanction for what the veteran jurist called “the most outrageous behavior that I have ever heard of in my life by an attorney.” The Court of Appeal affirmed O’Neill’s ruling last December, and the Supreme Court Wednesday denied Crawford’s petition for writ of mandate or prohibition and request to stay the dismissal.
According to the Court of Appeal opinion by Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert of Div. Six, the misconduct warranting dismissal occurred, in part, at a 2014 deposition of Crawford’s brother, whom Crawford was representing, along with himself.
The deposition date was set 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 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 told the MetNews last year in an email that the State Bar Court is a “Kangaroo Court” in which “the State Bar successfully moved ORALLY to preclude me from introducing any evidence or witnesses in my defense despite the unequivocal fact ORAL motions are not allowed in State Bar proceedings.”
Crawford was an unsuccessful candidate for San Diego Superior Court judge two years ago, drawing 18 percent of the vote against incumbent Judge Ronald Prager. In reporting on the race, the San Diego Union-Tribune and KPBS noted that Crawford had once moved to disqualify Judge Randa Trapp as having “racist bias and prejudice in favor of negroes and against whites.”
He described himself as a supporter of white supremacy and said Trapp’s status as a former leader of the local NAACP chapter should result in her disqualification. He told KPBS that the challenge was not personal and that he had apologized to the judge.
Copyright 2016, Metropolitan News Company