Thursday, March 19, 2020
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Div. Seven of the Court of Appeal for this district has directed the court’s clerk to send a copy of its opinion in a case to the State Bar for possible disciplinary action against the appellant’s attorney who filed a brief at a time when his law license was not in effect—but it is a certainty that no proceedings will be brought against him because he was disbarred on Nov. 30.
Justice Laurie Zelon wrote the unpublished opinion, filed Tuesday, which suggests unethical conduct on the part of Owen T. Mascott, the attorney on appeal for a man who claimed ownership of fixtures at a night club because they were put up as collateral for a debt to him that was not repaid. However, the debtor had merely been a lessee of the premises and did not own the fixtures.
The opinion affirms a summary judgment granted by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lori A. Fournier in favor of the defendant—an agent of the owner of the night club premises and its fixtures—who was sued for conversion. Zelon said that Mascott put forth a string of irrelevant arguments and that his client has therefore “forfeited any claims of error.”
She said in a footnote:
“It appears that when Aguila’s then-attorney, Owen T. Mascott, filed the opening brief on March 7, 2019, he was not eligible to practice law in California, as he had resigned from the State Bar with charges pending on February 14, 2019, and became ineligible to practice law in California on that date.”
Zelon cited Business & Professions Code §6125 which provides that “[n]o person shall practice law in California unless the person is an active licensee of the State Bar” and Rules Professional Conduct, rule 5.5(b) which says that “A lawyer who is not admitted to practice in this jurisdiction shall not…hold out to the public or otherwise represent that the lawyer is admitted to practice law in this jurisdiction.”
The jurist continued:
“While the State Bar Court later permitted Mascott to withdraw his resignation, Mascott’s inactive status was terminated ‘effective upon the filing’ of its order accepting his withdrawal request, which occurred on March 21, 2019. Mascott subsequently substituted out of the matter, and Aguila now represents himself.”
Although the Court of Appeal docket indicates that Mascott was the attorney for the appellant on June 24, 2019, when the reply brief was filed, the Superior Court register includes a form by which Mascott did substitute out as appellate counsel on April 5, 2019. On April 11, he was placed on inactive status by the State Bar.
“Because Aguila filed his reply brief in propria persona and did not seek to withdraw the opening brief, and the respondents did not object to our consideration of the opening brief, we consider the arguments raised on appeal despite this irregularity,” Zelon wrote. “We refer this matter to the State Bar pursuant to the California Code of Judicial Ethics, Canon 3(D)(2).”
That canon provides:
“Whenever a judge has personal knowledge, or concludes in a judicial decision, that a lawyer has committed misconduct or has violated any provision of the Rules of Professional Conduct, the judge shall take appropriate corrective action, which may include reporting the violation to the appropriate authority.”
Zelon did not express an awareness that Mascott is disbarred.
The case is Aguila v. Bidsal, B291265.
Daniel L. Goodkin and Allison J. Law of the Century City firm of Goodkin Law Group represented the defendant/respondent, Shawn Bidsal.
In disbarring Mascott, the State Bar found that he distributed proceeds of a $25,000 settlement of a personal injury action to himself and others notwithstanding his knowledge of a Medi-Cal rule against any such recovery in an amount greater than the sum paid by an insurer, and that he failed to remit any amount even after demands by the California Department of Health Care were progressively reduced.
The State Bar found that Mascott misappropriated government funds “and commingled personal funds in his client trust account over a nine-month period,” declaring that his “misconduct is serious, directly related to the practice of law, and aggravated by three prior records of discipline, multiple acts of misconduct and a failure to make restitution.” It said:
“In light of the serious and repetitive nature of respondent’s misconduct, and his inability or unwillingness to conform his conduct, disbarment is necessary to protect the public and will serve the purposes of attorney discipline.”
The financial publication Forbes, in 2017, reported that a company called Solvera Group Inc. had been sued by the State of Texas, claiming that it “dupe[d] Texas state judges in Houston and search engines like Google into suppressing potentially legitimate comments posted in the review section of websites.” The article noted that Mascott “is listed in California business records as the initial agent for Solvera Group,” adding:
“A California lawyer, Mascott was sued last year by a company that owns pissedconsumer.com, claiming that Mascott helped reputation management companies file bogus lawsuits. Mascott did not respond to requests for comment. A federal judge tossed the lawsuit against him for lack of jurisdiction.”
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