Monday, June 15, 2020
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The lawyer on appeal for a woman who wants to be appointed as her husband’s conservator, in place of his daughter by a first marriage, has been derided by Div. Three of the Fourth District Court of Appeal based on his effort to become, additionally, lawyer for the conservatee.
Justice William W. Bedsworth wrote the unpublished opinion in each of two cases, filed Tuesday, dealing with the conservatorship of Edward Raymond who, since January 2016, has been in need of care.
In Conservatorship of Raymond, G056805, Orange Superior Court Judge Jacki C. Brown’s order appointing Raymond’s daughter, Darlene Azar, as the conservator was affirmed. In that case, Laguna Beach attorney James G. LeBloch contested the appointment of Azar over his client, Dawna Ludwig—and also argued that he, not then-Deputy Public Defender Jon Feldon (now a private practitioner), should have been appointed by Brown as attorney for Raymond.
At the May 3, 2016 hearing at which Feldon was designated as the attorney for Raymond, LeBloch represented that he had drafted Raymond’s estate plan and, accordingly, was still his attorney.
In Azar v. Ludwig, G057920, the appeals court affirmed Orange Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Bauer’s order disqualifying LeBloch from representing Ludwig in an action brought against her by Azar, in part on behalf of her father and his estate, alleging elder abuse and fraud. The complaint accuses Ludwig, 69, of fraudulently inducing Raymond, 84, into marrying her.
Bedsworth wrote in Conservatorship of Raymond:
“To the extent LeBloch is appealing on his own behalf—which appears to be the case—the appeal is dismissed. LeBloch is not a party to this proceeding, and he has no standing to appeal on his own behalf. He also does not represent the conservatee, Raymond, so he has no authority to speak for Raymond. The obvious conflict of interest represented by his current representation of one of the adversarial parties—Ludwig—would also militate against his appointment as Raymond’s attorney, even if we could consider such a thing.”
His purported appeal was dismissed.
The decision to appoint Azar as conservator for her father, who is in a nursing home, was found to be supported by the evidence. The justice said:
“In this case, the court had plenty of evidence to support its choice of Azar over Ludwig as Raymond’s conservator. The court alluded to this evidence in the statement of decision: Ludwig’s refusal to listen to healthcare providers, her obvious financial motivation for seeking to care for Raymond at home, her disregard of others’ needs and her self-absorption. Even if Raymond could have been safely cared for at home, Ludwig was not the person to be entrusted with this task.”
Bedsworth remarked in a footnote:
“Ludwig rather unwisely characterizes the epic as a ‘Cinderella type story,’ a conflict between a stepmother and a stepdaughter. Apparently Ludwig has forgotten that in the Cinderella story, the stepmother is the villain.”
Addressing the disqualification order, appealed in Azar v. Ludwig, Bedsworth declared:
“Attorney LeBloch appears not to appreciate the incongruity of his position in each of the two appeals decided today. If he had prevailed in the conservatorship appeal, he would be representing the conservatee, Raymond. If he had prevailed in this appeal, he would be representing Ludwig, who is being sued by, among others, Raymond’s person and estate. His inability to see the conflict in these two positions is perhaps the best reason of all for refusing to allow him to participate in either proceeding.”
Although barred from representing Ludwig in the Superior Court, LeBloch was her attorney in both appeals decided on Thursday. Azar made no appearance in the case in which her appointment was challenged; she was represented by Jonathan L. Gerber and Nicole M. Peterson of the Irvine firm of Miller Miller Gerber in the appeal from the order disqualifying LeBloch.
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