Metropolitan News-Enterprise

 

Thursday, March 21, 2002

 

Page 3

 

State Bar Falters in Effort to Keep Out Ex-Lawyer Hunt

 

By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer

 

The State Barís only witness in its case against readmitting fallen civil rights lawyer A. Thomas Hunt was on and off the stand in less than five minutes yesterday, as the judge sustained an objection to questioning and left the State Bar lawyer with little more to say.

Former Hunt client Howard Bennett was referred to repeatedly during the first two days of trial in Huntís petition for readmission, and Bennettís testimony was expected to be the centerpiece of the State Barís case.

Counsel Margaret Warren has sought to show that Hunt, in the midst of a rehabilitation program in which he tried to deal with his alcoholism and repaid clients whom he had wronged, persisted in filing legal actions against ex-client Bennett, after Bennett pressed criminal charges and tried to attach Hunt judgments in other cases to satisfy his own malpractice judgment against Hunt.

But Hunt attorney Mark Werksman, who is best known as a criminal defense lawyer, yesterday objected when Warren asked Bennett how much he spent on litigation against Hunt.

ďItís a totally non-probative, irrelevant measure of anything,Ē Werksman said.

Judge Paul Bacigalupo sustained the objection, leaving Warren to ask for a moment to sit down and consider her options.

ďThe court will not entertain any further discussion on the objection that was sustained?Ē Warren asked.

When Bacigalupo said he would not, Warren said she had no questions for Bennett, and the witness left the stand.

Warren was dealt a further blow when she attempted to establish that letters from legal luminaries in support of Huntís 2001 petition were in essence identical to letters sent to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Connor in 1996 in the midst of a criminal prosecution of Hunt.

But the action served only to allow Werksman to emphasize that the letter-writers were focusing on the additional rehabilitation that they said Hunt displayed in the last five or six years.

Hunt was a prominent civil rights attorney who brought groundbreaking class actions in the 1970s and 1980s in support of women and minority employment in the public and private sector. He faltered because, he said, of alcohol, and began to miss court appearances and neglect client calls.

The State Bar paid Huntís clients thousands of dollars from its client security fund and brought charges against Hunt in the early 1990s. Hunt resigned with charges pending.

He applied for readmission last July.

Both sides rested yesterday and will return to court in a month for closing arguments after additional briefing.

 

Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company