Friday, April 26, 2002
Lawyer Calls State Bar’s Opposition to Readmission of Former Civil Rights Attorney Hunt ‘Stupidly Wrong’
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
Ex-lawyer A. Thomas Hunt’s actions in the decade since his resignation exemplify the resilience of the human spirit, and the State Bar’s opposition to his readmission has been “maliciously, wrong-headedly, stupidly wrong,” Hunt’s lawyer told the State Bar Court yesterday.
In closing arguments on Hunt’s readmission petition, attorney Mark Werksman characterized his client as a great civil rights lawyer who became crippled by alcoholism, recognized his mistakes, turned his life around and has already exhibited the highest professional standards in his work as a paralegal.
State Bar Deputy Counsel Margaret Warren depicted Hunt as a man who had failed to take a “moral inventory” of himself following his downfall in the early 1990s.
“The petitioner has not been able to freely and unreservedly admit his wrongdoing,” Warren told State Bar Court Judge Paul Bacigalupo.
Hunt resigned in 1993 with charges pending against him. A host of former clients who said he took their cases and their money without doing their legal work was later reimbursed from the State Bar Client Security Fund, and one client—former teacher Howard Bennett—sued him for malpractice.
Bennett has proven to be Hunt’s chief antagonist, organizing rallies of other ex-clients at Hunt’s court hearings and urging the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office twice to file fraud charges against the ex-lawyer.
Bennett also brought actions against Hunt to collect on the malpractice default judgment by attaching judgments Hunt won in earlier civil rights class action suits. Hunt asserted that he had not been properly served in the malpractice action.
Meanwhile, Hunt sued Bennett for malicious prosecution and Hunt’s wife sued Bennett for libel. Hunt also filed for bankruptcy.
The ex-lawyer and his former client reached a settlement, which included promises from Bennett and his lawyer not to discuss the legal matters or Hunt publicly. Hunt later sued for breach of those agreements.
Hunt is currently appealing from the Los Angeles Superior Court’s summary judgment ruling against him in the breach of contract suit.
Hunt petitioned for readmission last year, his earliest opportunity to do so. A three-day hearing before Bacigalupo was held last month, followed by additional briefing.
In his closing argument yesterday, Werksman criticized Warren for putting Bennett on the stand. It was a move, he said, calculated to appease “a gadfly” who had no probative testimony to offer.
Bennett was dismissed after two questions when Bacigalupo sustained Werksman’s objections to Warren’s questions.
Werksman repeatedly criticized Warren for opposing the petition and for making what he called deceptive arguments about Hunt’s petition and his testimony. If the State Bar’s response to Hunt’s efforts at rehabilitation was to put on a “blistering, antagonistic” opposition, Werksman said, “then I wonder if the Bar hasn’t lost their way.”
Warren focused on what she called Hunt’s “quibbles, his cavils, his rationalizations”—all of which, she said, show he has fallen short of proving his fitness to return to practice.
Bacigalupo took the matter under submission and is required to issue a ruling by July 24.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company