Friday, September 12, 2003
Taiwan Court Upends Convictions of ‘Fugitive’ Local Legal Figures
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
A group of convictions imposed by a Taiwanese court in absentia on members of the Los Angeles bench and bar as a result of a crusade by a disbarred California lawyer have been overturned by the Taiwan high court, one of the “fugitive” lawyers told the MetNews yesterday.
South Pasadena sole practitioner Andrew Castellano, who once worked for the disbarred attorney, Liang-Houh Shieh, provided an English translation of a May 23 decision by the high court. The translation was mailed to him last week by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles, which is a similar to a consulate.
Among those named in the ruling, besides Castellano, are retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judges C. Bernard Kaufman and Edward Kakita, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David S. Wesley, state Deputy Attorney General Leslie Lopez, State Bar trial lawyer Donald Steedman, former State Bar Court Judge Eugene Brott, Los Angeles attorney and former State Bar Court Judge JoAnn Earls Robbins, former State Bar Court Presiding Judge James W. Obrien, Court of Appeal Justice Paul A. Turner of this district’s Div. Five, Los Angeles attorney David S. Eisen, and San Marino attorney Gerald V. Hollingsworth Jr.
The document reads, in part:
“In the matter of document forgery charges brought against the appellors above, in contesting the ruling of the first trial per Taiwan Shihlin District Court....The original verdict is rescinded. The charges brought against [the defendants] are hereby dismissed.”
The decision is signed by three justices of the 20th Tribunal, Taiwan Taipei High Court.
The lawyers and judges, as well as past and present clerical employees of the State Bar, had been sentenced to jail terms of 50 days each by the district court on the basis of private prosecutions initiated by Shieh. Taiwan’s laws allow a private citizen, as well as the public prosecutor, to bring criminal charges.
Castellano said that while he has no particular plans to visit Taiwan and had not expected to be extradited, he was happy to have the matter resolved. But he said it was “disappointing that the judges in Taiwan don’t spend a little more time explaining the basis of their decision.”
The South Pasadena lawyer, who was once employed by Shieh but said he quit after 15 days rather then become embroiled in questionable litigation, actively lobbied the U.S. government to intervene.
“Our State Department did file a protest over the exercise of criminal jurisdiction” over Americans in a country with which they had had no contact, Castellano said.
“The lawyer in the State Department Office of Legal Counsel assured me they were doing everything possible to protect our interests,” he related. But the extent of the U.S. government’s involvement in the final outcome remains unclear to him, Castellano said, since he has not seen any documentation of the State Department’s role.
Shieh, a graduate of Yale Law School who practiced in the local offices of several prominent law firms, was disbarred in 1997 for bringing vexatious litigation. He has sued the Supreme Court of the United States, the California Supreme Court, and the State Bar Court, naming each jurist of those courts individually as well, in courts here, and has named this district’s Court of Appeal, the Los Angeles Superior Court, and the now-defunct Los Angeles Municipal Court in suits filed in Taiwan.
Among his entanglements was a suit against several of his former partners at Fulbright & Jaworski.
Shieh, a Pasadena sole practitioner at the time of his disbarment, accused the partners, including former County Bar President Harry Hathaway, of impugning his character and legal abilities in order to “stamp out a nettlesome competitor” for business in the Pacific Rim. He made similar allegations in suits against Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and O’Melveny & Myers, both of which employed him in the early 1980s.
One of his Taiwan targets, Eisen, represented the Fulbright partners.
Before leaving California for Taiwan, Shieh was not only disbarred, but was ordered to pay more than $600,000 in sanctions and became the subject of three outstanding bench warrants issued by Kaufman prior to his retirement. Shieh, held in civil contempt in two cases, failed twice to appear for sentencing; the third warrant, technically an attachment for defaulter, was for failure to appear for resumption of a judgment debtor examination.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company