Wednesday, December 18, 2002
State Bar Investigates Claims of Alleged Shake Down of Local Businesses
By ALLISON LOMAS, Staf Writer
The State Bar is actively investigating numerous complaints from business owners who allege that two Beverly Hills attorneys have filed a flurry of lawsuits and then used “extortion tactics” to force quick settlements, Chief Trial Counsel Mike A. Nisperos Jr. confirmed yesterday.
Owners of small businesses claim Damian Trevor and Allan Hendrickson of the Trevor Law Group have filed thousands of lawsuits accusing auto repair shops, restaurants and other small businesses of unfair business practices. The suits have been filed under Business and Professions Code Sec. 17200, which allows any person acting on the behalf of the general public to file such a suit.
By statute, investigations by the State Bar of attorney misconduct are confidential until a formal notice of charges is filed, but the chief trial counsel does have the power to waive this requirement when the need for public protection is deemed to outweigh the necessity for preserving confidentiality of an investigation.
Nisperos opted to issue a waiver of confidentiality in this case, the State Bar explained in a release, noting that “the State Bar has been monitoring this situation for some time.”
Attorney General Bill Lockyer called upon the State Bar yesterday to open the investigation. Tom Dresslar, a Lockyer spokesman, told reporters the attorney general is “concerned about the way these guys operate in terms of how they pursue these lawsuits. . .some of their tactics appear to be extortionist.”
Assemblywoman Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, urged Lockyer and the State Bar along with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department to investigate the “current epidemic of lawsuit threats.” Chu’s office made public a letter in which she told officials that the firm had “unfairly and unethically targeted predominantly non-English-speaking business owners with potentially frivolous blanket lawsuits for the purpose of extracting out-of-court settlements.”
The assemblywoman advised business owners to seek legal counsel before making a settlement payment.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company