Sticking By His Guns

In the Matter of Thomas, Review Dept. State Bar Court, 15-O-14870; SBC-20-O-00029 (Consolidated). filed 8/26/22. Respondent lawyer was admitted to practice in 1978. Despite a lack of prior discipline, the Review Dept. upheld a hearing judge’s recommendation of disbarment. Respondent engaged in a pattern of frivolous and harassing litigation over a period of eight years, which generated sanctions of $188,350.64. None of the sanctions were reported to the State Bar and none of this amount of was paid. The original litigation began in 2012 with a real estate dispute involving the True Harmony company. The lawyer was found to have violated section 6068, subdivision (c), by

“(1) making multiple claims and argument slacking any legal or factual basis and filing and pursuing an untimely motion (despite being forewarned that the motion was without merit and should be dismissed) in the interpleader action;

(2) filing a frivolous appeal of the interpleader action, which lacked any merit and was prosecuted for the improper purpose to harass and increase litigation costs;

(3) filing a motion for reconsideration in the True Harmony matter, which had no basis in law and unnecessarily increased the costs of litigation; and

(4) repeatedly pursuing improper appeals and filing frivolous and harassing briefs and/or motions, which unnecessarily increased the costs of litigation in the appeal of the True Harmony matter.

The hearing judge found culpability under section 6068, subdivision (c), for [the lawyer’s] use of abusive litigation tactics where he initiated and maintained multiple claims and defenses, at the trial and appellate levels, which were foreclosed by legal authority.”

The lawyer was also found to have violated former Rule 5-100 by threatening criminal charges against opposing counsel to gain an advantage in the civil litigation. He was also found culpable of violating Business and Professions Code section 6103 by failing to pay the sanctions and section 6068(o)(3) by failing to report the sanctions. Aggravation was found in a pattern of misconduct, significant harm to the opposing party and the administration of justice, and indifference toward rectification of the misconduct.

The lawyer made a number of arguments, including collateral attacks on the civil judgments, Constitutional objections, and unclean hands by the Office of Chief Trial Counsel (OCTC) in not investigation his claims of misconduct by opposing counsel. The Review Department rejected these arguments. Giving substantial weight to aggravating factors, including a pattern of misconduct spanning years, it recommended disbarment. Respondent now has the option of petitioning the Supreme Court, which he has vowed to do. In this closing argument at trial, Respondent stated that he was going to “stick to his guns” and so far he has been true to his word.

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