Monday, December 12, 2005

People ex rel. Lockyer v. Brar (Cal. Ct. App. - Nov. 30, 2005)

You'd think that people would learn. Especially attorneys. But I guess not.

Remember the whole Trevor Law Group scandal? Well, this is an attempt by Harpreet Brar, an attorney from Brea, to follow in the footsteps of that esteemed firm. It seems that Brar -- like the Trevor Law Group -- filed a plethora of shakedown suits against small businesses, which in turn prompted the Attorney General to file a 17200 action against Brar. Pretty routine, actually.

What's perhaps most interesting is how Brar defended that suit. Talk about being a bad lawyer. Wow. It's one thing to stink when you're defending a client. Happens all the time, I'm sure. But doing a totally incompetent job when you're defending yourself. That takes skill.

But Harpeet Brar accepts this impossible mission. And performs admirably. Admirably in an incompetent sort of way, anyway. He files an anti-SLAPP motion to the complaint against him, which buys him time, but the motion is so meritless that it's not only denied, but his appeal from the denial is summarily dismissed by the Court of Appeal since it's "frivolous at a glance". Then, on remand, when it's time to answer, Brar neglects to do so. Oops. So the Attorney General asks for a default. And Brar doesn't get it together to respond to even that request for over three months. Then there's another couple of months of delay thereafter. Check out the sequence of events at the top of page three of the opinion. Yikes. Not really the kind of lawyer I want working for me.

And it serves Brar well. Not. The court ends up imposing a default judgment of $1.79 million in civil penalties against him, plus a permanent injunction. Not exactly a resounding win for Mr. Brar. His excuse, by the way, for not answering the complaint. "Someone must have been stealing mail from my home mailbox." Which, of course, even if true doesn't explain many many months of delay. He'd have been equally successful with "My dog ate my answer." Affirmed.

P.S. - The Court of Appeal's opinion notes that Brar was put on probation by the State Bar for two years as a disciplinary measure. Pretty impressive, given that Brar was only admitted to the Bar in April 2000. The State Bar's web site, however, doesn't have a record of the imposition of such disclipline. Interesting. For a counterexample, take, for example, Harbhajan Brar of Fresno, whose short career in the law consisted of being admitted in December 1988, being publicly reproved two years later (in February 2001), incurring a criminal conviction (and interim suspension) exactly a year later (in February 2002), and resigning from the Bar with charges pending couple of months later. An impressive three year career. Not exactly Pepperdine Law Schools finest graduate.