Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Pietrobon v. Libarle (Cal. Ct. App. - March 21, 2006)

Oops. I've accidentally opened a can of worms. But open the can remains. So I shall eat the contents, even if, in retrospect, I somewhat wish that I had lost my can opener -- or at least had skipped this particular can.

What I was going to say about this case is: "Boy, I am never, ever going to hire Marc Libarle as my lawyer." Why not, you might ask? Well, for one thing, he's been repeatedly suspended for failure to pay his Bar dues, and the ability to overlook such a facile task doesn't bode well. For another, he's also been disciplined by the Bar -- a private reproval, with public disclosure, in 1998.

Finally, there's this opinion. Which concerns a lawsuit filed against Mr. Libarle by a former client of his, Renzo Pietrobon. Which Libarle settled, in open court, and on the record, for $55,000, which Libarle agreed to pay in installment over two years. Subsequently, plaintiff's lawyer prepared a written agreement, which plaintiff signed, but Libarle -- who didn't dispute the agreement -- nonetheless refused to sign. Thereafter, Libarle fails to make the payments required by the agreement. Plaintiff tries to enforce the agreement pursuant to Section 664.6, but Libarle (successfully) opposes such enforcement. Then plaintiff files a separate breach of contract suit to enforce the agreement, but Libarle files general and special demurrers to the complaint, and, after he's forced to answer, resists the lawsuit on various hypertechnical -- and erroneous -- grounds. Finally, once the trial court grants a judgment against Libarle for over $46,000 -- which includes over $13,000 in interest and costs -- Libarle appeals.

So, basically, we have a lawyer who (allegedly) commits malpractice, who then (allegedly) refuses to sign a written agreement that confirms his oral commitments, who (allegedly) refuses to make the payments that he's promised to a former client, and then who (allegedly) resists his contractual obligations to that party with all his heart. Not exactly a guy I want to hire for my next representation.

Fortunately, and correctly, Justice Lambden affirms. And awards costs (yet again) against Libarle. So the result is something with which I'm eminently comfortable.

Here's the only tough part. In addition to being Legal Counsel for the Sacred Dying Foundation (and a $2000 contributor to John Kerry's presidential campaign), Marc Libarle is also apparently a Professor, and teaches at NYU. Now, I don't particularly care about the Sacred Dying or Kerry things, but the latter was somewhat of a surprise. Moreover, not only was it surprising, but I also hate to slam an academic colleague. Admittedly, Libarle doesn't teach at NYU Law -- instead, he's merely an adjunct assistant professor of communications at the Tisch School of the Arts. Still, I feel a tiny little bit bad about slapping him down.

Nonetheless, I hereby slam thee, Marc. I don't like the way you acted here. It wasn't right. Don't do it again. And, based upon what I've read, you're not a person whom I'd like to hire. And wouldn't recommend you to my friends.