Friday, June 30, 2006

Firestone v. Hoffman (Cal. Ct. App. - June 29, 2006)

Lawyers. Who doesn't love 'em?

Let's see what the lawyers do in this case. First, there's Peter Hoffman, a graduate of that august institution known as the Yale Law School. You'll have to read the entirety of the opinion to see what Hoffman does, both in the underlying transaction (he's the defendant) and as his pro per appellate counsel. Suffice it to say that Hoffman hardly comes out smelling like a rose. (Parenthetically, Justice Rothschild mentions in footnote 9 that Hoffman has a law degree from Yale, but says that Hoffman hadn't practiced law "for many years". That's true, since Hoffman has been suspended from the California Bar since 1994, and is not currently eligible to practice law. Notwithstanding this fact, Hoffman's co-counsel on appeal consists of various lawyers from the law firm of Gibson Hoffman & Pancione. Who's the "Hoffman" in GHP? You guessed it. None other than Peter Hoffman himself.) Justice Rothschild expresses a fair amount of displeasure with Hoffman in footnote 8, but doesn't go into it much, in large part because Justice Rothschild states that "Hoffman is not a member of the bar and hence is not subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct." But that's wrong: Hoffman is a member of the Bar, and is subject to the Rules, even though he's not currently entitled to practice law. He's a Member but not a Lawyer (to use the language of Rule 1-100). Maybe change the opinion on that one, Frances.

Then there's the counsel for the other side, led by Jeffrey S. Kravitz (formerly of Lord, Bissell & Brook, and now at Silver & Freedman) and Keith G. Wileman (at Lord Bissell). You'll have to read the final three pages of the opinion for the complete details regarding how Mr. Kravitz -- a three-time "Super Lawyer" in Los Angeles Magazine -- and Mr. Wileman (who is AV-rated and has "never lost a trial") are slammed. But slammed they are. Badly. Justice Rothschild writes three pages about how counsel repeatedly misstated the law as well as made material misrepresentations of fact. Not the kind of stuff you want on your permanent record, guys.

So nobody's coming out clean in this one. And the lawyers aren't looking good at all.