Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Moore v. Superior Court (Cal. Ct. App. - Nov. 16, 2020)

I wonder what the backstory -- if any -- is behind this opinion.

Pasadena attorney Kevin Moore represents a client in a mandatory settlement conference in Orange County.  The MSC is operated by a temporary judge, Roy Zukerman; basically, an attorney volunteering his time to help settle cases.  Mr. Zuckerman's done this for a fair piece; as the opinion mentions, he was admitted to the California bar in 1965, so he's been around for a while.

The settlement conference does not go smoothly.  To say the least.  Mr. Moore is agitated, zealous, and strident in his refusal to settle the matter.  He speaks loudly ("yells"), interrupts others, and in a variety of ways is basically a total jerk.  Not someone you want to be around.  So after 15 minutes of this, the MSC gets terminated -- unsuccessfully, of course -- and everyone goes home.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, that'd be the end of the matter.  We've all been around attorneys who are unprofessional and rude.  It happens.  We deal.  Perhaps hoping that karma, in the end, prevails.

Not here.

Instead, the trial court hears about these events and issues an OSC re: contempt for attorney Moore.  At the contempt hearing -- which takes place during three different months in 2019 -- the trial judge finds Mr. Moore in contempt, and imposes various fines.  Moore appeals, but although the Court of Appeal narrows (in part) the trial court's findings, it affirms a finding of contempt and reports the matter to the State Bar.

Given that attorney Moore is from Pasadena, you'd doubt that the Orange County Superior Court had sufficient experience with the guy to simply get sick of dealing with his consistent attitude and hence escalate the thing to contempt.  At the same time. does the OC Superior Court really only have one or two attorneys who are jerks in MSCs?  Seems unlikely.

Maybe the uncivility here was just really beyond the pale.  Or maybe it just especially got under someone's skin.

Whatever the reason, the lesson is clear:  Cool your jets when you're in front of a judge.

Even a temporary judge.

They've got connections.