Ex-Senator’s Suit Against Calif. Bar on Life Support

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – An arbitrator dismissed all of retired state Sen. Joe Dunn’s retaliation and whistleblower claims against the California State Bar on Friday, finding Dunn didn’t prove he was targeted for reporting unethical activity within the organization.
     The arbitrator did give Dunn a chance to amend all but one of the claims, however.
     “It’s a real vindication,” bar attorney Moez Kaba said. “I think we are very pleased with the ruling and we’ve maintained all along that the law and the facts are on the State Bar’s side here. We appreciate the arbitrator’s careful analysis of these issues.”
     Dunn sued the State Bar of California and its former president Craig Holden in November 2014. Dunn claimed he was ousted as executive director for blowing the whistle on chief trial counsel Jayne Kim, who he said had removed 269 backlogged cases from internal reports to make her office appear more productive.
     Dunn filed an amended complaint in April, adding that Beth Jay, former principal counsel to the California Supreme Court chief justice, was instrumental in the decision to fire him.
     He also said the bar hired law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson to investigate ethics complaints lodged against him despite the firm’s close personal ties to a State Bar board member.
     Judge Mitchell Beckloff ordered the case to arbitration in June 2015.
     Both Holden and Jay filed demurrers on April 1 attacking Dunn’s claims.
     Retired United States Chief Magistrate Judge Edward Infante said in a 20-page order Friday that it was not enough for Dunn to say he believed the bar had broken the law with the inaccurate reporting, the Munger Tolles hire and other alleged claims – he had to show that a specific statute, rule or regulation had been violated.
     “This failure is fatal,” Infante wrote.
     Infante also said Dunn could not prove Holden owed him a fiduciary duty on the claim that Holden had breached the public trust by hiring Munger Tolles despite a conflict of interest.
     Holden’s demurrer on Dunn’s breach of fiduciary duty claim was the only one Infante sustained without leave to amend.
     Infante also called Dunn’s claim that Jay had met with a group of people to figure out how to get rid of him “vague and ill defined.” Furthermore, he said, any statements Jay made to the bar’s board regarding the Dunn investigation are privileged.
     In a statement, State Bar President David Pasternak said, “”We are pleased that the arbitrator recognized the significant deficiencies in this lawsuit and hope this brings an end to this disruptive litigation. The bar’s new leadership looks forward to continue to focus all of its energies on the bar’s important public service work.”
     The bar is still facing two lawsuits brought by Dunn’s former secretary and spokesperson, both of whom claim they were fired for their ties to Dunn.
     Dunn’s lawyer Mark Geragos said he said he plans to “file the claims with more specificity by May 1,” per Infante’s order.

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