Judge Mulls Lawsuit Against California Bar

      LOS ANGELES (CN) – A Superior Court judge Tuesday indicated he may send to arbitration a former state bar director’s whistleblower complaint but delayed an order after an attorney sought more discovery.
     Former state Sen. Joe Dunn sued the State Bar of California and its president Craig Holden in November 2014, claiming he was ousted for blowing the whistle on ethical breaches he’d witnessed.
     At a Tuesday morning hearing, Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff said he would issue an order by Friday after his tentative ruling granted the bar’s motion to compel arbitration.
     Dunn’s attorney Mark Geragos urged Beckloff to keep the case in his courtroom, calling the issues presented “vital” to the 250,000 attorneys of the State Bar who have a right to know what’s “really going on” at the administrative arm of the California Supreme Court.
     “I can’t think of a case from a public policy standpoint that is more deserving of being heard before your honor,” said Geragos, a well-known criminal defense lawyer.
     He said that unresolved issues surrounding the timing and manner of Dunn’s firing require more discovery before the court can send the case to arbitration.
     But State Bar attorney Ronald Frank, with Burke, Williams & Sorensen, said Dunn’s employment agreement unambiguously states that an arbitrator should settle any job-related disputes.
     “The State Bar would prefer not to have a full, public media circus,” said Frank, who appeared in court via phone.
     He urged Beckloff to stay Dunn’s request for an injunction to reinstate him as chief executive until arbitration hearings were finished.
     Dunn was chief executive of the state bar from 2010 until he was fired last year. He was elected to California’s 34th Senate District in central Orange County in 1998, won re-election but lost the 2006 Democratic primary for state controller, then became CEO of the California Medical Association in 2006. He left that job for the California Bar.
     Dunn claimed in his lawsuit that Holden fired him for blowing the whistle on chief trial counsel Jayne Kim, who he said had removed 269 backlogged cases from internal reports to make it look like her office was more productive than it was.
     He also claimed that the bar was failing to enforce state legislation designed to crack down on attorney fraud.
     Dunn filed an amended complaint in April , claiming former principal counsel to the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court Beth Jay was instrumental in the decision to fire him.
     State Bar attorney Frank asked the court to sever a claim against Jay for intentional interference with contractual relations, and send Dunn’s remaining claims to an arbitrator.
     Beckloff said he would take the case under submission and issue an order by Friday.
     Moez Kaba of Hueston Hennigan appeared in court for Holden.

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