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Thursday, May 30, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Lawyer’s Fight With Arbitrator Kicked to CA

(CN) - California is a more suitable venue to sort out the allegedly phony background of the arbitrator who ruled against entertainment lawyer Ronald Grigg, a federal judge ruled.

Grigg said the dispute stemmed from his representation of Blaine Chaney in a 2006 California divorce. Though Grigg allegedly secured a settlement for Chaney valued at more than $30 million, and Chaney had initially applauded Grigg's work in 2006 divorce proceedings, the client later sought to invalidate their contingency-fee agreement.

Chaney sued the lawyer in Los Angeles Superior Court, and the case was sent to arbitration, as per Chaney's original agreement with Grigg. Finding that the fee agreement was unconscionable, arbitrator Gregory O'Brien ruled for Chaney in November 2007. The trial court confirmed a final award of more than $2.8 million for Chaney in 2010, and the state appeals court affirmed that award the next year.

Grigg later claimed that O'Brien lied about having attended Whittier College School of Law, which is American Bar Association accredited.

In actuality, O'Brien attended the unaccredited, now-defunct Beverly College of Law.

Grigg claimed in a lawsuit against Whittier, O'Brien and his employer, ADR Services Inc., that they misrepresented the arbitrator's legal credentials online and in person.

Whittier officials allegedly changed Beverly's name to Whittier Law School in 2001 by filing an amended Articles of Incorporation with the California secretary of state.

Grigg asserted that, had he known the truth about O'Brien's legal education, he would have objected to O'Brien's services as arbitrator.

The misrepresentations allegedly cost Grigg "significant financial losses" that ultimately led him to file bankruptcy in Pennsylvania.

U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson, of Johnstown, Pa., transferred the case to Central District of California on April 11.

"The Western District of Pennsylvania has no connection to this case other than the fact that Grigg resides here," Gibson wrote. "By contrast, California has a substantial connection to this dispute. Grigg's representation of Blaine Chaney occurred in California. Chaney sued Grigg in California, and a California court ordered the case to arbitration that occurred in California. Whittier College School of Law and the corporate entity known as 'Whittier Law School' are also located in California. Furthermore, O'Brien resides in California, and ADR Services Inc., is headquartered in California. Finally, the arbitration award was entered in California and was upheld by courts in California.

"Grigg will certainly face some difficulty in pursing his claims in California given that he now resides in Pennsylvania," the judge added. "Nevertheless, the facts Grigg relies on to support venue in this district - e.g., his financial hardship and his pending bankruptcy appeal - are irrelevant."

Transferring the case to California would both save Grigg the time and expense associated with refiling his suit and promote judicial economy, the ruling states.

Grigg is no stranger to newsworthy lawsuits. In 2007, a woman claimed that when she refused to give her employer, "Batman" producer Jon Peters, sex for money, he had Grigg fire her. Grigg allegedly told the woman that if she complained "her and her daughter would be murdered."

Two years later, Grigg filed a $20 million lawsuit, claiming that celebrity gossip site TMZ defamed him by reporting Peters' claims that the lawyer induced two women to have sex with him by giving them the drug "Special K" on Peters' property.

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