The high-profile Los Angeles attorney, who’s made frequent appearances in these pages, is headed to federal prison following his conviction for tax evasion, money laundering and bankruptcy fraud (see Jun. 24). U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson chided Yagman for testimony “so transparently untrue in so many areas.” (Scott Glover, “Attorney Yagman sentenced to 3 years for tax evasion, fraud”, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 28). Best known for his lawsuits against police departments, the much-criticized Yagman has also represented the principals in a famous Americans with Disabilities Act filing mill that launches mass complaints against small businesses and settles them for cash (Mar. 18, 2005; Nov. 4, 2006). According to the L.A. Times account, he “twice was suspended by the state bar for charging clients ‘unconscionable’ fees.” When a retired police sergeant sent him a letter expressing “glee” over his indictment, Yagman promptly sued him (Jan. 5, 2006). Norm Pattis (Nov. 29) reflects: “I wonder whether Yagman became a Leona Helmsley-type figure. The law is for little people, he appears to have thought.”
- Picture of farmer with goose appears on greeting card, he wants $7.5 million [Roanoke Times; earlier]
- More class actions filed over Apple iPhone [Ars Technica on roaming and battery claims, O’Grady’s PowerPage, iPhoneWorld; earlier]
- L.A. Times quotes attorney Stephen Yagman on prison overcrowding, but forgets to mention that he was lately convicted of thirteen felonies [Patterico]
- Bad idea watch: compulsory national service [Somin @ Volokh]
- Doing well representing the little guy: Gerry Spence lists his Wyoming residence for sale at $35 million [WSJ/Chicago Daily Herald]
- “Appropriate”, not “perfect”, justice needed: “We simply have to stop killing litigants with kindness,” says chief judge of Australia’s largest state [The Australian]
- Toddler killed after wandering into heavy traffic, trucker should have been more on guard against such a thing happening [Salt Lake Tribune]
- Pennsylvania pro se litigant sues Google, says it spells his social security number upside down [Ambrogi] More: Coyote says “Up next, the owner of Social Security number 71077345 sues Shell Oil for the same reason.”
- Once billed as “King of Torts”, Miami asbestos lawyer faces fifteen years behind bars for stealing $13 million from clients [Sun-Sentinel]
- Groom sues bride, saying she took the ring and presents and never got the wedding paperwork straightened out leaving them legally unmarried [ClickOnDetroit]
- Surgical resident on the hook for $23 million in Wisconsin case; she was the only one of the docs involved not covered by damage limits [Journal Sentinel via KevinMD]
A jury has convicted prominent attorney Stephen Yagman, who’s prospered greatly filing police-misconduct and civil-rights lawsuits in Los Angeles, of 19 counts of attempted tax evasion, bankruptcy fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors said Yagman led a lavish lifestyle while declaring bankruptcy, hiding assets from creditors, and failing to pay payroll tax. (“Famed SoCal civil rights attorney found guilty of tax fraud”, AP/Riverside Press-Enterprise, Jun. 22; Patterico, Jun. 22 and Jun. 23 (not sharing Duke lawprof Erwin Chemerinsky’s somber view of the verdict)). Last year (Jul. 5, 2006) Yagman sued a retired police detective who in a letter expressed “glee and profound satisfaction” over the lawyer’s indictment. For Yagman’s other appearances on this site, see Feb. 23, 2000, Mar. 18, 2005, Apr. 3, 2006, and Nov. 4, 2006.
Meanwhile, the city attorney of Los Angeles, Rocky Delgadillo, who’s figured in these columns a couple of times (grandstanding on Grand Theft Auto, Jan. 28 of last year; defending the city’s $2.7 million settlement of the firefighter dog food case, Nov. 22) seems to have landed in an ethical spot of bother himself (more).
Setbacks for key figures in a prominent disabled-access filing mill:
Two of the attorneys behind an onslaught of ADA lawsuits in California — including at least 20 involving Monterey County restaurants and wineries — have run into serious legal troubles of their own.
Thomas Frankovich, who represented plaintiff Jarek Molski in hundreds of handicapped-access lawsuits over the last five years, was suspended June 19 from practicing in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. The six-month suspension came after one judge on the court, Edward Rafeedie, declared Frankovich a “vexatious litigant” and said he would recommend Frankovich for disciplinary action because of his “abusive and predatory litigation practices.”
(Paul Miller, “Indictment, suspension for two ADA lawyers”, Carmel Pine Cone, Jul. 21). Also in June, as was mentioned here in a post at the time (Jul. 5; see also Patterico, Jul. 1), Los Angeles attorney Stephen Yagman, who had represented Frankovich in defense of his ADA practice, was himself indicted on federal charges of tax evasion and bankruptcy fraud. In February 2005, after Judge Rafeedie had threatened Frankovich with sanctions, Yagman had said that “Judge Rafeedie’s mean-spiritedness, his cruelty, and his contempt for civil rights make Hitler look like a humanitarian.” (Paul Miller, “ADA lawyer’s new strategy: Insult the judge”, Feb. 11, 2005). More on Yagman: Jessica Seigel, “Cop griller”, George, Mar. 1998; Patterico, Jun. 3, 2004.
More Carmel Pine Cone coverage of Frankovich and Molski here, here, here and here. Our coverage: Sept. 21 and Dec. 12, 2004, Jan. 8 and Mar. 18, 2005. And for a very different point of view, once again, here’s Mary Johnson, “Jarek Molski’s problem — and I don’t mean access”, Ragged Edge, Oct. 24, 2005, arguing that Frankovich and Molski just aren’t good enough at getting their story out.
“A prominent civil rights attorney who was indicted this month on tax charges has sued a retired police detective for writing a letter that expressed ‘glee’ at the news. Stephen Yagman claims in the suit filed Wednesday that the three-paragraph letter he received from Jerry Le Frois caused him ‘extreme emotional distress.’ Le Frois’ June 23 letter says he felt ‘glee and profound satisfaction’ when he learned that Yagman had been charged earlier this month in a 19-count federal indictment. Le Frois identified himself as a former member of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Special Investigations Section, which was a frequent target of Yagman’s civil rights suits.” (“Attorney sues former L.A. cop who expressed ‘glee’ he was indicted”, AP/Sacramento Bee, Jun. 29). More watch-what-you-say-about-lawyers posts: Apr. 18 and links from there.
AP reports on the thriving business of mass-complaint-filing under the Americans with Disabilities Act, citing examples from Nebraska and Oklahoma as well as more familiar filing-mill locales such as California and Florida. As in the recent California case, however (Jan. 8), some judges are not pleased at what they see:
U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell of Orlando, Fla., noted in a ruling last year that Jorge Luis Rodriguez, a paraplegic, had filed some 200 ADA lawsuits in just a few years, most of them using the same attorney.
“The current ADA lawsuit binge is, therefore, essentially driven by economics — that is the economics of attorney’s fees,” Presnell wrote. He said Rodriguez’s testimony left the impression that he is a “professional pawn in a scheme to bilk attorney’s fees” from those being sued.
(Kevin O’Hanlon, “‘Drive-By Lawsuits’ Raise Business Concern”, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, Mar. 17).
Speaking of the California saga of Jarek Molski (Sept. 21, Nov. 27, Dec. 12, Jan. 8), last month U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie extended from Molski to his lawyer, Thomas Frankovich, a requirement to obtain court permission before filing more suits under the act, a sanction ordinarily reserved for the most vexatious and troublesome litigants. Reports the Los Angeles Daily Journal:
The Los Angeles judge accused Molski and Frankovich of seeking quick cash settlements by filing a suspicious number of lawsuits in short periods of time. Their suits alleged handicap-access violations such as steep ramps, heavy doors and narrow hallways.
Rafeedie noted that the complaints are identical, right “down to the typos.” He said he believed the injuries alleged by Molski “are often contrived.”…
Rafeedie criticized at length Frankovich’s practice of sending letters to defendant business owners at the outset of litigation, urging them to settle the cases before hiring defense lawyers.
According to Rafeedie, Frankovich told the defendants that they did not have good legal defenses to the disability claims and that their insurance carriers could cover any damages.
Rafeedie said the letters were unethical and misleading.
However, Molski and Frankovich’s side of the case has retained prominent civil-rights attorney Stephen Yagman, and Yagman says well-known Duke lawprof Erwin Chemerinsky is also joining the plaintiff’s team, so who knows where matters are headed next. (John Ryan, “Jurist Finds Lawyer’s Conduct ‘Plainly Unethical'”, Los Angeles Daily Journal, Feb. 8, not online). More: blogger Patterico is among Yagman’s non-admirers (Jun. 3, 2004).