Monday, May 05, 2008

Judge admits wrongdoing--but only after losing in California Superior Court

I suspect that this judge is not the least ethical state judge in California.

This story appears to be typical of what I know of the practice of law in California. Of course, I was introduced to the court system by Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz, who were working with Parham & Rajcic, who may not be typical. These two firms help public school clients commit and cover-up wrongdoing. As a result of the machinations of these two firms, I got to know lawyers Deborah Garvin and Elizabeth Schulman, who may perhaps have been restrained by legal ethics in some other case, but certainly were not so restrained in mine.

Finally, I had my eyes opened by the California Teachers Association, of which I had been a big supporter, financially as well as politically, for decades. I discovered that CTA lawyers were just as ready as any of the above-mentioned attorneys to violate the law in order to gain a political advantage for the people who run the union. Head counsel Beverly Tucker and CTA executive director Carolyn Doggett turned out to be no better than Dan Shinoff.

During my odyssey in the court system, I met only one ethical lawyer. Unfortunately for me, she has gone on to bigger and better things than school district lawsuits.

For these reasons, the following story is interesting only in that it is the exception to the rule.

Most of us don't have the resources of Tom Siebel, and we will never get apologies from the attorneys and institutions who make big money and good reputations by abusing the justice system.

May 2, 2008
Judge apologizes, agrees to pay Tom Siebel $100,000
Associated Press
Posted by Natalie Weinstein

A California judge has issued a public apology and agreed to pay $100,000 to the founder of Siebel Systems for damaging his reputation in a lawsuit she filed as a lawyer in the mid-1990s.

San Mateo Superior Court Judge Carol Mittlesteadt issued a letter of apology to Tom Siebel on Thursday to express her "sincere regret for pursuing claims against you that were determined to be without merit." She also acknowledged that she "may have caused substantial expense and inconvenience, and damage to your reputation and good name."

Siebel founded business software maker Siebel Systems in the early 1990s. He was chairman of Siebel Systems until Oracle bought the company for $5.8 billion in 2006. Siebel is now chairman of First Virtual Group, a diversified holding company based in Palo Alto, Calif.

Mittlesteadt, who became a judge 10 years ago, issued the unusual apology to fulfill the requirements of a settlement that wraps up a legal saga that began 12 years ago when Siebel Systems fired its top sales representative. Mittlesteadt, who represented the employee, filed a wrongful-termination and sex discrimination suit against Siebel and his company. A court later ruled that the claims against him were unfounded.

Siebel told the Associated Press that he hopes that the public apology will teach attorneys not to fabricate claims in hopes of extracting a large settlement.

"This was a single person's effort at tort reform," he said. Siebel added that he is surprised Mittlesteadt is a judge. "I am not sure who is watching the hen house here," he said.

Siebel plans to donate the money to Stanford's law school for the study of legal ethics.