Legal Ethics

Accused by Cal. AG of Misleading Clients, Lawyer Fires Back with Federal Civil Rights Suit

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Accused by the California attorney general of misleading clients into paying to participate in mass joinder litigation against major banks that isn’t likely to benefit them, at least one attorney in a group of targeted lawyers is fighting back with a civil rights suit.

Mitchell Stein filed suit on behalf of his clients in federal court in Los Angeles yesterday, accusing AG Kamala Harris of improperly invading his law office and seizing client files under the guise of protecting consumers, Reuters reports.

The suit was filed by attorney Erikson M. Davis of Los Angeles, who says in a press release that similar suits also were filed yesterday in Florida and New York and may also be pursued in other states.

A spokesman for Harris tells the ABA Journal that the new litigation is “frivolous.”

In the release, Davis contends, apparently quoting from yesterday’s civil rights suits, that Harris “acted as the pawn of America’s most powerful banks” in seeking to shut down the lawyers who reportedly represented thousands of consumers in mass joinder litigation against the financial institutions.

Although Harris has said the mass joinder litigation isn’t likely to offer much to homeowners struggling to avoid mortgage foreclosure, Davis says her action against Stein, instead of protecting consumers, primarily benefits Bank of America, the main defendant in the mass joinder litigation Stein filed.

Meanwhile, by seizing law firm client files without court approval and without giving the clients or their lawyer a chance to respond, Davis has grossly violated the civil rights of Stein’s clients and their authority to seek legal counsel from attorneys of their own choosing, Davis continues. In doing so, he suggests, the AG relied on incorrect information about claimed questionable conduct by Stein, some of which was supplied by the defendant bank and/or competing legal counsel seeking to represent plaintiffs.

Stein, writes Davis, was the first and most effective lawyer to seek legal redress against the Bank of America concerning what Davis calls a “massive fraud against homeowners,” apparently in reference to the nationwide mortgage foreclosure crisis of recent years. Now, he says, as a result of the AG’s action against the plaintiffs’ counsel, they not only are in danger of having their lawsuit shut down but some fear that she is sharing their legal files with the defendant bank they sued.

“The simple truth is this,” Davis says in the release: “Mitchell Stein and his legal associates, who have built their case load not through fraudulent mailings but through tens of thousands of hours of detective work, are Bank of America’s biggest nightmare. And while Defendant Harris claims to be on the side of the California homeowner, she is effectively trying to provide Bank of America, one of the nation’s worst corporate citizens in history who is now being sued again by a very recent federal lawsuit, a ‘get out of jail free card’ by silencing attorney Stein.”

In addition to Harris, Stein’s suit names the state of California and the State Bar of California as defendants.

Earlier coverage: “Law Firm Seized; 3 Firms, 4 Lawyers, 14 Others Sued re Claimed Client Fraud in Bank Litigation”

Updated at 2:24 p.m. to include information from Harris spokesman.

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