In a five-year-old lawsuit against San Francisco lawyers Eric Safire and John Scott, it looks like the plaintiff/disgruntled former client may score a victory.
Judge Harold Kahn has said in a proposed statement of decision (.pdf) that their arbitration award should be vacated, because JAMS neutral Daniel Hanlon (a retired First District Court of Appeal justice) should have been disqualified as the arbitrator after the plaintiff, Kevin Williams, objected to one of Hanlon’s disclosures.
We tell you why, after the jump ...
Hanlon’s answer to one question on the arbitration disclosure checklist indicated that yes, he would “entertain offers of employment” with a lawyer in the arbitration while it was pending, including offers to serve as a dispute resolution neutral in another case.
In 2007 San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter Busch had appointed Hanlon as the arbitrator, saying Williams hadn’t provided evidence to justify disqualifying the neutral.
Williams’ suit is over a $400,000 settlement, which he’s claiming was unfair –- it called for $120,000 to go to him and $280,000 to his lawyers.
Williams also claimed legal malpractice, contending that Safire and Scott phoned his close friends to try to get him to sign the settlement agreement, and that they also told him that he wouldn’t be able to go to trial if he didn’t sign.
Safire and Scott’s attorney, John Feeney of San Francisco’s Murphy, Pearson, Bradley & Feeney, said he didn’t feel comfortable commenting at length yet because the proposed statement of decision, dated in early December, isn’t final. But, he added, “We think Justice Hanlon’s arbitration award should be upheld, and we’re hopeful that that will happen.”
— Kate Moser