Why Has the California State Bar Not Disciplined Anaheim Attorney Kenneth Catanzarite?

Anaheim attorney Kenneth Catanzarite. (lawyers.findlaw.com)

By Robert J. Hansen

The State Bar of California Board of Trustees, at a meeting last month, approved two alternatives for California Supreme Court consideration of a new Rule of Professional Conduct that would require attorneys to report misconduct by other attorneys.

“While the Court will ultimately need to finalize the specific parameters of the rule, the Board has agreed on the overall importance of having such a rule: that it acknowledges and codifies that lawyers have a moral duty to report criminal acts and misconduct that imperil the public,” Ruben Duran, Board Chair, said. “Given their expertise, lawyers often recognize misconduct that clients are unaware of.”

The new rule is among several actions taken intended to strengthen the State Bar’s accountability in the wake of the agency’s past failures in handling complaints against now-disbarred attorney Thomas V. Girardi.

A former investigator at the State Bar of California in the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel (OCTC) said online in 2019, that the idea of the office is not to investigate attorney misconduct but to draft memo after memo to make it look as if there had been an investigation.

Review by a former State Bar of California investigator with the Office of Chief Trial Counsel on December 22, 2019. (Graphic by Robert J. Hansen)

“Nor is it designed to discipline attorneys,” the former investigator wrote online.

Last year, out of 15,000 complaints made to the State Bar, only 25 got to an actual hearing, according to the former investigator. In 2019, $53,219,213 was spent on the OCTC, financial statements show.

The former State Bar investigator said they don’t know what it’s like to work in other areas of the State Bar but OCTC is basically a fraudulent enterprise.

“OCTC is a horrible place to work for an honest person,” the former investigator wrote.

Anaheim Attorney Kenneth J. Catanzarite is seemingly one of several attorneys the State Bar of California appears to be protecting, as it has yet to discipline or hold Catanzarite accountable despite several violations of conduct.

Catanzarite has a history of being disqualified from cases, getting sanctioned and submitting lawsuits on behalf of “clients” that may lack a full understanding of their cases or allegations, according to court records.

Catanzarite has been sanctioned for over $50,000 in three separate cases from 2007 to 2013, according to public records disclosed by the State Bar of California.

In 2007, Catanzarite did not tell the Court that his client, who was declaring bankruptcy, deeded his home to Catanzarite.

In bankruptcy, the person declaring bankruptcy cannot sell or give away assets without telling the Court.

Catanzarite allegedly took his client’s property to pay for his legal fees but did not tell the Court about this so the Court sanctioned Catanzarite for $30,000, according to court documents.

“Given the gravity of Catanzarite’s non-disclosure, the court will deny all fees to Catanzarite for legal services rendered to Perrine to the petition date due to its failure to comply with [the law],” the court wrote.

In a 2011 ruling, the court said that Catanzarite violated court rules by making statements to the court without any proof and was sanctioned $10,000.

“But here plaintiffs [Catanzarite] admit they violated several rules. Catanzarite does not care about the truth in making statements to the Court,” the judge wrote.

Then in 2013, Catanzarite was sanctioned for $15,200 for saying one thing, then switching his story and, ultimately, wasting everyone’s time.

The court stated that Catanzarite’s case was a “sham.”

Starting in 2015, Catanzarite began filing lawsuits and papers claiming to represent “partnership,” and was disqualified in that case as well.

From 2018 onwards, Catanzarite filed multiple lawsuits against Mobile Farming Systems (MFS) and Cultivation Technologies, Inc. (CTI). Along the way, the firm assumed the role of counsel for both companies that it was suing (at the same time).

Since then, the firm has been disqualified four times —upheld by a California Court of Appeal which called Catanzarite’s conduct “absurd.”

“Catanzarite tainted all litigation involving CTI after purporting to represent the corporation and at the same time prosecuting a derivative shareholder action against CTI,” the court said.

Separately, the Court of Appeal found evidence that Catanzarite filed three lawsuits against CTI President Justin S. Beck without probable cause, which ended up reflecting Beck’s innocence.

“Mr. Catanzarite, every fiber of my being says that the facts are overwhelming against your position in this case,” one trial court judge told Catanzarite.

Separately, on February 12, 2020, sworn testimony from Richard Carlson indicates that he did not believe he had suffered damages and was not seeking an attorney when he was visited at his home by Catanzarite.

Catanzarite filed nine putative class action complaints for the Carlson plaintiffs in California and Utah courts, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to court records, Catanzarite is not familiar with and refuses to be governed by the local rules of professional conduct of members of the Florida Bar.

“Mr. Catanzarite is not familiar with—and refuses to be governed by – the local rules of this court, the rules of professional conduct, and all other requirements governing the professional behavior of members of the Florida Bar,” a Florida judge wrote.

Catanzarite claimed the Carlson class action complaint was filed on behalf of 13,800 adversely affected investors and blamed someone else with fraud without disclosing that Carlson never sought representation.

“The key figure in the fraud perpetrated on the investors is Todd A. Mikles,” Catanzarite wrote to the State Bar in June 2020.

Catanzarite did not respond to requests for comment.

The State Bar of California investigated allegations related to cases filed on behalf of Carlson.

“As I indicated … Catanzarite’s status was not revoked, the order to show cause was vacated and no sanctions were awarded,” Amy Yarbrough, State Bar investigator said in a letter.

Yarbrough acknowledged the $70,000 in sanctions and the complaint but said that because the person who filed the complaint was not a party in the litigation, any actions taken could not be discussed.

“The State Bar is aware of those sanctions. However, you were not a party to the litigation and I cannot discuss with you any actions taken or not taken regarding those sanctions,” Yarbrough wrote.

According to The State Bar of California’s Rules of Procedure, “Actual suspension is the presumed sanction” for one violation of Rule 1.7 (conflicts of interest).

Rule 2.9: “Frivolous Litigation” also holds “actual suspension” as the presumed sanction” for one violation.

Rule 2.11: “Disbarment or actual suspension is the presumed sanction for an act of moral turpitude, dishonesty, fraud, corruption, intentional or grossly negligent misrepresentation, or concealment of a material fact.”

There are zero records of disciplinary action taken against Catanzarite by the State Bar, according to the Bar’s website.

This rolling investigation is on The State Bar of California as to whether the Thomas Girardi scandal is only an example of ongoing corruption at the State Bar. If you have been harmed by an attorney and/or the State Bar of California for failing to discipline attorneys, reach out to The Davis Vanguard at info.davisvanguard.org or to Robert J. Hansen at hansenrobj@gmail.com.

About The Author

Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Robert is covering the Yolo County DA's race for the Vanguard.

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