By Robert J. Hansen
ANAHEIM, CA – The Superior Court of California, Orange County has sanctioned Anaheim attorney Kenneth Catanzarite of Catanzarite Law Corporation $37,800 for attorney misconduct—his clients are now on the hook for a total of $343,586.00 in costs and fees, according to court filings.
“Our office intends to appeal the sanctions order and will be filing a notice of appeal before the requisite deadline,” Tim O’Keefe, another Catanzarite Law Corporation attorney, said.
According to an opening brief in that appeal from Tom Walling, in-house counsel for real estate professional Todd Mikles and related companies, “[t]his case is yet another malicious lawsuit generated by counsel for Appellants, Kenneth Catanzarite and his law firm Catanzarite Law Corporation.”
The brief added the firm has “relentlessly harassed Respondent Todd A. Mikles and his various business interests for nearly ten years, initiating more than 17 lawsuits, arbitrations, adversary actions, and other claims, including this matter, against Mikles and companies that he manages or controls in various State and Federal Courts, Bankruptcy Courts, and arbitrations.”
Carlson testified in 2020 that he was solicited at his home by Catanzarite when he was not seeking an attorney and did not believe he had suffered damages, in apparent violation of professional conduct rules of the State Bar of California and the American Bar Association (ABA).
“A lawyer shall not by in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact solicit professional employment when a significant motive for doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain,” according to the State Bar of California. California law also provides “any contract for professional services secured by an attorney at law or law firm in this state through the services of a runner or capper is void.”
Carlson was asked to explain how he came to meet his attorney Catanzarite.
“Like I said, Tye Wynfield directed him out there, gave Ken my address,” Carlson testified.
Carlson was then asked why Windfield would direct Catanzarite to show up at his home.
“I think Mr. Catanzarite requested the information, requested that he do that,” Carlson said in the sworn deposition, claiming he didn’t have any knowledge or understanding as to why Catanzarite was making a house call before the time that he showed up at Carlson’s home.
Carlson also testified that he did not have any knowledge or information that would have led or caused him to believe that he had any damages or any claims against any of the parties that were sued in each of these lawsuits.
Nevertheless, without probable cause, Catanzarite filed nine putative class actions on Carlson’s behalf anyway, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, according to court records.
During the deposition, when asked why Carlson was the lead plaintiff in these cases seeking hundreds of millions in damages against Mikles and others, Mr. Catanzarite called the question “harassing.”
Catanzarite’s visit to Richard Carlson’s home culminated in a series of orders by Orange County, U.S. District Court, and U.S. Bankruptcy Court: “Discovery requests served by Catanzarite in violation of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure”; “violation of a preliminary injunction”; “Order Liquidating and Awarding Compensatory Sanctions” wherein “Mr. Catanzarite must pay [roughly] $49,000 and $11,000 that Mr. Catanzarite filed a ‘false affidavit’ after being suspended from practice in New York, noting that he ‘refuses to be governed’ by the rules of professional conduct or local rules.”
In June 2020, without disclosing Carlson had been solicited at his home and did not believe he had suffered damages, Catanzarite told the Office of Chief Trial Counsel for the State Bar, “I will vigorously pursue appeal of the judicial sanctions and expect to prevail.
“I was sanctioned for serving ‘non-proportional discovery’ without any clarification or guidance as to what was discoverable and the judge did not find one request discoverable nor did he address or rule on any specific discovery request,” Catanzarite wrote.
He added, “Note that we had to oppose this protective order motion overnight and then the judge granted it and extended it to all of the parties that we served discovery upon, not just the movants, thereby barring all of our discovery other than for non-party depositions.”
Catanzarite was sanctioned for bringing forward another lawsuit against Mikles in violation of a stay order that prevented Catanzarite from filing any lawsuits against Mikles and his associates.
“Again, I paid the sanction in full under protest and will appeal that discovery sanction at the end of the case because unfortunately it is not appealable sooner,” Catanzarite wrote to the State Bar.
The attorney vigorously pursued an appeal which failed in the U.S. Circuit Court, and all sanctions were upheld.
“We have about six active cases involving Catanzarite in various stages of litigation right now,” Tom Walling, in-house counsel for Todd Mikles, said. “Three of them are on appeal.”
Walling said it is always a longshot to oppose a confirmation of an arbitration award but “Ken (Catanzarite) does it routinely.”
Using Carlson and other purported plaintiffs, Catanzarite has repeatedly sued Mikles and a number of his entities. Regarding the most recent sanctions, Catanzarite claimed the arbitrator did not consider evidence that led to an award of $343,586.00 in costs and fees against his clients.
“By Ken claiming that the arbitrator wrongly responded to hear his evidence, the court found that he filed a false statement with the court,” Walling said.
Since Catanzarite did not pay the $37,000 sanctions imposed against him, Plantations at Haywood, LLC informed him that it was enforcing the judgment.
“In addition to the writ of execution previously provided to you, attached are the Abstract of Judgment recorded against Ken in the Orange County Recorder’s Office and the California Notice of Judgment Lien,” Plantations’ attorneys wrote to the Catanzarite law firm.
“I am just informing you again as a matter of professional courtesy that until and unless the sanctions are paid and or an appropriate appellate bond is posted, Plantations at Haywood, LLC will continue judgment enforcement,” Plantations’ attorneys added.
Similarly, in 2021, Catanzarite appealed a series of orders for representing multiple sides of the same dispute. The Court of Appeal upheld the disqualification orders, finding “it would be absurd to suggest the same attorney could simultaneously represent these two factions of shareholders…contentions that [purported clients of the firm] benefitted from Catanzarite’s legal tactics are disingenuous.”
In related cases, the same Court of Appeal found evidence that three cases were filed against Justin S. Beck without probable cause, which ended up reflecting his innocence, and were filed with malice.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the $37,800 sanctions came from a U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida.