Records Reveal Suspicious Timing Surrounding Divorce Attorney Death

Santa Clara County Fire Department Headquarters (Photo by Susan Bassi)

Records Revealed is a special addition to the Davis Vanguard. This week’s column highlights public records obtained by citizen journalists and records related to first responders, nonprofits and family courts.

By Fred Johnson and Susan Bassi

Divorce attorney and appointee to Marin County’s Bel Marin Keys Planning Advisory Board, Darrick Chase, used his grandfather’s shotgun to kill himself earlier this year. There were no news reports of Chase’s death.  However, after local watchdog and citizen journalist @marindatanow posted the Marin County Coroner Log containing Chase’s name on Twitter, it garnered the attention of a mother involved in a child custody case where Chase represented the child’s father, Christoffer Thygesen.

Upon seeing the social media post, the mother, who was involuntarily representing herself, requested public records from the San Francisco Superior Court and from the Marin County Sheriff.

Tweet posted on February 1, 2023, showed Darrick Chase listed in the Marin County Coroner Log

Records revealed Chase’s death was a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound cause by an unregistered pump action model 97 Winchester 12-gauge shotgun that had reportedly belonged to his grandfather. Records show Marin County sheriff deputies, and Novato firefighters, tried unsuccessfully to preform CPR after Chase’s son found his father unresponsive in the garage of his family home on January 21, 2023.

The following day, Chase’s son reportedly discovered a letter of intent and holographic will, resulting in Chase’s death officially being declared a suicide.

 

Divorce Attorney Suicide Connected to Family Court Child Custody Case

Chase’s wife told deputies that prior to his death, her husband had been deeply troubled by the two family law cases he was handling.

One of those cases involved Chase’s representation of Christoffer Thygesen in a San Francisco custody case before Judge Daniel A. Flores. Thygesen, the son of Terry and  Allan Thygesen, former President of Google Americas and current CEO of DocuSign, retained Chase, along with attorneys Douglas Rappaport, Michael Reedy, Michelene Insalaco, and Erica T. Johnstone to handle a custody battle that began when Thygesen’s son was 3 months old.

Chase served as the lead attorney for Thygesen’s legal team, as the mother was mostly self-represented. The custody case files remain confidential since Thygesen was never married to his son’s mother. A blue law in California designates court cases of unwed parents as confidential.

Court records obtained by the Vanguard show that the day before Chase’s suicide, Michael Reedy, a partner at McManis Faulkner, was disassociated from the family law case on January 20, 2023.

Prior to leaving the case, Reedy filed a request to terminate all custody and visitation from the child’s mother. That request was scheduled to be heard on Monday, January 23, 2023. Reedy’s departure from the case left Chase to argue the father’s request to strip custody from the child’s mother. Chase took his own life before he took up that argument.

An email the mother obtained from the court shows that on the Sunday morning following Chase’s death Thygesen’s attorney, Doug Rappaport, wrote to Judge Flores, omitting the mother and reporting in the subject line; “Our friend, Darrick Chase… FDV-19814465 Thygesen vs. Wang.”

The email stated:

“ All, it is with a very heavy heart that I have to share the news that Darrick Chase passed away. I know that he always liked court staff very much and I think that everyone felt the same about him. Following the withdrawal of Michael Reedy  as the family law attorney representing Mr. Thygesen, Darrick was going to handle this role, albeit reluctantly given the excessive demands and pressure, and was intending to appear on Monday…..”

Public records related to judge political campaigns show Rappaport made frequent donations to Judge Flores’ political campaigns.
Divorce attorney Douglas Rappaport made campaign contributions to Judge Flores’ political campaign.

Sadly, sheriff deputy interviews revealed Chase’s son mentioned playful yet concerning comments about suicide related to his schoolwork, to which Chase responded, “I’m not too far behind you.” No prior suicidal ideations were reported.

Other Related Public Records

Divorce attorney Michael Reedy’s LinkedIn profile shows he was a graduate of San Francisco University School of Law and has been with the McManis Faulkner law firm for over thirty years.

McManis Faulkner is a Silicon Valley law firm known for obtaining favorable media attention and court rulings. However, McManis Faulker’s representation of Judge Aaron Persky during  a 2018 recall, led by Stanford University professor Michele Dauber, cost Persky over $161,000  in additional attorneys fees after he was ordered to pay Dauber’s legal team due to McManis Faulkner failings.

The Vanguard recently exposed how that election was tainted by the operation of the secret Bench-Bar-Media-Police Committee “BBMP”, where McManis held membership.

Additionally, McManis Faulkner law firm is known in the legal community for charging family law litigants unconscionable fees.

In 2017, McManis Faulkner was sued by attorney Bradford Newman in connection with Newman’s personal divorce case.

Newman alleged McManis Faulkner had overbilled for his legal services, while engaging in unfair business practices with family law attorneys Walter Hammon, Donnelle Morgan and Cathy Bechtel.

After Newman failed to prevail in his lawsuit, public court documents show McManis claimed to have $131,979 in legal costs Newman was requested to pay. That claim was reduced to $35,519 after Newman asked Judge Bernal to review, or “tax costs,” submitted to the court on McManis’ behalf.

Recently, McManis Faulkner has been reportedly involved in a runner and capper scheme connected to the nonprofit WomenSV. A scheme previously reported by the Vanguard.

ProPublica, a nonprofit news outlet, maintains a public database of nonprofit tax returns that allows prosecutive donors, members of the public, and citizen journalists to confirm tax deductible donations are being used as nonprofits claim.

Nonprofit WomenSV 2022 tax returns found in the ProPublica database

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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