|The State Bar of California has disciplined attorney Nat Hales in|
connection with a family court dispute.
The judges, James Towery, Mary Ann Grilli, Mark Pierce and Vincent Chiarello, were all notified of alleged misconduct by attorney and court appointed "referee" Nat Edward Hales during the course of proceedings in a high conflict family court case.
Under state law, each judge had a mandatory duty to report the misconduct to the State Bar or otherwise take corrective action. None of the judges took any action against the veteran Santa Clara County attorney, who reportedly has friends in high places within the courthouse. The judges will now face disciplinary complaints charging them with failing to comply with state law and their reporting responsibilities.
The complaints will be filed with the controversial California Commission on Judicial Performance, the sole state agency responsible for judge oversight and accountability. A coalition of court reform groups, whistleblowers, and Santa Clara County Superior Court watchdogs are expected to co-sign the CJP submissions. The four judges in question are on a long list compiled by the group of of allegedly ethically challenged Santa Clara County judges, according to the coalition.
MISCONDUCT BY ATTORNEY NAT HALES CONFIRMED BY CALIFORNIA STATE BAR INVESTIGATION
The fact that Hales did commit misconduct has just been verified by the State Bar of California. The 19-page set of documents embedded at the end of this post includes a just released State Bar disciplinary decision against attorney Nat Edward Hales, Jr.
The complaint was brought by a financially disadvantaged family court victim, Susan Bassi. Bassi alleged that Hales, who was appointed as a “referee” in her case, failed to provide a written conflict of interest disclosure statement as required by law.
The opposing attorney in the case is controversial family law lawyer Bradford Baugh, who Bassi learned had close ties to Hales. Despite repeated requests, Hales refused to provide the conflict of interest disclosure.
The four judges who heard various proceedings in the case were also notified that Hales had never provided the disclosure. Each judge ignored the conflict disclosure issue and openly violated canon 3D(2) of the Code of Judicial Ethics, which requires a judge to report attorney misconduct.
WHISTLEBLOWER LEAKED DOCUMENTS REVEAL ALLEGED CORRUPTION DATES BACK TO 1997
The document set includes other evidence of alleged collusion between Hales and Baugh, including Hales admission that he received $28,683.25 in CASH from Baugh. Under federal law (26 USC 6050I) like banks, attorneys receiving more than $10,000 cash in any transaction must notify the IRS using form 8300. Failing to file the form can result in civil and criminal liability under 28 USC 6721.
The documents are:
- State Bar letter to Susan Bassi verifying Hales misconduct and discipline (pages 1-2);
- Attorney Nat Edward Hales State Bar data (page 3);
- Attorney Nat Hales admission of receipt of $28,683.25 cash from attorney Brad Baugh (page 4);
- Attorney Bradford Oliver Baugh State Bar data (page 5);
- Whistleblower leaked fax from Brad Baugh to Dr. Michael Jones directing Jones to make changes to a declaration, and destroy all evidence of the communication with Baugh (page 6);
- Judge James Towery profile (pages 7-8);
- Judge Mary Ann Grilli profile (pages 9-11);
- Judge Mark Pierce profile (pages 12-14);
- Judge Vincent Chiarello profile (page 15-19).
In just the past 30-days, and at the request of attorney Brad Baugh, Judge Chiarello declared Susan Bassi a vexatious litigant. The timing and circumstances of the vexatious litigant proceeding suggest retaliation against Bassi for her whistleblowing against attorney Nat Hales, and other attorneys and judges involved in her case.
Within the last 60-days, in open court Judge Mark Pierce conveyed prejudgment and, at the urging of Baugh, berated Bassi as a vexatious litigant even before Judge Chiarello had issued his decision formally declaring Bassi as a VL.
The Hales incident reportedly is the tip of an iceberg of corruption and cronyism between judges and local divorce attorneys in the Santa Clara County Superior Court system. Whistleblowers contend the scope and scale of the problem rivals the 2008 Kids for Cash courthouse scandal in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. The Family Court Accountability Coalition will provide updates to this story as they become available.