Imagine the joy of Maureen Graves, an Orange County attorney who works alone out of her garage when she learned this news. (Fresno Bee, 1/17/05). Seven years ago, Graves took a case on behalf of special education student Robert Moser for no fee because she thought it would
be easily won or settled. She was shocked that it ended up in federal
court and took more than seven years of legal wrangling with the school district spending nearly $500,000 on a case that she once had been willing to
settle for $8,000.
Of course, the reason for that were the school district’s attorneys, Freseno law firm Lozano Smith and attorney Elaine Yama. As reported here, the firm and its attorney have been have been sanctioned by a federal judge for lying, misrepresenting law and facts, and intentionally dragging out a case involving a school district and a special education student. The article quotes the judge’s ruling:
Wanger wrote that Yama’s behavior in court “cannot be interpreted as
anything other than a bad-faith attempt to mislead the court, obscure
the real facts of the case, to obstruct and/or harass the plaintiff …
either to wear down the plaintiff or to win a victory that was clearly
unjustified by either the facts or the law.”
The judge elaborated on Yama’s actions: “Her presentation was carefully
constructed to omit or minimize adverse facts. Portions of transcripts
were cited out of context to support made-up facts. … She was reckless.
She systematically distorted the record and repeatedly ignored
plaintiff’s objections and warnings that she was doing so.”
He pointed out that Yama had been practicing for seven years — three of
them in special education law at a firm that billed itself as a
specialist in that area.
Wanger found that Yama was not the only one to blame, since three
attorneys had signed “misleading pleadings” in the case and had
actively worked on it, including Mike Smith, main counsel to Fresno
Wanger wrote, “While isolated errors or misstatements might be excused,
given the size of the record, the sheer volume of misstatements … [the]
only reasonable inference that can be drawn is that Ms. Yama and her
law firm intended to obstruct at every step and stand education law on
Wanger noted that Lozano Smith characterizes itself “as a recognized
leader” and “major firm” in education law and conducts training for
attorneys and school administrators on special education legal issues.
“It can only be hoped,” Wanger wrote, “that these practices are not the
standard mode of operation for Lozano Smith attorneys due to their
potential to materially harm other special education plaintiffs.”
So if you too find yourself buried in a case with no end in sight, with opposing counsel stalling and lying and obstructing any progress, remember that sometimes justice does prevail. It sure did, with a vengeance, in this case.