Erin A. Denniston
Snell & Wilmer
600 Anton Boulevard Suite 1400
Costa Mesa, California 92663
(714) 427 7000 telephone
(714) 427 7799 Fax
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Disbar Snell & Wilmer
The State Bar of California
Office of the Chief Trial Counsel Intake
Jayne Kim, Acting Chief Trial Counsel
1149 South Hill Street
Los Angeles, California 90015-2299
(213) 765 1000
(213) 765 1168 (Fax)
October 8, 2011
The purpose of this letter is to complain about the ethical conduct of the following lawyers:
In the summer of 2011, Bennett and Denniston took on a case from a corporate client, the Art Institute of California in Los Angeles, a subsidiary of the Education Management Corporation (EDMC). EDMC is 41% owned by Goldman Sachs.
Bennett and Denniston represented the Art Institute in obtaining a restraining order against a former student whom they suspended. The terms of the suspension required that this former student stay away from the Art Institute for one year.
Bennett and Denniston obtained their restraining order against this former student by:
(1) Improperly serving their defendant
(2) Use of perjured testimony
(3) Withholding exculpatory evidence against the defendant
(4) Embellishing existing testimony hostile to the facts of the case
The conduct of Bennett and Denniston during the trial of Art Institute of California in Los Angeles versus James Anthony Bretney violated Rule 5-200 prescribing Trial Conduct. Rule 5-200 Trial Conduct states a member of the state bar of California shall:
(A) Shall employ . . . means consistent with the truth
(B) Shall not seek to mislead the judge, judicial officer, or jury by an artifice or false statement of fact or law
Bennett and Denniston on behalf of the Art Institute sought and obtained a restraining order using the petition for Orders to Stop Workplace Violence, WV-100. Yet page 5 of the petition authorized by Judge Carol Goodson requires “at least five days before the hearing.” No one served me personally. My roommate found the summons on my door less than five days before the hearing.
Bennett and Denniston on behalf of the Art Institute based their case on the perjured testimony of Andrew McLaren. Andrew McLaren makes his living as a reality TV actor and a mercenary. One job he took smuggled guns into Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism in violation of U.S. and international law.
Bennett and Denniston on behalf of the Art Institute, in their August 8, 2011 filing for a Temporary Restraining Order claimed to that Dawn Kohn, an employee of the Art Institute received “independent” phone calls from an “anonymous” caller, a “gentleman” named “Andrew.” This was a false statement and the all parties knew it to be false. Detective Eddie Soto of the Santa Monica Police Department interviewed myself and my roommate on August 1, 2011 when this anonymous, independent gentlemen caller named Andrew called Dawn Kohn. Detective Soto identified this anonymous, independent gentleman caller named Andrew as Andrew McLaren. My roommate provided Detective Soto with Andrew McLaren’s phone number. McLaren later confessed that these anonymous, independent gentlemen calls came from him. Yet Bennett and Denniston deliberately mislead Judge Goodson to award Art Institute the restraining order.
Bennett and Denniston on behalf of the Art Institute, in their August 8, 2011 filing for a Temporary Restraining Order asked the court to forbid the use of “hearsay” evidence yet they included the perjured McLaren testimony which is nothing but “hearsay” evidence.
Bennett and Denniston on behalf of the Art Institute knew McLaren was lying and encouraged him to perjure himself. Bennett and Denniston conducted interviews with friends and associates of the defendant as many were still student of the Art Institute. None of those interviews validated McLaren’s false accusations.
McLaren claimed that the defendant confided a plot to shoot up the school and “pull a Jared Loughner.” Yet interviews conducted by the police, the Art Institute and Bennett and Denniston could not substantiate McLaren’s allegation. Did McLaren enjoy a special intimacy with the defendant that excluded his other friends and associates? Even if Bennett and Denniston assume that McLaren enjoyed a special intimacy when did such an intimacy take place?
Bennett and Denniston knew by interviews with McLaren, the defendant’s friends and associates, the Art Institute and the Santa Monica Police that the last telephonic conversation occurred July 12, 2011. The defendant and McLaren saw each other in February of 2011, where the defendant kicked McLaren out of his home as he was staying on the defendant’s couch and again mid-April of 2011. Further Bennett and Denniston cannot produce McLaren’s email, text message or postal correspondence with the defendant corroborating McLaren’s allegation because they such evidence did not exist.
Bennett and Denniston knew McLaren was lying.
Bennett and Denniston knew the defendant and McLaren were business partners, the partnership dissolved and that McLaren was retaliating. Bennett and Denniston cite the defendant’s social media on blogger, facebook and youtube as evidence against the defendant. Bennett and Denniston volunteered the defendant’s social media to the Santa Monica Police Department.
Yet Bennett and Denniston ignored McLaren’s harassing comments and death threats against the defendant. On the defendant’s youtube channel, McLaren’s co-conspirators John Spears, posting under the handle “LuckoftheDraw” and Emal Sekandari posting under the handle “ACTORWRITER” harass the defendant online. “LuckoftheDraw” posted a comment wishing the defendant would kill himself. “LuckoftheDraw” later deleted the comment and backpedaled from making the threat. If the defendant did commit suicide, the defendant’s death would benefit Bennett and Denniston’s client – Art Institute.
Detective Eddie Soto also declared three times on tape that there was “no crime.” Assault is a threat of violence. If the police believed that the defendant made a credible threat of violence, because of the serious nature of the accusation, they would have investigated the case further to include a search of the defendant’s home for weapons, a look at his financial records or hard drives for suspicious activity.
Lastly, Bennett and Denniston encouraged its clients to embellish and equivocate the testimony of their clients in order to prevail in court and defame the reputation of the defendant. Bennett and Denniston revealed that the Dean of Student Affairs conducted conduct hearings that sanctioned the defendant. Bennett and Denniston did not reveal that the Art Institute forbids the presence of lawyers and witnesses at these conduct ‘hearings.’ Bennett and Denniston did not reveal that the Dean of Students acts as both judge and prosecutor at these conduct hearings. Bennett and Denniston did not reveal that the Dean of Students routinely excludes evidence submitted by the student including a response from himself as to the “charges” and ignores student complaints. Bennett and Denniston did not reveal that the Art Institute does not follow Equal Opportunity policies that every workplace and school across America follows by law.
The law is a defense against the innocent and the hand of justice. It is not a tool to be wielded by the rich and mighty.
Bennett and Denniston may have obtained a judgment for their client without violating Rule 5-200. But in obtaining a judgment by violating Rule 5-200, they have unjustly harmed the defendant denying him sleep, causing anxiety, humiliation and damaging his reputation. They have harmed the cause of the plaintiff forever casting it the shadow of infamy and scandal. They have harmed the legal profession. They have destabilized the Republic. For if the law can be perverted by the inducements of lucre and through slight of hand, are any of us safe?
The law is everyone’s business. Those that practice the law must possess and employ the highest standards of ethics and morality. For how can they seek justice, if they act contrary to the truth? How can our Republic stand if we tolerate evil dealing within the legal profession?
I respectfully request this august body to investigate the allegations I bring against Bennett and Denniston. If this body validates my claims, I recommend these two lawyers be disbarred. The state of California has no shortage of imminently qualified attorneys who are moral and ethical.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Thank you for your consideration.
James A. Bretney