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SACRAMENTO — Lawyers told a State Bar Court judge Thursday that the attorneys accused of abusing California’s unfair competition law pose a public danger and should be suspended from practice while the Bar moves to disbar them. “Since the State Bar filed this application, the Trevor Law Group has not only refused to conform their conduct [to Bar rules], they have actually stepped up their level of misconduct,” Bar deputy trial counsel Jayne Kim said in a phone interview. Thursday’s hearing in Los Angeles in front of Bar Judge Richard Honn pitted Kim and another Bar lawyer, Kimberly Anderson, against Kevin Gerry, the defense attorney who represents the three young lawyers at the Beverly Hills-based Trevor firm. Gerry is a former deputy attorney general who now has a solo practice, also in Beverly Hills, defending lawyers in trouble. The Bar filed charges last month. Kim said she urged Honn to grant the suspension because the Trevor attorneys continue to disobey ethics rules, even though they know they’re under scrutiny. She pointed to the firm’s refusal to join one of its cases with a case coordinated by the Judicial Council involving automotive advertising. Instead, the attorneys tried to leverage secret settlements, a violation of the coordinated case rules, Kim said. Honn is scheduled to decide on the suspension within 10 days. If granted, the “involuntary inactive enrollment” would be very unusual; most lawyers are allowed to continue practicing law while facing discipline. The hearing continues today. Eventually, Bar prosecutors want to disbar Trevor Law’s Damian Trevor, Allan Hendrickson and Shane Han. In a surprise move Thursday, Han filed papers to join Gerry in defending the case. Han’s partner, Trevor, appeared in court but did not speak. Kim said Hendrickson didn’t show up. Prosecutors allege the trio is highly unethical in its use of California’s unfair competition law to sue thousands of small businesses, mostly auto repair shops and restaurants. The competition statute, Business and Professions Code �17200, is one of plaintiffs attorneys’ most popular tools. But the Bar says the Trevor attorneys went too far in employing the law to try to get settlements from defendants accused of minor regulatory violations. The lawyers face several charges, including moral turpitude, fraud, malicious prosecution and bringing action with intent to harm. Bar prosecutors also say the Trevor group set up and controlled a shell company called Consumer Enforcement Watch Corp. to serve as its plaintiff in suits. In response, Gerry has argued that the lawyers are merely trying to carry out their constitutionally protected right to redress wrongs on behalf of the public. Neither Han nor Gerry could be reached for comment Thursday because they were tied up in the hearing. However, Gerry laid out his case in a brief filed with the Bar Court. Gerry pointed out that most of the complaints come from defendants and their attorneys, and said the Bar is inappropriately intruding into pending litigation. If there were really problems with the suits, the defendants could file frivolous claims or pursue other sanctions in court, he said. “The [State Bar] . . . is in fact defeating the interests of the general public . . . by chilling the right of said consumers (and their attorneys) to petition the government for the redress of their grievances — a right guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Gerry wrote. Gerry also attacked the Bar’s evidence, which was collected during what prosecutors described as the largest investigation in the history of the Bar. He said alleged misrepresentations in settlement letters were privileged communications under California Civil Code. The Bar won’t be able to prove its case, Gerry said. “Indeed, some of the very court transcripts and court records it submits contradict nearly every allegation the [State Bar] is making,” he wrote. Since the Bar case began, though, the courts have dealt a major blow to the Trevor firm, undercutting some of Gerry’s defense. On March 28, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge dismissed without prejudice Trevor’s cases against thousands of auto repair businesses. Days later, Trevor lawyers dropped the restaurant cases, too. Even so, Gerry said the Trevor firm is a victim of politics. In the ongoing debate in Sacramento over whether to change 17200, tort reformers and lawmakers hold up the firm’s actions as the worst example of what happens when unscrupulous plaintiffs attorneys exploit ethical loopholes in the statute. The firm has also been sued by Attorney General Bill Lockyer. There is a move afoot to change 17200, and legislators have proposed several bills, but the influential plaintiffs bar lobby has said it will block any attempt at radical reform. Han has been a Bar member since June 2002; Hendrickson, since November 2001; and Trevor, since December 2000. The Bar case numbers are 02-TE-13107, 02-TE-13108 and 02-TE-13416.

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