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SACRAMENTO — Lawyers at the Trevor Law Group — suspended from practice last week for allegedly abusing California’s unfair competition law — have asked a federal judge to block the State Bar from taking their licenses. Damian Trevor, Shane Han and Allan Hendrickson were put on involuntary inactive enrollment last week by Bar Judge Richard Honn, who agreed with Bar prosecutors that the trio posed a danger to the community. Now the attorneys say that decision violates their constitutional rights. The Bar alleges the attorneys broke numerous professional rules in filing suits against thousands of small businesses, mostly in Southern California, under the unfair competition statute, Business and Professions Code � 17200. The unusual response to the suspension was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by the firm’s attorney, Kevin Gerry, a solo who, like the Trevor firm, is based in Beverly Hills. Gerry said he wants U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins to issue a restraining order prohibiting the Bar from enforcing Judge Honn’s order. Gerry argues that the Bar is interfering with Trevor’s cases, which he says are protected by the First Amendment. He believes Honn erred in not considering that argument. “Since the State Bar action intrudes on and directly infringes their First Amendment rights, any such action [by the Bar judge] has to be narrow [and] tailored to the highest level of review,” Gerry said. Instead, Honn used a lower “clear and convincing” standard and didn’t even address the constitutional arguments when deciding whether to suspend the Trevor lawyers, Gerry said. Responding for the Bar, Chief Assistant General Counsel Lawrence Yee argued that federal court is not the proper venue for Gerry’s request. The Bar court has an appeal process, and Gerry could eventually try to take the case to the state Supreme Court if he wants, Yee said. But Gerry said he went federal partly because of a similar move by San Francisco attorney Richard Canatella of Cotter & Del Carlo. In 2000, Canatella filed a federal suit against the Bar to block discipline action. The U.S. District Court tossed Canatella’s suit but then was reversed last year by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richard A. Canatella v. State of California et. al., 00-16782. Although Yee said Canatella’s case was different from what is going on with the Trevor group, Gerry pointed out that part of the Ninth Circuit’s decision in favor of Canatella was based on First Amendment grounds. Yee said he doesn’t know when Judge Collins will decide whether to grant the restraining order. Last week’s Bar suspension was the latest development in a controversy that has been playing out since last fall, when investigators got complaints alleging Trevor and other firms were abusing 17200 to leverage defendants into settling. Sacramento legislators picked up the torch and recently proposed modifying the popular law. Attorney General Bill Lockyer has sued Trevor in state court, and federal investigators were looking into the firm’s practices. Gerry said he hasn’t figured out whether he will use the Bar Court appeals process if his federal action fails. If his clients remain suspended, they will hand off their pending cases to another lawyer, Gerry added. Gerry’s case in the Central District is Damian S. Trevor et. al. v. Ronald W. Stovitz, presiding judge of the State Bar Court et. al., 03-3695.

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