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LAZARENKO LOVES THE LAWYERS — BUT NOT FOR LONG Pavel Lazarenko, the Casanova of clients, is finding it difficult to commit to one lawyer. The former Ukrainian prime minister shares (with Manuel Noriega) the distinction of being the only foreign head of state imprisoned in the United States. He is charged with funneling ill-gotten money from his native country through U.S. banks. His case has dragged on in federal court in San Francisco as Lazarenko has cycled through more than a half-dozen lawyers. So far, U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins is sticking to a February trial date. Lazarenko’s first dalliance with U.S. justice was when he fought extradition to his native country after showing up at JFK International Airport unannounced in 1999. In addition to two New York lawyers, he also carried on a long-distance affair with a San Francisco immigration specialist. After he was charged by U.S. authorities, Lazarenko hired former U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello, now head of San Francisco Law School. After that, Lazarenko found comfort in the arms of Arguedas, Cassman & Headley’s Cristina Arguedas and Ted Cassman. When that ended, he turned to Harold Rosenthal of Rosenthal & Gibbons, who traveled to Europe — twice — to take depositions. But once discovery was over, so too was the partnership between Rosenthal and Lazarenko. The politician turned first to Oakland solo Daniel Horowitz, and has since added Doron Weinberg, of Weinberg & Wilder. True representation is hard to come by. — Jason Hoppin A KOMAR COMPLEX Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach has lately been seeking refuge from hostile federal judges by filing cases in state courts. However, the firm is not ecstatic with what it’s finding there, either. The plaintiffs firm recently filed a peremptory challenge against Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Jack Komar, who oversees his court’s complex civil litigation calendar. The move is significant because all of Santa Clara County’s securities fraud cases are funneled into Komar’s courtroom. If Milberg wants to file a state case in Silicon Valley, Komar is their man. Neither Milberg nor Komar will talk about the move, but Komar signed the challenge. The case, against Media Arts Group Inc. was reassigned to Judge William Elfving. Milberg attorneys still have a number of cases before Komar, so it will be interesting to see whether they file more challenges. Art lovers everywhere might be backing Milberg on this one: The publicly traded Media Arts Group markets the works of “Painter of Light” Thomas Kinkade. — Jason Hoppin EXCUSE NOT A HIT Clifford Malone Jr. says he used more than $400,000 of a client’s money to pursue a multimillion-dollar fraud judgment against a bank executive — and to protect his family from a Columbian hit man. But a State Bar judge says there was no stalking assassin and that the Walnut Creek solo practitioner used the money to take his wife and three children on a trip to Greece, New York and Walt Disney World. The judge wants him disbarred. The trip “had no relationship to any threats from a drug cartel. It was a family vacation,” State Bar Court Judge Patricia McElroy wrote in an angry order recommending that the California Supreme Court disbar Malone. “It is further incredulous,” she continued, “that one would hide from the Caribbean drug cartel in nearby Florida.” The ruling was released on Dec. 30, but not made public until last week. Malone’s downfall began at a high point, when in May 1993 he won a $7.8 million judgment in Sacramento County Superior Court for seven plaintiffs who accused Lonnie Schmidt, chief executive officer of Carmichael’s First Surety Bank, of persuading them to invest in fraudulent certificates of deposit. Dentist Harvey Chin and his wife, Christel, were awarded slightly more than $1 million of the judgment. Getting the money proved difficult, however, and Malone hired Mark Graham, who claimed to be a former agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, to investigate Schmidt’s assets. As time passed, the Chins poured more and more money into the case, in part to pay Graham to protect Malone and his family from the Columbian hit man supposedly hired by Schmidt. Instead, the court said, Graham, who vacated his office and vanished in June 1996, allegedly used $350,000 for his own businesses, including a salsa venture. “Even assuming that [Malone] did not know about Graham’s false resume, he abdicated his fiduciary responsibility to oversee the client funds and freely disbursed those funds to Graham without any supervision,” McElroy wrote. “This was not excusable or believable.” The judge also was bitter that Malone showed no remorse for the Chins. “The clients had to file bankruptcy, root themselves out of their existing home to another state and, basically, had to start their lives over,” McElroy wrote. “Meanwhile, [Malone] continued to take vacation overseas, drive expensive cars and live in a luxury home.” The ruling is In the Matter of Malone, 97-0-12631. — Mike McKee CAMPAIGNING ON THE CHEAP Fundraising for Santa Clara County’s two judicial elections is off to a slow start. With the March 2 election six weeks away, financial disclosure forms filed last week show that two of the five candidates haven’t raised any money. The other three are hitting up family and friends and tapping into their own savings accounts to finance shoestring campaigns. Deputy Public Defender Enrique Colin has raised the most money so far, bringing in $16,603 in contributions and loans. Colin has donated $5,000 to his own campaign and has borrowed $6,000 from family in Chicago. Colin, whose wife worked as a court reporter for indicted Santa Clara Superior Court Judge William Danser, also accepted a $250 contribution from his father-in-law, Erasmo Galvan, who had a ticket dismissed by the judge. Colin is running against Deputy District Attorney Griffin Bonini and Mountain View civil attorney William Monahan. Bonini has raised $13,433. He loaned his campaign $5,000, and a dozen fellow deputy DAs have given him donations. Monahan failed to file a campaign finance disclosure statement. According to his ballot statement, he “has accepted no monetary contributions. He owes no favors.” In the other race, San Jose Police Auditor Teresa Guerrero-Daley has loaned her campaign more than $12,000, or most of her $14,269 war chest. San Jose civil attorney Billy Lance Burrow, who is running against Daley, didn’t file a finance statement. Burrow said he had knee surgery in December and hasn’t started fundraising yet. — Shannon Lafferty

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