Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
One day after his former head litigator failed to show up for a case before the California Supreme Court, San Francisco lawyer Raul Aguilar expressed embarrassment Wednesday for himself and his firm. “We’re pros. We’re not supposed to do this kind of stuff,” the Aguilar & Sebas-tinelli partner said. “There’re no ifs, ands or buts.” Allen Kent, an attorney with the five-lawyer firm for the past 11 years, had been scheduled to represent Aguilar before the court in Sacramento on Tuesday, but did not appear. Aguilar said Kent had quit the five-lawyer firm last Thursday, but in a brief voice mail message left for a reporter late Tuesday, Kent maintained that he had been “constructively terminated.” Aguilar wouldn’t talk about the details of the incident, but said he had fully expected Kent to make the appearance. The case stemmed from a malpractice suit the name partner had brought against San Francisco divorce lawyer Esther Lerner. The issue before the Supreme Court is whether an arbitration pact in an attorney-client fee agreement violates the state’s mandatory fee arbitration statutes. When it was obvious that Kent wasn’t going to arrive Tuesday, court Clerk and Administrator Frederick Ohlrich began making frantic telephone calls to the miss-ing lawyer’s firm. He finally reached Aguilar, who said he didn’t realize the case was on the calendar and agreed to submit on Kent’s briefs. “The last thing you want is to get a call from the court, saying, �Where are you?’” Aguilar said Wednesday. “It was like a bad dream.” Kent, a graduate of Golden Gate Uni-versity School of Law who was admitted to practice in 1967, couldn’t be reached Wednesday at his Corte Madera home or on his cell phone. But in the voice mail he seemed both shocked and flippant. “Nobody showed up, huh? Gee, sorry to hear that,” Kent said. “I was construc-tively terminated from my employment last week, and I’m amazed that they didn’t show up to argue this case.” Aguilar, a graduate of the University of San Francisco School of Law who was admitted to practice in 1973, wouldn’t comment on what Kent meant by constructive termination, but said he felt Kent’s departure was abrupt and surprising. “He just came in, and handed me his keys and left. He said good-bye to a few people,” Aguilar said. “All we did was scramble to get control of his files, because he had about 30 cases.” Aguilar said he was aware the Supreme Court case was pending, but didn’t know it was set for Tuesday’s calendar. Kent’s attorney, San Francisco lawyer Philip Ryan, said late Wednesday that he will provide the Supreme Court a letter explaining his client’s absence and taking issue with Aguilar’s statements. Ryan said Aguilar was not only the client in the Supreme Court case, but also the attorney of record, and that he knew far in advance that Kent would no longer be handling it and several other mat-ters. “We are writing directly to the chief justice and the court, and documenting the true facts so that the court can decide whose law license should be looked at,” Ryan said. During Tuesday’s court session, Chief Justice Ronald George said Kent’s absence would be investigated and that he could face contempt charges or be reported to the State Bar. On Wednesday, the chief said that no action had been taken, but that any decision would come from the court as a whole. He also said that even long timers at the court couldn’t recall there ever being a situation where no one showed up for oral argument. Someone might be late or go to the wrong city for argument, he said, but the court had never been left completely up in the air. State Bar Chief Trial Counsel Mike Nisperos Jr., whose office handles lawyer discipline, said he would wait to see what the Supreme Court does before opening any investigation. Any punishment, if warranted, wouldn’t be levied against the firm as a whole, he said. “It’s never going to be the firm,” he said. “It’s going to be an individual making decisions, so it would be somebody in the firm.”

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.