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A State Bar Court judge has found that San Francisco lawyer Raul Aguilar “lied in a number of statements” concerning his firm’s absence from arguments at the California Supreme Court in February.

While there was no strong evidence that Allen Kent, scheduled to argue the case for Aguilar, lied at any point, the judge said, he did violate his professional duties by not contacting the court to say he wouldn’t appear.

Filed with the high court Friday, Judge JoAnn Remke’s 26-page report hammers Aguilar repeatedly, saying that the 62-year-old attorney’s claims that he wasn’t aware his firm had a case before the Supreme Court on Feb. 10 were “not credible” and “manifestly untrue.”

Aguilar not only lied to Supreme Court Clerk Frederick Ohlrich by telephone that day, the report states, but he also lied in letters to the court and during direct questioning by Chief Justice Ronald George and Justice Joyce Kennard in a contempt hearing March 9.

“Aguilar lied to the chief justice and to Justice Kennard,” Remke wrote, “when he repeatedly claimed that he was not involved in resolving” a conflict between the Supreme Court argument and another oral argument the same day before Los Angeles’ Second District Court of Appeal.

By misleading the court, the report states, the Aguilar & Sebastinelli partner breached Business & Professions Code § 6068(b), which requires attorneys to maintain respect for the Supreme Court.

On the other hand, Remke wrote, there was no evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Kent, an 11-year Aguilar employee, had lied. While there were inaccuracies during his testimony at State Bar Court hearings two weeks ago, she said, they seemed to be errors “of memory.”

Even so, she said, Kent, who left the firm five days before the argument, should have notified the court he wouldn’t appear. By not doing so, Remke wrote, he violated Rules of Professional Conduct 3-700, which sets out standards for withdrawing from cases.

The report also said Kent’s failure to appear and his withdrawal from the case “arguably also may constitute” a violation of his requirement to respect the court.

“However, as the same basic facts support the various violations, there would be no need to find multiple violations,” Remke wrote.

The report now goes to the Supreme Court justices, who will decide whether Aguilar, Kent or both should be held in contempt.

Aguilar could not be reached for comment. One of his lawyers — Rogers Joseph O’Donnell & Phillips partner Sean SeLegue — said he had not seen the report as of late Friday and could not comment.

Kent’s attorney, San Francisco solo practitioner Philip Ryan, declared victory.

“I agree with the State Bar judge that Raul Aguilar repeatedly lied directly to the Supreme Court” in his letters and “in the face of the chief justice and Associate Justice Kennard,” Ryan said.

But he said he disagreed with the judge’s finding that Kent had a duty to notify the court that he wouldn’t appear.

“That is, of course, contrary to what the chief counsel of the State Bar proposed,” he said, “and contrary to what Aguilar’s own lawyers submitted” on the record. Plus, Ryan said, there is no case law to support the court’s finding.

The whole dispute erupted on Feb. 10 when neither Aguilar nor Kent showed up in Sacramento to argue the legal issues in an attorneys fees dispute involving Aguilar’s own divorce lawyer. During a phone call with the court’s clerk, Aguilar denied knowing the case was on the calendar and submitted it on the briefs.

At a March 9 contempt hearing, Aguilar insisted that Kent, 64, had not notified him about the hearing before walking out of the firm Feb. 5. Kent insisted he had told fellow attorneys in Aguilar’s office that an oral argument was coming up in five days.

At a State Bar Court hearing, one of those attorneys, William Henley, testified that he had told Aguilar about the pending argument, then was surprised to see Aguilar’s denials in a story in The Recorder after the hearing. Office case administrator Linda Leung also testified that Aguilar was aware.

During the State Bar hearings, Aguilar suggested that he had been overwhelmed at the time of the hearing because of Kent’s departure and his attempts to deal with a lien placed on the firm after a massive judgment against it in another case. The State Bar Court judge wasn’t sympathetic.

“While it is at least conceivable, in light of the financial crisis faced by Aguilar in the last half of January 2004 and Kent’s abrupt departure from the firm on Feb. 5, 2004, that Aguilar forgot about the scheduled oral argument,” Remke wrote, “it is not true that Aguilar ‘was unaware of the time or date of argument.’”

Aguilar knew of Kent’s departure and oral argument, as well as the fact that he would need to take immediate action, the report said. “Yet, he did nothing.”

Overall, the State Bar Court report was far more damning for Aguilar than for Kent. Variations of the word “lie” appeared throughout the report in regard to Aguilar. Kent was credited with an “imperfect memory” rather than “deliberate falsehood.”

Even so, the report was adamant that Kent remained the attorney of record for the missed oral argument and should have either notified Aguilar he wouldn’t be appearing or that he would have to make a motion to withdraw as counsel or have assisted other counsel in preparing oral argument or seeking a continuance.

It wasn’t clear Friday when the Supreme Court will act on the report.

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