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Well-known San Francisco lawyer E. Robert Wallach can’t escape his past, at least not a 15-year-old court judgment that could now be up to $300,000. San Francisco’s First District Court of Appeal delivered the bad news late Monday by ruling (.pdf) that Wallach’s law practice � E. Robert Wallach, a Professional Corp. � was his “alter ego” and could be held responsible for paying off the judgment issued by a Washington, D.C., court in 1992. Although it wasn’t clear from the unpublished ruling what the underlying case concerned, Wallach was hit with a judgment of $120,000 “plus interest,” which has likely pushed the debt much higher over the years. The money was supposed to go to S. Robert Cohen and Estelle Gelman, trustees of the Norman G. Cohen Children’s Trust. Brett Pedersen, a partner in San Francisco’s Bradley & Pedersen who represented Cohen and Gelman, said he believed the original case involved a bank loan, and said it’s about time Wallach paid up. “We’ve been asking Mr. Wallach to pay this and we’ve recorded it [in court records],” Pedersen said, “but he has made no effort to make any payment or settlement of the debt to date. We’d obviously like to work it out with him. Maybe this will prompt him to try to resolve this matter.” Pedersen said that with interest the judgment could be more than $300,000 by now. Wallach, a former president of the Bar Association of San Francisco, has practiced in the city for nearly a half century. He is a well-respected plaintiff lawyer, but in the late 1980s and early ’90s he faced federal prosecution in New York for fraud charges for allegedly lobbying friend and former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III on behalf of defense contractor Wedtech Corp. Wallach was initially convicted and had his law license suspended. But a favorable appellate ruling led to a retrial that resulted in a hung jury. Prosecutors didn’t pursue the case further and Wallach eventually won back his law license. “Of course, I’m disappointed in the opinion, but the opinion also, by the way, relates to the professional corporation, not to me individually,” Wallach said in a voice mail message late Monday. “Having said that, the debt is a phony debt and I am resisting it aggressively.” In the case decided Monday, Wallach had argued that his law practice wasn’t his alter ego for purposes of satisfying a debt. But the First District affirmed the trial court judge, who had ruled that “an injustice would result” if Wallach’s law practice wasn’t added to the suit as a judgment debtor. “Although it is true that there was no direct evidence presented to the trial court that respondents were having trouble collecting on their judgment against Wallach, or that [Wallach's corporation] was formed in order to avoid the judgment against Wallach,” Justice Patricia Sepulveda wrote on Monday, “the trial court could have inferred that the timing of the creation of [Wallach's corporation] was designed to avoid payment of the 1992 judgment against Wallach.” Justices Ignazio Ruvolo and Maria Rivera concurred. However, the three justices denied a request that Wallach be hit with monetary sanctions. Wallach was out of his office Monday and couldn’t be reached for comment. His appellate lawyer, Elliot Bien, a partner in Novato’s Bien & Summers, declined to comment. The ruling is Cohen v. E. Robert Wallach, P.C., A117243.

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