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San Francisco lawyer Allen Kent was a no-show Tuesday before the California Supreme Court, and his client, Raul Aguilar, had no idea where he was. In fact, Aguilar — Kent’s boss at the firm of Aguilar & Sebastinelli — told Supreme Court Clerk Frederick Ohlrich by telephone that he hadn’t seen Kent since the lawyer “walked out” of the firm’s California Street office in San Francisco Monday. Aguilar indicated that Kent “abruptly left.” Aguilar also said he wasn’t aware that his fee arbitration case against San Francisco family lawyer Esther Lerner was on the court’s Tuesday calendar, telling Ohlrich he thought it wasn’t scheduled for a couple of weeks. He agreed, however, to submit the case on the briefs. Ohlrich relayed his conversation with Aguilar while court was in session. The court’s seven justices seemed equal parts irritated and amused, with Joyce Kennard breaking into a grin and whispering intently into the left ear of Kathryn Mickle Werdegar. Chief Justice Ronald George deemed that Aguilar had waived oral argument, then said the court will decide whether Kent should be punished — through orders to show cause why he shouldn’t be held in contempt or pay the costs of his opponent’s wasted time in the courtroom. George said the court might report Kent’s behavior to the State Bar. Kent, a graduate of Golden Gate University School of Law, was admitted to the Bar in 1967. Lawyers have been known to be late for oral argument, or even to go to the wrong city when the court was meeting someplace other than its home base of San Francisco. But a complete absence for no reason is pretty much unheard of. “This doesn’t happen very often,” one concerned security officer said Tuesday. Kent was representing Aguilar, an insurance regulation lawyer, in a case against Lerner, whom he sued unsuccessfully for malpractice over an allegedly botched divorce case. The issue in Aguilar v. Lerner, S099667, is whether an arbitration clause in an attorney-client fee agreement violates the state’s mandatory fee arbitration statutes. Aguilar has lost at the trial court and appellate levels. On Monday, Lerner’s lawyer, Walnut Creek, Calif.’s Howard Melamed, was allowed to go ahead with his argument despite Kent’s absence. There were few questions, and his argument was over well before the 30-minute time limit. “I think I’ve answered all your questions,” Melamed told the justices. “Someone told me to quit while I was ahead, so I will.” Afterward, Lerner called Kent’s absence a “huge faux pas.” When asked if Kent had displayed erratic behavior in the past, Lerner said, “I’d rather let sleeping dogs lie.” Melamed wouldn’t comment on that point, either. He added that he would rather not see Kent get sanctioned or punished by the court. “Allen is a good lawyer and a decent guy,” he said. “I don’t know what happened.” Both said it was fairly odd, though, that Aguilar was clueless about his case being before the court Tuesday. A woman at Aguilar’s firm said Aguilar was in a conference call and could not be reached for comment. Kent did not immediately return a message left at his home.

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