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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 & Sebastinelli partner said about Allen Kent’s no-show during oral arguments in Sacramento. “There’re no ifs, ands or buts.” Aguilar said Kent quit the five-lawyer firm without notice 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 fulfill his legal duties. Kent, who was with the five-lawyer firm for about 11 years, was representing Aguilar in a case stemming from a malpractice suit the name partner brought against San Francisco divorce lawyer Esther Lerner. The issue before the Supreme Court was 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 missing 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 University School of Law who was admitted to practice in 1967, couldn’t be reached Wednesday at his Corte Madera, Calif., home or on his cell phone. But in a voice mail left with a reporter on Tuesday evening, he seemed both shocked and flippant. “Nobody showed up, huh? Gee, sorry to hear that,” Kent said. “I was constructively 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 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. “He didn’t tell us anything,” Aguilar 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 a 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 a lawyer simply never showed up for oral argument. Someone might be late or go to the wrong city for argument, he said, but never leave the court 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, but would open an investigation at the justices’ request. Any punishment, if warranted, though, wouldn’t be levied against the firm, 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.”

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