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In the Matter of Steven Jay Stanwyck

July 15, 2011

IN THE MATTER OF STEVEN JAY STANWYCK, A MEMBER OF THE STATE BAR, NO. 48728.


PUBLIC MATTER - NOT DESIGNATED FOR PUBLICATION

BY THE COURT: *fn1

OPINION AND ORDER

I. SUMMARY OF THE CASE

Since 1991, Steven Jay Stanwyck has represented United Computer Systems (UCS)*fn2 in protracted litigation against several parties, including AT&T, Lucent Technologies and NCR (collectively AT&T).*fn3 In 2002, the state and federal trial courts declared Stanwyck to be a vexatious litigant and the Ninth Circuit sanctioned him for abusing the judicial process. Based on these rulings, the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel (State Bar) filed a Notice of Disciplinary Charges (NDC) in 2006, alleging in three counts that Stanwyck: (1) maintained an unjust action in state court; (2) maintained an unjust action in federal court; and (3) failed to pay sanctions ordered by the Ninth Circuit. The hearing judge found Stanwyck culpable of Counts One and Two.*fn4 After considering three factors in aggravation and two in mitigation, the hearing judge concluded that Stanwyck was unfit to practice law and recommended that he be disbarred. Stanwyck seeks review. He contends that the State Bar did not present clear and convincing evidence of his misconduct, and that we should reverse the hearing judge's decision or impose no more than a public reproval if we find culpability. The State Bar requests that we affirm the decision below.

After independent review of the record (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 9.12), we find that Stanwyck maintained unjust actions in state and federal courts for over five years. He lacks insight into and remorse for this misconduct and the harm he inflicted on the administration of justice. As the hearing judge aptly noted, Stanwyck "presents an ongoing danger to the public and the legal profession." Finding no merit to Stanwyck's procedural and substantive challenges on review, we adopt the hearing judge's decision as summarized below.*fn5

II. PROCEDURAL CHALLENGES

Stanwyck contends that Count One of the NDC is barred by the rule of limitations. He is incorrect. Attorney disciplinary actions are generally governed by a five-year period of limitation. (Rules Proc. of State Bar, former rule 51(a).)*fn6 But filings are permitted beyond this period when "the alleged violation is a continuing offense . . . [and] the violation is deemed to have been committed at the termination of the entire course of conduct." (Rules Proc. of State Bar, former rule 51(b).) Stanwyck filed a series of meritless actions from 1997 through 2002.

We conclude that the July 10, 2006 NDC was timely since it was filed four years after Stanwyck's final unmeritorious filing in 2002.

Stanwyck next claims that the hearing judge improperly judicially noticed and/or admitted unreliable state and federal court records concerning his lawsuits. We do not agree. The hearing judge properly admitted the relevant records and based most of his culpability findings on pleadings that Stanwyck introduced. *fn7

III. FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

In 1986, UCS and AT&T entered into a software agreement with an arbitration clause. A dispute arose, and UCS initiated an arbitration against AT&T. The panel of arbitrators awarded UCS over $16 million, and a federal district court confirmed the award in 1991. In 1992, AT&T attacked the arbitration award by successfully arguing that UCS committed fraud, and the district court vacated the award. By this time, Stanwyck had begun representing UCS, and the problems began. During the proceedings, the district court imposed rule 11 sanctions against Stanwyck and UCS for filing frivolous pleadings and filing pleadings for an improper purpose. In 1993, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision to vacate the arbitration award, but affirmed the rule 11 sanctions. Stanwyck's misconduct is based on his relentless crusade against AT&T in state and federal court from 1997 to 2002.

A. COUNT I - CASE NO. 02-O-10226 (UNJUST ACTIONS IN STATE COURT)

In 2001, AT&T filed a motion to declare Stanwyck a vexatious litigant after he filed several unsuccessful lawsuits against it. The superior court granted the motion under California Code of Civil Procedure section 391, *fn8 finding that in the previous seven years, Stanwyck "commenced, prosecuted or maintained more than five litigations . . . that have been finally determined adversely" against him. Those cases included the following: In March 1997, Stanwyck sued the Walt Disney Company for breach of a joint venture agreement and dismissed the action two years later.

In October 1997, Stanwyck sued the law firm that represented him in an appeal involving AT&T, but ...


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