A state court judge recently dismissed a high-profile lawsuit that former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and his Los Angeles counterpart, George Gascon, brought against the San Diego law firm Potter Handy LLP.
The civil case, filed April 11 in San Francisco Superior Court, accused Potter Handy and 15 of its lawyers – including name partners Mark Potter and Russell Handy – of violating California’s Unfair Competition Law by bringing fraudulent and deceitful litigation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The district attorneys asserted that many – perhaps most – of Potter Handy’s clients lied to make it appear that they had standing and that even though the firm allegedly knew that, Potter Handy filed the cases anyway.
In dismissing the district attorneys’ case, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow found that the conduct of Potter Handy attorneys was covered by California’s “Litigation privilege” that attaches to court filings and communications related thereto.
The district attorneys’ lawsuit noted that Potter Handy brands itself with the seemingly nonprofit title – Center for Disability Access – when it asserts an ADA claim, although the law firm is a distinctly for-profit operation.
According to a Bay City News analysis, in the last four years, at least 3,142 cases in the district that were handled by Potter Handy firm have been resolved and the cases closed.
U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, acting on his own initiative, issued orders to show cause in at least 10 pending Potter Handy cases requiring the plaintiffs and their lawyers to file detailed declarations under penalty of perjury to “Substantiate” the basis for standing in the individual cases.
Randolph Quezada, communications director for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, responded to a request about whether it intends to appeal or take other action, stating that the office “Is considering all options before making any decisions.” In an earlier statement, Quezada stated “We believe all the recent federal court rulings finding Potter Handy’s clients lied vindicate our allegations and case, regardless of whether Potter Handy wins the demurrer on a legal immunity point.”
Potter Handy partner Dennis Price responded to a request for a statement by repeating his allegations that the case was politically motivated, calling it a “Publicity stunt.” Price also stated that “Our clients’ cases make a huge difference in the community. Their work leads to the removal of thousands of accessibility barriers per year. California is dramatically more accessible because of its cases. As long as our clients continue to experience discrimination we will advocate on their behalf.”
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