We’ve known about this new case for a while but weren’t going to write about it yet, if only to preserve whatever’s left of Danielle Baez’s privacy in what is obviously a trumped up reprisal move from the desk of Glendale attorney Nancy Doumanian.
Hopefully, because of this case, Ms. Doumanian will be either disbarred or suspended from practice by the time it’s all over. She better have a damned good cause of action against Baez here or she more than likely will be (she doesn’t).
The Leader article today gets into some of the story, but not all of it. Just for now, all we’ll say is that…
- This is an old claim from a so-called employer of Baez. The BPD investigated his complaints about a year and a half ago and found nothing.
- It raises some very serious and troubling questions about why this tort case against Baez was filed after it was obvious she would prevail in her appeal against the BUSD, and for the same amount of money; as well as why it is being handled by the very same attorney who she so righteously humiliated in the public eye with all the bad publicity from the first one. Among California judges and her fellow attorneys, Doumanian’s professional reputation took a big hit because of that ridiculous 7-year-long BUSD case. So her displeasure is obvious.
- Nancy Doumanian is not a tort/business fraud attorney, and so why is she handling this kind of case in the first place? She specializes in personal injury and employment law — she’s not (in other words) O’Melveny and Myers. And who approached whom first? Client, or attorney?
- From what we’ve heard, this case against Baez has no merit — although she and her sister’s countersuit against the guy sounds promising.
- At ‘press time’ here it still appears that the BUSD is holding up payment of Baez’s $200,000 settlement amount until after this other case gets decided or goes to trial. The net effect of this action of course will be to prevent Baez from being able to spend any of her settlement money. Right now she could be spending at least some of it on accrued bills and such, but afterwards — if she loses, or gets close to a verdict — any expenditure on her part could be viewed as a blatant attempt to avoid collection. So is the BUSD wrongfully colluding with Nancy Doumanian in order to continue to punish Danielle Baez, and with a meritless case that was designed to retaliate against her for winning the earlier one?
Btw, Danielle Baez isn’t the only problem that Doumanian has had the last couple of years. Not too long ago this same attorney was admonished for misconduct by a judge who goes out of her way to cite the following event in her ruling against granting D’s clients a new trial.
(Incidentally, the original case involved three employees who sued Pasadena City College. One sued for discrimination and harassment (hostile work environment), the others sued because they were witnesses to the act; when they reluctantly noted this fact to the supervisor who was responsible he immediately fired them both on the very same day! That’s right– instead of instantly settling with these obviously aggrieved employees, and firing the guy responsible for the grief, PCC hired Doumanian to defend them.)
For those interested, this case is actually being used in employment law legal procedure seminars at UC Hastings. Unbelievable transcript portion here from the original trial. (It’s always the janitors that get the crap, isn’t it?)
Also from the trial transcript, as noted in the judge’s opinion:
“MS. DOUMANIAN: THIS CASE IS NOT ABOUT INJUSTICE OR CIVIL RIGHTS. THIS CASE IS THE TYPE OF CASE THAT MAKES THAT MAKES LEGITIMATE CASES LOOK ILLEGITIMATE. THIS IS THE KIND OF CASE THAT HARMS ALL WORKERS WHO HAVE LEGITIMATE CLAIMS THAT THEY BRING TO THE COURTS. THIS CASE IS NOT ABOUT $5 MILLION. IT IS NOT ABOUT WRITING A WRONG. IN FACT, WHAT THIS CASE IS REALLY ABOUT IS YOU CANNOT EVEN AWARD THEM A
DOLLAR OUT OF SYMPATHY. YOU CANNOT EVEN AWARD THEM $1,00 OUT OF SYMPATHY JUST AS A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE. IF YOU AWARD ONE DOLLAR TO THE PLAINTIFFS, THEY GET TO COLLECT ALL OF THEIR ATTORNEY FEES AND RECOVER ATTORNEY FEES IN THEIR CASE.
MR. GOLDBERG: OBJECTION YOUR HONOR.
THE COURT: I’M SORRY.
MR. GOLDBERG: OBJECTION YOUR HONOR. THAT IS TOTALL Y IMPROPER ARGUMENT.
THE COURT: ALL RIGHT. LETS SEE. OH, YES. I AM SHOCKED THAT YOU WOULD SAY SOMETHING LIKE THAT.
MS. DOUMANIAN: THERE WAS NO IN LIMINE ON IT. I APOLOGIZE.
THE COURT: THERE WAS NO WHAT?
MS. DOUMANIAN: THERE WAS NO MOTION IN LIMINE ON THAT.
THE COURT: YOU KNOW THAT THAT IS COMPLETELY INADMISSIBLE. YOU KNOW THAT THAT IS COMPLETELY SOMETHING THAT IS NEVER TOLD TO JURORS. IT IS ONE OF THE DIRTIEST TRICKS I HAVE EVER SEEN. SO I AM GOING TO TELL THE JURY THAT WHAT SHE SAYS IS NOT EVIDENCE. YOU DON’T KNOW WHETHER SHE IS TELLING YOU THE TRUTH OR NOT. YOU MUST COMPLETEL Y DISREGARD WHAT SHE SAID. THERE IS NO WITNESS, THERE IS NO LEGAL INSTRUCTION THAT BACKS THAT UP, AND I AM SHOCKED. WHY DON’T YOU FINISH RIGHT NOW.”
Her opinion continues:
Defendant [Pasadena City College] complains that the judge impugned Ms. Doumanian’s truthfulness with the foregoing admonition. However, Ms. Doumanian’s statement of the law was, indeed, untrue. Counsel’s claim that plaintiffs would “get to collect all of their attorney fees” so long as the jury awarded one dollar is a misstatement of the law. Trial courts have discretion to deny, and do deny, attorney fees to a plaintiff who recovers less than $25,000 on a FEHA claim. (Chavez v. City of Los Angeles (2010) 47 Ca1.4th 970,990.)
Moreover, defense counsel should not have needed a motion in limine to warn her not to mention that plaintiffs might recover attorney’s fees. Counsel knew that CACI 3964, which had just been read aloud to the jury in defense counsel’s presence, states: “You must not consider or include
as part of any award, attorney fees or expenses that the parties incurred in bringing or defending this lawsuit.” Defense counsel knew that it was improper to raise the issue of attorney fees in closing argument and did it anyway.
This was not the first time defense counsel had made a clearly improper appeal to the jurors’ sympathies passions and prejudices. A few minutes earlier in her closing argument, defense counsel had argued that the five million dollars plaintiffs were seeking in emotional distress damages would be better used if kept by the College for textbooks classrooms. This comment was not based on any evidence presented and was an improper appeal to the passions and prejudices of these particular jurors, many of whom were college or high school teachers or students. The court had just sustained an objection to this argument without significant comment.
Nor was this the first time during closing argument or trial that defense counsel had misstated the evidence to the jury. Her closing argument had been rife with incorrect statements about what witnesses had testified to, as well as misleading omissions from testimony she quoted to the jury. (See Order granting Pop’s motion for new trial, prepared concurrently herewith.)