Management Case Study #2 –  court HOA receivership; attorney sued; case sealed

“The events of 2008 – 2012 presented here span wrongful acts by an Arizona HOA and its attorney resulting in a court appointed receivership, and leading to the attorney being sued for aidding and abetting, among other things.  The case then disappears from county court public records and the outcome remains unknown.

“‘Defendants have conspired to take over their homeowners association . . . for improper purposes. Defendants have utilized the Association to gain control of as much property in the community as possible, through improper means .’

“[The HOA atorney] was personally sued for: ‘Breach of Ethical Duties: Disgorgement; Aiding and Abetting; Professional Negligence; Breach of Contract; Breach of Fiduciary of  Duty.’ 

“I do not have any additional court filings, either updates or final disposition.  In May 2012, after 1 ½ years of silence,  I looked into the court records only to discover that the case disappeared from public view.”

Read the full 5-page case study here.

If the watchdogs of the judiciary fail, it follows that the government also fails

On May 30, 2012 I file a complaint against Judge Olson, No. 12-148, for illegally closing the files on the complaint against CAI attorney Maxwell by a court appointed Receiver[1] (See Judicial misconduct complaint filed for sealing records in AZ case against HOA attorney).  The AZ Commission writes that it has no problem with Judge Olson’s sealing of the records.

 

ORDER

 

The complainant alleged that a superior court judge improperly sealed a case. The responsibility of the Commission on Judicial Conduct is to impartially determine if the judge engaged in conduct that violated the provisions of Article 6.1 of the Arizona Constitution or the Code of Judicial Conduct and, if so, to take appropriate disciplinary action. The purpose and authority of the commission is limited to this mission.

 After reviewing the information provided by the complainant, the commission found no evidence of ethical misconduct and concluded that the judge did not violate the Code in this case. The commission does not have jurisdiction to review the legal sufficiency of the judge’s ruling. Accordingly, the complaint is dismissed in its entirety pursuant to Rules 16(a) and 23.

 Dated: August 15, 2012.

FOR THE COMMISSION

 

Its first reaction to my complaint was to attack the messenger, asking how did I know about the case. (See AZ judicial conduct comm. on hidden HOA attorney case: who let the cat out of the bag?).

I am still trying to fathom the logic or rational that the judge did not violate Rule 123(d) of the Rules of the Supreme Court.  Rule 81 is the Code of Judicial Conduct that I referenced in my complaint.  Under Rule 81 there is at the very start, Rule 1.1, Compliance with the Law.   The act of sealing all the court record information by Judge Olson is prima facie evidence of a violation of Rule 123(d) (see Judicial misconduct complaint link above). 

How can the Commission say, with a straight face, “The commission does not have jurisdiction to review the legal sufficiency of the judge’s ruling.”  Who then watches the judges?    Their brethren?  Given the black and white issue here, the Code becomes a joke!

The entire beginnings of Rule 81 under Preamble and Scope speak to maintaining the integrity of the court, the confidence of the public, and avoiding the appearance of impropriety.  Words, simply words that have no meaning at all!

What is most offensive to the legitimacy of the court, and to the legitimacy of the government, is that the Commission, the watchdog of the judiciary, took a hands-off “not me” position and did nothing.  If the judicial watchdogs fail, what then of the judiciary itself that watches the government?  It, too, most fail, and so too the government.


[1] DC Lot Owners v. Maxwell & Morgan, CV 2010-004684, Pinal County Superior Court, AZ.

Judicial misconduct complaint filed for sealing records in AZ case against HOA attorney

A complaint was filed against a Pinal County, AZ judge for the sealing of records in this civil case in violation of the Arizona Rules of the Supreme Court, Rule 123(d) that requires a statement to be made giving the reasons for the sealing of case records.  The case involved charges of aiding and abetting and disgorgement, among others, filed by a court appointed Receiver looking for some missing $650,000 in HOA funds. The charges were against a well-known CAI member attorney.

There is no record of this case on the Pinal County Superior Court official public website, not even an entry that the case was sealed, and not even an entry that the case was dismissed.   This very disturbing act recalls the secret proceedings of Star Chamber justice with its own version of doing justice.  A motion asking the judge to unseal the records was denied by the county clerk, leading to this complaint of judicial misconduct.

The complaint of judicial misconduct was two-fold:  a black-letter violation of law in regard to Rule 123(d), which simple states, Upon closing any record the court shall state the reason for the action, including a reference to the statute, case, rule or administrative order relied upon;”   and a complaint that the entire record of this case has been denied public access.

The judicial complaint set forth grounds for unsealing the records.

On behalf of the American public, and in light of the public’s strong interest in the judicial treatment of homeowner association attorneys and the longstanding public policy in favor of open access to judicial records, the undersigned, George K. Staropoli, hereby moves the Court to unseal all court records in this case.

 Staropoli has operated two nonprofit internet websites to provide nationwide information, news, legal actions, and commentary on events, incidents and developments pertaining to homeowners associations for over twelve years.  They are a blog, HOA Constitutional Government, and an informational site, Citizens for Constitutional Local Government, in support of homeowner rights and in opposition to the inequities of the existing HOA legal scheme. Staropoli has been acknowledged in several legal texts and treatises, and quoted in other books and in the news media.

And in further support of public access,

Rule 123(c), Public Access to the Judicial Records of the State of Arizona, of the Arizona Rules of the Supreme Court pertaining to Judicial Conduct, states that all court records are presumed to be open to the public, except “some court records” for confidentiality, privacy or if in the best interests of the state.  Rule 123(d) requires the court to show cause for sealing “some court records,” including the legal basis for such action.

The Arizona Rules of Judicial Conduct, Rule 81, emphasizes that “an independent, fair, and impartial judiciary is indispensable to our system of justice” and that the judiciary is to preserve the “principles of justice and the rule of law.”  Judges “should aspire at all times to conduct that ensures the greatest possible public confidence.”  It is inconceivable as to what state interests exist that would overwhelmingly override these precepts, and not to inform the public accordingly.

It was then argued that the attorney, Charles Maxwell, comes with unclean hands having been subject to serious sanctions regarding “fraud upon the court” and filing a frivolous suit.  And it was also argued that Maxwell is a public persona as a result of providing seminars and classes in the law to the public regarding HOAs, and as a highly respected member of CAI and its College of Community Association Lawyers. 

Speaking in judicial lingo, the heavy burden falls to the party seeking to hide the records to overcome all of the above.

The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct will conduct an investigation of the complaint, No. 12-148, in due order.

For more reading, see,

1.  Allegations filed against AZ HOA attorneys in sealed case

2.  What happened to the AZ lawsuit against HOA attorney for aiding & abetting missing $650,000?