SAN JOSE — A panel of judges recently set some guidelines for self-represented clients based on a recent case out of the California Sixth District Court of Appeal.
In an opinion delivered by Presiding Justice Conrad L. Rushing and associate justices Eugene M. Premo and Adrienne M. Grover, the panel used the alleged case of trespassing from appellants and neighbors Nadejda Rozanova and Denis Klimov, who represented themselves against defendant and neighbor Rafael Uribe, who was represented by Roy Gunter III.
The self-represented appellants filed two motions in to disqualify Gunter, claiming he gave false statements when acting as Uribe’s counsel in 2015. Both appeals were denied.
The disgruntled neighbors then placed the case before a court for a third time and were denied their appeal “to disqualify Gunter, contending that he had engaged in ethical improprieties, specifically making a number of false and misleading statements in connection with the litigation,” according to the opinion.
Banking on their case being similar to Kennedy v. Eldridge, the appellants argued that an “attorney must be disqualified even if there is no conflict of interest, but when attorney committed malpractice or acted unethical.” The appellants believed the precedent set by the case was relevant “because of Gunter’s alleged falsehoods to the court,” according to the opinion.
Though similar, the cases are unique. In Kennedy v. Eldridge, the father of two children represented his kin in family court. Being both the lawyer and former partner of the defendant, it was deemed his position could cause unfair advantage to the mother of the case.
Rushing and associate judges raised the question of whether there was a genuine chance the misconduct of the attorney in question affected the case's ultimate decision.
“There was no showing that Gunter’s alleged misconduct threatened the outcome of the proceedings in any manner,” the judges said in the opinion, adding that “even if appellants had standing, they were required to present sufficient facts warranting Gunter’s disqualification."
The judges ultimately held that there was no evidence that showed the counsel posed a threat to the judicial process.
“There was no showing that Gunter’s continued participation in the proceedings posed a threat to appellants of cognizable injury or undermin[ing] the integrity of the judicial process,” the judged said in the opinion.