Tensions between opposing counsel in court battles are expected and natural.
But one that went from amicable to downright nasty in federal court in Los Angeles has the judge looking to boot a foul-mouthed lawyer from the profession.
Email communications of Culver City attorney Christopher G. Hook to insurance defense attorneys went so far over the line that U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II declared that the law doesn't need him
"The Court will be reporting Hook’s misconduct to the California State Bar and will recommend disciplinary action," Wright wrote.
Hook was representing homeowners in a flood damage dispute with Allstate Insurance, which was represented by attorneys for Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton in Los Angeles. Allstate argued that damages at issue were approximately $200,000.
On Nov. 21, according to court records, Hook wrote an email to Allstate’s lawyers demanding a settlement of $125 million.
Allstate attorney Marc J. Feldman responded with a much lower figure.
“Haha F--- you crooks,” Hook answered before graphically suggesting that Feldman do something cannibalistic. The email tirade was just getting started. According to court records, Hook at various times called attorneys for Allstate “thief,” “gay boys,” and “criminal enterprise enablers.”
Hook threatened “Don’t make me come down there and beat you you f****** thief” to one attorney and to go “bat---- crazy” on another. With each threat, the demand for settlement went up, reaching $305 million at one point.
“Tell Allstate I am going to water board each one of their trolls that show up for depo without any mercy whatsoever," Hook wrote.
Once Hook started to allude to the opposing lawyer's homes and families, Allstate turned to Wright for relief.
On Nov. 26, Allstate’s lawyers asked Wright to issue a restraining order against Hook. They also requested that Hook be removed from the case and that the lawsuit entire be thrown out.
“Shocking and even terrifying,” is how the Allstate lawyers described Hook’s behavior.
Wright agreed. At a Dec. 16 hearing, Wright told Hook, a 12-year legal veteran, that the legal system would be better off without him
“Tell you what, slick, this profession does not need you. I am going to do what I can to remove you from this profession,” Wright said.
Hook scoffed at the suggestion, claiming that his language was never meant to be taken seriously as it was just a part of his negotiating tactic.
Wright ordered Hook be removed from the case although the suit was allowed to continue because the plaintiffs had no knowledge of Hook’s behavior and, when they were made aware, instantly fired him. Although no longer part of the negotiations, Hook still has a vested interest in their outcome.
Wright decreed that Hook will need to pay the legal fees accumulated by the lawyers on Allstate’s side. He also told Hook that the conversation over his future was not yet finished.