Sacramento – In an important ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California ruled against serial ADA attorney Jason Singleton and his client.

Mr. Singleton, infamous in Northern California for his relentless pursuit of small businesses like the iconic Squeeze Inn burger restaurant in Drive-by lawsuits, filed a lawsuit under a federal immigration contract (known as a I-864) against Sacramento resident Gary Lee.

Despite the obscurity and rarity of Mr. Singleton’s lawsuit, he attempted to bully Mr. Lee. When Mr. Lee refused to back off, Mr. Singleton continued his lawsuit against Mr. Lee.

“After several failed attempts to convince Mr. Singleton of his flawed lawsuit against me, I decided that Mr. Singleton was not going to back down,” commented defendant Gary Lee. That’s when I contacted Sacramento attorney Rick Morin to deal with Mr. Singleton for me.

Attorney Rick Morin, on behalf of Mr. Lee, successfully asked the Court to dismiss the case brought by Mr. Singleton.

“Gary Lee bravely stood up for his legal rights and refused to settle. This judgment is a testament to the power of the individual and the idea that law-abiding citizens can live without the fear of frivolous lawsuits filed against them,” said Rick Morin.

In Yaguil vs. Lee, the plaintiff filed a complaint asking the Court to force Mr. Lee to pay monetary support in the I-864 lawsuit. In deciding the case in favor of Mr. Lee, the Court stated that the plaintiff raised the same issue in state court and lost. Because the case had already been litigated, the Court found that the Plaintiff was barred from filing the same type of claim in a Federal District Court.

Yaguil v. Lee is case number 14-CV-00110.

Please contact Rick Morin if you have any questions about Yaguil v. Lee or I-864 lawsuits. Rick’s office can be reached at (916) 333-2222.

Last month I wrote about the first step in a Labor Commissioner case: the Notice of Claim and Conference.

Assuming that you are not able to resolve the claim informally at the conference, the Labor Commissioner will then set the matter for a formal hearing.

Here in Sacramento, hearings are being set between six and ten months after the date of the conference. As you can see, the Labor Commissioner in Sacramento is very impacted.

Between the end of the Conference and the date of the formal hearing, the defendant has the right and the opportunity to try to settle the matter. The defendant can propose a settlement directly to the plaintiff (if you know how to contact him or her) or through the Deputy Labor Commissioner that is assigned to your case.

The delay between conference and hearing can be in your favor. If you want to propose a settlement, a plaintiff may prefer to have a settlement check cut soon. The alternative for them is to wait up to ten months for a hearing that may or may not go the way that they want.

If the plaintiff’s claim truly has no merit, then you may decide to not settle the matter. If the matter is not resolved prior to the hearing, the hearing will occur as scheduled.

Sometimes the plaintiff does not appear at the hearing. If that is the case, the defendant wins automatically. The reverse is not true. If the defendant does not appear at the hearing, the plaintiff still must present his or her case before the hearing officer can award damages.

The hearings are very informal. The Hearing Officer will swear the witnesses in. Typically the Hearing Officer will briefly summarize his or her understanding of the issues. The Plaintiff is then allowed to present his or her case.

The Plaintiff may have received some assistance or coaching by staff at the Labor Commissioner’s office before the hearing. During the hearing itself, they are on their own.

Once the Plaintiff has presented his or her case, the Defendant is allowed to present a rebuttal. The Defendant can also ask questions of any of the plaintiff’s witnesses.

A Defendant is allowed to be represented by an attorney at the hearing. Witness testimony can be presented by bringing witnesses to the hearing or by providing sworn declarations. If you plan to bring sworn declarations to the hearing, you should have them notarized.

It is my experience that the Hearing Officers in Sacramento are very interactive. They tend to ask questions of both the attorneys and the witnesses.

After both sides have presented their case, the Hearing Officer will end the hearing. The Hearing Officer will not make a ruling on the spot. They will provide a written order, decision or award if they find for the Plaintiff.

I represent Sacramento employers and business owners in Labor Commissioner hearings. If you have any questions about Labor Commissioner hearings in Sacramento, please call my office. I can be reached at (916) 333-2222.

Many of my clients receive complaints filed with the Labor Commissioner’s office here in Sacramento. These complaints can be costly, both in terms of money and time spent participating in the Labor Commissioner process.

Typically an employer’s first notice of a complaint with the Labor Commissioner will come in the form of a Notice of Claim and Conference.

The Notice of Claim and Conference provides basic information about the complaint, including the name of the plaintiff, a brief overview of the claim itself, and the date and time of the Conference.

The Labor Commissioner Conference can best be thought of as a settlement conference. It is not a formal hearing. The Deputy Labor Commissioner will hear from both sides of the issue and will attempt to mediate an informal resolution.

In practice, the Deputy Labor Commissioner may add additional claims to the complaint after they interview the plaintiff. This can be very frustrating to the defendant because the defendant is often caught off-guard regarding the new claims being made on the spot.

When considering whether to settle the case at this initial stage, a defendant must weigh the seriousness of the claims with the amount of money being demanded by the plaintiff.

Again, at the conference, no formal decisions will be made by the Labor Commissioner’ss office. It is just an opportunity to get the parties to settle the case without the need for a formal hearing.

At the conference, a defendant is free to propose any settlement terms that he or she wants. This may include the ability to pay a certain amount of money over time, a confidentiality agreement, or a demand that the plaintiff dismiss other pending claims.

Or, if the employer believes that they did not do anything wrong, they can refuse to settle and demand a hearing.

Right now, hearings in the Sacramento Labor Commissioner’s office are being set 10 months after the conference. This fact can be used against a plaintiff to get them to accept a lesser settlement amount immediately, as opposed to rolling the dice on a hearing 10 months down the road.

If you are a defendant in a Labor Commissioner case, I am confident that I can assist you bring the case to resolution. Please contact my office at (916) 333-2222.

From time to time I get a call from a potential client in a tough spot: they ignored a summons to a lawsuit and are surprised that someone was demanding that they pay up.

Ignoring a lawsuit is almost never a good idea. When a lawsuit is filed, the Clerk of the Court issues a summons which demands that the defendant appear in court. Courts do not look kindly upon those that ignore the summons and do not appear.

When a defendant does not “show up” to court, the Plaintiff is able to ask the court for a “default judgment.” A default is just as good as if the the parties went through an entire jury trial. The judgement will be based upon a showing of proof by the Plaintiff. But since the Defendant is not there to challenge the default, they will not get to have a say. The amount of damages awarded in a default can be shocking.

Once the default judgement is finalized, the Plaintiff is able to obtain a writ of execution and execute on the judgement. With a writ of execution, the Plaintiff can obtain money from a Defendant’s bank account or even garnish a Defendant’s wages. The judgement will show up on the Defendant’s credit report and will be a public record. All this just for ignoring a lawsuit!

In order to avoid a default judgement, you should never ignore a lawsuit summons. Even if you can not afford to hire an attorney, simply filing a “general denial” will tell the Court that you are making an appearance and are going to fight the lawsuit. You can find a Judicial Council general denial form here or you can contact your local Law Library for assistance.

Overturning a default judgement is possible, but depending on the circumstances it may be very difficult or nearly impossible. The main thing to keep in mind is that you must attack the default judgement as soon as possible to have a reasonable chance at overturning it. Again, it is best not to be put in this situation by always filing an answer once served with a lawsuit. This will at least buy you some time and will, at lest initially, prevent a default.

Helping people defend themselves against lawsuits is one of my passions. Please contact my office if you are served with a lawsuit. I would love to help. My office phone number is (916) 333-2222.

Discovery is one of the most important areas of civil litigation. Discovery is the process by which each party “discovers” information about the other’s legal case. Discovery is intended to provide the parties with relevant information about the case. The theory is that the jury will best be able to determine the correct outcome of the case if each side has all of the facts regarding the dispute.

Some clients are surprised when they are required to disclose to the other side important documents regarding a dispute. This is a normal part of the lawsuit process. Failing to disclose information or documents when requested can create liability for the client and the attorney. This is why it is important to thoroughly discuss discovery matters with your attorney — so that discoverable information is turned over when appropriate.

What is “discoverable?” Lots of things! Documents, emails, word files, tape recordings, etc. Courts take an expansive view of what is considered discoverable. Typically, the information or thing must reasonably relate to the matter in dispute.

Discovery can be a very expensive part of a court case. Especially with the amount of electronically stored information that exists, discovery can consume a large amount of time for the parties. With that being said, discovery is an essential part of the litigation process.

If you have questions about civil litigation in Sacramento courts, please call my office at (916) 333-2222.