California State Bar investigating Los Valientes lawyer

Hollister
– Los Valientes lawyer Michael Pekin, who pleaded not guilty
Tuesday to five felony counts stemming from a criminal grand jury
indictment, is being investigated by the California State Bar on
allegations that parallel the grand jury’s charges.
Hollister – Los Valientes lawyer Michael Pekin, who pleaded not guilty Tuesday to five felony counts stemming from a criminal grand jury indictment, is being investigated by the California State Bar on allegations that parallel the grand jury’s charges.

The State Bar is investigating allegations that Pekin illegally intervened in a lawsuit and filed a false document to obtain a restraining order against Planning Director Rob Mendiola. The investigation was generated through a complaint brought by San Benito District Attorney John Sarsfield alleging the violations, according to a letter sent by State Bar Investigator John Matney.

The investigation is looking into claims that Pekin tried to intervene in the Measure G lawsuit brought by San Juan Bautista resident Rebecca McGovern in late 2003. She also testified in front of the criminal grand jury. The letter also says that after being denied by the court to intervene in the McGovern lawsuit, Pekin tried to reenter it by using a “straw plaintiff,” Juan Monteon, but again was rebuffed.

Finally, it alleges that Pekin helped his legal aide, Amanda Hernandez, file a false document in order to obtain a restraining order against Mendiola – which was also denied. Special Deputy District Attorney John Picone, who oversaw the criminal grand jury into Pekin, presented evidence surrounding Pekin and Hernandez’s filing of the document to jurors, according to the grand jury transcripts.

Pekin said he is “delighted” an outside agency will be investigating the often outlandish legal affairs common to the county.

He hopes to persuade investigators to broaden their investigation to include Sarsfield, County Counsel Karen Forcum and outside attorney Nancy Miller, who is representing former Supervisor Richard Scagliotti and the county in the Monteon/Los Valientes suit.

“Sarsfield has finally made the wherewithal for a state investigator to arrive at the scene to review the conduct of all the attorneys involved,” Pekin said. “I have asked them (to broaden the investigation) and they said they will.”

However, State Bar investigator Matney declined comment on Pekin’s assertion that the investigation will be broadened and referred all comments to Diane Curtis, spokeswoman for the State Bar.

“We have received no credible complaints against the DA and are not conducting an investigation,” Curtis said.

But Pekin, who was adamant that investigators agreed to broaden the scope of the probe, appears undaunted and believes, in the end, he’ll come out on top. He hopes to use the San Benito County Bar Association’s decision to send letters to the State Bar and the Attorney General’s Office expressing their vote of “no confidence” in Sarsfield and requesting an investigation into a number of the district attorney’s actions in his defense. Members have yet to send a complaint.

The investigation stems from a civil suit Sarsfield filed against Pekin last December alleging the controversial lawyer has been filing frivolous lawsuits. In it he requested that Pekin ask a judge’s permission before filing a suit and pay up to $500,000 in fines and attorney’s fees.

The District Attorney’s civil case against Pekin is slowly making its way through the legal system, Sarsfield said.

The prosecutor sent his complaint to the State Bar in early January and was surprised to hear investigators initiated a probe so promptly. Besides surprise, Sarsfield said he feels vindicated and that the bar’s investigation validates the legal offensive he’s mounted against Pekin over the last several months.

However, Pekin has said that Sarsfield’s actions against him are nothing more than a personal vendetta which stemmed from Pekin airing an allegation last summer that Sarsfield was having an affair with his office assistant.

“Mr. Pekin has nothing else to say,” Sarsfield said. “He keeps saying the same old song and dance. It’s good news about the bar.”

Pekin denied many of the allegations cited in the State Bar’s letter, saying that after a judge denied his request to enter the McGovern lawsuit he never attempted to re-enter it by tacking Monteon onto the suit, Instead, Pekin said, he initiated his own suit against Scagliotti and the county alleging governmental corruption. Besides Monteon, the anonymous group Los Valientes first appeared on the scene as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Pekin also denied the allegation that he knowingly presented a false document to the court. He said his aide, Hernandez, attempted to obtain a restraining order against Mendiola for planning department employee Ken Speciale who had evidence that could include Mendiola in the corruption charges against Scagliotti. Hernandez presented an unsigned declaration to a judge for the order, which was denied. But Pekin said she made it clear that the declaration contained errors because it hadn’t been edited and fact-checked by Speciale yet.

“So what’s the issue?” Pekin asked.

Speciale later reviewed and corrected the declaration, signed it, and is now the target of his own criminal grand jury investigation alleging perjury and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Curtis said the state bar receives complaints against attorneys, and investigators conduct a preliminary investigation to determine if a full-blown investigation is warranted. However, she could neither confirm or deny that the bar is conducting an investigation into Pekin until disciplinary actions are taken, she said. On completion of the investigation, the bar could take a number of actions depending on its findings, she said.

“Anything from nothing to disbarment,” Curtis said. “The disciplinary measures run the gamut.”

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