This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 11/29/2022 at 11:54:32 (UTC).

THE SEMLER COMPANIES/MALIBU VS COLETTE PELISSIER

Case Summary

On 11/29/2017 THE SEMLER COMPANIES/MALIBU filed a Contract - Other Contract lawsuit against COLETTE PELISSIER. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Santa Monica Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judges overseeing this case are MITCHELL L. BECKLOFF, LAWRENCE CHO, MARK A. YOUNG and LISA K SEPE-WIESENFELD. The case status is Disposed - Judgment Entered.
Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****8428

  • Filing Date:

    11/29/2017

  • Case Status:

    Disposed - Judgment Entered

  • Case Type:

    Contract - Other Contract

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judges

MITCHELL L. BECKLOFF

LAWRENCE CHO

MARK A. YOUNG

LISA K SEPE-WIESENFELD

 

Party Details

Plaintiff and Respondent

THE SEMLER COMPANIES/MALIBU

Defendant and Appellant

PELISSIER COLETTE

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff Attorneys

BARDO EVAN LEE

EVAN L. BARDO

WITCHER RACHEL CHRISTINE

 

Court Documents

Writ of Execution - WRIT OF EXECUTION (LOS ANGELES)

10/4/2022: Writ of Execution - WRIT OF EXECUTION (LOS ANGELES)

Memorandum of Costs After Judgment, Acknowledgment of Credit, and Declaration of Accrued Interest

10/3/2022: Memorandum of Costs After Judgment, Acknowledgment of Credit, and Declaration of Accrued Interest

Memorandum of Costs After Judgment, Acknowledgment of Credit, and Declaration of Accrued Interest

10/3/2022: Memorandum of Costs After Judgment, Acknowledgment of Credit, and Declaration of Accrued Interest

Judgment - [PROPOSED] AMENDED JUDGMENT

8/23/2022: Judgment - [PROPOSED] AMENDED JUDGMENT

Order - [PROPOSED] ORDER RE: JUDGMENT CREDITORS MOTION TO AMEND JUDGMENT TO ADD MALIBU MEDIA, LLC AS JUDGMENT DEBTOR

8/23/2022: Order - [PROPOSED] ORDER RE: JUDGMENT CREDITORS MOTION TO AMEND JUDGMENT TO ADD MALIBU MEDIA, LLC AS JUDGMENT DEBTOR

Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

8/18/2022: Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

8/16/2022: Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

Proof of Service by Mail

8/16/2022: Proof of Service by Mail

Notice of Ruling

8/16/2022: Notice of Ruling

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON MOTION FOR SANCTIONS; HEARING ON MOTION TO AMEND J...)

8/9/2022: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON MOTION FOR SANCTIONS; HEARING ON MOTION TO AMEND J...)

Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore

8/9/2022: Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore

Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

6/22/2022: Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore

6/22/2022: Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore

Proof of Service by Mail

6/22/2022: Proof of Service by Mail

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON APPLICATION FOR ORDER FOR APPEARANCE AND EXAMINATI...)

6/22/2022: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON APPLICATION FOR ORDER FOR APPEARANCE AND EXAMINATI...)

Notice of Ruling

6/22/2022: Notice of Ruling

Request for Judicial Notice

5/23/2022: Request for Judicial Notice

Motion to Amend Judgment

5/23/2022: Motion to Amend Judgment

279 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 12/08/2022
  • Hearing12/08/2022 at 08:30 AM in Department M at 1725 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401; Hearing on Application for Order for Appearance and Examination

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  • 12/08/2022
  • Hearing12/08/2022 at 08:30 AM in Department M at 1725 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401; Hearing on Application for Order for Appearance and Examination

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  • 10/04/2022
  • DocketWrit of Execution ((Los Angeles)); Filed by THE SEMLER COMPANIES/MALIBU (Plaintiff)

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  • 10/03/2022
  • DocketMemorandum of Costs After Judgment, Acknowledgment of Credit, and Declaration of Accrued Interest; Filed by THE SEMLER COMPANIES/MALIBU (Plaintiff)

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  • 10/03/2022
  • DocketMemorandum of Costs After Judgment, Acknowledgment of Credit, and Declaration of Accrued Interest; Filed by THE SEMLER COMPANIES/MALIBU (Plaintiff)

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  • 09/27/2022
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department M; Hearing on Motion for Sanctions - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by Court

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  • 09/01/2022
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department M; Hearing on Application for Order for Appearance and Examination (As ToThird Person - Svetlana Dubovik Boissier) - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by Court

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  • 08/31/2022
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department M; Hearing on Motion to Amend Judgment - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by Court

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  • 08/23/2022
  • DocketORDER RE: JUDGMENT CREDITOR?S MOTION TO AMEND JUDGMENT TO ADD MALIBU MEDIA, LLC AS JUDGMENT DEBTOR; Filed by THE SEMLER COMPANIES/MALIBU (Plaintiff)

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  • 08/23/2022
  • DocketAMENDED JUDGMENT; Filed by THE SEMLER COMPANIES/MALIBU (Plaintiff)

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382 More Docket Entries
  • 02/28/2018
  • DocketDefault Entered (AS TO: COLETTE PELISSIER-ENTERED ); Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 02/28/2018
  • DocketRequest for Entry of Default / Judgment; Filed by THE SEMLER COMPANIES/MALIBU (Plaintiff)

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  • 02/28/2018
  • DocketRequest for Entry of Default (AS TO: COLETTE PELISSIER-RECEIVED. ); Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 01/19/2018
  • DocketProof-Service/Summons; Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 01/19/2018
  • DocketProof-Service/Summons; Filed by THE SEMLER COMPANIES/MALIBU (Plaintiff)

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  • 11/29/2017
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by THE SEMLER COMPANIES/MALIBU (Plaintiff)

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  • 11/29/2017
  • DocketSummons; Filed by Plaintiff

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  • 11/29/2017
  • DocketSummons Filed; Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 11/29/2017
  • DocketComplaint Filed

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  • 11/29/2017
  • DocketCivil Case Cover Sheet

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: ****8428 Hearing Date: August 9, 2022 Dept: M

CASE NAME: The Semler Co./Malibu LP v. Pelissier

CASE NO.: ****8428

MOTION: Motion to Amend Judgment & Issue Sanctions

HEARING DATE: 8/9/2022

Legal Standard

Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 187, a trial court has jurisdiction to modify a judgment to add additional judgment debtors. The Court may use all means to carry its jurisdiction into effect, even if those processes are not set out in the code. “When jurisdiction is, by the Constitution or this Code, or by any other statute, conferred on a Court or judicial officer, all the means necessary to carry it into effect are also given; and in the exercise of this jurisdiction, if the course of proceeding be not specifically pointed out by this Code or the statute, any suitable process or mode of proceeding may be adopted which may appear most conformable to the spirit of this code.” (CCP, 187.)

Judgments are typically “amended to add additional judgment debtors on the grounds that a person or entity is the alter ego of the original judgment debtor. This is an equitable procedure based on the theory that the court is not amending the judgment to add a new defendant but is merely inserting the correct name of the real defendant. ‘Such a procedure is an appropriate and complete method by which to bind new individual defendants where it can be demonstrated that in their capacity as alter ego of the corporation they in fact had control of the previous litigation, and thus were virtually represented in the lawsuit.’” (NEC Electronics Inc. v. Hurt, (1989) 208 Cal.App.3d 772, 778; e.g., Dow Jones Co. v. Avenel (1984) 151 Cal. App. 3d 144, 148-149.)

“Modification of a judgment may be proper when the newly-named defendant is an existing defendant’s alter ego. ‘Under the alter ego doctrine, ... when the corporate form is used to perpetrate a fraud, circumvent a statute, or accomplish some other wrongful or inequitable purpose, the courts will ignore the corporate entity and deem the corporation’s acts to be those of the persons ... actually controlling the corporation, in most instances the equitable owners. The alter ego doctrine prevents individuals ... from misusing the corporate laws by the device of a sham corporate entity formed for the purpose of committing fraud or other misdeeds.” (Wolf Metals Inc. v. Rand Pacific Sales, Inc. (2016) 4 Cal.App.5th 698, 703, internal citations omitted).)

“Before the alter ego doctrine will be invoked in California, two conditions generally must be met. ‘First, there must be such a unity of interest and ownership between the corporation and its equitable owner that the separate personalities of the corporation and the shareholder do not in reality exist. Second, there must be an inequitable result if the acts in question are treated as those of the corporation alone.’ While courts have developed a list of factors that may be analyzed in making these determinations, ‘[t]here is no litmus test to determine when the corporate veil will be pierced; rather the result will depend on the circumstances of each particular case.’” (Curci Investments, LLC v. Baldwin (2017) 14 Cal.App.5th 214, 220–221 internal citations and alterations omitted.)

“The first requirement for disregarding the corporate entity under the alter ego doctrine—whether there is sufficient unity of interest and ownership that the separate personalities of the individual and the corporation no longer exist—encompasses a series of factors. Among the many factors to be considered in applying the doctrine are one individual’s ownership of all stock in a corporation; use of the same office or business location; commingling of funds and other assets of the individual and the corporation; an individual holding out that he is personally liable for debts of the corporation; identical directors and officers; failure to maintain minutes or adequate corporate records; disregard of corporate formalities; absence of corporate assets and inadequate capitalization; and the use of a corporation as a mere shell, instrumentality or conduit for the business of an individual. This list of factors is not exhaustive, and these enumerated factors may be considered with others under the particular circumstances of each case. ‘No single factor is determinative, and instead a court must examine all the circumstances to determine whether to apply the doctrine.’” (Misik v. D’Arco (2011) 197 Cal.App.4th 1065, 1073, internal citations omitted.)

“The second requirement for application of the alter ego doctrine is a finding that the facts are such that adherence to the fiction of the separate existence of the corporation would sanction a fraud or promote injustice. The test for this requirement is that if the acts are treated as those of the corporation alone, it will produce an unjust or inequitable result.” (Id. at 1073, internal citation omitted.) “As we have stated, a court has authority to impose liability under a judgment on an alter ego who has control of the litigation. Amendment of a judgment to add an alter ego is a proper procedure where it can be shown that the alter ego of the corporate entity had control of the litigation and was virtually represented in the lawsuit.” (Id. at 1075, internal citation omitted.)

Analysis

Judgment Creditor (JC)’s request for judicial notice is GRANTED. (Evid. Code 452(d).)

On May 1, 2018, the Judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiff The Semler Co./Malibu LP and against Defendant Pelissier (JD) in the amount of $548,644.92. JC renewed the Judgment on November 18, 2021, and the amount of the Judgment (as of February 23, 2022) is $1,008,033.65.

JC has unsuccessfully attempted to obtain information regarding JD’s assets in order to enforce its judgment. However, Pelissier obstructed Plaintiff from obtaining information regarding her assets. Pelissier is currently in contempt of Court. (See 4/6/21 Minute Order.) Pelissier has failed to appear for the Judgment Debtor Examine and contempt hearings on December 13, 2021, January 20, 2022, March 8, 2022, and June 22, 2022.

JC moves to add Malibu Media, LLC (“Malibu Media”) to the judgment as an alter ego of JD. JC relies on a theory of reverse veil piercing. Outside reverse veil piercing differs from traditional alter ego veil piercing. Outside reverse veil piercing arises when the request for piercing comes from a third party outside the targeted business entity. “Rather than seeking to hold an individual responsible for the acts of an entity, reverse veil piercing seeks to satisfy the debt of an individual through the assets of an entity of which the individual is an insider.” (Curci Investments, LLC v. Baldwin (2017) 14 Cal.App.5th 214, 221.) As with traditional veil piercing, there is no precise litmus test. (Id., at 224.) Rather, the key is whether the “ends of justice require disregarding the separate nature” of the LLC under the circumstances. (Ibid.) This requires the court to evaluate the same factors as are employed in a traditional veil piercing case, as well as whether the judgment creditor has any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy at law. (Id. at 224 [judgment creditor was not precluded from reverse piercing to add LLC where judgment debtor held 99 percent interest and debtor's wife held remaining one percent interest; due to community property law, there was no innocent member of LLC who could be affected by reverse piercing].)

JC has demonstrated that Malibu Media exists as Pelissier’s main vessel to conceal her assets from creditors, and other factors in favor of reverse veil piercing. Pelissier is the sole owner, managing member, and agent for service of process of Malibu Media. (Bardo Decl., 5-7, Exs. A, B.) Thus, she apparently has complete ownership and control of Malibu Media. Pelissier made it clear that the monies from her “LLCs” were available for her personal use, stating “I can’t have any personal money transferred to myself. I have to get anything I need paid for by my husband or paid for by a company.” (ID. Ex. E.)

JC demonstrates that Malibu Media does not adhere to corporate formalities. Pelissier stated that she is the only member of Malibu Media and that Malibu Media, as “single-member limited liability companies . . . are pass-through or ‘disregarded entities’ who do not file their own tax return.” (Bardo Decl., Ex. B [B-2, 3].) Pelissier also claimed that she is not in possession custody or control of documents that show her ownership of Malibu Media. (Bardo Decl., Ex. B [B-2, 3].) Pelissier (on behalf of Malibu Media) has stated in another action that she “is not in possession, custody, or control of” any statements of account for the last 3 years, bankbooks, passbooks, or checkbooks for any type of financial account in which Malibu Media has any interest and is maintained by or for Malibu Media in a bank, savings and loan, securities firm, brokerage firm, or any other financial institution. (RJN, Ex. 6 [Pg. 20 of 23].) Pelissier (on behalf of Malibu Media) stated that it “has not filed state or federal tax returns for the last 3 years.” (RJN, Ex. 6 [Pg. 20 of 23].) Additionally, Pelissier (on behalf of Malibu Media) stated that it has no financial statements, whether audited or unaudited, for the last 3 years and no general ledgers or accounting records for the last 3 years. (RJN, Ex. 6 [Pg. 20 of 23].) Finally, Pelissier (on behalf of Malibu Media) stated that it has no listing of accounts receivable, listing of real or personal property, safety deposit boxes, promissory notes or other records due to Malibu Media, title to motor vehicles or other titled personal property, title to real estate, or any other documents which may contain information concerning Malibu Media’s property, income, or indebtedness owed to Malibu Media. (RJN, Ex. 6 [Pg. 20 of 23].)

JD considered funds in the accounts of her “LLCs” as available for her personal use. (Bardo Decl., Ex. E.) For instance, Pelissier claimed that funds from her LLCs were available to pay a mortgage on a property in the name of Pelissier and her husband. (Bardo Decl., Ex. E [Pg. E-9-11, 13, 17, 19].)

As such, there is no usual separation that exists between the LLC and Pelissier. JC has thereby demonstrated that a unity of interest and ownership between the two such that separate personalities do not in reality exist. Therefore, the ends of justice require disregarding the separate nature of the LLC.

JC has also demonstrated, by its attempts to enforce its judgment through customary methods of collection, that there would be no adequate alternative remedy.

Accordingly, JC’s motion is GRANTED.

Sanctions

JC seeks issue sanctions against Pelissier where she is prevented from presenting any opposition or objection to Plaintiff’s attempts to add individuals or business entities to the Judgment, and that various entities be declared alter egos.

The requested issue sanctions do not seem appropriate. Plaintiff demonstrates that there is some logical connection between the requested discovery, and the specific issue sanctions requested. Plaintiff requested information regarding JD’s assets, including interests in such LLCs, and JD refused to cooperate. That said, the issue sanctions statute only pertains to designating facts as established or supporting/opposing claims or defenses on the merits. (See CCP 2023.030(b).) The issuance of a discovery sanction here would bring third parties into the case without evidence of liability or alter ego. As such, the issue sanctions would allow JC to ignore the requirements for amending the judgment under Code of Civil Procedure section 187.

Moreover, JC failed to provide the required separate statement. (CRC Rule 3.1345.)

Accordingly, JC’s motion for sanctions is DENIED.



b"

Case Number: ****8428 Hearing Date: November 12, 2021 Dept: M

CASE NAME: The Semler Companies/Malibu v. Colette Pelissier

CASE NO.: ****8428

MOTION: 1. Judgment Creditors’ Motion to Compel Further Responses to Special Interrogatories and Sanctions

2. Judgment Creditors’ Motion to Compel Further Responses to RFPs and Sanctions

HEARING DATE: 11/12/2021

Background

On July 30, 2021, Plaintiff/Judgment Creditor (“Creditor”) filed motions to compel further responses related to Defendant/Judgment debtor’s (“Debtor”) responses to special interrogatories and request for production of documents. Creditor seeks further responses to special interrogatories and requests for production of documents. [1]

Legal Standard

Interrogatories

“The judgment creditor may propound written interrogatories to the judgment debtor, in the manner provided in Chapter 13 (commencing with Section 2030.010) of Title 4 of Part 4, requesting information to aid in enforcement of the money judgment. The judgment debtor shall answer the interrogatories in the manner and within the time provided by Chapter 13 (commencing with Section 2030.010) of Title 4 of Part 4.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 708.020(a).) “Interrogatories served pursuant to this section may be enforced, to the extent practicable, in the same manner as interrogatories in a civil action.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 708.020(c).)

Code of Civil Procedure section 2030.300 governs motions to compel further responses related to responses to interrogatories. On receipt of a response to interrogatories, the propounding party may move for an order compelling a further response if the propounding party deems that any of the following apply:

(1) An answer to a particular interrogatory is evasive or incomplete.

(2) An exercise of the option to produce documents under Section 2030.230 is unwarranted or the required specification of those documents is inadequate.

(3) An objection to an interrogatory is without merit or too general.

(Code Civ. Proc., ; 2030.300(a).)

A motion to compel further responses must be filed “within 45 days of the service of the verified response[s], or any supplemental verified response, or on or before any specific later date to which the demanding party and the responding party have agreed in writing, the demanding party waives any right to compel a further response to the demand.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 2031.310(c); Code Civ. Proc., ; 2030.300(c) [emphasis added].)

Requests for production of documents

“The judgment creditor may demand that any judgment debtor produce and permit the party making the demand, or someone acting on that party's behalf, to inspect and to copy a document that is in the possession, custody, or control of the party on whom the demand is made in the manner provided in Chapter 14 (commencing with Section 2031.010) of Title 4 of Part 4, if the demand requests information to aid in enforcement of the money judgment. The judgment debtor shall respond and comply with the demand in the manner and within the time provided by Chapter 14 (commencing with Section 2031.010) of Title 4 of Part 4.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 708.030(a).) “Inspection demands served pursuant to this section may be enforced to the extent practicable, in the same manner as inspection demands in a civil action.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 708.030(c).) Code of Civil Procedure section 2031.310 governs motions to compel further responses to requests for production of documents. A party may move to compel further responses to a request for production of documents when:

(1) A statement of compliance with the demand is incomplete.

(2) A representation of inability to comply is inadequate, incomplete, or evasive.

(3) An objection in the response is without merit or too general.

(Code Civ. Proc., ; 2031.310(a).)

Motions to compel further responses must be timely to be considered. (See Code Civ. Proc., ; 2031.310(c).) “Unless notice of this motion is given within 45 days of the service of the verified response, or any supplemental verified response, or on or before any specific later date to which the propounding party and the responding party have agreed in writing, the propounding party waives any right to compel a further response to the interrogatories.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 2030.300(c).)

Analysis

These motions to compel further responses are timely.

A. Request for Further Responses to Special Interrogatories

Whether the motion is partially moot as to certain requests

Debtor argues that the motion to compel further responses to special interrogatories Nos. 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 21 and 22 are moot because, despite the incorporation of objections, Debtor fully responded to these requests. In reply, Creditor argues that the qualification given to Nos. 4, 10, 11 and 13 renders the response incomplete. While Debtor provides responses to these requests, they are all qualified responses. Request nos. 10, 11, and 13 request that Debtor state her ownership interest in any limited partnership, any general partnership, or any other business entity. Debtor objected to these requests based on her right to privacy. The party asserting a privacy right must establish a legally protected privacy interest, an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in the given circumstances, and a threatened intrusion that is serious. [Citation omitted.]” (Williams v. Superior Court (2017) 3 Cal.5th 531, 552.) While Debtor asserts the right to financial privacy, Debtor has not established that she has a reasonable expectation of privacy in judgment debtor proceedings. This is especially compelling since this is a judgment debtor proceeding, and “the object of the proceeding[] [is] to compel the judgment debtor to give information concerning his property. (8 Witkin, Cal.Proc.3d Enforcement of Judgment, ; 274, p. 238, citing Coleman v. Galvin (1947) 78 Cal.App.2d 313, 177 P.2d 606.)” (Young v. Keele (1987) 188 Cal.App.3d 1090, 1093.)

Creditor contends that Debtor is using this qualification to again avoid disclosing her assets to Creditor and that, “hard drives and records” are not required to answer all or even a portion of these interrogatories. Here, the responses provided by Debtor to nos. 4, 10, 11, and 13 are qualified thereby making them evasive and incomplete. Moreover, Debtor’s objections based on rights to privacy are without merit since these requests seek information about Debtor’s ownership interest in legal entities. The motion to compel further responses to special interrogatories nos. 4, 10, 11 and 13 is GRANTED.

Creditor further argues that Debtor included improper boilerplate objections in nos. 4, 6, 8-13, 21 and 22 and that it is unclear whether Debtor is withholding some information based on those objections. Creditor block quotes a portion of Debtor’s objections to illustrate that the objections are too general. Creditor argues that the special interrogatories generally seek factual information regarding Debtor’s assets and are specifically designed to not elicit information protected by the attorney-client privilege or work product doctrine. Here, the Court agrees that these interrogatories do not elicit information protected by the attorney-client privilege or work product doctrine. Creditor also argues that Debtor cannot avoid responding to an interrogatory by claiming it calls for a “legal conclusion.” (See Sheets v. Superior Court In and For Los Angeles County (1967) 257 Cal.App.2d 1, 13.) Indeed, “The fact that an interrogatory calls for an opinion and conclusion “of itself, is not a proper objection to an interrogatory.” (Ibid.)

As to response nos. 6, 8, 9,12, 21 and 22, Debtor provided objections and responses. Debtor qualified these response in a similar manner as nos. 4, 10, 11, and 13, which the Court determined to be incomplete and evasive. Moreover, the privacy objections raised are without merit. For instance, request nos. 21 and 22 request a list of personal property valued at more than $500 and real estate property that Debtor has an interest. Debtor has not explained why the information would only be hard drives or other personal property to provide complete responses to these interrogatories. Since the qualification makes the responses incomplete, and the privacy objection is without merit, the motion to compel further responses to nos. 6-9,12, 21 and 22 is GRANTED.

Nos. 2, 3, 14, 18, 20, and 23

Debtor argues that requests nos. 2, 3, 14, 18, 20 and 23 seek information protected by the right to privacy and that is not directly relevant or narrowly tailored to protect the privacy interests involved, or otherwise objectionable for other reasons. Debtor provided objections-only responses to these requests. Debtor generally objected based on her right to privacy, but as to Nos. 20 and 23, Debtor also asserted a third-party’s right to privacy.

In reply, Creditor argues that request no. 2 is relevant, and the right to privacy is not absolute. Creditor argues that information relating to Debtor’s landlord is necessary for Creditor’s post judgment collection efforts because Creditor seeks to learn how and from what source Debtor is paying her personal obligations. Creditor argues that if Debtor is owed debt by another party, this information is directly relevant to discovery of Debtor’s assets to aid in collection of the subject judgment. In addition, Debtor has no reasonable expectation of privacy as to this information and it must be disclosed without objection. Creditor further argues that request no. 14 seeks information related to her income and is therefore relevant. As to no. 18, Creditor requests that Debtor provide account information for her debit, credit and bank cards. Creditor also argues that Debtor’s objections to nos. 20 and 23 are farcical. “The party asserting a privacy right must establish a legally protected privacy interest, an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in the given circumstances, and a threatened intrusion that is serious. [Citation omitted.]” (Williams v. Superior Court (2017) 3 Cal.5th 531, 552.) While Debtor asserts the right to privacy of third parties in objection nos. 20 and 23, Debtor has not argued or established that these parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy under these circumstances. In the separate statement, Debtor also contended that the term “employer” was vague and that Debtor needed clarification, but provides no support for this contention. Debtor also asserts that interrogatory no. 23 was vague and ambiguous as to “performed services,” but that too is unsupported by argument.

Creditor has shown that the objections are without merit. Creditor’s motion to compel further responses is GRANTED as to nos. 2, 3, 14, 18 and 20. The motion to compel further responses to no. 23 is also GRANTED. The term “performed services” is not vague. It is readily apparent that Creditor does not seek information regarding Debtor’s provision of free services or public services.

Nos. 5, 7, 15, 16, 19 and 25

Debtor argues that she properly objected to nos. 5, 7, 15, 16, 19 and 25 because they seek the discovery of financial and other private information of third parties, including companies with which Pelissier is affiliated, and Debtor’s husband. With respect to nos. 5 and 7, Creditor argues that it is entitled to discover such accounts related to Debtor’s husband as they may hold community property assets which may be collectable to satisfy Creditor’s judgment. With respect to Debtor’s spouse’s right to privacy, Debtor has not established that a judgment debtor’s spouse has an expectation of privacy in these proceedings.

Creditor argues that nos. 15, 16, 19, and 25 requests relevant information to satisfy the judgment and that that Debtor’s objections are without merit. Here, Debtor has failed to show that the objections are meritorious. The motion to compel further responses is GRANTED as to these requests.

Further responses are due within 10 days.

Sanctions

Creditor seeks monetary sanctions on Debtor in the amount of $3,502.50 (12.5 hours at $275 per hour) for Debtor’s failure to provide verified, substantive responses to Creditor’s discovery requests. “The court shall impose a monetary sanction under Chapter 7 (commencing with Section 2023.010) against any party, person, or attorney who unsuccessfully makes or opposes a motion to compel a further response to interrogatories, unless it finds that the one subject to the sanction acted with substantial justification or that other circumstances make the imposition of the sanction unjust.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 2030.300(d).) Creditor also argues that Debtor failed to meaningfully engage in the meet and confer process. In opposition to this motion, Debtor argues that Creditor is not entitled to sanctions. Debtor also notes that her attorney announced in open court that he was going to be on vacation without access to phone and internet. Debtor, however, failed to properly respond to the discovery requests.

Thus, Creditor’s request for sanctions is GRANTED in the reasonable amount of $3,502.50. Sanctions are payable with 30 days.

B. Request for Further Responses to RFPs

While Defendant has asserted the attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine as an objection to each of the RFPs, Defendant has failed to provide any privilege log. (See Opp. Exs. B & C.) “If an objection is based on a claim of privilege or a claim that the information sought is protected work product, the response shall provide sufficient factual information for other parties to evaluate the merits of that claim, including, if necessary, a privilege log.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 2031.240(c)(1).) Here, since Debtor provided responses that made such objections, Debtor is required to provide a privilege log and is required to provide a list of each of the documents being withheld on the claim of privilege.

In addition, Defendant fails to provide substantive responses or documents to RFP Nos. 1-3, 6, 7, 8, 20, and 24-26 claiming that the requests are objectionable because “she has been denied access to her personal property.” Nos. 1-3 are nonresponsive answers. For example, request no. 1 seeks documents relied upon by Debtor in preparing responses to the special interrogatories. Debtor respond, subject to the objections, “When she is provided access to her personal property, [she] will produce documents relied upon . . ..” The Court already rejected Debtor’s objections based on privacy. Debtor is ordered to provide code-compliant responses to nos. 1-3.

For Nos. 4, 5, 6-8, 20 and 24-26, despite the objections, Debtor provided responses. Creditor argues that the responses are disingenuous, evasive and do not comply with the Code of Procedure because Defendant does not state an unequivocal agreement to comply or inability to comply. The Court agrees that these responses do not comply with the Code. Section 708.030 of the Code of Civil Procedure requires that the debtor provide documents that are in her “possession, custody, or control.” Debtor’s statement with respect to documents outside of her control is nonresponsive. Debtor is ordered to remove such qualification for the requests for production of documents. For nos. 4, 5 and 8, Debtor referred Creditor to documents already in the possession of Creditor. Such is not a code-compliant response. The motion to compel further responses is GRANTED as to nos. 4-8.

For Nos. 20 and 24, Debtor provided that she did not “believe” she was authorized to access to any accounts and provided that she did not have the ability to comply with the request. These responses do not fully comply with Code of Civil Procedure section 2031.230. Therefore, the motion to compel further responses is GRANTED as to nos. 20 and 24. The motion to compel further responses to no. 25 is denied since Debtor provided that she does not hold title to any vehicles.

For no. 26, to the extent that Debtor withheld any documents based on privacy, Plaintiff is ordered to provide further responses. Debtor did not establish that she has a reasonable expectation of privacy in her finances in judgment debtor proceedings. The motion to compel further responses to no. 26 is GRANTED.

Debtor provides only objections in response to RFP Nos. 18-19, 21-23, 28 and 30. These requests seek documents that would aid in the enforcement of the money judgment. For example, No. 30 seeks documents as to whether Debtor has a judgment against another party; no. 18 seeks documents related to Debtor’s income from any source; no. 19 seeks rental agreements for which Debtor owns or occupies. Debtor objected based on privacy. The Court already found Debtor’s privacy objections to be without merit. Therefore, the motion to compel further responses to nos. 18, 19, 21-23, 28 and 30 is GRANTED.

RFP Nos. 10 and 31-39 seek tax returns filed by Defendant and her business entities. Debtor argues that that “tax returns are not discoverable” citing Webb v. Standard Oil Co. of Cal. (1957) 49 Cal.2d 509, 513. In Webb, the Supreme Court recognized a tax-return privilege.

Creditor argues that the tax return privilege is not absolute, and may be lost where, for example, there is an intentional relinquishment (i.e. a waiver) or the gravamen of the underlying action is inconsistent with the assertion of the privilege, or a public policy greater than that of confidentiality of tax returns is involved. (Dreary v. Superior Court (2001) 87 Cal.App.4th 1072, 1080 [citing Schnabel v. Superior Court (1993) 5 Cal.4th 704, 721]; accord Li v. Yan (2016) 247 Cal.App.4th 56, 67.) Creditor argues that Debtor has avoided providing any documentation concerning her income or the income of her business entities and that Debtor should not be allowed to hide behind the “tax return privilege” to avoid production of information directly relevant to Creditor’s efforts to collect the subject judgment. (Weingarten v. Superior Court (2002) 102 Cal.App.4th 268, 276.)

In the context of discovery related to tax returns, punitive damages and public policies, the Weingarten Court provided:

[d]isclosure may be ordered where a defendant has been found liable for punitive damages and the party requesting disclosure establishes (1) the defendant has refused to produce relevant nonprivileged financial records or has produced only meaningless and unreliable financial information in response to punitive damage discovery; (2) the defendant has engaged in a pattern of improperly obstructing efforts to obtain financial records through means that do not implicate the privilege and it is reasonable to assume this pattern of conduct will continue; and (3) less intrusive methods to obtain the financial records have been unsuccessful.

(Weingarten, 102 Cal.App.4th at 276–277.) Here, before the Court can engage in the above analysis, Creditor must first identify a public policy greater than Debtor’s right to confidentiality in the tax returns. In their motion, Creditor has not identified such a public policy. Therefore, the motion to compel further responses to nos. 10 and 31-39 is DENIED.

The motion to compel further responses to nos. 26 and 40-57 is DENIED; debtor stated that she did not have a property interest in various companies listed and provided bate numbers for documents. Creditor has not shown that Debtor has provided false responses.

No. 27 seeks information regarding Debtor’s spouse’s income. Debtor asserted the same objections that the Court already rejected in its ruling related to the motion to compel further responses to special interrogatories. Debtor’s objections are without merit. The motion to compel further responses to no. 27 is granted, insofar as it seeks documents related to spousal community property income and not income which would be the separate property of the spouse.

Further responses are due within 10 days.

Sanctions

Creditor seeks monetary sanctions against Debtor. Here, Debtor was partially successful in opposing the motion to compel further responses. Moreover, the majority of Debtor’s responses were insufficient and not code-compliant. Therefore, the request for sanctions is GRANTED in the reduced and reasonable amount of $750. Sanctions are payable within 30 days.

[1] The Court notes that both separate statements submitted by Creditor were misnumbered. Creditor offered in the reply to submit a clean version upon request. In the future, parties should submit an errata fixing errors in the separate statement rather than waiting for the Court to request a clean version.

"


b'

Case Number: ****8428 Hearing Date: September 15, 2021 Dept: M

CASE NAME: The Semler Companies -Malibu v. Colette Pelissier

CASE NUMBER: ****8428

MOTION: Plaintiff/Judgement Creditor’s Motion for sale of dwelling

HEARING DATE: 9/15/2021

BACKGROUND

On March 1, 2018, Plaintiff/Judgment Creditor The Semler Companies/Malibu, a California Limited Partnership (“Plaintiff’), obtained a judgment in the amount of $548,644.92 (“Judgment”) against Defendant Colette Pelissier (“Defendant”). On July 12, 2021, Plaintiff filed an Application for Sale of Dwelling (the “Application”). On July 13, 2021, the Court set the OSC re: Sale of Real Property for September 15, 2021. (See 07/13/2021 minute order; see 07/30/2021 Notice.)

Plaintiff requests that the Court grant the pending application and issue an appropriate order directing the Los Angeles County Sheriff to sell the Property at a Sheriff’s Sale held pursuant to Code of Procedure section 701.510 through 701.680.

Legal Standard

“[T]he interest of a natural person in a dwelling may not be sold under this division to enforce a money judgment except pursuant to a court order for sale obtained under this article and the dwelling exemption shall be determined under this article.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 704.740(a) [emphasis added]; see also Code Civ. Proc., ; 704.740(b).)

Request for judicial notice

Plaintiff requests judicial notice of exhibits A – E. (See 07/12/201 RJN.) These exhibits are judicially noticeable as official records of the County of Los Angeles, therefore, Plaintiff’s request for judicial notice is GRANTED.

Analysis

“If the dwelling is owned by the judgment debtor as a joint tenant or tenant in common or if the interest of the judgment debtor in the dwelling is a leasehold or other interest less than a fee interest: (a) At an execution sale of a dwelling, the interest of the judgment debtor in the dwelling and not the dwelling shall be sold.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 704.820(a).) Upon the filing of the application by the judgment creditor, the court shall set a time and place for hearing and order the judgment debtor to show cause why an order for sale should not be made in accordance with the application.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 704.770(a).)

Here, Plaintiff requests to sell the entire dwelling instead of Judgement Debtor’s interest in the dwelling. Based on Defendant’s own testimony during judgment debtor examinations conducted by Defendant and the public records referenced herein, Plaintiff contends that Defendant is the owner of an undivided 50% interest in the Property. (See App. ¶ 6.) As noted above, Code of Civil Procedure does not allow for the selling of a dwelling when the judgment debtor owns less than a fee interest and instead only allows for the sale of the judgement debtor’s interest. Plaintiff provides evidence that the market value of the entire property is $860,000, and so it is not apparent that the sale of judgment debtor’s interest in the property would satisfy the judgment. Since Plaintiff’s application is based upon the entire dwelling instead of solely upon judgment debtor’s interest in the dwelling, the application is DENIED without prejudice.

'


Case Number: ****8428    Hearing Date: March 12, 2021    Dept: M

CASE NAME: The Semler Companies/Malibu v. Colette Pelissier

CASE NO.: ****8428

MOTION: Motion to Amend Judgment

HEARING DATE: 03/12/2021

BACKGROUND

On November 29, 2017, Plaintiff The Semler Companies/Malibu, a California Limited Partnership (“Semler” or “Plaintiff”) filed a complaint against Colette Peliessier and Does 1 -20 for breach of contract. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant breached a commercial lease which resulted in damages. Plaintiff also alleged that Defendant breached a tractor lease contract. On May 1, 2018, the Court entered default judgment against Defendant in the amount of 548,644.92. (See 05/0/2018 Default Judgment and 05/01/2018 Order.) Peliessier sought to set aside the default and default judgment, however, the Court denied the motion, and the Court of Appeal affirmed.

On January 12, 2021, the Court entered a temporary restraining order based upon Plaintiff’s ex parte application. (See 1/12/2021 Order.) Plaintiff’s application and supporting papers filed on January 6, 2021 were deemed the moving papers for this motion. Plaintiff seeks to amend the judgment to include nine entities as judgment debtors/defendants.

LEGAL STANDARD

“When jurisdiction is, by the Constitution or this Code, or by any other statute, conferred on a Court or judicial officer, all the means necessary to carry it into effect are also given; and in the exercise of this jurisdiction, if the course of proceeding be not specifically pointed out by this Code or the statute, any suitable process or mode of proceeding may be adopted which may appear most conformable to the spirit of this Code.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 187.)

“Under Code of Civil Procedure section 187, the court had the authority to amend the judgment to add a judgment debtor. (NEC Electronics Inc. v. Hurt (1989) 208 Cal.App.3d 772, 778, 256 Cal.Rptr. 441.) . . . The decision to grant an amendment in such circumstances lies in the sound discretion of the trial court.” (Carr v. Barnabey's Hotel Corp. In addition:

[n]o statute of limitations applies to a section 187 motion to amend a judgment to add a judgment debtor. To the contrary, the motion may be made “ ‘ “ ‘at any time so that the judgment will properly designate the real defendants.’ ” ’ [Citation.]” (Wells Fargo, supra, 227 Cal.App.4th at p. 7, 173 Cal.Rptr.3d 113.) “Simply put, section 187 recognizes ‘the inherent authority of a court to make its records speak the truth.’ [Citation.]” (Greenspan, supra, 191 Cal.App.4th at p. 509, 121 Cal.Rptr.3d 118, quoting Mirabito v. San Francisco Dairy Co. (1935) 8 Cal.App.2d 54, 57, 47 P.2d 530.

(Highland Springs Conference & Training Center v. City of Banning (2016) 244 Cal.App.4th 267, 287.)

REQUEST FOR JUDICIAL NOTICE

Exhibits 1 – 3, 6 – 12 are judicially noticeable documents since they are documents showing the creation of corporations or limited liability companies in California or Nevada.

Exhibit 4 and exhibit 13 are court records in a bankruptcy case and are judicially noticeable, however, the Court does not take judicial notice of the truth of the statements made therein.

Finally, Exhibit 5 is judicially noticeable as a court record showing the docket in the bankruptcy case. As such, Plaintiff’s requests for judicial notice are GRANTED.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff seeks to amend the judgment to include the following entities as judgment debtors/ defendants: (1) Colette Production, Inc., a California Corporation (“Colette Production”); (2) Malibu Media, LLC, a California Limited Liability Company (“Malibu Media CA”); (3) Malibu Media Holdings LLC, a Nevada Limited Liability Company (“Malibu Media NV”); (4) Malibu 88, LLC, a California Limited Liability Company (“Malibu 88”); (5) Colette Properties, LLC, a California Limited Liability Company (“Colette Properties CA”); (6) Collette Properties LLC, a Nevada Limited Liability Company (“Collette Properties NV”) (7) ZO Digital LLC, a Nevada Limited Liability Company (“ZO Digital NV”); (8) Click Here LLC, a Nevada Limited Liability Company (“Click Here NV”); and (9) Unicorn Lights LLC, a Nevada Limited Liability Company (“Unicorn NV”). Plaintiff/Judgement Creditor argues that these entities are the alter egos of Pelissier and argues that reverse corporate veil piercing is appropriate in this matter. Plaintiff obtained a Judgment against Pelissier on May 1, 2018 in the amount of $548,644.92

“Rather than seeking to hold an individual responsible for the acts of an entity, reverse veil piercing seeks to satisfy the debt of an individual through the assets of an entity of which the individual is an insider.” (Curci Investments, LLC v. Baldwin (2017) 14 Cal.App.5th 214, 221.). “Reverse veil piercing is a means of reaching the LLC's assets, not the debtor's transferable interest in the LLC.” (Id. at 223 [emphasis added].) In deciding whether reverse veil piercing is appropriate, “the trial court should, at minimum, evaluate the same factors as are employed in a traditional veil piercing case, as well as whether [Plaintiff] has any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy at law.” (Id. at 224 [citing Sonora Diamond Corp. v. Superior Court The Court of Appeal in Curci Investments, LLC, remanded the case to the trial court “with directions to the trial court to consider whether the circumstances of this case justify piercing the veil of JPBI and adding it as a judgment debtor to the judgment against Baldwin.” (Curci Investments, LLC v. Baldwin (2017) 14 Cal.App.5th 214, 224–225.)

In considering whether to pierce the veil, the factors cited in Sonora Diamond and relied upon by the court are: (1) commingling of funds and other assets of the two entities, (2) the holding out by one entity that it is liable for the debts of the other, (3) identical equitable ownership in the two entities (4) use of the same offices and employees, (5) use of one as a mere shell or conduit for the affairs of the other, (6) inadequate capitalization, (7) disregard of corporate formalities (8) lack of segregation of corporate records, (9) identical directors and officers. (See Sonora Diamond Corp. v. Superior Court (2000) 83 Cal.App.4th 523, 539.) Therefore, it is Plaintiff’s burden to provide evidence of all of the relevant factors mentioned in Sonora Diamond Corp. or explain why certain factors do not apply for each entity. In addition, there are two general requirements: “(1) that there be such unity of interest and ownership that the separate personalities of the corporation and the individual no longer exist and (2) that, if the acts are treated as those of the corporation alone, an inequitable result will follow.” (Mesler v. Bragg Management Co. ].)

Plaintiff argues that Defendant confirmed in a July 8, 2019 sworn declaration that she is the only member of the “pass-through” entities Malibu Media CA and Colette Production, which are the first two entities listed above. (See Bardo Decl., ¶¶ 6-7, Ex. B [ Pelissier Decl. ¶¶ 2-3].) Plaintiff also points to the judicially noticeable documents showing Pelissier as sole manager and sole officer/director of Malibu Media CA and Colette Production. (See RJN Exs. 1 -2.) Collete Production is a corporation and Malibu Media CA is an LLC. Plaintiff argues that the Court in Postal Instant Press, Inc. v. Kaswa Corp. did not foreclose the possibility that reverse corporate veil piercing could be used in the appropriate case. Defendant opposes, arguing that plaintiff has not established that the court can reverse pierce the corporate veil of the first entity, a California Corporation. The Court of Appeal was clear in Postal Instant Press, Inc. that reverse piercing was flawed with respect to corporations, and “[t]o ameliorate the flaws in outside reverse piercing, courts recognizing the doctrine have imposed qualifications and requirements which, in their totality, essentially eliminate the outside reverse piercing doctrine as a practical matter. Indeed, if all the requirements of outside reverse piercing are met, its application would be unnecessary to protect the judgment creditor.” (Postal Instant Press, Inc. v. Kaswa Corp. (2008) 162 Cal.App.4th 1510, 1524.) Here, Plaintiff has failed to show that the Court can reverse pierce the corporate veil for (1) Colette Production, Inc., a California Corporation under California law. Therefore, the motion is denied as to Colette Productions, Inc.

Plaintiff makes generalized arguments as to why the Court should disregard the corporate forms of the remaining entities. The remaining entities are limited liability companies formed in either California or Nevada, some formed in March of 2020. Plaintiff argues that given the totality of the circumstances, the Court should reverse pierce the corporate veil. In opposition, Defendant argues that Plaintiff has failed to apply the multiple factors used for determining alter ego liability to each of the entities on an individual basis. The Court agrees that Plaintiff has failed to apply the factors to each of the individual LLCs. At best, on reply, Plaintiff has potentially shown “use of one as a mere shell or conduit for the affairs of the other” but has not shown or specified which particular entities are being used as shells or has provide the Court with the analysis required for reverse piercing the corporate veil. Therefore, the motion is denied without prejudice as to the remaining LLC entities.



Case Number: ****8428    Hearing Date: October 29, 2020    Dept: M

Case Name: The Semler Companies/Malibu v. Colette Pelissier

Case No. ****8428

Motion: Pelissier’s Motion to Disqualify Counsel

Hearing Date: 10/29/2020

Background

Defendant Colette Pelissier brings a motion to disqualify counsel pursuant to California Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 1.9. Pelissier seeks to disqualify Laura Bell arguing that Ms. Bell was her attorney. Pelissier also argues that Ms. Bell has shared confidential information to Semler’s in-house counsel, Evan Bardo. Pelissier argues that Semler’s in-house counsel must be vicariously disqualified from acting as counsel in this matter pursuant to Rule 1.9(c).

On July 11, 2019, the Court denied Defendant Colette Pelissier’s ex parte motion specially set a hearing for the motion to disqualify counsel.

Legal Standard

“ ‘A trial court’s authority to disqualify an attorney derives from the power inherent in every court “[t]o control in furtherance of justice, the conduct of its ministerial officers, and of all other persons in any manner connected with a judicial proceeding before it, in every matter pertaining thereto.” ’ ” (Ontiveros v. Constable (2016) 245 Cal.App.4th 686, 694 (quoting People ex rel. Dept. of Corporations v. SpeeDee Oil Change Systems, Inc. (1999) 20 Cal.4th 1135, 1145 (quoting Code Civ. Proc., ; 128(a)(5))).) “ ‘[D]isqualification motions involve a conflict between the clients’ right to counsel of their choice and the need to maintain ethical standards of professional responsibility.’ ” (Id. at 694-95.) “ ‘The paramount concern must be to preserve public trust in the scrupulous administration of justice and the integrity of the bar.’ ” (Id. at 695.) “‘The important right to counsel of one’s choice must yield to ethical considerations that affect the fundamental principles of our judicial process.’” (Id.) In exercising its discretion to disqualify an attorney, the Court is required to make a reasoned judgment which complies with the legal principles and policies applicable to the issue at hand. (Henriksen v. Great Am. Sav. & Loan (1992) 11 Cal.App.4th 109, 113.)

The protection of the attorney-client privilege is not the only ground for a motion to disqualify an attorney. (Kennedy v. Eldridge (2011) 201 Cal.App.4th 1197, 1204 to 1205.) The Court has an independent interest in ensuring trials are conducted within ethical standards of the profession and that legal proceedings appear fair to all that observe them. (Id.) The paramount concern must be to preserve public trust in the scrupulous administration of justice and the integrity of the bar. (Id.) Accordingly, when an attorney’s continued representation threatens an opposing litigant with cognizable injury or would undermine the integrity of the judicial process, the trial court may grant a motion for disqualification, regardless of whether a motion is brought by a present or former client of recused counsel. (Id.)

Motions to disqualify counsel present competing policy considerations. (Zador Corp. v. Kwan (1995) 31 Cal.App.4th 1285, 1302.) On the one hand, a court must not hesitate to disqualify an attorney when it is satisfactorily established that the attorney wrongfully acquired an unfair advantage that undermines the integrity of the judicial process and will have a continuing effect on the proceedings before the Court. (Id.) On the other hand, it must be kept in mind that disqualification usually imposes a substantial hardship on the disqualified attorney’s innocent client, who must bear the monetary and other costs of finding a replacement. (Id.) This policy consideration is particularly important because it is widely understood that attorneys now commonly use disqualification motions for purely strategic purposes, e.g., to delay the litigation or to intimidate an adversary into accepting settlement on terms that would not otherwise be acceptable. (Id.)

Analysis

“Conflicts of interest commonly arise in one of two factual contexts: (1) in cases of successive representation, where an attorney seeks to represent a client with interests that are potentially adverse to a former client of the attorney; and (2) in cases of simultaneous representation, where an attorney seeks to represent in a single action multiple parties with potentially adverse interests.” (In re Charlisse C. (2008) 45 Cal.4th 145, 159.)

“An attorney-client relationship can be formed though no retainer is signed or no fees are paid. (Miller v. Metzinger (1979) 91 Cal.App.3d 31, 39–40, 154 Cal.Rptr. 22.)” (Gulf Ins. Co. v. Berger, Kahn, Shafton, Moss, Figler, Simon & Gladstone (2000) 79 Cal.App.4th 114, 126, as modified (Mar. 17, 2000).)

“‘When a party seeking legal advice consults an attorney at law and secures that advice, the relation of attorney and client is established prima facie.’ The absence of an agreement with respect to the fee to be charged does not prevent the relationship from arising.” Contractual formality is not required. [citation omitted.]

(Ibid.)

Defendant states that she hired Ms. Bell around December 2015 to act as her attorney. (See Pelissier Decl. ¶ 3.) Defendant also states that Ms. Bell advised her and her husband as to the purchase of the Malibu property located at 11824 Ellice Street, Malibu, CA 90265. (Id. ¶ 8.) However, this was in November of 2015. Defendant also provides evidence that Semler recommended Ms. Bell to Plaintiff. (See Ex. 1 to Pelissier Decl.)

Defendant argues that this is a case of successive representations. Defendant argues that under Rule 1.9(b), Ms. Bell must be disqualified. Rule 1.9(b) is inapplicable as it deals with lawyers were part of “a firm* with which the lawyer formerly was associated had previously represented a client” (CA ST RPC Rule 1.9 [asterisk in original].) Defendant may have been referring to Rule 1.9(a), which provides, “A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter represent another person* in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person's* interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client unless the former client gives informed written consent.*” (CA ST RPC Rule 1.9.)

Defendant argues that Ms. Bell attended the debtor’s examination as an attorney for Plaintiff. However, Plaintiff presents evidence that Ms. Bell does not represent Plaintiff in this matter. (See Semler Decl. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff also provide evidence that he obtained all of the information on Defendant over the years through his personal relationship with Defendant. (See Semler Decl. ¶¶ 4, 6 – 9.) Plaintiff also states that he knew about Defendant’s various banking accounts because Defendant had paid Plaintiff with checks. (See Ex. 1 to Semler Decl. ¶ 9.) Moreover, Plaintiff’s counsel, Evan Bardo, provides a declaration stating that he does not employ anyone else, including support staff. (See Bardo Decl. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff’s counsel states that Ms. Bell was at the judgment debtor’s examination to simply provide assistance as a personal favor. Mr. Bardo also declares that Ms. Bell has never communicated any information about Defendant. (See Bardo Decl. ¶ 13.) Mr. Semler also declares that he has never obtained any information about Defendant or her assets from Ms. Bell and that all of the information obtained in this case was through his own research and his client. (Semler Decl. ¶ 11.)

While Defendant presents evidence that she may have been in an attorney-client relationship with Ms. Bell, Defendant has not presented evidence that Ms. Bell divulged any information obtained from Defendant or that Ms. Bell is currently representing Plaintiff in this matter. Therefore, the motion to disqualify counsel is DENIED.



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