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Race, gender, and Jewish conspiracies get attorney sanctioned $10,000

Tim Kowal     November 22, 2023

Getting sanctioned only $10,000 was a very lenient outcome for the appellant’s abhorrent—and inexplicable—behavior in Schwartzman v. S. Coast Tax Resolution, Inc. (D2d2 Nov. 17, 2023 No. B314770) [nonpub. opn.].

While ending in a tirade against the trial judge, the appellate justices, and the whole judicial system, the case started off pretty boring. Schwartzman filed a plain motion to strike a cross-complaint, arguing failure to state a claim. At some point, Schwartzman and his attorney, Reshma Kamath, decided to bring an anti-SLAPP. But instead of just doing that, Kamath filed a motion to amend the plain-vanilla motion to strike. Before the court ruled on that motion to amend, the cross-complaint was dismissed. Predictably, the trial court then denied the motion to amend the motion to strike.

Schwartzman and Klamath then appealed from the order denying the motion to amend the motion to strike. But that’s not an appealable order. Yes, an order denying a special motion to strike under the anti-SLAPP statute is appealable. But not a plain-vanilla motion to strike—or a motion to amend a motion to strike (whatever that is).

This is as good a time as any to introduce attorney Klamath’s unhinged race/class/gender/xeno/religio-tinged tirade. The court notes that Klamath “persisted in a troubling pattern of behavior” for over two years, in which she “unleashes a flood of unsupported claims of bias in an attempt to disqualify the presiding tribunal and delay any potential adverse rulings.” Here is a sampling of Klamath’s actions:

  • In her briefs, she accused the trial judge of “act[ing] as a judicial bully” by engaging in “Pro-White/Pro-Male behavior,” and because the trial judge is a “homogenous and ivory pedagogy-type judicial officer.”
  • Klamath also faulted the trial court for “hir[ing] a lightskinned Latin clerk.”
  • The Court of Appeal notified Klamath it was considering sanctions and invited her to file a brief no longer than 1500 words. Klamath filed a brief over 9,000 words, which the court rejected, inviting her to try again with a compliant brief. Instead, Kamath accused the clerk of discrimination and threatened to sue both the clerk and the court, accusing the court of “PRO-WHITE sentiments and discrimination” that “is only reflective of the California courts, and California societies." She then attempted to refile the same rejected brief.
  • Klamath requested to continue oral argument. Again corking the honey and letting the vinegar flow freely, Klamath accused the clerk of “her racist intent … as Latin-American women demonstrate hatred and racism towards Indian/Indian-American women.”
  • Despite there being no conceivable upside in her client’s appeal in doing so, Klamath continued her overheated filings, this time in the form of a “Notice Re Judicial Misconduct,” accusing the justices of being “agents of foreign governments,” “supporting Christian and religious groups,” including by supporting the “Proud Boys,” “harboring biases ‘in favor of attorneys practicing the Jewish faith.” When the filing was rejected, Klamath again harangued the clerk with accusations of “ongoing racism” and “open and invidious racism.”

Respondents asked for their attorneys’ fees for having to endure all this during the appeal, totaling $50,000. The court agreed that the appeal had no conceivable merit, being nonappealable and not a close call. And the court quoted authorities holding that appeals are "not an appropriate vehicle for an attorney to '"vent h[er] spleen"'" (City of Riverside v. Horspool (2014) 223 Cal.App.4th 670, 674, fn. 3) and “not an appropriate forum to peddle far-fetched conspiracy theories . . . disguised as a legitimate appeal. Nor is it a forum to launch personal attacks against" judicial officers or court staff. (Malek Media Group, LLC v. AXQG Corp. (2020) 58 Cal.App.5th 817, 835-836.) This type of conduct is sanctionable. (Id. at p. 836 [sanctions are appropriate against a party who "adopt[s] a war-like mentality toward . . . anyone else involved with [a] case" and where "[t]he record is replete with personal attacks . . . as well as numerous unsubstantiated claims that everyone who was purportedly against [the party] was engaged in an elaborate conspiracy to destroy h[er]"].)

The court sanctioned attorney Kamath $10,000.

Comment

The court treated attorney Kamath awfully lightly here. The court examined all the factors supporting sanctions, and found them all strongly supported. And yet for attorney Kamath’s overtly racist accusations against both the trial court and the appellate court, the court cut the sanctions request by 80%, awarding only $10,000 of the $50,000 requested. In an appeal earlier this year, the court sanctioned an appellant’s attorney $50,000—the full amount the respondent incurred in appellate fees. And there, the appellant merely failed to comply with briefing rules and ignoring the applicable standard of review.

Here, Kamath’s appeal was just as meritless—the court called the arguments “unintelligible.” This would have been enough in another case to warrant sanctions of $50,000. And on top of that, Kamath made gratuitous and flabbergasting accusations against the court. But instead of the requested $50,000 sanctions, Kamath’s performance earned her deeply discounted sanctions of $10,000. And respondent will get only $5,000 of that, with the other $5,000 to be paid to the court.

Why the light treatment?

Tim Kowal is an appellate specialist certified by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. Tim helps trial attorneys and clients win their cases and avoid error on appeal. He co-hosts the Cal. Appellate Law Podcast at CALpodcast.com, and publishes summaries of cases and appellate tips for trial attorneys. Contact Tim at [email protected] or (949) 676-9989.
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