By R.S. Errol
Monterey County, California – The old saying that honesty is the best policy has been proven to be correct at every turn of history. Experts doubt that Richard M. Nixon would have been disgraced due to the Watergate scandal if his administration had come clean with federal investigators prior to the 1972 elections and beyond. Due to Nixon’s miscalculations regarding the tenacity of his enemies he ended up as a tragic figure in American history. There have been countless other examples of this kind of behavior and whenever these examples are exposed, there is a collective wonderment as to why the affected parties let their personal embarrassments escalate into personal destruction. In other words, they should have cut their losses and moved on.
This article is complex due to the interbreeding of the respective lawyers, their collective attempts to run over an individual’s rights to due process within their private justice system, the ensuing corruption exemplified by their legal antics against this common man, and the complicit main stream media that covers up public corruption. In my attempt to expose this corruption and assist my new friend, I will present the story in segments that takes root with an innocuous small claims case and cascades to the highest echelons of state government.
This story is about one man’s desire to be treated fairly in the vaunted justice system in his local community. The protagonist’s name is Eugene Forte, now living in a small farming community in Central California. The names of the antagonists will be made known as we follow the time line of Mr. Forte’s trials and tribulations. Take note that these antagonists will appear repeatedly throughout this story. This tale of deception and deceit began years ago when Mr. Forte entered into an escrow to purchase, from his landlord, the home he and his family occupied. It was a simple real estate deal that millions of Americans experience on a daily basis. The actual details of the transactions are not necessary facts, but the cover-up will evolve into a classic “Watergate” scandal.
For those of you that naively think that the justice system in this country is a level playing field, pay close attention to Mr. Forte’s story. If you are the sort of American that desires to live your life with the misconceptions of public integrity, fostered by government officials that profit from the rigged system, and covered up by the mainstream media close this page, go watch another thrilling “talking head” news show on television that will expose murder, rape and sexual molestation crimes that have absolutely nothing to do with how our rights are eroded while our constitutional way of life is dismantled brick by brick by brick.
Mr. Forte describes himself as a determined individual loaded with street smarts and a high degree of integrity. Unfortunately for his adversaries, he is also fearless and unrelenting in his pursuit of the truth and the ideal most Americans believe exists in this country, “Justice”.
He was first exposed to the legal system in Monterey County, California back in the late 1990’s when he purchased some expensive furnishings from Packwood Furniture, a local merchant. Upon receipt of the furniture, Forte noticed a workman’s defect and immediately notified the merchant of his displeasure. Forte paid the merchant the agreed price less the itemized price for the defective piece with the caveat that he would pay the balance when that piece was replaced in kind. A few months had elapsed when Forte was served papers notifying him that the merchant was suing him in Small Claims Court. Forte appeared in court and brought the defective item with him as evidence. The commissioner hearing the case, Richard Rutledge, agreed with Forte and continued the trial for 30 days until the merchant could replace the defective item. Upon returning to court on the appointed date for final resolution, Forte was surprised to learn that the plaintiff, Packwood, was not present. In most states, if one party is not present in court, the other party is given a default judgment. Not in Forte’s world would this happen. Commissioner Rutledge finds for the absent plaintiff and orders Eugene Forte to pay an additional $1,000, more than the defective item is worth. What events could cause Forte to lose this seemingly open and shut case? Forte’s conjecture is that the plaintiff, anticipating a dismissal of his suit, contacts a “friend of the court” and explains his predicament and is advised to be absent from the next hearing. Commissioner Rutledge was also coached to rule in the plaintiff’s favor and that would put an end to the matter. Was Forte prejudged?
Shocked and dismayed, Forte does not go away but appeals the ruling before Judge Robert Moody in Monterey Superior Court. Upon entering the courtroom, Forte finds Mr. Packwood, his attorney and a hostile Judge Moody present and ready for action. When Forte tries to interject some facts of the case, Moody tells him to be quiet and threatens him with contempt if he makes what appear to be futile attempts to clarify his position. In the end, Forte loses his appeal but learns a valuable lesson in the justice that prevails in Monterey County, California. If you are an insider, fear not the heavy hand of justice, or conversely, if you are not connected to the “Good Ole Boy” organization, carry on with trepidation.
Eugene Forte, an entrepreneurial type person, has been successful in all sorts of adventures, from promoting rock concerts, retrieving a sunken WW II aircraft from the bottom of a Sierra Nevada lake, and providing for his family by operating a successful executive recruiting firm. His track record of success was a result of his unencumbered efforts to do what was right for all those associated with him. When he ran into the Monterey’s political machinery, Forte’s record of success took a turn for the worst. After his disappointing appeal, Forte filed complaints with the California Commission on Judicial Review and the Monterey Superior Court. The commission declined to investigate due to budget constraints but the Monterey Superior Court referred the complaint to Judge Wendy Duffy, now an Appellate Court Judge. She in turn assigned the investigation to Judge Terrance Duncan who after three weeks of looking into Forte’s complaint recused himself because his next-door neighbor was none other than William Packwood, proprietor of Packwood Furniture. Are we supposed to believe the Judge did not know the name of his next-door neighbor or was this ruse designed to delay Mr. Forte’s quest for justice? In turn, this complaint was referred to another judge in the Monterey County Court system, Judge Kay Kingsley, but it disappeared into a black hole without a resolution.
A few years later, Gene Forte enters into the aforementioned real estate transaction. Due to confusion regarding the property lines of the parcel for sale, Mr. Forte consults, for a fee, with Monterey attorney Michael Albov. Forte sends the sellers a letter asking for a clarification of the property based upon Albov’s assurances that such a letter would not cause any problems with the escrow. This advice proves to be erroneous as Forte is notified that the escrow is cancelled. Albov, upon hearing about this development, denies all culpability and leaves his client with only one avenue of recourse, find another attorney. The bad legal advice given Forte ultimately leads to Forte vs. Albov and becomes the lawsuit de jour for Mr. Forte.
Enter attorney Roy Gunther, III who was retained to pursue the matter between Forte and William Powell the owner of the property in question. Gunther demands and receives a retainer of $5,000.00, which quickly escalates within 60 days to $27,000.00, to assist Forte in buying the property in question. Forte had invested $100,000 in property improvements since he intended to purchase the parcel. From August 1999 through October 1999, Gunther drags his feet stating that there was an arbitration clause in the real estate contract and litigation could violate the terms of the contract. As expected, the subsequent arbitration is a disaster for Forte and when he tries to serve a lawsuit to the Powell’s Carmel Valley, CA attorney Barry Harrow, who had previously agreed to accept service, this attorney declines service because he is no longer representing Powell. Thus the Forte vs. Powell case takes on a life of its own. We shall revisit this case many times over the next few installments, so take notes.
Gene Forte’s suspicions that there was something rotten in Denmark at this juncture were erased when the “good old boy” organization exposed itself. While growing inpatient with Gunther’s plan of action, Forte seeks a more aggressive attorney. In his search, he approaches the Horan Law Firm in Monterey, California. The first person he talks to is a secretary for attorney Stephen Dyer. This secretary tells Forte that she must first check their client list in order to ensure the firm has no conflict of interest. When he is told that no conflict exists, Gene begins his litany providing the secretary specifics of the case. He then is told that Mr. Dyer will get back to him shortly. Within fifteen minutes, the secretary calls Forte to inform him that she is really embarrassed but there is indeed a conflict and the Horan Law firm cannot represent him. A few weeks later, he is to discover that Mr. Harrow, the Powell’s attorney, was associated with the attorney James Cook of Horan Law Firm who was also representing Powell. Due to this faux pas, a lot of confidential information was extracted from Forte that could prove to be damaging.
Forte explains this occurrence to Gunther and suggests that Gunther move to recuse the Horan Law Firm but Gunther declines because of a close relationship with the law firm and the well connected Alain Pinel Realty due to the nature of his law practice. Alain Pinel Realty employed Stephanie Crabb who was involved in the real estate transaction, and who would eventually become a defendant due to her alleged malpractice. Gunther, of course, keeps the excessive retainer for writing a few letters and writing a lawsuit that was only filed and not yet served. Gunter suggests to Forte that he contact another law firm that could assist him in his fight.
Enter Loretta Loop, a Monterey attorney who is very sympathetic to Gene’s situation and agrees to work for him once a $5,000 retainer is tendered. James Cook begins to send interrogatories to Forte via Loop. Loop enters into an agreement with Cook to place a stay on the interrogatives while she files a motion for the Horan Law firm to recuse themselves. Her reasoning was once they are recused without obtaining answers to the interrogatories, they could not argue to the court that they should not be recused because of all of the work they have done. Gene, in the meantime, prepares answers to the interrogatories and presents them to Loop for presentation to Cook once the recusal is in place. This strategy is wasted due to Loop’s alleged nonfeasance. The motion is never filed and Cook’s correspondence to Loop is not related to Forte. When she is pressed for answers as to why she has not adequately represented Forte, in Forte’s words, she tells him “Well you know, this thing is really getting caught up like you know, bad here. There’s a good old boys club here in Monterey, the Cook Law Firm is part of that good old boys club, I don’t mind fighting them, but it can be an uphill battle, and maybe you should get another attorney.” Exit Loop just prior to Forte discovering that Loretta Loop used to work for James Cook prior to passing the state bar exam and setting up her own practice, a fact that she omitted to tell Gene when he retained her. Good old boy network indeed. The fall out from her nonfeasance is that Cook files a motion for sanctions against Forte because the interrogatories were not answered by Loop as per Forte’s instructions. In addition, Cook files the sanctions knowing full well he agreed with Loop to stay the interrogatories until a later date.
Gene Forte is passed to another attorney in San Jose, Ca by the name of Wayne Thomas who is paid a $5,000 retainer to contact Cook and request an extension so Thomas can get up to speed with the case, and perfect the interrogatories to give to Cook. Two days later Thomas contacts Forte and says that Cook won’t play ball because Gene Forte can’t find a lawyer to represent him due to the fact that he has gone through so many since the case began. Thomas tops off his revelation to Forte by saying he cannot represent him and to find another lawyer. For two days work, Thomas figured he was due $3,600 for his phone call and returned $1,400 to Forte. Great job if you can get one.
Forte finds another attorney in San Jose by the name of Jeff Widman who agrees to represent Forte and Gene retains him for $5,000. Widman appears in court where Judge Richard Silver finds that Forte is not cooperating with discovery (due to Loop’s alleged nonfeasance) and sanctions him $700. Then Widman suggests that Forte seek an attorney in Monterey and he retains Larry Lichtenegger of Lichtenegger & Lee. Lichtenegger becomes co-counsel with Widman in Forte vs. Powell so let the games begin.
What you have just read is only the tip of the iceberg in regards to this story. Next month, you will learn how the Monterey County Superior Court wheels and deals the disbursement of their brand of justice, and how a common citizen stands up for his inalienable rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Over the next few installments, you will learn how the corruption permeates every level of California politics. Most importantly you will come to understand how the media fails the citizenry by not reporting corruption, injustice and the lack of accountability. Stay tuned!