On Monday, Judge S. James Otero granted Sandeep Baweja's motion to withdraw as counsel for the class of employees from whom he took several million dollars in settlement money in the matter of Lubocki v. ZipRealty, Inc. In the order, Judge Otero expressly retains jurisdiction over Baweja.
On December 24, 2008, Baweja filed this Motion to Withdraw as Counsel for David Lubocki, et al. pursuant to California Rules of Professional Conduct 3-300 and 3-310. On December 30, 2008, this Court sent letters to Sal Hernandez, Assistant Director in Charge, FBI Los Angeles; Thomas P. O'Brien, United States Attorney; William J. Bratton, Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department; Steve Cooley, Los Angeles County District Attorney; Scott Drexel, Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar of California; and the Standing Committee on Discipline for the Central District of California, notifying them of Baweja's admissions.
The order declares, quite matter-of-factly, that the court grants the motion because Baweja's interests are now adverse to his clients.
In secretly taking and investing $2.72 million of the class settlement funds, without notifying or seeking the permission of class members, Baweja acquired an interest adverse to his clients without their informed consent in violation of California Rule of Professional Conduct 3-300. See Connor, 791 P.2d at 317; Cal. R. Prof'l Conduct 3-300; Baweja Decl. ¶ 5. Because he currently owes his clients approximately $2 million, his own interests are likely to conflict with those of his clients and, thus, he cannot fulfill his duty of absolute and undivided loyalty to his clients.
Ernest J. Francheschi, Jr., who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, remains as class counsel "pending this Court's decision on any objection to his representation." The next status conference in the case is set for April 27.
We discussed the case in a post earlier this month, found at this link.