California voters passed Proposition 64 in November, buying into the argument of business (mostly the dirtiest industries, such as automotive repair) that Business & Professions Code § 17200 was allowing "shakedown" lawsuits wherein dirty lawyers were filing mass litigation assaults on small businesses, extracting nuisance value settlements from a large number of defendants to enrich the dirty lawyers without serving any public good.
They were right. Dirty lawyers were doing this. But the initiative's proponents were wrong in tying Business & Professions Code § 17200 representative suits to the scam. Yes, the lawyers were twisting, abusing and using that statute as their tool. But removing that proper use of that statute did not solve the problem. Why?
Because Prop 64 is preventing the proper use of Section 17200 by environmental groups, consumer advocacy groups and employee advocacy groups. But it is not preventing the same dirty lawyers from filing shakedown lawsuits.
Exhibit 1: Orange County attorney Harpreet Brar.
Brar, a 2000 admittee, and one of the "Big 5" shakedown artists targeted by the California Bar and the Attorney General, has been ordered to pay almost $1.8 million for abusing the state’s unfair business practices law by filing frivolous lawsuits against small businesses. The Orange County Superior Court also decided that Brar had repay 11 businesses a total of $11,200 in connection with the "shakedown settlements."
Brar sued hundreds of small business in Southern California based on technical and even non-existent violations in order to force their owners to pay quick settlements. For instance, according to Kevin Nguyen of Francis Nails in Redlands, California, Brar threatened to sue nail salon for using the same bottle of nail polish on more than one customer. Brar would offer to settle the matters almost immediately for $1,000, raising the cost of settlement with each new letter. "The litigation brought by Brar was not only frivolous, it was abusive," the Attorney General said. "It’s only purpose was to line Brar’s pockets with unjust profits."
Now that Section 17200 no longer aids Brar, and he's been fined and punished, business must be in the clear, right? Wrong.
In spite of the passage of Prop 64 and the imposition of an injunction, Brar filed a new lawsuit against several dozen liquor stores that charge a fee for use of their debit machines without posting the surcharge fee in the store. In this new case, in which Brar is "representing" his wife, Satinder Brar, the ground for the lawsuit is a California Financial Code provision. Pomona Superior Court Judge Daniel Buckley dismissed part of that lawsuit, and the rest will soon follow.
Brar also sued Starbucks in a class action, not as a lawyer, but as the plaintiff, using two of his colleagues as his lawyers. An Orange County Superior Court judge recently disqualified those attorneys and Brar, finding that the law firm and Brar had "significant financial relationships" and that Brar "is not and cannot ever be a proper class representative. He has brought abusive and frivolous lawsuits, had a judgment entered against him in that regard and an injunction imposed upon him by the Orange County Superior Court."
Eventually, like the Trevor Law Group lawyers, Brar will probably lose his law license, and this string of nonsense will come to an end. Hopefully, the voters and the legislature won't repeal every law Brar tries to twist for his benefit between now and then.