Unlike Mr. Lampe and Mr. Amir, our attorneys do not try cases in the public arena or the media.
And we generally do not comment on pending litigation. Mr. Lampe would better serve his clients by focusing on the lawsuit instead of continually grandstanding in public.
The State Bar has expressed its reservations about attorneys making public comments about pending litigation. For example, California Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 5-120 provides in part as follows:
Rule 5-120 Trial Publicity
(A) A member who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated by means of public communication if the member knows or reasonably should know that it will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.
And although we will not comment substantively on the litigation, we would like to point out some inaccuracies which have resulted from Mr. Lampe’s misguided comments which were made at the last board meeting, and the “interpretation” of those comments by a reporter at the Visalia Times Delta:
First, the $78,603 payment which was deposited with the superior court is not “financing the appeal of the [Betre] lawsuit”. That payment represents the cash amount which was posted instead of an appeal bond, and ultimately if the appeal is successful, or any attorney’s fees which may be awarded is paid, then the deposit will be returned to the District.
The judgment in the Betre case has been appealed. It is therefore premature for Dr. Betre or his attorneys to claim victory in that case. Moreover, there has been no award of attorney’s fees at all in the Betre case, and there will be none until the appeal is resolved.
The District had legitimate reasons for funding the plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees in the Betre case, and it should be patently obvious that there was no misuse or waste of “public funds.” The District’s position has been set forth in court pleadings, and will be reiterated in the trial of the matter. That position, in brief, is that the District has an obligation to preserve the integrity of the hospital’s peer review process in order to protect patient safety and that by disclosing what he purported to be confidential peer review information to the press, Dr. Betre not only undermined the integrity of the peer review system, he also undermined the ability of the District to attract new physicians, who obviously rely on the confidentiality of the peer review process.
We believe that if anyone is wasting the District’s money, it is Mr. Lampe and his clients, who have initiated multiple lawsuits alleging violations of the Public Records Act.
One of the lawsuits, the “Drilling” case, originally named all of the individual board members, plus Dr. Benzeevi, Dr. Zulim and HCCA as defendants.
After being accused of suing his former client, Dr. Kumar, in violation of his ethical obligations, Mr. Lampe dismissed Dr. Kumar from the lawsuit.
Then, in response to the demurrer filed by the District, which showed that there was no supportable legal basis to prosecute claims against the individual Board members or HCCA, Mr. Lampe dismissed everyone from the lawsuit other than the District.
Mr. Lampe also dismissed HCCA from the other Public Records Act lawsuit and thereby avoided having to respond to the District’s demurrer in that case.
Of course, the District incurred significant legal fees in connection with these proceedings.
So it is incongruous and indeed ironic that this self-styled “champion” of the public’s rights and the public’s coffers has in effect wasted a good deal of the public’s money by filing demonstratively improper lawsuits.