An attorney hired by a former staffer to sue State Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Porterville) is facing sanctions from the California State Bar for his conduct of that lawsuit.
Mathis Faced Sexual Harassment Claims
Chad Morgan, a Corona-based attorney, was hired by a fired former district director for Mathis’ Visalia office. Janie Sustaita attempted to sue Mathis for wrongful termination and the intentional infliction of emotional distress stemming from his and former chief of staff Justin Turner’s mistreatment of her. Sustaita claims the pair bullied and sexually harassed her. She also claimed to have been paid less than her male counterparts.
The suit, however, was dismissed with prejudice after Morgan failed to file responses in the case. That alleged failure to properly represent his client has now led to a hearing before the State Bar on six counts, including failure to perform with competence, failure to inform his client of developments in her case, failure to obey a court order, failure to report judicial sanctions, failure to obtain court permission to withdraw from Sustaita’s case and improper withdrawal from employment.
Morgan is facing fines of up to $30,000 if he is found culpable.
Dismissed with Prejudice
Sustaita’s case against Mathis was dropped with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled in its original form. That dismissal was entirely Morgan’s fault, she said, and the filing from the State Bar proves that.
“It shows all the reasons he dropped the ball on this case,” Sustaita said. “The judge told him personally to make sure I got this information. He did nothing.”
The facts supposedly revealed in the State Bar filing contradict Mathis’ assertions he was cleared in the matter, Sustaita said.
“This case was not closed because of a lack of evidence or I wasn’t cooperating,” she said. “Devon (Mathis) keeps saying it was cleared. It was closed based on Morgan’s behavior.”
New Case Against Mathis?
Sustaita said she hopes to file a new case against Mathis, but whether that can happen is still unclear.
“I just don’t know what this means with my case with Mathis,” she said. “The only thing I want is my day in court, and I was robbed of that by this attorney.”
The State Bar action against Morgan should have no bearing on the dismissed case against Mathis, but Sustaita has hired a new attorney with the hopes of reviving her complaints against Mathis and Turner.
Also named as defendants along with Mathis and Turner in the original suit filed on Sustaita’s behalf were the State Assembly–which was Sustaita’s actual employer–the Assembly Rules Committee and Rules Committee employee Tosha Cherry.
At the time the suit was originally filed in 2018, a former Mathis campaign worker accused Sustaita of being part of a coordinated effort to ruin the assemblyman’s re-election efforts. Mathis was also sued at the same time by former Chief of Staff Sean Doherty.
Scorned Estranged Wife Spills Beans
The developments in the State Bar action against Morgan are apparently the result of fallout from the attorney’s marital problems.
Sustaita said she was contacted via social media by Morgan’s estranged wife, who was in possession of the documents Morgan gathered relating to Sustaita’s case. Sustaita said she was told Morgan has refused to sign divorce papers for three years now, allegedly leaving his wife and children to live in poverty.
“Her name was in my court papers, apparently,” Sustaita said. “He said she was committed, that she had a mental breakdown.”
That excuse offered to the court for Morgan’s lack of action in Sustaita’s case was untrue. According to Sustaita, Morgan’s wife says she fled their household to avoid him and has since received very little financial support from her husband.
“She’s living in her sister’s garage,” Sustaita said.