Multiple Orange County attorneys are being questioned whether they had anything to do with dozens of criminal misdemeanor and traffic cases that have been resolved in what some observers speculate could be a ticket-fixing scandal.
Some 54 cases were on the court’s calendar Friday in Dept. W18 of the West Justice Center in Westminster. The hearings are technically called an Order to Show Cause, meaning a judge summons attorneys or defendants to a courtroom to discuss why a proposed action should not take place.
The proposed action in these cases is the source of much speculation among attorneys. Various law enforcement officials have acknowledged privately there is an ongoing investigation, but would not offer any details.
Defense attorney David E. Swanson was summoned to court Friday and asked if he had represented Gibram Lopez in a case involving driving without a valid license.
“The judge asked me about representing this person, and I said I didn’t know why they are — this is not a client I had any record of representing,” Swanson told City News Service.
Many other attorneys told the judge the same thing, Swanson said.
Attorney Kenneth Reed said he has an appointment for the same court this Friday. His client, Juan Castillo, pleaded guilty on Aug. 22, 2013, to making false statements, a misdemeanor, according to court records. Reed declined to comment further.
Attorney Rudy Loewenstein, is scheduled to represent Cesar Centeno Friday on a misdemeanor reckless driving case resolved in September 2011.
Loewenstein said he did not represent Centeno initially, but came onto the case when the defendant needed an extension to comply with terms of probation.
According to court records, the original attorney in the case was Sheny Gutierrez, who did not immediately respond to a message for comment.
Loewenstein said he could not comment specifically on his client’s case, but he said, “hypothetically” many defendants may be facing a dilemma if someone had something to do with the resolution of their case that turns out to be improper or illegal.
Loewenstein speculated that some defendants could have paid someone to help them lessen their punishment or fine thinking it was legitimate.
“You do all this stuff on a case you think is resolved — you pay a fine or go do Caltrans (service) — and then it turns out the judge is saying, ‘I’m going to undo all of that,’ ” Loewenstein said.
Can the defendant expect to get their money back or the days of Caltrans service back, the attorney wondered.
“It’s a mess,” Loewenstein said.
The defendants should be advised they have a right to an attorney when they return to court on what they may have considered were resolved cases, Loewenstein said.
“I don’t think that these people coming before the court should be presumed to have done something wrong,” he said.
FBI agents were in the courtroom Friday to question some of the defendants, Loewenstein said.
More than 100 Order to Show Cause hearings are scheduled for Friday, and more than 120 set for June 26.
— City News Service