[UPDATED] This is really bad behavior, even for lawyers.
Attorney Douglas J. Crawford was angry with the way JP Morgan Chase Bank had treated his elderly mother before she died, so he sued. While representing himself he threatened the bank’s lawyer with pepper spray and a stun gun at a deposition, according to the state Court of Appeal.
When the bank’s lawyer asked the court for sanctions, Crawford filed an opposition “openly contemptuous” of the trial judge, the court said. (Crawford, in court papers, called the judge a ‘former D.A., currently masquerading as a superior court judge.’)
“Such conduct can have consequences,” according to Justice Arthur Gilbert of the Second District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles.
Crawford’s case was tossed out. He appealed and on Wednesday the appeals court upheld the decision.
How it Began
It began in 2008 when Crawford, of Ventura County, went with his mother
Ninion [Sheila Ninon] to the Chase bank with instructions that it not withdraw or transfer more than $5,000 from her account without contacting him [or his brother Matthew]. The bank agreed.
But in 2011, a Chase investment advisor suggested
Ninion [Sheila] buy a 29-year annuity – she was 79  years old at the time. The advisor transferred $200,000 out of her account without contacting Crawford, according to the court.
Crawford sued and Chase rescinded the annuity, but Crawford contended the bank refused to reimburse him $2,000 in lost interest.
During the suit he served deposition subpoenas on three defendants and Chase’s in-house lawyer, setting the depositions to take place in Crawford’s home.
The defendants objected saying they feared for their safety, according to the court. They cited another Crawford lawsuit in San Diego, in which he referred to the Oklahoma City and Boston bombings.
The bank employees did not appear for depositions. Rather than filing a discovery motion in response, Crawford went to small claims court, filing actions against each of the Chase defendants and the bank’s lawyer, seeking $500 in damages for failing to obey a subpoena.
Crawford’s brother, Matthew, was the sole beneficiary of the rescinded annuity. The bank claims “Crawford’s true objection to the annuity was not that it was unsuitable for his mother, but that his mother excluded him,” the court wrote.
The two brothers walked out of a 2014 deposition by the bank saying they feared for their safety.
Repeated attempts by the bank to depose Matthew failed, even with a $1,600 sanction against Crawford. Finally, the brothers appeared but immediately after Matthew was sworn in for the deposition, Crawford “pointed a can of pepper spray at counsel’s face from a distance of approximately three feet,” telling the lawyer it was in case “things get out of hand,” the court said.
Crawford then produced a stun gun, pointed it at the lawyer’s head, saying if that [pepper spray] didn’t quell you, “this is a flashlight that turns into a stun gun.”
“Crawford discharged the stun gun close to [Walter] Traver’s face,” Gilbert said. Traver wisely terminated the deposition.
The bank asked for and won sanctions that included tossing the case based on Crawford’s threats of physical violence.
Gilbert wrote, “Crawford threatened opposing counsel with physical harm. Yet he complains about the lack of opposing counsel’s attempt at informal resolution. The irony is not lost on us. Crawford conclusively demonstrated that attempting an informal resolution of disputes with him is futile, if not dangerous.”
Case: Crawford v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, No. B257412
Editor: Corrections to Crawford’s mother’s name and age are based on Crawford’s information by email. Changes appear in [ ]. In addition, his comments are provided in the comment section, but edited for length. The content is unchanged.