The unethical lawyer: California

California ethics officials have been recommending eviction for a Fresno lawyer who obtained a default judgment in his fee suit against an ex-client by serving the court papers on himself, on the ex-client’s behalf.

The lawyer, Warren Paul Felger, attained a default judgment of more than $35,000 against the former client, Central Green Mutual Water Company, according to the Dec. 12th opinion by the Review Department of the State Bar Court of California.

Nobody at Central Green got any court documents in the suit until Felger recorded the judgment.

Felger had incorporated Central Green, and he was listed as the company’s agent for service of process. Central Green’s new lawyer notified Felger that the company had dropped Felger as legal counsel, but the new lawyer failed to remove Felger as agent for service of process.

Felger had declared that his behavior in the fee litigation was mere “petty stunt” proposed to get the attention of the CEO of the company, Larry Freels, rather than an attempt to collect a secret judgment. The Review Department said that Felger’s argument was not convincing.

The verdict also noted Freels’ testimony that he served himself because it was undoubtedly the quickest way to obtain the default judgment.

In a second matter, the Review Board found that Felger deposited about $4,000 in a client’s bankruptcy distributions in a general account, in spite of a promise to the client that the money would be held in a trust account until a fee dispute was resolved.


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