Sat. Dec 9th, 2023
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 06: Criminal defense lawyer Mark Geragos attends the premiere of "Chris Brown: Welcome to My Life" at Regal LA Live Stadium 14 on June 6, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

Attorneys Liabilities – Geragos v. Abelyan (2023)

Geragos v. Abelyan (2023) 88 Cal.App.5th 1005

But when does zealous advocacy exceed the bounds of the law and cross the line into actionable conduct such as extortion or perjury or even worse setting someone up with a fake crime? The Second District Court of Appeal recently examined this question again in the case of Geragos v. Abelyan (2023) 88 Cal.App.5th 1005.

With new counsel, a client sues his former attorneys, alleging they accepted $27,500 in fees from him but did not perform the promised legal services. New counsel engages in communications via email and telephone with the former attorneys’ representative and discusses the possible filing of a State Bar claim. The former attorneys file a cross-complaint against the client and his new counsel for extortion, among other claims. The client and his new counsel file an anti-SLAPP motion, which the trial court granted.

The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court found that none of the communications presents extortion as a matter of law. The court concluded that cross-defendants made the threshold showing that the cross-complainants’ complaint is based on protected activity and thus subject to the anti-SLAPP statute. The court found that the cross-complainants did not carry their burden of showing a probability of overcoming cross-defendants’ litigation privilege defense. Accordingly, the trial court properly granted the special motions to strike the cross-complaint.