On Wednesday, October 25, 2023, the California Supreme Court issued a disciplinary ruling against attorney Benjamin Laurence Pavone. The high court imposed a one-year suspension, with the execution of that suspension stayed, and placed Pavone on probation for one year with certain conditions.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Benjamin Laurence Pavone,” with case no. S279851.

The State Bar of California filed a Notice of Disciplinary Charges against Pavone for violating the Business and Professions Code by failing to maintain respect due to courts and judicial officers. The charges include making false statements of fact and opinions implying or based on false assertions of fact, impugning the honesty, motivation, integrity, or competence of a trial court judicial officer, and accusing the officer of intentionally refusing to follow the law due to bias against the plaintiff and/or his counsel.

In 2012, Pavone filed an employment lawsuit on behalf of a client in Orange County Superior Court. The jury awarded Pavone’s client $8,080 on one claim, while the judge ruled against the client on two other claims. Pavone sought over $160,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs. In November 2016, Judge Carmen Luege held a hearing and issued an order largely denying Pavone’s fee request, finding the amount sought was excessive based on the limited success of the case.

Pavone appealed the fee denial, filing a notice of appeal and appellate briefs in 2017-2018. In the appellate filings, Pavone made numerous allegations impugning Judge Luege’s integrity. He claimed the judge’s order was founded in “advocacy rather than analysis,” motivated by anger over comments Pavone made about another judge. Pavone accused Judge Luege of “intentionally” refusing to follow the law and engaging in “judicial advocacy” due to bias against him.

In 2019, the appellate court affirmed the denial of the fees and referred Pavone to the State Bar for ethics violations. In August 2020, the State Bar’s Office of Chief Trial Counsel filed charges against Pavone for failing to maintain respect due to courts and officers under the Business and Professions Code section 6068(b).

A hearing was held in late 2021 before a State Bar Court hearing judge. The judge found Pavone culpable on two counts for unsupported statements disparaging Judge Luege. Pavone claimed his statements were protected opinion, but the judge determined they implied facts capable of verification and were made recklessly without investigation. The judge recommended a 30-day actual suspension.

In February 2023, the State Bar Court Review Department affirmed the hearing judge’s culpability findings and discipline recommendation. Pavone has petitioned the California Supreme Court for review, arguing the statements were protected under the First Amendment and case law shielding statements based on disclosed facts.

Despite Pavone’s arguments, the Supreme Court of California issued a final disciplinary order suspending Pavone from the practice of law for the first 30 days of his probation. He must also comply with additional probation conditions recommended by the State Bar Court’s Review Department in its February 21, 2023 opinion.

If Pavone fulfills all probation terms over the one-year period, the stayed suspension will be terminated. He is required to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, as recommended by the State Bar Court. Failing to take and pass this ethics exam could result in his suspension without the stay.

The order also mandates Pavone pay $2,500 in fines to the State Bar of California Client Trust Security Fund. This monetary sanction operates as a money judgment that can be collected through legal means.

The ruling concludes by awarding costs to the State Bar, as specified by the California Business and Professions Code. These costs are enforceable as a money judgment and may be collected by the State Bar.

According to avvo.com, Mr. Pavone is a personal injury attorney in San Diego, California. He attended the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law. He acquired his law license in California in 1996.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.