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August 3, 2016

‘Superman’ producer Jon Peters, ex-wife settle lawsuit over film profits

Movie producer Jon Peters and his ex-wife reached a settlement in her lawsuit alleging he broke a written promise to pay her 10 percent of his income from three “Superman” films, court papers obtained Wednesday by City News Service show.

Philip Kaufler, an attorney for Mindy Peters, filed a notice of settlement on July 28 with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Barbara Scheper. No terms were divulged.

Mindy Peters alleged her ex-husband began receiving profits from “Man of Steel” in 2014, but did not fulfill his agreement to pay her. She also alleged he refused to return numerous pieces of artwork and other personal property taken after they stopped living together.

The 71-year-old former hairdresser was the inspiration for the character played by Warren Beatty in the film “Shampoo” and is the former boyfriend of Barbra Streisand.

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March 11, 2015

Jury awards $13.7M to defunct firm for broken Beverly Hills Unified contract

A jury Wednesday awarded $13.7 million to a project management company that alleged the Beverly Hills Unified School District wrongfully terminated a contract for upgrading its facilities and tried to put the firm out of business.

The Los Angeles Superior Court panel deliberated for about 1 1/2 days before finding in favor of Strategic Concepts LLC, which was owned by Karen Christiansen.

Christiansen, who wept and hugged her attorney, Philip Kaufler, said after the verdict that she was relieved with the outcome.

“It’s been six years of hell and I’m excited it’s over,” Christiansen said.

Kaufler maintained that Jerry Gross, a former district superintendent, used his influence to get the firm’s agreement canceled with the complicity of the school board. Kaufler said Gross was a salesman for a competing company, TELACU, and wanted the $334 million building improvement project the plaintiff was overseeing transferred to his firm.

In the process, Strategic Concepts was destroyed, Kaufler said.

“It was a striking tale of corruption and fraud,” Kaufler said, telling jurors it was actually Gross who had “a direct conflict of interest.”

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March 9, 2015

Beverly Hills Unified and Former Employee Sling Allegations of Corruption and Greed in Lawsuit

A project management company that had a contract to upgrade Beverly Hills Unified facilities is entitled to up to $22.7 million in damages because a former superintendent used fraud to get the firm’s agreement canceled, with the complicity of the school board, an attorney told a jury today.

In his final argument to a Los Angeles Superior Court jury hearing trial of Strategic Concepts’ lawsuit against the BHUSD, lawyer Philip Kaufler said former schools chief Jerry Gross was a salesman for a competing company, TELACU, and wanted the $334 million building improvement project the plaintiff was overseeing transferred to his firm.

“Her business came crashing down due to a corrupt superintendent, Jerry Gross, and an arrogant and complicit school board,” Kaufler said.

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October 2, 2014

Police Cannot Keep Fingerprints of ‘Factually Innocent’ Defendant

A statute authorizing a judge to declare a defendant “factually innocent” of a charged crime also requires that any fingerprint specimens taken by police be destroyed, this district’s Court of Appeal has ruled.

Div. One Tuesday reversed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephen Marcus’ ruling that police may keep the fingerprints of former Beverly Hills Unified School District facilities director Karen Christiansen on record.

Marcus had granted Christiansen’s motion that she be declared factually innocent, under Penal Code §851.8, of a felony conflict-of-interest charge under Government Code Sec. 1090. Marcus also ordered destruction of a post-conviction DNA sample, but accepted prosecutors’ arguments that fingerprints aren’t subject to destruction under the statute.

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June 19, 2014

Appeals court reverses $7.8M unpaid legal fees verdict awarded to divorce attorney

In reversing Hillel Chodos’ fee, panel says multiplier shouldn’t have been allowed

Appeals court reverses $7.8M unpaid legal fees verdict awarded to divorce attorney In reversing Hillel Chodos’ fee, panel says multiplier shouldn’t have been allowed By Kylie Reynolds A state appeals court Wednesday reversed a $7.8 million award of unpaid attorney fees to a Los Angeles lawyer, finding that a lower court should not have allowed a jury to multiply the lawyer’s $1,000 hourly rate by five.

Such a multiplier – often used to reward an attorney who assumes risk by taking on a case that furthers the public interest – did not apply to this dispute, which stemmed from a divorce, according to a lengthy published opinion by the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

“We hold that under the circumstances of this case, there was no legal or equitable justification for applying a multiplier to the lodestar amount of attorney fees found by the jury,” Justice Richard Mosk wrote in the opinion. The jury award was “excessive and inequitable,” he added. Justice Paul Turner and Judge Michael Mink, sitting by designation, concurred.

The court remanded the case to the trial court, requiring it to enter a new judgment on the special verdict form that awards prominent attorney Hillel Chodos $1.8 million minus certain deductions, based on the jury’s original finding that he deserved $1,000 an hour for 1,800 hours of work.

A jury in 2013 handed the $7.8 million award to Chodos after he scored his client a multimillion dollar settlement in her split from her husband. In a 12-0 vote, the jury inflated Chodos’ hourly rate from $1,000 to $5,000 because of risks involved in taking the case, among other issues. Chodos did not have a written fee agreement with his client. Chodos et al. v. Borman, B252446 (Cal. App. 2nd Dist.).

The divorce case was complicated. There were three lawsuits that dealt with the dissolution of Navabeh and Burton Borman’s marriage: two divorce actions and a socalled “Marvin” case, which relates to contracts made outside of a marriage. Chodos got Navabeh Borman a settlement valued at $26 million in assets, including a sculpture and shared ownership of a Malibu home.

Ronald Richards, a Beverly Hills-based attorney representing Chodos’ former client, sought a reversal of the award in part because of alleged flaws with the jury instruction and verdict forms.

But Chodos’ lawyer, Philip Kaufler of Beverly Hills, said at oral argument earlier this month that the jury deemed Chodos’ time in the complex case worthy of $5,000 an hour.

The argument wasn’t enough to convince the panel, which had appeared skeptical of the multiplier during oral argument. According to the opinion, any fee enhancement would be “double counting,” because the case neither posed a contingent risk of loss nor required “extraordinary skill” beyond Chodos’ $1,000 hourly rate.

Additionally, the justices found that any multiplier would “reward” Chodos for violating state business and professions code sections by not instituting a written fee agreement with his client.

“To allow [an] attorney to recover more fees than he would have recovered had he complied with those statutes would violate the public policies underlying them,” the opinion reads.

Richards said in an interview, “There’s nothing more satisfying about being a lawyer than vindicating a horrible, horrible wrong that the legal system, through a runaway jury verdict sanctioned by erroneous instructions, inflicted upon one’s client.” Kaufler, Chodos’ attorney, could not be reached for comment.

kylie_reynolds@dailyjournal.com  Daily Journal – California’s Largest Legal News Provider


Updated August 21, 2013 – January 25, 2010

Newport-Mesa schools chief suspended, will face criminal trial

Citing sexy e-mail exchanges and backroom deals, a judge on Monday ordered Newport-Mesa schools chief Jeffrey Hubbard and a co-defendant to stand trial on charges they abused public money while working in Beverly Hills.

Late Monday, The Newport-Mesa Unified trustees voted 6-1 to place the embattled Superintendent on paid administrative leave.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Solorzanoconcluded there was enough evidence to warrant a criminal trial for Hubbard, 53, and his former facilities director Karen Anne Christiansen, 52. Ending a four-day preliminary hearing, Solorzano cited racy e-mails exchanged by the defendants.

One of Christiansen’s attorney’s, Philip Kaufler, said in a courtroom hallway that his client would be vindicated once there is a full trial. After being held since Dec. 27 on $2 million bail, Christiansen was expected to be released Monday after the judge last week lowered the bail to$200,000.

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November 15, 2012

Hubbard appeals convictions

Former school superintendent’s attorneys file paperwork seeking to overturn verdicts.

Nearly 10 months after a jury found him guilty of misappropriating public funds, former Newport-Mesa Unified Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard wants the verdicts overturned.

Hubbard’s counsel submitted an opening brief this week in the state’s 2nd District Court of Appeal on grounds that he wasn’t capable of committing the crimes of which he was convicted.

“He was unjustly convicted, and I hope he’ll be acquitted on appeal,” said attorney Hillel Chodos, who along with co-counsel Philip Kaufler is representing Hubbard for the appeal.

The attorneys claim Hubbard didn’t have the power to order an unauthorized bonus and an increased car allowance for a former subordinate, Karen Anne Christiansen, 54, when the two worked for the Beverly Hills Unified School District. Hubbard joined Newport-Mesa after working in Beverly Hills, and was fired following his conviction on a pair of felonies in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Hubbard’s lawyers contend that others in Beverly Hills failed to follow proper protocols when Christiansen’s compensation was enhanced. They also contend that emails that the court declined to order the district to recover would have exonerated him.

The payments were not clandestine and Hubbard followed normal procedure, his attorneys assert in their filing.

“Hubbard made no secret of his determination that Christiansen was to receive the $500 per month car allowance and the $20,000 stipend,” they wrote.

“He was unjustly convicted, and I hope he’ll be acquitted on appeal,” said attorney Hillel Chodos, who along with co-counsel Philip Kaufler is representing Hubbard for the appeal.

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August 29, 2005

While backing out of driveway, pickup hit by bus

Verdict: $11,907,000

On Sept. 14, 2003, plaintiff Ramon S. Melendez, a 61-year-old construction worker, was visiting a friend who lived on a narrow residential street in Southgate.  Melendez claimed he was there to help his friend get his car started, which included replacing the alternator. During the several hours he was there, the men had had lunch and, later, an afternoon snack. They also had some beers. At about 6:30 p.m., Melendez claimed that he climbed into his pick-up truck, which was parked in the driveway, put on his seatbelt, and proceeded to back slowly out of the driveway. However, his vision was obstructed by vehicles parked adjacent to the driveway, and when his car was halfway into the street, a city bus came along and struck the rear passenger side, causing the bus to spin 270 degrees.

After the impact, the bus continued out of control, going another 60 feet and up onto the curb on the other side of the street before the operator was able to stop it using the emergency hand brake.

At trial, Melendez’s counsel showed the portion of the footage where the bus driver was knocked out of her seat on impact. He argued that the driver would not have been knocked out of her seat if her foot were on the brakes, and that therefore the skid marks had to be pre-impact.

The jury reached a plaintiff’s verdict on liability, but found Melendez 50% contributorily negligent. The jury awarded Melendez $11,907,000, for a net award of $5,953,500.

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