The California State Bar suspension order signed by Atty. Joel Bander on Dec. 7, 2011, stipulated among others a 90-day suspension and a 36-month probation after the State Bar filed charges against Bander based on complaints from his own clients. Bander has pled “no contest” to the 20 cases filed against him by the State Bar.

Ever since it came out in the streets, the headlines and front page stories of Pinoywatchdog have always been about articles discrediting Balita and the Law Offices of James G. Beirne. As of late, the paper also included in its relentless smearing campaign Atty. Paul Allen, son of Balita CEO Luchie Allen.

The tabloid has claimed that the reason for its being is to expose the truth and will act as vanguards of the community. But here lies the problem. First, not only are they trying to destroy a 20-year-old company that has been serving the Filipino-American community with a free newspaper where community events are reported, columns published to guide new immigrants and those needing legal services, promotional items listed, sales of products and services announced together with all other information that are important to their day-to-day lives, they seem to be serving their own interests.

Speaking of important information, Balita, being a newspaper, has that duty to report those kinds of stories, just like when Filipino homeowners were allegedly defrauded by, of all people, a lawyer. In this case, it was Atty. Joel Bander, who as of presstime has a pending suspension order from the California State Bar because of a specific misdeed that he reportedly did to several hapless property owners, many of whom lost their homes along with their thousands of dollars that they paid to Atty. Bander.

Early this year, Balita exposed the real intention of Pinoywatchdog after subpoenaed documents showed that Bander is practically the owner of the tabloid as he is the one paying to have it printed. His staff in the Philippines is also in charge of crafting the layout, including artworks that vilify Attys. Beirne and Paul Allen.

For a better understanding, Bander used to run the Bander Law Firm (BLF), which until October 2009, was

100 percent owned by Atty. Joel Bander. In February 2010, the BLF filed for bankruptcy but not after collecting thousands and thousands of dollars from 2008 until late 2009 from 800 homeowners who signed up for the “Save Your Home, Sue the Banks loan litigation program that went kaput. Bander used to run weekly full page ads that lured homeowners in a competing newspaper, where he also served as legal counsel at the same time.

This is because Balita exposed what Bander was doing to their clients during the height of the housing crisis, where millions of Americans were losing their homes, Ching Mendoza, the supervisor of the Law Offices of James G. Beirne, said. This is why Bander’s mission is to destroy Balita, which has built a solid reputation in the Filipino community as a newspaper they can trust in getting news and information and for companies to derive more business, including the Law Offices of James G. Beirne.

At first, I didn’t understand why Bander kept blaming Balita for its own miseries, Mendoza said, when in fact, and I’m quoting a testimony from his own lawyer, Atty. Tim Umbreit, he (Bander) was the one who created his own downfall. According to Umbreit, Bander is “obsessed”  with Balita, Beirne and Luchie Allen. This obsession by Bander is the fuel that drives this type of behavior of a desperate lawyer who is being suspended by the State Bar for things that were filed by his own clients. And I repeat, by his own clients!

Citing the suspension order from the State Bar, Mendoza said there were 20 cases that were filed against Bander. Among the complaints was the case of property owner Justin Kim. Mendoza said the State Bar stated that Bander collected a staggering amount of $25,000 from Kim alone but didn’t refund any amount even when there was insufficient legal basis to proceed with loan litigation. This, despite the fact that Bander should have returned all but $500 of the legal fees which, according to Mendoza, was in the retainer agreement between BLF and Kim. But what’s worse, Mendoza added, was how the State Bar found out that Bander never provided any accounting to almost all homeowners stated in the State Bar suspension order.

Mendoza explained that lawyers are supposed to deposit clients’ money to a trust account, provide an accounting to their clients and explain where the money went. In the case of Bander, however, the State Bar couldn’t find any evidence that Bander did any accounting that he should’ve provided to his own clients. If this is not highway robbery, I don’t know what it is.

Mendoza also said that it is just so ironic that Bander, whose job is to sue people and to shakedown hardworking business people by filing several complaints against businessmen until they pay up because going to court would entail more legal fees, can’t even face the court when he himself is being sued.

In the suspension order, Bander pled no contest to the 20 charges filed against him by the State Bar.  He doesn’t even have the balls to contest these charges and instead spends his time, energy resources on blaming Balita, destroying reputation Atty. Beirne whose been serving the community for decades. And now, he also wants to destroy attorney Paul Allen.

Stipulated in Bander’s suspension order, although stayed, is that he will be suspended for a year with a 36-month probation. Bander, however, will have an actual suspension of 90 days. According to the State Bar Attorney Brooke A. Schafer, Bander violated several Business & Professions Code because Bander, while allegedly did not act on the cases of his own clients, also failed to account for the monies paid to him and the Bander Law Firm.

In addition, Schafer said Bander failed to refund promptly any part of a fee paid in advance that has not been earned, in willful violations of Rules of Professional Conduct. Bander pled no contest back in December 7 last year.

(Rhony Laigo)