In an unpublished decision in the Conservatorship of Feist case, the California Court of Appeal for the Second District reversed Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert M. Letteau’s “unexplained and drastic reduction of [elder law attorney Marc B.] Hankin’s fee request—from $62,539.75 to $11,134.71.”
The appeals court reversed Judge Letteau’s punitive and arbitrary fee reduction because it found that his decision was “patently an abuse of discretion[,]” the result of “palpable animosity” between Judge Letteau and Mr. Hankin, “inordinately delayed…for a full year[,]” and “tainted by an evident bias against counsel.”
The Court of Appeal for the Second District decided not to publish its decision and instead to keep Judge Letteau’s willful misconduct essentially a private matter outside of public rebuke.
However, on May 20, 2004, the California Commission on Judicial Performance issued a public admonishment against Judge Letteau because of “a troubling pattern of repeated violation of ethical duties that are fundamental to the fairness…of the judicial process” and a “pervasive pattern of bias, prejudgment, ex parte communication, and abuse of judicial authority toward parties and attorneys…” in the Conservatorship of Feist and four other cases.