Kevin Kinsella, well-known venture capitalist, this week (July 11) filed a suit in federal court against Judith McConnell, administrative presiding justice of the Fourth District Court of Appeal for California. Kinsella complains that McConnell deprived him of his rights under the Constitution.
About four years ago, Kinsella and his wife began divorce proceedings. They selected an arbitration organization named JAMS (formerly Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services) and one of its arbitrators, Sheila Prell Sonenshine, who had spent almost two decades as a superior court and court of appeal judge.
"She appeared to have a ton of business experience," says Kinsella, who was impressed with her purported credentials in the private equity business.
"She made a bizarre ruling indicating she had no understanding of the venture capital business," says Kinsella. He researched her background and found that she boasted of running a private equity fund for women only. He questioned that, arguing that such a fund for Caucasians only, say, would be unacceptable, and then found that the business was to be run by a convicted felon, but no money was ever raised for it.
Sonenshine resigned from the case, but Kinsella was not through. He discovered that the website for the Fourth District Court of Appeal could be used to access the website of JAMS but no other arbitration service. The JAMS arbitrators got rave reviews, he says. He figures that was a gross conflict of interest. He went to court against JAMS and Sonenshine for violating the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act.
JAMS and Sonenshine used a legal maneuver to block Kinsella's suit. A trial court agreed with Kinsella that this was an attempt to intimidate and silence critics. The trial court found that JAMS' website was purely garden-variety advertising. JAMS and Sonenshine filed a writ to overturn Kinsella's trial court victory. Kinsella moved to disqualify the Fourth District Court of Appeal in the matter because of the alleged conflicts. McConnell permitted the appellate court to sit in judgment of the matter when its own official website was publishing laudatory tributes to JAMS and Sonenshine.
Kinsella, filing this week's suit, says he has been deprived of his constitutional right to an impartial tribunal. The divorce has already settled.
I was not able to reach McConnell, her assistant, or the clerk of the court.