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Suspended by state Bar but still top lawyer?

Kerry Steigerwalt was on probation for two years

Kerry Steigerwalt
Kerry Steigerwalt

A news release sent March 1 states that San Diego lawyer Kerry Steigerwalt has been named one of the top 100 trial lawyers in America by the National Trial Lawyers.

The release says that Steigerwalt has received this award for five consecutive years, "from 2012 to 2016. This demonstrates a consistent and continuing commitment to excellence in the legal field."

The year 2012? Really? The National Trial Lawyers must be pulling the public's leg. On May 18, 2012, the State Bar of California put Steigerwalt on probation for two years and stated that he "must be actually suspended from the practice of law in the State of California for a period of one year." On October 6 of 2013, he was reinstated.

At the time of his suspension, the Bar stated that Steigerwalt's misconduct "evidences multiple acts of wrongdoing."

Steigerwalt was the most heavily advertised lawyer in San Diego, and also the most heavily quoted in news stories, particularly on TV. He took over the disreputable Pacific Law Center, which had been founded by a convicted felon who was not a lawyer. This was a fast-buck operation. People in trouble for such offenses as DUIs would hear the ads, come to the office, and get a high-pressure pitch from a non-lawyer. They would pay an upfront fee.

Steigerwalt purchased the firm, renamed it Kerry Steigerwalt's Pacific Law Center, and claimed he would reform it. But complaints piled up: people would pay the upfront fee but get no legal service. Many of those complaints came to the Bar, which cited them in its suspension of Steigerwalt.

The National Trial Lawyers — whoever they are — might benefit from a visit to the California State Bar website.

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Kerry Steigerwalt
Kerry Steigerwalt

A news release sent March 1 states that San Diego lawyer Kerry Steigerwalt has been named one of the top 100 trial lawyers in America by the National Trial Lawyers.

The release says that Steigerwalt has received this award for five consecutive years, "from 2012 to 2016. This demonstrates a consistent and continuing commitment to excellence in the legal field."

The year 2012? Really? The National Trial Lawyers must be pulling the public's leg. On May 18, 2012, the State Bar of California put Steigerwalt on probation for two years and stated that he "must be actually suspended from the practice of law in the State of California for a period of one year." On October 6 of 2013, he was reinstated.

At the time of his suspension, the Bar stated that Steigerwalt's misconduct "evidences multiple acts of wrongdoing."

Steigerwalt was the most heavily advertised lawyer in San Diego, and also the most heavily quoted in news stories, particularly on TV. He took over the disreputable Pacific Law Center, which had been founded by a convicted felon who was not a lawyer. This was a fast-buck operation. People in trouble for such offenses as DUIs would hear the ads, come to the office, and get a high-pressure pitch from a non-lawyer. They would pay an upfront fee.

Steigerwalt purchased the firm, renamed it Kerry Steigerwalt's Pacific Law Center, and claimed he would reform it. But complaints piled up: people would pay the upfront fee but get no legal service. Many of those complaints came to the Bar, which cited them in its suspension of Steigerwalt.

The National Trial Lawyers — whoever they are — might benefit from a visit to the California State Bar website.

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Comments
32

I'm just wondering if the "National Trial Lawyers" is akin to the "Who's Who" biographical directory. The latter being a thinly veiled moneymaking or identity theft scam?

March 6, 2017

JustWondering: That is my guess, too. If Steigerwalt paid to get listed in 2012, the year he got a suspension and probation, he should have been more careful. The year 2013 is questionable, too. He got reinstated in October of 2013, so he would have had to hustle to get the award for that year. He was still on probation then, too. Best, Don Bauder

March 6, 2017

Trial lawyers don't have a good reputation, and not just because they try to get the guiltiest of defendants acquitted or at least convicted of lesser crimes. They have that reputation because many of them are just sleazebags. Talking of ethics in the same breath as trial lawyers is utterly oxymoronic. They have no ethics, other than those imposed by the court system, which is spotty in its enforcement of standards.

Steigerwalt had a history of being court-appointed to defend some of the worst-of-the-worst in many prosecutions, In fact, I used to joke that if he was the defense attorney, any observer could be sure of the guilt of the def. I suppose he got tired of all those no-win cases, even if he was fairly compensated, and was looking for a new venue. But the one he chose was his downfall.

If this association really thinks that he's a great example of an effective defense counsel, they failed to talk to all those cons, several doing LWOP, who he represented. What a joke!

March 6, 2017

In reality most people can not afford a criminal defense lawyer. If it were not for the defense bar those without large sums of money to defend themselves would end up in prison. Not everyone who is charged with a crime is guilty of that crime. Police and DA's regularly over charge so that there is room for plea bargaining. The justice system is a huge industry that one does not want to get caught up in. Without trial lawyers the average person would not have a chance.

March 7, 2017

in reality, the cost of bail takes a large sum of funds that could otherwise be used to hire a competent lawyer ( or so it seems)

March 7, 2017

Murphyjunk: A judge should take the cost of later legal representation into account when setting bail. However, bail is critically important. If people got out with a low or no bail, the court wouldn't see many of them again. Best, Don Bauder

March 7, 2017

AlexClarke: Someone who cannot afford legal help can go to public defenders. However, public defenders are overworked and responsible for too many clients, so the defense is often inadequate. In the case of Steigerwalt and his associates, the people were not getting representation at all, despite having paid. It can be a dilemma. Best, Don Bauder

March 7, 2017

Visduh: Steigerwalt was quoted endlessly on TV (and I would suspect that this was related to the fact that he was a big advertiser on TV). People took the advertising seriously, and went to the law firm where they got a high-pressure sales job from salesmen who were not lawyers. They paid upfront and did not get the legal help they paid for. The Bar rightly came down on Steigerwalt, but not sufficiently, in my judgment.

He never should have moved in to head the Pacific Law Center, which had a smelly reputation. He told me he intended to reform it, but he should have known that couldn't be done. He was fortunate to get off with two years of probation and one year of actual suspension. Best, Don Bauder

March 6, 2017

Years ago, when I was naive about such things, I got a come-on from "Who's Who." My life partner saw through the scam immediately and saved me money (but not embarrassment).

March 6, 2017

Flapper: We used to hear a lot about Who's Who, but seldom is heard these days. Maybe the public figured out the scam. Best, Don Bauder

March 6, 2017

There was a time when reading graduation announcements from those who were finishing up at hick colleges, they would often mention how they were listed in Who's Who of college grads or grads in some specific major of field of study. It sounded impressive, as if it was some sort of honor. But then when I was finishing up my college degree, I never once heard of Who's Who. Only much later on did I realize that the people so "honored" had been bamboozled into thinking that the sales pitch (loaded with insinuations that they were really super performers) was some sort of accolade. It was just a way to separate a grad-to-be from a chunk of change, and sell him/her a book full of pix and bios of students who paid for the privilege. Maybe a few employers were impressed by a line in the resume that stated "Listed in Who's Who of (blank) graduates of 19XX". It was just a low-grade scam.

March 6, 2017

probably better to know whats what than to know who's who

March 7, 2017

Murphyjunk: I am not so sure of that. You know the old saying: a good lawyer knows the law; a great lawyer knows the judge. Best, Don Bauder

March 7, 2017

Visduh: You use the word "was" in describing the low-grade scam. Are you suggesting it is out of business? I just looked it up. There are a number of Who's Who" publications, not necessarily corporately related. Apparently, there are some legitimate Who's Who publications, such as in Great Britain. Most of them, however, seem to be vanity operations -- you get listed if you buy the book for an excessive price. It appears the scam is still going. As you mention, there is a Who's Who -- or perhaps several -- giving bios of college students. I remember one of the Who's Who publications when I was a university student in the 1950s. A few students would boast that they were listed in Who's Who of colleges and universities. I suppose some sharks saw the listings and rushed to sell them a bridge. Best, Don Bauder

March 6, 2017

Wikipedia has obviated Who's Who.

March 7, 2017

ImJustABill: I don't see how Wilkipedia obviates Who's Who. The best-known American Who's Who is in essence a scam. Wikipedia is straight -- not a scam at all. Best, Don Bauder

March 7, 2017

Wikipedia is an honest version of what Who's Who claimed to be, a listing of all famous persons (and places and things).

March 7, 2017

ImJustABill: But Wikipedia is much more than a list of famous persons, places, and things. It is spotty, however. Sometimes the prose is clear; other times it is a bit muddy or written only for specialists in a field. The research varies, too. In general, I find it a good source. The links are very useful. Best, Don Bauder

March 7, 2017

Yes - I agree. It's a great source and is usually accurate, well written and unbiassed. Of course, there are exceptions. John Moores' wikipedia page describes him as a philanthropist and doesn't indicate much about why he "resigned" from Peregrine.

March 8, 2017

ImJustABill: Yes, too many Wikipedia entries appear to be written by the subject's public relations aide. That is a real weakness. Best, Don Bauder

March 8, 2017

Mike Murphy: Movie fans will give you 50 lashes for saying Oscars are awarded for mediocre performances. I must say I have never understood why the Oscars get so much play in the media, not to mention ratings on TV. Best, Don Bauder

March 7, 2017

Why has Hollywood had such a hold on the consciousness in America for so long? Hype begets hype, and glamor begets glamor. Many folks who watch the presentations on TV have scarcely seen any of the movies in contention. So, I suppose I've always been mystified about the popularity too.

March 7, 2017

Visduh: I have a good reason for not watching the Oscars: I go to few movies. My wife and I have seen three good ones lately; maybe we will go more often. (After we saw the three good movies, we went to LaLa Land. We thought it stunk. But I believe it won some Oscars.) Best, Don Bauder

March 7, 2017

hollywood has been in lala land since its inception

seems the latest tripe movie Logan brought in more than the ones that got awards on its first week.

March 8, 2017

Murphyjunk: Agreed: Hollywood has always been in lala land. Ditto for the entire L.A. area, in my judgment. Best, Don Bauder

March 8, 2017

I find rotten tomatoes' numbers to be fairly closely correlated to my opinion of a movie's quality.

March 8, 2017

ImJustABill: A friend of mine, an avid gardener, had a tomato patch. He went on vacation and came back to rotten tomatoes. He didn't know what to do. So he asked me to give a speech to a local civic group. He armed everyone in the audience with those rotten tomatoes. Thereby, he got rid of the rotten tomatoes. I had to buy a new suit after the speech.

Note: this account is every bit as accurate as the statements of the current president of the United States. Best, Don Bauder

March 8, 2017

Kerry Steigerwalt was a very good lawyer....Businessman?! Not so much. Some Lawyers can be very good lawyers and lousy businesspersons. They never get the fact that law is also a business. Buying the Pacific Law Center without doing the proper "due diligence" was a huge mistake by KS. The SBCA was already watching the PLC very closely and investigating it before KS decided to take it over. KS should have "cleaned house" and hired more honest, ethical employees that would do the work in a competent manner and be straight with clients and potential clients.

The SD legal community is very old school and does not like it when lawyers advertise on TV and siphon off clients from the old boy network law firms in town. KS did not understand these "unwritten rules of the local legal community". He put a target on his own back by bucking the local legal establishment. If KS wanted to buck the legal establishment(and, arguably, they need to be shaken up at times) then KS should have been overly diligent in keeping his PLC and himself 150% clean, ethical, honest and by the book. KS, apparently, was very sloppy with his Supervision and management skills. If he could not do it, then he should have hired a licensed, honest, ethical attorney that he could trust with his life and his law license to run a "tight ship" at PLC.

One of the other notable major TV advertising lawyers was Sam Spital , in his heyday, who made many of the same blunders..but was running a "settlement mill" and advertising widely on TV back in the day. I think Don wrote many exposes on Sam Spital back when he was flooding the airwaves with TV ads, bus ads, billboard ads, you name it ads..(surprised there were no condom ads lol)..

March 10, 2017

SportsFan0000: Is Kerry Steigerwalt "a very good lawyer?" Perhaps he is a good courtroom lawyer. But good lawyers don't buy scummy operations like Pacific Law Center. Good lawyers do their homework -- for their clients, and for themselves. Best, Don Bauder

March 10, 2017

As I mentioned above, he didn't win a significant number of cases; his clients were routinely convicted and got stiff sentences. So, I'd not characterize him as a very good lawyer.

March 11, 2017

He had a reputation as a very good lawyer when he worked for the government. I can't believe how far he has fallen since those days. He made a huge error in judgment ever getting involved with and/or buying that seedy Pacific Law Center..

Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, Thurgood Marshal and many others had reputations as excellent lawyers and money was not really their motivation.

March 14, 2017

Visduh: Yes, but most lawyers measure their success by the amount of money they make, not what they did for their clients. Best, Don Bauder

March 12, 2017

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