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Honor, Integrity, Respect; Endangered Values

Before I begin my story, I reflect on how many of the world’s ills would cease to exist if people would only do what they all know they should do . . . do not lie, cheat or steal nor condone it from others who do. Many societies, years ago, would impose the harshest punishment for those who harmed others—the punishment of banishment. Yes, being banished from the community was considered, at one time, a fate worse than death. However, it was a punishment rarely invoked because the societal members simply found it better to treat one another with honor and respect. Where has the stigma, once associated disreputable behavior, gone? Why do people finally exposed for lying, cheating, and stealing continue to find acceptance in the same community where their victims reside? My reflection shared . . . now to the story:

A few years ago, I represented a client who helped develop a market for a software product used by major manufactures throughout the world. The software became so successful that a large company back east acquired the smaller California based software development. My client had a written agreement with the California company to distribute the software to most of the world market; the acquiring company employed many people who also sold compatible software in the market. So, without legal basis, the acquiring company terminated my client’s agreement.

Our client sued and the out-of-state company hired a large Orange County law firm to represent them. The principal Orange County attorney for the defendant, was a partner with the firm, Kent Easter. Easter, presumably a smart man, with degrees from Stanford and UCLA, possessed the credentials typically associated with a partner of such an OC firm. But, as you will read, turned out to be both ethically challenged and not so smart.

Not long into the case, a new partner appeared on the pleadings and Easter was no longer associated with the case—somewhat unusual but it happens and I thought little of it. A short time later I learned why Kent was no longer in the case—he had major problems of his own with which to deal and being partner of a large OC law firm was no longer compatible with the events now in his life. It seems, Easter and his wife Jill, also a lawyer with both bachelor and law degrees from one of our Country’s top universities, UC Berkley, got into a tiff with a classroom volunteer, Kelli Peters, at their child’s grammar school. No big deal to the rest of us, but the Easters would not let it go.

They used their power and influence to make this woman’s life miserable in the civil courts but, when that failed to exact the pound of flesh they sought, the Easters doubled down, planted drugs in the woman’s car while her car was at home, phoned in a tip with the Irvine Police Department using a fake East Indian accent that the woman in the back of her car and was driving erratically, and alerted the police she drove to the school campus.

The Irvine Police arrested Kelli and questioned about the drugs in her car. After a time, the police believed Kelli’s story that the drugs in her car were not hers (everyone arrested with drugs claims the drugs aren’t theirs but this time something did not sit right). The police asked her if she could think of anyone who might do this to her . . . Kelli quickly came up with the names of Kent and Jill Easter.

Trials and plea bargains later, our two geniuses were both criminally convicted and disbarred. Kelli sued the Easters and won a $5.7 million judgement but it is doubtful she’ll see much. Even with all the harm done by these two unethical predators, the Easters will not be banished . . . they will not be ostracized, society will forget and people will rationalize that because the Easters did nothing to them personally, all is forgiven.

The Easters took the best of what this country offers and trashed it; law degrees from our top universities wasted and the power derived from the practice of law, abused. The Easters did not just harm Kelli Peters and her family, the Easter harmed society. Be ever mindful that evil done to one of us is evil done to all of us; honor, integrity, respect are values we should never take for granted and values that must be passed down from generation to generation—it is our duty; our obligation to do so.

Written by John Messina

John Messina heads Messina & Hankin's Temecula Valley Office and is a litigation attorney with top executive-level, hands-on experience as a broker, real estate developer, and mortgage banker. He is also a published author,

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