A lawyer accused of taking part in a scheme to extort Dole food company for billions of dollars is under orders to appear at a contempt hearing Wednesday.
Juan Dominguez is accused of bringing fraudulent claims against Dole by men pretending to have been harmed by pesticides on Nicaraguan banana plantations in the 1970s.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney has reported Dominguez to the State Bar and to federal prosecutors for investigation of multiple crimes, including perjury, obstruction of justice, defrauding a court and conspiring to extort a United States company.
The judge called the alleged fraud "outrageous and profound."
Dominguez is seeking Chaney's removal from the case, saying in a motion filed by his lawyer last week that he was excluded from some hearings and was not permitted to defend himself.
"Judge Chaney has singled Juan Dominguez out for hostile treatment. She has prejudged his guilt," attorney Michael McCarthy said in the motion.
Chaney dismissed two lawsuits in what she said was a massive scheme to extort Dole with false claims by purported plantation workers. Testimony showed the men were not plantation workers and were recruited by Dominguez and an associate in Nicaragua to lie.
Witnesses and investigators told of fearing for their lives for exposing the fraud. Some witnesses had their identities disguised in videotaped depositions and one day of hearings was closed to the public when the judge said she feared any hint at the witnesses' identities would risk their deaths.
Dole attorney Scott Edelman called the attack on Chaney "outrageous."
"Judge Chaney has gone out of her way to be fair to Mr. Dominguez, to ensure that the evidence supported the accusations, and to treat him fairly," Edelman said.
Dominguez's attorney said Chaney had prejudged the facts.
"Due process requires that Juan Dominguez be allowed a level playing field to confront the charges levied by Dole and present evidence and cross-examine witnesses which will establish that Dole — not Juan Dominguez — has been the instigator of systematic intimidation and corruption to cover up the harm it has inflicted on impoverished villages and workers," he said.
Although the papers filed on behalf of Dominguez claim he was excluded from hearings, the judge had inquired about his absence at all but the one closed hearing. His associates said then that they did not know where he was or why he was not present.
Dominguez is a personal injury lawyer whose face appears on bus advertisements and billboards in Los Angeles. According to testimony at the hearings, he also maintained an office in Nicaragua to deal with the Dole cases.
Source: AP News