Victorious Defendant in Bogus Lawsuit Brought by Indian Tribe Sues Judge and Attorneys Who Helped Orchestrate and Perpetuate the Sham
San Diego, CA, September 1, 2018:
When the Blue Lake Casino & Hotel, an entity owned by the Indian Tribe, Blue Lake Rancheria, sued James Acres in Blue Lake Tribal Court (Case No. C-15-1215LJM) there were two, rather critical, miscalculations: Acres had done nothing wrong, and the judge assigned to the case had been a long-time Blue Lake attorney (yes, you read this correctly).
The suit against Mr. Acres was based on a single claim he fraudulently induced Blue Lake to enter into a contract with his company to provide software for its gaming operations. The case was a trumped-up claim of breach of contract, and Acres was named for what ultimately was proven to be no legitimate factual or legal basis.
“My first tribal court hearing, I was alone in a windowless conference room in Blue Lake’s hotel. Blue Lake had two guys with guns blocking the doors, and a third guy with a gun standing behind me the whole time,” Acres recalls.
After months of litigating in a forum where he feared he could not get a fair trial, Acres learned the ultimate incongruity: The judge, Lester J. Marston, was a lawyer who had also been representing Blue Lake as legal counsel for many years. “I filed a motion asking Judge Marston to recuse himself from hearing the case since he worked for Blue Lake,” said Acres, “but Judge Marston denied it, saying he didn’t have to since he only worked for Blue Lake as their Chief Judge.”
Judge Marston, however, did not tell the whole story. After losing every pre-trial matter, Acres began to lose hope. With Judge Marston on the bench, in a tribal court where Blue Lake would enjoy sovereign immunity, Acres seriously considered giving up. “I truly believed I had absolutely no chance at a fair trial and I would be completely denied due process,” Acres recalls. “I did the research and figured it would be better not wasting time and money defending the case I would never win and then take my chances in the California State Court where Blue Lake would have to seek enforcement of the judgment.”
Acres sought counsel and ran the plan by Ron Blumberg of Blumberg Law Group LLP in Solana Beach, California. “The problem with James’ idea was my concern that by giving up, and allowing the default, he could not then argue in the State Court collection matter he was denied due process, which would be the standard for review,” Blumberg said.
Instead, Acres was forced to continue fighting and focused on uncovering the truth about Judge Marston’s relationship and extensive legal history with Blue Lake. “James worked incessantly researching Judge Marston and his relationship with Blue Lake,” Blumberg said. “He found evidence showing Judge Marston worked as Blue Lake’s attorney while simultaneously presiding over Blue Lake’s case against him in tribal court,” Blumberg said, who now represents Acres in the current 43 page, 194 paragraph civil suit against Judge Marston, lawyers who worked on the case and several Blue Lake officials (Acres v. Marston, etc., Sacramento County Superior Court, Case No. 34-2018-00236829-C-PO-GDS). “James was so focused and unrelenting,” Blumberg continued. “He took that evidence to Federal Court in the Northern District of California, pro se, the only forum where he knew he could get an objective review of the facts. Federal Judge William H. Orrick reviewed what James had uncovered and, quite astonishingly, granted James discovery against Judge Marston,” Blumberg recalled. “Judge Marston was ordered to provide written discovery, but what was even more remarkable was Judge Orrick ordered Judge Marston to sit for a deposition!,” Blumberg exclaimed.
Acres received responses to the discovery, much of which included Judge Marston’s billing records from his law firm. “The billing records we received revealed what we knew to be true: Judge Marston was working for and billing Blue Lake, simultaneously as both the judge in James’ case and as an attorney on a number of matters,” Blumberg said. “Although James felt some vindication,” Blumberg continued, “he still had to defend what we all knew to be a bogus lawsuit.” “That discovery I received from Judge Marston’s office exposed the wrongdoing which still shocks me a year and a half later,” Acres said.
With Judge Orrick’s mandate, Acres noticed the deposition of Judge Marston. Before going under oath, however, Judge Marston finally decided to step aside. “I told James Judge Marston would never sit for his deposition. I knew once he realized the deposition was going to happen he would recuse himself,” Blumberg said. Sure enough, Judge Marston recused himself and was, ultimately, replaced with the Honorable Justice James Lambden, a retired California appellate court judge.
The case continued with Acres filing a motion to dismiss with Justice Lamden. Hearing was held, and Justice Lamden dismissed the case against Acres. “Justice Lambden found no reasonable person could believe Blue Lake’s claims that I committed fraud, and he dismissed the case against me,” explained Acres.
Now Acres is suing seventeen defendants, including Judge Marston, the lawyers who worked on the case, and certain administrators of Blue Lake, in a California Superior Court.
“Judge Marston never should have been on the bench in the case brought by Blue Lake against James,” Blumberg said. “Judge Marston even denied a motion for him to recuse himself after certain facts showed he was grossly, and irreparably, conflicted. It took the fear of going under oath to force Judge Marston to finally remove himself from the case,” Blumberg went on to say.
Acres withstood what looked like insurmountable odds. He was defending a bogus case against him, in a tribal court (which ordinarily enjoys virtually absolute, sovereign immunity), presided over by a judge who was simultaneously the lawyer for the plaintiff against him. “The toll this ordeal took on my family and me is immense. I fought, and won though, and will not let this go,” Acres said. “Even after the judge in my case teamed up with ten lawyers and three law firms pursuing a meritless case in an attempt to extort a six-figure settlement from me, I prevailed,” said Acres. Blumberg is representing Acres and will continue to fight side-by-side with his uniquely tough and able client. “James endured, and is actually now looking forward to the next challenge,” Blumberg said. “James withstood the considerable firepower of the Blue Lake tribe, and its hand-picked, conflicted judge. He is ready to now confront that judge, but this time he will be..., Defendant Marston.”
For additional information, and/or scheduling of interviews, please contact Stacey Walker at Blumberg Law Group LLP, 858.509.0600.