Opinion Editorial by a Bail Mentor
Bail bond referrals from criminal
defense attorneys (hereafter called, “CDA” or “CDAs” or “CDA’s”) who represent
persons charged (hereafter called “Defendant” or “Defendants”) by the People of
State of California (hereafter called, “DA” or “DA’s”), or “attorney referrals”
in bailspeak, represent a curiously growing trend whereby people new to bail
and even veteran bail agents actively seek out and labor to secure attorney
referrals with, arguably, no working knowledge of the relationship between the
CDAs and their Defendant clients.
CDAs play a significant role in the
American Justice System by protecting the Constitutional Rights of the accused
to be sure, but CDAs are also bound to advocate for their clients to include
putting the best interests of their clients well before the interests,
financial or otherwise, of bail agents who post bonds for Defendants and
guarantee their appearances.
The relationship between a CDA and bail
agent can very quickly grow murky when a CDA is tasked with both protecting the
best interests of his or her client versus maintaining a positive business
relationship with a bail agent—there are plenty of bail agents to replace a
burned bail agent. In my personal
experience, the former always carries greater weight from the CDA’s perspective
and is deemed controlling over the interests of the bail agent—always, and
To further expound on the premise of
this opinion editorial, it is necessary to go back in time to my own real-life
experiences not just as a bail agency owner but as an active bounty hunter in
the early 90s and up to this very moment.
Some of the most difficult bail fugitive
recovery cases I have worked include so-called attorney referrals whereby
contacting the applicable CDAs has never, in my personal experience, yielded
any actionable intelligence as to the whereabouts of a bail jumping Defendant.
Moreover, I have personally, under the
direction of a court, notified a CDA that I intended to surrender a Defendant
appearing in court followed by CDAs stepping outside the court to confer with
their client and re-entering the courtroom befuddled as to where their client
had gone resulting in a bounty hunt.
This scenario is real, repeatable, and expected as the state of normalcy
when dealing with CDAs and their Defendant clients.
The role of a CDA is purely and simply
to get the best possible outcome for their Defendant clients, and if this means
driving a bail agency into bankruptcy—so be it, in my personal opinion.
I have been bounty hunting since 1992,
and I can attest to my personal experience that I have never, ever encountered
a CDA who informed to either bail agency owners or bounty hunters the true
background of the cases the DA has on their Defendant, all the facts concerning
bail collateral, the truth about anticipated court outcomes, and, with great
emphasis, any information that would go to apprehending a bail jumper.
Fast forward to today and I remain
befuddled that CDAs routinely request “discounted bail,” large bonds posted
with unverified collateral, and new and veteran bail agents scurry to appease
the desires and whims of CDAs without question and some bizarre notion that the
bail agencies in the equations somehow take priority over the CDA’s
Defendants—these are serious miscalculations and horrendous mistakes by new and
veteran bail agents speaking from a veteran bounty hunter and bail agency
owner’s point of view.
My strong suggestions are these: treat
all bails equal and irrespective of the lead’s origins, attorney referrals
deserve greater underwriting scrutiny, never assume that a CDA is going to help
you recover a bail jumper, do assume that a CDA will “throw you under the bus”
without hesitation if it serves his or hers Defendant’s best interests.
My interests are to protect the
California Bail Industry and not the trial attorneys, so here we are today speaking
truths with no rainbows, unicorns, candy, or smoke and mirrors; I am speaking
the hard, cold truths from long experience and can attach no wisdom to holding
back on my personal opinions as a California Department of Insurance Approved
Bail Education Provider Instructor who has personally instructed nearly 2,000
bail education students now Alumni.
Rules of Professional Conduct
Reprinted from the State Bar of California website
Rule 1-320 Financial Arrangements with Non-Lawyers
(A) Neither a member nor a law firm
shall directly or indirectly share legal fees with a person who is not a
lawyer, except that:
(1) An agreement between a member and a
law firm, partner, or associate may provide for the payment of money after the
member's death to the member's estate or to one or more specified persons over
a reasonable period of time; or
(2) A member or law firm undertaking to
complete unfinished legal business of a deceased member may pay to the estate
of the deceased member or other person legally entitled thereto that proportion
of the total compensation which fairly represents the services rendered by the
deceased member; or
(3) A member or law firm may include
non-member employees in a compensation, profit-sharing, or retirement plan even
though the plan is based in whole or in part on a profit-sharing arrangement,
if such plan does not circumvent these rules or Business and Professions Code Section
6000 et seq.; or
(4) A member may pay a prescribed
registration, referral, or participation fee to a lawyer referral service
established, sponsored, and operated in accordance with the State Bar of
California's Minimum Standards for a Lawyer Referral Service in California.
(B) A member shall not compensate, give,
or promise anything of value to any person or entity for the purpose of
recommending or securing employment of the member or the member's law firm by a
client, or as a reward for having made a recommendation resulting in employment
of the member or the member's law firm by a client. A member's offering of or
giving a gift or gratuity to any person or entity having made a recommendation
resulting in the employment of the member or the member's law firm shall not of
itself violate this rule, provided that the gift or gratuity was not offered or
given in consideration of any promise, agreement, or understanding that such a
gift or gratuity would be forthcoming or that referrals would be made or
encouraged in the future.
(C) A member shall not compensate, give,
or promise anything of value to any representative of the press, radio,
television, or other communication medium in anticipation of or in return for
publicity of the member, the law firm, or any other member as such in a news
item, but the incidental provision of food or beverage shall not of itself
violate this rule.
Some questions that routinely come up
include the following:
bail bondsmen or his or her representatives refer bail clients to an attorney?
bail offices display numerous business cards of criminal defense attorneys?
While it is illegal for a California
licensed bail agent “bail agent” to refer a client to “any” attorney, it is
legal for an attorney to refer his or her client to a bail agent; however, here
we arrive at the potentiality of temptation whereby a bail agent and attorney
strike up and engage in illegal activity.
C.C.R. § 2071 Suggesting or Recommending Attorney;
“No bail licensee shall in any manner,
directly or indirectly, suggest the name of or recommend any attorney to any
arrestee or person purporting to act for or represent an arrestee.”
Former Santa Ana Bail Agent Ronald Lee
Brockway reportedly pled guilty to two misdemeanors, originally filed as felony counts, in relation to violating bail
license regulations and was convicted in relation to illegally soliciting
attorney referrals and inmate referrals.
According to news reports, Brockway
reportedly sent out emails to attorneys in order to “increase both of our earnings substantially.”
Brockway testified in an Orange County
Grand Jury hearing that he had received cash payments from Attorney Joseph
Cavallo in exchange for referring arrestees to Cavallo’s law practice.
In a separate example of the risks bail
agents and attorneys assume when forming “understandings” is illustrated by
reports of former bail agents Jorge Andres Castro and Alejandro de Jesus Cruz,
of Xtreme Bail Bonds (no DBA records found) who reportedly engaged in 39 “overt acts” to include making “recommendations by the bail bondsmen that
criminal defendants hire Cavallo, promises of reduced fees, and in one
instance, representations that a defendant would receive probation instead of
jail time if he hired Cavallo. The bail bondsmen sometimes drove people to
owners of Xtreme, Jorge Andres Castro and Alejandro de Jesus Cruz, were charged
with the same (see below list of charges) crimes.”
It is worth mentioning that the list of
wrongdoings included $300.00 to $500.00 payments made to Xtreme Bail Bonds for
10 to 20 referrals from Xtreme Bail Bonds over a 26-month period, according to
California Bar Journal reports.
Meanwhile and according to the
California Bar Journal, JOSEPH GERARD
CAVALLO [#108210], 54, of Irvine was suspended for five years, stayed,
placed on five years of probation with an actual three-year suspension and
until he proves his rehabilitation, and he was ordered to take the MPRE and
comply with rule 9.20. Credit is given for the period of interim suspension
that began Dec. 17, 2007. The order took effect Nov. 19, 2009.
Cavallo was convicted of three felonies in 2007, including capping and accepting clients through a recommendation by a
licensed bail bondsman. A random check by the district attorney revealed
that Cavallo was hired by a higher number of arrested individuals than would
have been expected by chance.
business cards were displayed in the bail bondsmen’s offices, he
paid a fee for referrals and he offered
discounts to clients referred by the bondsmen. He admitted he paid between
$300-$500 each for 10-20 referrals.
Cavallo pled guilty and was sentenced to
six months of house arrest and three years of probation, and he was fined
$18,336.63. The bar court determined that the crimes involved moral turpitude.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and he presented
witnesses who testified to his good character.
It has been reported that since no one
in a bail bond office is actually referring any specific attorney and therefore
hanging a wall load of attorney business cards is not illegal, it is strongly
suggested not to cross into that gray area when taking into consideration that
the statute does not indicate illegality concerning the referral of “an” or “a”
attorney by a bail agent or any person purportedly working for a bail agent but,
rather, it is illegal to refer “any”attorney if one is a licensed bail agent or working for or purportedly
representing a bail agent; therefore, one has to wonder if an argument can be
made that by hanging multiple attorney business cards in a common area of a
bail bonds office that doing so meets the statutory edge to move forward with
further investigation due to the, arguably, appearance of impropriety.
In an opinion editorial, Chuck Lanehart warned,
“Never Get in Bed with a Bail Bondsman,”and this same warning can easily be flipped to read, “Never Get in Bed with an Attorney.”
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