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Top 10 filers of 2005 federal ADA filings in California

1: Lynn Hubbard III, Chico

163 suits

THE PRACTICE: With a firm of five attorneys - including his son - he files ADA cases the length of California, often concentrating on large corporations. His wife uses a wheelchair, although she is not a party to suits. He has filed frequently on behalf of his aging parents in Southern California and a cadre of other disabled clients.

NOTEWORTHY: Has filed more than 1,000 ADA suits over the years, making him one of the most prolific filers in the nation. His actions have sparked more than a dozen investigations by various agencies, but he has never been found to be in violation of any law or regulation.

COMMENT: "Everywhere we go I can see the impact my clients are making on facilities as far as accessibility."

2: Scott N. Johnson, Carmichael

114 suits (5 as plaintiff only) THE PRACTICE: A quadriplegic attorney, he files access lawsuits exclusively in the Eastern District, Sacramento, from his solo private practice. Filed, or was a party, in 267 lawsuits between January 20 05 and Nov. 3 of this year. Typically s et tles for $4,000 to $6,000. Drives a specially equipped wheelchair van on his outings and often travels with his service dog, Rocky. Focuses on small businesses, the majority of them restaurants.

NOTEWORTHY: Makes a point in his lawsuits of saying that he visited the properties and warned business owners of ADA violations before filing suit.

COMMENT: "I would like to assure you that...there are many businesses who, although 16 years after the Americans With Disabilities Act was enacted, are now providing for disability access and therefore, are not involved with a lawsuit."

3: Theodore Pinnock, San Diego

84 suits

THE PRACTICE: Uses a wheelchair as a result of cerebral palsy and works out of a downtown San Diego law office with several other attorneys. Says he has filed more than 2,000 access lawsuits. He has blanketed entire towns, notably nearby Julian and Alpine, with demand letters threatening to sue unless ADA fixes are made and settlements are paid.

NOTEWORTHY: Actions brought him to the attention of the San Diego District Attorney's Of fice and State Bar, but no actions were taken against him. He contends that business owners have had ample time to come into compliance with the ADA, and that filing lawsuits is a natural practice for attorneys.

COMMENT: "I am not the one who wrote the law. I didn't really want to do ADA in the first place, but they need ADA lawyers."

4: Russell C. Handy & Mark D. Potter, Center for Disability Access, San Marcos

63 suits

THE PRACTICE: The firm, founded by Potter, is considered one of the most active ADA litigators in the state, with emphasis shifting from federal to state courts. Filed access suits last year in three of California's four federal court districts. Known for filing numerous suits for a handful of disabled plaintiffs.

NOTEWORTHY: Disabled client, Phil Di Prima, recently accused firm of unethical practices and failing to see that violations were fixed. Accusations led to an investigation by the U.S. District Court's Standing Committee on Discipline in Los Angeles, whose findings have not been made public.

COMMENT: The firm's Web site, which advertises a toll-free number, states: "Don't suffer in silence. Exercise your rights in an effective and organized manner: call CDA."

5: Reuben D. Nathan, Azimy and Nathan, Irvine

59 suits

THE PRACTICE: Firm includes Nathan and Elham Azimy. Firm's Web site doesn't emphasize ADA cases but says it practices 27 different areas of legal work, from DUIs, sex crimes and child abuse defense to personal injury, malpractice, probate and trusts. Filed federal access suits in Central and Eastern districts last year, many on behalf of just a few regular clients, suing restaurants, apartment complexes, gas stations, motels, markets, retail stores and banks.

NOTEWORTHY: Nathan used the same six disabled plaintiffs in 354 lawsuits filed in the Central District from 2003 through 2005. In the Eastern District, Nathan and his partner have filed 50 suits since 2004 - all on behalf of two disabled clients.

COMMENT: None.

6: Stephen M. Padilla, Padilla and Associates, Seal Beach

50 suits

THE PRACTICE: Filed federal access cases last year only in Southern California's Central District, based in Los Angeles. Exclusively used two disabled plaintiffs in his 50 suits: Rosalinda Hernandez and Daniel Perea. Court papers describe both as disabled and using wheelchairs. Their lawsuits targeted a variety of Southern California businesses, including chain restaurants, liquor stores, tire and auto shops, a chiropractic office, a dental practice, a mattress gallery and a golf shop.

NOTEWORTHY: Padilla filed 17 more access suits in the Central District this year on behalf of Hernandez, whose targets included liquor stores, restaurants, Digicom Wireless and the Flip Flop Co. of Westminster. Stephen M. Padilla, Padilla and Associates, Seal Beach

COMMENT: None.

7: Thomas N. Stewart III, Clayton

49 suits

THE PRACTICE: Has pursued access cases since 1999. Stewart files cases in the northern half of California, focusing frequently on the Central Valley.

NOTEWORTHY: Uses repeat plaintiffs, but is known to be selective in choosing cases. Says he will not sue over technicalities, that a client must have experienced a barrier to access. Also believes California's minimum $4,000 award is too high, that it should be $1,000 or $2,000, instead. His law firm's Web site is www.disabilityaccesslaw.com and it tells prospective clients that "the business and public agencies pay the legal costs and fees. I will never ask you to pay me anything." Claims to have recovered millions of dollars in settlements for clients.

COMMENT:"People get outraged, and then when they realize what the law is and they realize they've been violating the law for 10 years they change their mind."

8:Roy Landers, San Diego

43 suits

THE PRACTICE: Files ADA suits in San Diego and Los Angeles federal cour ts, but is also filing heavily in state courts. Web site states that the law firm's motto is, "a difference you can count on."

NOTEWORTHY: Investigated by the San Diego District Attorney's Office, which filed no charges. Has met with criticism from federal judges for his mass filings, with one of his clients last year legally declared a vexatious litigant - requiring court permission to file as a plaintiff in the future. The federal judge said both Landers' and his client's conduct "undermines the spirit and purpose of the ADA and abuses the federal court system." Another federal judge in the Southern District last year ordered Landers to pay a defendant 's attorney's fees, observing that Landers' conduct "falls seriously below the level of professionalism expected and required by the district court."

COMMENT: None.

9: Amy B. Vandeveld, San Diego

THE PRACTICE : Files ADA cases in Central and Southern federal court districts. Filed numerous suits in 2003-04 for Jarek Molski, the disabled plaintiff who was declared a vexatious litigant in late 2004 by a federal judge.

NOTEWORTHY: Made headlines in 2003 by trying to stop the Super Bowl in San Diego, arguing that Qualcomm Stadium was inaccessible. Earlier this year, participated in a street-theater protest outside California Building Industry Association offices in Sacramento, in which the association -- backers of an initiative to give businesses time to fix ADA violations -- was depicted as a group of black-caped villains beating the disabled with clubs.

COMMENT: "Businesses are upset because they are being sued because they've done nothing to ensure compliance with the ADA for more than 16 years."

10: Duane Sceper, San Diego

34 suits

THE PRACTICE: Files only in the San Diego area and handles both defense and plaintiff cases. Says he prefers to handle cases quickly if a business will agree to repair its violations. Estimates ADA work has been only 10 to 20 percent of his civil practice. Says most of his cases settle for $5,000 to $6,000.

NOTEWORTHY: Advocates creating a cap of $5,000 on such suits if there has been no physical injury to the plaintiff and if the business agrees to repair its violations.

COMMENT: "There are members of the plaintiff's bar who see this as a full employment act, and they've made a lot of money off of it. There are people on the defense side doing the same thing...Why don't people comply with the law and put them all out of work?"

Also noteworthy:

Jason K. Singleton, Eureka - 26 suits: Made name for himself in Humboldt area suing numerous businesses, including the Fortuna theater, a case the theater owners fought and won. Sued businesses the length of California, including a high-profile case in Palm Desert that generated publicity when he drove a longtime saddle maker out of business.

Paul L. Rein, Oakland - 18 suits: Specializes in representing the disabled and looks for access cases that will have "the most impact on public usage." Fought for disabled access in such venues as Stanford Stadium, Carnival Cruise Lines, Squaw Valley and the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose. Believed to be the nation's longest-practicing access attorney.

Thomas E. Frankovich, San Francisco - 18 suits: Files access cases in Northern and Southern California. Had been filing numerous suits until December 2004, when his extremely active plaintiff, Jarek Molski (who also uses attorney Amy Vandeveld), was declared a vexatious litigant by a federal judge in Los Angeles.

American Disability Institute, Pennsylvania and Commerce, Calif. - 3 suits: Bills itself as a non-profit group formed to "protect the interests and rights of all individuals with any type of disability." Opponents say the ADI is a front group created by a Philadelphia law firm interested in cashing in on ADA lawsuits in California by paying disabled citizens to seek out businesses in violation.

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