Four figures in San Diego scandal on interim suspension

Two former judges and a noted plaintiffs lawyer who were convicted last fall in a San Diego judicial corruption scandal have been placed on interim suspension by the State Bar Court. The action means former Superior Court Judges

G. DENNIS ADAMS [#37767], 55, and JAMES A. MALKUS [#38078], 59, and attorney PATRICK R. FREGA [#85365], 52, cannot practice law pending the final disposition of their cases.

The three were convicted in U.S. District Court in October of mail fraud and racketeering conspiracy. Frega also was convicted of operating a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) business.

Despite prosecutors' requests for sentences of between seven and 14 years, Malkus was sentenced to two years, nine months, and Adams and Frega received sentences of three years, five months. The three men remain free on bail pending appeals.

A fourth figure in the scandal, former Superior Court Presiding Judge MICHAEL GREER [#30925], 62, was placed on interim suspension in July after pleading guilty to one count of bribery in March.

The ex-judges were charged with accepting gifts from Frega in exchange for favorable treatment. Greer was sentenced last month to three years of probation.

The Commission on Judicial Performance began investigating allegations of corruption in 1991. Adams was removed from the bench by the California Supreme Court in 1995 as a result of the investigation, and both Greer and Malkus resigned in 1993.

Frega, a successful civil litigator, was accused of providing more than $100,000 in gifts and payments to the three judges in exchange for help with more than 40 cases. Greer pleaded guilty to accepting more than $75,000 from Frega for car purchases and repairs. He testified against the other judges and Frega in their trial.

Frega allegedly paid for cars and car repairs, found jobs for some of the judges' children, provided free legal assistance, and picked up the tab for bay cruises, expensive dinners, furniture, computers, groceries, health club memberships and vacations.

In exchange, according to testimony, Frega received unprecedented advice and access.

During his terms as presiding judge, Greer had the authority to decide what judge would hear cases and he routinely steered Frega's cases to Adams and Malkus.

James J. "Jimmie" Williams, an automobile dealer represented by Frega in a complicated lawsuit that was tried before Adams in 1985, pleaded guilty in March to making false statements to a federal grand jury. Williams admitted in court that he rehearsed his testimony with Greer.

Frega was a close friend of the Greer, Adams and Malkus families and did not deny he gave them expensive gifts. Defense lawyers said the gifts were not given with any criminal intent.

The most recent convictions came after a five-and-a-half week trial before U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie of Los Angeles. All San Diego federal judges removed themselves because they know the defendants.

Frega was convicted of 13 counts of mail fraud involving documents his firm filed and letters sent to the Commission on Judicial Performance during its investigation. Adams was convicted of five counts of mail fraud and Malkus of six mail fraud counts.

Rafeedie called the case "a chapter in the history of legal affairs in San Diego that is sad and infamous."