Lawyer for North Highlands ‘tax lady’ wants out, says he’s not getting paid

By Andy Furillo
The Sacromento Bee (
Published: Friday, May. 6, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 6B
Last Modified: Sunday, May. 8, 2011 – 12:35 pm

Embattled tax attorney Roni Deutch hasn’t been paying her legal bills in the state’s effort to shut her down, according to the lawyer representing her, who now says he wants out of the case.

In papers filed in Sacramento Superior Court, attorney James J. Banks said Deutch and her North Highlands law firm are “seriously delinquent and have not paid accrued fees and costs for representation in this matter.”

Banks’ declaration filed Monday also suggested he’s afraid the so-called “tax lady” who advertises heavily on late-night TV might blame him for at least some of her legal problems. Banks cited the concern as another reason he wants to be relieved as Deutch’s counsel.

Under the California Rules of Professional Conduct, Banks said in his filing that it is mandatory for him to bail out on the case as a result of his firm’s “understanding that the clients may assert ‘advice of counsel’ as a defense in a contempt proceeding initiated in this case.”

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shellyanne W.L. Chang last month froze Deutch’s assets and appointed a receiver to oversee her accounts after the state attorney general’s office sought to have Deutch jailed for violation of court orders in the case.

The state lawyers contended Deutch shredded between 1.6 million and 2.7 million documents and refused to refund payments to her clients, both of which were ordered from the bench in Sacramento. The state sued her in August on charges that she has swindled her clients out of $34 million.

In a news release last month, state Attorney General Kamala Harris called Deutch “a predator for profit.”

Neither Banks nor Deutch returned telephone calls Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office declined to comment.

Court-appointed receiver Scott M. Sackett confirmed Thursday that Banks’ law firm has not been getting paid by Deutch but did not know how much she owes.

Sackett is scheduled to file his report next week on Deutch’s finances.

A hearing on Banks’ effort to drop out of the case has been scheduled for May 13. A hearing on the contempt of court allegations is slated for July 22.