Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Story from the badlands of New Mexico

This is not about me, there's plenty of that for later. It's about an old friend from Las Cruces, New Mexico who grew up expecting some of that liberty, justice and pursuit of happiness too. But this is his draft of a story about the legal system there that bears some attention but isn't getting any.

The Badlands of New Mexico

Rule of Law or Mob Rule?

The following is a chronology of events that have led to the conflict between me (Lee Ulibarri et al) and a rogue New Mexico attorney turned predator against his own clients. The reason for compiling these statements is that my silence has given Arnold Padilla (AP) license to demonize me. I have been told repeatedly to ignore his misrepresentations. I have been assured that his statements were falling on deaf ears but the District Court, the Court of Appeals and the New Mexico Supreme Court have all upheld each decision based on AP’s lies.

During my youth my parents owned a100 acre New Mexico ranch. In 1946 my uncle and his new bride asked my parents to go into a dude ranch business with them. My parents declined but offered them the use of the property on the condition that they preserve it for my siblings and me.

On or about 1954 my aunt and uncle adopted a 9 year old daughter (Linda).

By 1971 my uncle operated a successful “dude ranch” and had acquired more land in the area. He asked my mother to consider the fact that they now had a daughter and asked my mother to accept an adjoining 100 acres known as the “Tia Maria” property that included a house in place of our original property. She agreed. The “Tia Maria” property was never transferred to my mother “because they had not yet told Linda”. (We now know better)

In 1999, after my mothers’ death I sold my Las Cruces business and started a business in Albuquerque in order to be closer to the ranch. I planned to build a cabin for my wife and me to retire in. My uncle was aware of my plans and supported my decision.

In 2000 the house on our “promised” land burned with my uncle in it. My aunt received and kept the $65,000 fire insurance proceeds.

After my uncle’s funeral my aunt announced that she had “changed her mind” about “giving” us the Tia Maria property. When I displayed my disdain, she agreed to “give” us the “Lincoln” property instead.

She went on to say that even though the property was my mother’s, we could not prove it since we had nothing in writing. My wife and I returned to my Aunts house (wired by radio shack) and got her to repeat her incriminating statement.

I then Hired Arnold Padilla (AP). We agreed on a hybrid fee arrangement consisting of a 50% $75.00/hr fee instead of his regular $150/hr fee, plus a 50% contingency of 1/6th  instead of his standard 1/3rd..

The agreement also spelled out that we reserved the right to pay him an “EQUAL VALUE THEREOF”. (Cash instead of property).

My two brothers soon joined me in the effort but my sister refused. It appears that she was opposed to family fighting family and was content with her ¼ share of the promised 100 acre Lincoln property. (Approx 25 acres) My two brothers and I never faulted her for that.

Arnold Padilla prematurely listed my sister in the complaint, then asked the court to delete her name. Judge Mathis refused his motion and allowed her to remain on pro-se.

During the years of discovery and summary judgment motions AP never consulted with my two brothers. The only times he spoke with them were during depositions ordered by opposing counsel.

I was the one who decided to roll the dice. I could not have lived with myself had I allowed my aunt to violate my mothers trust without a fight. I could not impose my convictions on my brothers, therefore I could not expect them to match my commitment. I mention the above in an attempt to support my statement that I was the architect, in contrast to AP’s claims that I did nothing, “had no authority” and that I paid practically nothing.

After we prevailed AP asked the court once again to remove my sister’s name and was turned down again. AP’s motions against my sister were filed against our wishes but nevertheless AP billed us for the time he spent on them. In effect, he billed us for representing himself. We never made an issue of this and do not wish to now.

AP has woven such a tangled web so difficult to unravel, it is my feeling that by adding to it we run the risk of distracting from the more pertinent issues, such as breach of contract and fiduciary duty, fraud, attempted extortion, libel and perjury.

A favorable verdict was rendered based on my aunts’ denial of having agreed to trade the “Cabins Property” for the “Tia Maria.” We were therefore awarded the dude ranch with all its cabins plus my aunts’ new three story house complete with elevator and garage. We did not want the dude ranch. Neither my mother nor my uncle would have wanted this. My aunt appealed the decision and we asked for mediation. By now AP was my adversary. He wanted to make all the decisions. He told “Rambo” the mediator, “Lee has no authority”. I waited until Rambo left the room then I told AP that I had the authority to fire him and that was authority enough for me. AP threatened to walk out and now I wish that he had. He was about to deliberately squandered the most valuable 20 acres of irrigated meadow on the Tia Maria property. He did this against my wishes and without the permission of any of my siblings. These 20 acres of irrigated meadow are worth more than the combined extra acreage that we received. These are the same 20 acres that share a fence with Patrick Swayzes’ ranch. AP accomplished this by inviting himself to accompany Rambo into my Aunts mediation room. I objected to that but was ignored. My insistence that AP put the twenty acres back on the table seemed to give him a weapon to use against me, in order to continue to provoke me. We had previously conceded the 20 irrigated acres of the “Tia Maria” property in lieu of another adjoining property. Defendants turned this offer down and we conceded to this by putting The 20 irrigated acres back on the table. AP took the liberty of altering the offer.  

When he returned with Rambo, AP announced that they had accepted our offer. It was not until much later that I realized that AP had taken the liberty to remove the 20 acres from the negotiation. He had become the plaintiff and I the defendant. Five people witnessed AP’s refusal to represent his client’s wishes.

As we waited for the final mediation agreement to be typed by my daughter, I told AP that I was not signing it. My daughter, my son and my wife then pleaded with me to sign. My daughter said”dad you will get to build your cabin before you die”.  I signed but made my protest a matter of court record before Judge Mathis. After the typing was completed AP reviewed it “to correct typos”. This is when he “tweaked” the agreement. Arnold Padilla used this venue to surreptitiously alter our original agreement by inserting language that changed the agreement. Again AP was representing himself and billing us.

In the mediation I did succeed in getting my aunt to pay $45,000.00 in attorney fees in order to recover some of my expenses. AP claimed a contingency from the money and was paid for the recent hourly fee that he had taken the liberty to convert back to $150.00 per hour. This was not made an issue of, either. I was left with $13,000.00. This was agreed upon at mediation and the check was to be made payable to both AP and me.

After AP received the check, he informed me that I would not receive my part unless I gave him additional acreage. When my daughter learned of this act of extortion she called AP and recorded his statement.” If Lee is not willing to sign the addendum, tell him not to bother coming”. We have in our possession, the tape and the transcript of the tape.     

After the mediation AP began a letter writing campaign to my siblings in an obvious attempt to create a division between us by discrediting me.

He made statements about my lack of input into the case. He made statements about “being tired of going along with my games of deceit” against my own family.

AP took the position of self appointed family administrator and began negotiating with my siblings. I never authorized him to meddle in our family affairs. He was proposing that I receive $19,000.00 from my sister. Then he wrote to my sibling accusing me of attempting to take advantage of them. I never authorized for him to represent me. I was not even aware that he was doing this.

I humbly submit to you once more that I was the sole architect behind the law suit. I was also the sole financier. I located all witnesses. I paid AP’s hourly fees. I paid the air fare for three trips to and from San Diego. I paid for all meals and hotels for witnesses during the three day trial. I also paid for APs’ meals. I also have receipts for 115 hotel stays in Las Vegas New Mexico. (Non consecutive days) They represent 115 trips from Las Cruces. I did not work for longer than a full month in that 4 year (plus) period. I sold my real estate holdings in order to get by. Some of it was rental property that would have provided me with future income. I am confident that an audit (and I do invite one) would show an excess of $500,000.00 in loss of income and loss of future income plus expenses paid by me and my sons and daughters. Later on my nephew from Ohio helped considerably. My brother in law (my sister’s husband) from Florida helped, also. We have just spent an additional $36,000.00, ($20,000.00 was Pd by me) in a futile attempt to enforce the contract.

AP continues to redefine his claim by denying his contractual obligation to receiving an “equal value thereof”. He now vacillates between “giving” us an “opportunity” to “buy our land back”, then, to an “option to buy” and recently, he used the term “right to first refusal”. This means that we could exercise that right if and when he ever decides to sell our land back to us at his price. This evolved from the contractual agreement of “equal value thereof”.

After the mediation with my aunt my son offered him the, agreed upon, 16.67% percent of the recent appraisals. AP said that he had made “too much money this year”. “I will accept payment only if you pay my additional income tax. He later mentioned that he would rather develop the property in order to raise its value. We then reminded him that he was only entitled to equal value thereof and that we were prepared to pay that. He said that the appraisals were bogus and designed to pay lower taxes. We then asked him to pick the appraisers and that we would abide by their figures. He refused. He later filed documents with the court of appeals stating that we had refused to pay him and that there were no appraisals. He has possession of these appraisals.

Judge Mathis ordered mediation and stated,”mediate in good faith or answer to me”. During a break at the mediation, AP told my son, “If you do not give me what I ask for I will keep your father in court for the rest of his life. I will see to it that he never gets to build on that land” and I will break him.

After all day of mediating, we finally agreed to his demands that had remained unchanged. He had never budged from these demands. There was no middle in this mediation. We finally agreed to give him the 30 acres he demanded. The mediator left our room to announce to AP that he had prevailed. After a few minutes he returned with a “counter offer”. He now demanded the water rights from our property. He wanted us to build a concrete water way, diverting our water onto his land. He later told the court that we aborted the mediations. I have come to the conclusion that he wants it all.

I am 72 years of age with failing health and have not been unable to work for 8 years. I was 62 when this nightmare began. I have suffered a series of thalamic strokes. I now wear a pacemaker and suffer from depression. I have been diagnosed with PTSD. I must take “Zoloft” for the rest of my life. I have been hospitalized 17 times within the last 3 years and have undergone 5 surgeries. All my recent illnesses have been stress related. At this rate AP will get his way. I will never get to build a cabin on my heritage property.

I feel as though AP has stolen the remainder of my life from me.

The money is all gone. We are now fighting this injustice without legal representation. If we were to win this charade we would be hard pressed to come up with the money to pay AP. Of course, that probably was his plan all along. I have concluded that AP wants all of our land.

Taking land from a client is as easy as taking candy from a baby. A baby cannot express its loss and a client is not allowed to.

I never dreamed that this country would reach the level of Juarez justice but here we are.

This document is not about me, it is about every one of us.

It is about the integrity of our Nation.

The following statements are from a deposition of my son Rock Ulibarri that was actually ordered by AP. The underlined excerpts speak volumes. The deposition consists of 800 pages of gibberish, with the only apparent motive being to denigrate me to my own son.

On page thirteen of this deposition, AP cites the original contract. “It is further understood that the 1/6 contingency applies to the fair market value of all property and assets recovered on behalf of client and his two brothers and sister”.

Page71, after Rock mentions that he paid part of the attorney fees, AP asks him, did you ever get reimbursed by Lee?

Page 87, AP “and that was after I did get, in fact, $6,000.00 from Jerry, but that wasn’t from your father, was it”?

Page 88, AP. your father made no payment at all during that time, did he?

  Page 92,  AP. I was having trouble reaching Lee at his home number.

Rock, yes, this is not his home number though.

AP, Well that was the number I had at the time.

 Rock, His home number hasn’t changed in years.

 AP, I think that was the cell phone he’d lost at that point in time. For some reason.

Page 101, AP discusses with Rock of asking my sister for $27,000.00 and to relinquish seven acres. By now he had managed to eliminate me by saying that I could not be reached. He attempted to use my son to increase his contingency from an additional $27,000.00 plus 7 acres, to be taken from my sister.

AP: I might remind you that my predictions have never been wrong.

Rock: Did you predict this situation?

AP: To myself, I did, yes. I got to know Lee pretty well after awhile.

Page 103, AP indicates that he has, long since, appointed himself as our family representative, mediator and administrator.

Page 104,  AP: “And you told me that that was because of the perception that Lee had done more work than the others and needed more reimbursement?”

Rock: It was no perception, it was fact.

AP; There is a difference of opinion on that. Okay?


AP attached to deposition, exhibit 5. A copy of a letter he wrote to my siblings. On page 5 in the last sentenceof second paragraph it read, in part. “I cannot and will not be recruited into any more of Lee’s schemes to further dominate these transactions.”

In the third paragraph lines 3, 4, and 5 “Lee may be hoping to leverage these actions into new concessionsfrom me, comparable to those obtained from his brothers. (Note the only thing I did was refuse to sign his phony documents that he had taken upon himself to create in order to take money from my sister. My son and my brother Jerry were manipulated by AP into thinking that I was privy to these shenanigans). 

There is much more information but it would only serve to cloud the issue that much more. I will add thaton one occasion AP struck me repeatedly in the face.

During the last hearing, Judge Mathis asked AP “you’re not trying to take these peoples’ land are you”?  

AP answered “No, your honor.”

          End (for now)


1 comment:

  1. I do not know anyone more deserving than Lee and Cecilia whom should, after all the trials and tribulations they have had to endure through out their lives, be able to retire on family land without the greed of an outsider coming into play. Good Luck Dad and Mom, Love Priscilla