Attorneys scuffle in Merced courthouse

MERCED -- An argument between two attorneys at the Merced County Courthouse grew into a brief fight Thursday, prompting witnesses and a Merced County sheriff's deputy to break it up.

Modesto attorney Thomas Hogan and Merced attorney Paul Fromson gave different accounts of the incident, each blaming the other. The Merced County Sheriff's Department reported the incident based on witness statements, although no one was arrested.

Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman, said the incident happened around 8:45 a.m. in a courthouse hallway, and the attorneys were attending a hearing in family court.

MacKenzie said Hogan had "said something" to Fromson's client. Fromson responded by telling Hogan not to speak to his client. At that point, Hogan allegedly made an anti-Semitic remark to Fromson, which prompted Fromson to pin Hogan against a window after grabbing him around the collar with both hands and squeezing, according to witness statements given to sheriff's deputies.

Fromson then made a fist as if he were going to punch Hogan, MacKenzie said, although witnesses and a deputy then broke up the parties before the conflict could escalate.

While neither attorney denied the incident took place, the descriptions of how it occurred vary. Hogan denied making anti-Semitic remarks to Fromson -- while Fromson claims that it was Hogan who first pushed him.

Hogan said he has filed an assault and battery complaint with the Sheriff's Department against Fromson. The Merced County district attorney's office will determine whether to file charges.

Hogan called the incident an unprovoked attack, saying that he had never even "laid a finger" on Fromson.

The Bee reported last year that the State Bar posted a notice of disciplinary action against Hogan. The article stated that Hogan failed to keep a client informed of significant developments in a business dispute and continued to litigate a real estate case, even though his client repeatedly requested that the lawsuit be dropped. Hogan pleaded no contest to the allegations of misconduct with four clients.