Spring 2018 • Issue 63, page 12

Professional Profile: Richardson “Red” Griswold

By *

Receivership News had the privilege of inter-viewing Richardson “Red” C. Griswold for this edition’s member profile. Red, a long-standing member of the California Receivership Forum, shares his journey from law school to health and safety receiver extraordinaire. Read our interview with Red and feel the inspiration to do quality receivership work, make good professional friends, and give back to your community.

Q: How were you introduced to health & safety receiverships?
By complete happenstance. After graduating from law school at California Western School of Law in San Diego, I took a litigation associate position at a construction defect firm. After only a year at the firm, my entrepreneurial itch persisted and won. A close friend of mine from college, Mark MacFarlane (also a recently licensed California attorney at the time), convinced me to move to Los Angeles and join him in taking over the day-to-day of a long-standing apartment management and brokerage firm. The owners were looking to retire, and we intended to purchase the company through a phased earn-out agreement. While learning to run a small business, manage people and navigate the real estate industry, I also tripped into an active health and safety receivership involving an apartment building in Fullerton. Our management company was hired by receiver Mark Adams. He and the project introduced me to the nuts and bolts of a health and safety receivership, and I became highly intrigued because it seemed to fit my background and interests.

Negotiations on the purchase of the real estate company in Los Angeles ultimately sputtered and I decided to move back to my roots in San Diego County and start my own practice.

Q: What is the focus of your practice now?
After coming back from Los Angeles in 2008, I started Griswold Law, APC. To pay the bills, I took on real estate, business and employment litigation matters. However, my long-term plan was to build up a receivership practice. As my receivership appointments increased over those first few years, I was able to close out my general litigation practice and focus solely on receivership matters. I also commonly act as a partition referee.
Currently, I have been appointed by 68 California courts across twelve counties to act as a health and safety receiver or partition referee. My health and safety receiverships typically entail my team taking over hoarder houses, nuisance/abandoned properties, substandard apartments/motels and illegal marijuana dispensaries. Different from rents and profits receiverships, the nominating petitioner in a health and safety receivership is a municipality—typically a city or county. The purpose of the receivership is to rehabilitate the property back into compliance with the applicable city, county and state building and safety provisions. After achieving compliance, the property owner may address the receivership certificate lien and take back possession of the property, or in many cases I sell the property through a court-approved sale.

I really enjoy the combination of getting out to a receivership property site and talking directly with property owners, occupants, inspectors and contractors—while also continuing to rely on my experience and comfort dealing with judges, attorneys and litigants in the courtroom. There have been many days where I attend a court hearing in the morning and then change into my jeans and boots in my car to go directly to a receivership property for an inspection!

At the same time, these receiverships can be emotionally draining for me and my staff. We regularly deal with property owners and/or occupants suffering from some degree of mental illness or drug addiction. This may be in the context of an owner-occupied hoarding situation or an abandoned property overrun by squatters. It is also our job to ensure the safety of occupants at a substandard receivership property (i.e. apartments, motels), which many times can include young children. We are often tasked with coordinating temporary relocation arrangements for affected occupants. Fortunately, I have a patient and resourceful team at my office that never hesitates to roll up their sleeves and tackle some of the messiest issues anyone could dream up! Also, we are active members with the San Diego Hoarding Collaborative and confer regularly with an array of mental health agencies in order to best do our job.

Q: What do you enjoy doing as relief from your work?
My wife, Susan, and I have two boys—ages 5 and 3. Spending time with them is my escape. At their age, every day is a new adventure and, while exhausting, Susan and I love introducing them to new experiences. We have gotten our kids pretty comfortable traveling, be it to the snow, new beach towns or darting around to different states to visit family. Personally, I enjoy surfing, playing in a basketball league, coaching sports and following sports (but NOT the Chargers anymore!). Recently I began guitar lessons. I had always wanted to learn….Wow, I now have a much stronger respect for musicians—it is tough!

Q: Do you have any charitable groups or causes you are involved with?
My wife and I are part of the founding group that funded the recent expansion of Defy Ventures, Inc. into San Diego County. Defy is an entrepreneurship, employment and character development training program for currently and formerly incarcerated men, women and youth. I also support and act as a volunteer case reviewer for the California Innocence Project (“CIP”), which is based at my alma mater California Western School of Law. In law school, I was a clinic student with CIP. It was actually one of the main reasons I chose to attend California Western. CIP is dedicated to the release of wrongfully convicted inmates. I am also a volunteer member of the Juvenile Court Book Club, which is a monthly book club with teenage boys in juvenile hall. As is evident, I am drawn to criminal justice reform and second chances!

Q: What do you think led you to take such interest in those causes?
My father has been a criminal defense attorney in San Diego County for forty years. Criminal justice has always intrigued me. I have vivid memories of tagging along with my dad to his court hearings as a kid. It was always eye-opening and exciting. I always have admired my dad in his role as an attorney. I had a fantastic experience with CIP during law school and thought long and hard about staying that course following law school. Also, I generally love the underdog and believe that no matter what mistakes one has made, it is in the best interests of society to rehabilitate and educate people so they become contributing citizens and do not repeat the same mistakes.

Q: You mentioned your father is an attorney, any other attorneys in the family?
No, I was the only sucker in my immediate family! I was born and raised in Carlsbad, California as the youngest of four siblings. Maybe that is where my affection for the underdog came from. I always did, and continue to, look up to my older sisters and brother. All three of them lead happy lives with their spouses and children. We remain a very close family and get together often as we are all in California. I attribute that level of closeness to my mom. Her love is really the glue within our family.

Q: So you did not ultimately stray too far from your hometown?
I did not. Apart from my going away to UC Davis for college, I have always had a tough time being too far away from the San Diego area. I still spend lots of time with many of my childhood friends who have also established careers and families in San Diego County. Carlsbad was a great place to grow up. I was obsessed with playing sports and played football, basketball and baseball through high school. If I was not on a field playing, I was in the stands watching my older siblings play in their games. Like most sports-crazed kids, I was convinced I could make it professionally. Once reality set in, I still explored a career in sports. While in law school, I worked for the San Diego Padres off and on for three years. I was an assistant to the ownership group (Moores family at the time), interned with the general counsel and helped out on projects with the baseball operations department. I also interned at The Upper Deck Company (sports card company) during law school, which is headquartered in Carlsbad. I can honestly say that was the BEST job I ever took because I met my wife while we were both short-term employees there! In fact, to commemorate our workplace origins and our shared love of sports, we spread Upper Deck baseball cards around the table settings at our wedding rehearsal dinner.

Q: How has the California Receivers Forum helped you professionally?
The support and friendship among members is strong. Being that receiverships are somewhat of a niche remedy, I was so thankful to find CRF years ago. It is an organization filled with professionals with deep experience who are eager to share knowledge and build up fellow members. I can still recall meeting long-time CRF member and former San Diego Receivers Forum President Gary Rudolph several years ago at a San Diego chapter event in Seaport Village. It was my first event. Gary was so welcoming and encouraging, which I believe epitomizes the CRF organization. Gary remains a mentor to me to this day.

Another recent example of CRF’s supportive nature involves former CRF President Gordon Dunfee. I was appointed as receiver over a real estate development partnership dispute. The assignment was a bit out of my comfort zone, and I was directed to prepare a feasibility study to assess the benefits of the receivership finishing out the development versus selling the project in its partially-developed condition. I called Gordy on a Friday and sought his assistance as a consultant to prepare the feasibility report. The Court set a tight deadline for me. Gordy patiently addressed my rookie questions about development matters and then volunteered to take on the 1000+ page developer file that weekend and outline the feasibility report with me the following Monday. The receivership was effective and aided the disputing partners toward a compromised resolution.

These are just a couple instances of the support and camaraderie shared by our CRF members.