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 &
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
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
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.