Contradicting a sworn statement: Fee Fight

When in trouble keep your story straight.

Tom Williams case was heard by now CoA judge Rudy Pyle and for Williams, heard too carefully.  Defending a suit to explain how his client ran out of money that was under his control, Williams testified that the funds he took were for legal fees. The  court found that it included “an inordinate amount of unproductive and nonprofessional work … no conceivable reason for the fees charged, … and [he] committed what amounted to constructive fraud….”  This led to a charge before the Disciplinary Commission and Supreme Court of unreasonable fees and other misdeeds. Williams then compounded the situation by changing his story, under oath again, at the disciplinary hearing. There he denied he was client’s attorney, but was a writer working on a project for her and so his actions were not governed by the RPC!  Judge Pyle and the S.Ct saw it differently.  For more read the Williams Opinion

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Grossly Inflated Fees Requested and Slapped Down

For my first Slap Down, it is good to have an out-of-state case, this one out of New York, where four firms teamed up to help a client win a verdict of $12,500 (no there are no more zeros after that) and since they were “entitled to fees” on the case asked the judge for $2.7 Million in fees. Federal Judge Joanna Seybert said the request was not only “outrageously excessive” but also done “in bad faith.” She went on to claim the lead firm “grossly inflated” their fee, “misrepresenting the hours billed,” and more.

I wonder if, under RPC Rule 8.3, the judge reported this situation as professional misconduct, raising “a substantial question as to that lawyer’s (or all the lawyers who signed onto the fee petition or submitted a bogus bill) honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects…”

This case included some of the biggest of BIGLAW law firms.  We don’t often see firms such as Chadbourne & Parke, or Williams & Connolly on a list of slap down recipients.  They got it this time.  See the Toussie Opinion.  H/T Patrick Olmstead & to the NY Law Journal article.

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Note of Appreciation

A note of appreciation to Terry Harrell, Exec. Dir. of the Indiana Judges & Lawyers Assistance Program of the Indiana Supreme Court for sponsoring a session on Attorney Surrogates, and the Indiana Rule yesterday at the Indiana Judges Conference.  Panelists included Judge Heimann, Judge Cody, Senior Judge Ready, Terry Harrell and me.  I know one senior judge was looking at an appointment issue today. I trust they got more than just the guidebook for the hour the 80+ judges spent.

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