Story No. 1. A family comes in to see me about an appeal. The father had been convicted of gross sexual imposition and sentenced to three years in prison. The lawyer who tried the case said he'd handle the appeal, and had filed the notice, precipe, and docketing statement a week before. The notice is a one-sentence document; it just says that you're appealing the judgment of whatever date to the court of appeals of whatever county. The precipe and docketing statement can be filled out online. On a bad day, it takes me about half an hour.
The family hired me a couple weeks later, and informed the other lawyer of that the same day the transcripts were filed. There's not a whole lot you can do with an appeal until the transcripts come in. Lots of times family members who were present at the trial will want to tell me what happened, and I tell them it doesn't matter what they saw or heard. As far as the court of appeals is concerned, if it isn't in the transcript, it didn't happen.
Before they formally retained me, but, sadly, after I'd quoted them my fee, they told me they'd paid the other lawyer $25,000 for the appeal, and asked me if they could get it back. I told them he was entitled to get paid for the work he'd done, but otherwise, yes, he had to refund the remainder of the fee.
The son called me last week and told me he'd met with the lawyer. The lawyer told them that since they were a nice family, he was going to give them back $5,000, and keep $20,000.
Story No. 2. I'm handing an appeal for another family, a mother and daughter. The daughter got involved in some post-decree domestic relations litigation over visitation and custody issues. She worked as a state-tested nursing assistant, making about ten bucks an hour. Her lawyer charged $300 an hour, so the mother co-signed the fee agreement. She drained her retirement account to pay the lawyer $20,000.
The case ended eleven months later when the ex-husband committed suicide. Two years after that, the lawyer sued the mother and daughter for $40,000 more. The judge granted him summary judgment.
The case is probably coming back. There's law that in a suit for attorney fees, even one based on contract, the lawyer has to show that the fees are reasonable and necessary. That wasn't even alleged, let alone considered. If the case does get reversed, that should be a fun trial. Jurors don't like lawyers - hell, who does? -- and I'm not sure you'll find too many who are keen on giving a lawyer anywhere close to that kind of money.
Story No. 3. This past Wednesday, the Ohio Supreme Court heard oral argument on whether John D. Tynes had the requisite character and fitness to be considered for admission to the Ohio Bar. Here's what you need to know about Tynes:
- He's 65 years old
- He wants to be a lawyer so he can assist prisoners in the system, and ex-prisoners adjust to re-entry into society
- 17 years ago, while in the military, he tried to hook up with three girls under the age of 15. Two turned him down; the third was an FBI agent. He was convicted of various sex crimes, including child pornography, and did 19 months in prison.
Tynes' lawyer did a superb job laying out his case, both factually and legally. The Board of Commissioners argued that Tynes' crimes meant that he should never be allowed to sit for the bar. As Tynes' lawyer pointed out, lawyers are a randy lot, and there are a number who've committed sex offenses and maybe lost their ticket for a while, but weren't disbarred. (He didn't say that lawyers are a randy lot, but you could certainly make the argument. One attorney was disciplined for having sex with the 15-year-old daughter of a client. My favorite, though, was the lawyer who had sex with his criminal client in the holding cell up in one of the courtrooms here.)
But it wasn't going anywhere. The lawyer for the Bar Association claimed that he wasn't asking for a bright-line rule that anyone convicted of sex offense involving children was automatically disqualified from seeking admission to the bar, but he closed by telling the justices that the public would be outraged if they knew a sex offender had been admitted to practice. That's a valid point, and one the justices could certainly understand, given the flashback when the court allowed Derek Anthony Farmer to be admitted to the bar in 1999, despite the fact that Farmer served 18 years in prison for his involvement in the murder of a police officer and a jewelry store owner. That flashback, coupled with the fact that Farmer was subsequently suspended for bilking prisoners' families, was probably the reason that Tynes' attorneys never mentioned Farmer's name.
So Tynes isn't going to be able to help prisoners.
Maybe he should have told the bar association he was just in it for the money.