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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Reduced fees. Well, there's one attorney who probably will take a hit in his business now that the decision in In re Goldstein has been released. David Goldstein, for reasons that are not clear, took an inordinate amount time to consummate the settlement of a wrongful death action in which he represented the plaintiff. Different explanations for the delay were given to different parties at different times in the case. At any rate, despite the delay, Goldstein asked for his full contingeny fee. The magistrate judge balked, noting that a number of Goldstein's cases had languished because of his lack of attention and disregard of court orders and that she had previously recommended sanctions against him in another case. The magistrate judge issued a recommendation that Goldstein's fees and expenses be radically reduced. The District Court adopted the recommendation. The Court referred the case to the Grievance Committee for the First Department and for the Eastern District of New York. Goldstein appealed.

The Second Circuit held that the District Court had the authority to reduce his fees and its decision to do so in this case was not an abuse of discretion. The Court stated: "Goldstein's arguments regarding the reduction of his fees demonstrate no error, much less and abuse of discretion. When asked to provide evidence of his disbursements, he did not do so. That failure and the treatment of his client, who had to personally seek the court's aid in forcing Goldstein to complete the settlement, slone justify the reduced award."

The Second Circuit held that it did have jurisdiction to consider an appeal from that part of the District Court's order, referring the matter to the disciplinary committees because the order had reputational consequences and potential costs in responding to the referral. This jurisdiction is limited. The Court may only review in such a case "for prejudicial procedural error, clear error in findings of fact, and abuse of discretion in the sanction imposed." Under the circumstances of the case, the Court affirmed this section of the order as well.

The decision in this case can be found here.

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