June 19, 2020 Articles

Silly Lawyer Tricks XX

The traditional rules still apply—three strikes and you’re out!

By Tom Donlon

Royce v. Michael R. Needle P.C., 950 F.3d 939 (7th Cir. 2020)

There may not be many baseball games played in the current climate, but one attorney learned that the traditional rules still apply—three strikes and you’re out!

The attorney started the game off very well. After litigating a RICO claim for several years, he and his local counsel settled the case for $4.2 million. Id. at 944. Unfortunately, at that point, greed set in. The lawyer claimed that he and cocounsel were entitled to almost 60 percent of the settlement. The clients—and cocounsel—disagreed because a written contingent fee agreement set attorney fees at one-third. Id. at 943. This led to extra innings with “a long, tortured history.” Id. The legal issues were not unduly complex or novel, but the attorney “protracted it every step of the way.” Id. He “routinely and unapologetically tested the district court’s patience, disregarded court orders, and caused unnecessary delays.” Id. Yet, in the end, he lost the game.

The district court first rejected the attorney’s attempt to grab 60 percent of the settlement. It concluded that his arguments on this issue “were ‘not merely wrong but frivolous, disregarding what anyone having taken a first-year contracts class could identify’ . . . and ‘utterly devoid of merit.’” Id. at 945. Strike one!

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