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Legal Ethics

Probe Finds No Evidence of Wrongdoing by Court-Appointed Lawyer Who Billed $1M in Half a Decade

Posted Aug 27, 2012 9:19 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Georgia lawyer who billed Gwinnett County $1.1 million for court-appointed defense work between 2005 and 2010 has been cleared of wrongdoing in a probe by the district attorney.

The lawyer, Rodney Harris, is now a judge in Recorder’s Court, which handles traffic citations and code violations. His lawyer, Walt Britt, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Harris “was guilty of poor penmanship or scrivener's errors, and in other billing items followed the common practice and custom of the Gwinnett Judicial Circuit Indigent Defense Program.”

When Harris billed for court time on Saturdays and Sundays, he apparently did the work on different days but erred when he prepared a lot of bills at once, according to David Lipscomb, chairman of the Indigent Defense Governing Committee. When Harris billed for more than 24 hours in a day, he was billing for some work at a flat rate, as permitted by the committee, according to a letter by District Attorney Danny Porter, who investigated at the request of a superior court judge.

One example: Lawyers are allowed to bill 1½ hours for reviewing and preparing discovery motions, and Harris filed 13 of them in one day. He also spent seven hours in court, and spent additional time working on case files or meeting with prosecutors.

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