Lawyer’s RICO Suit for Fees Survives
Posted Oct 10, 2007 4:38 AM CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A federal judge has refused to dismiss part of a lawyer’s RICO suit that contends lawyers for her ex-client helped hide money that should have paid his fees.
Judge Gene E.K. Pratter of Philadelphia allowed Ellen Marshall to pursue a New Jersey RICO claim against the lawyers but dismissed a federal claim under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the Legal Intelligencer reports. Pratter concluded the New Jersey law is broader than its federal counterpart.
Ellen Marshall has been pursuing unpaid legal fees of $76,000 against ex-divorce client Warren Matthei for the last 14 years, reportedly at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the opinion (PDF) said. She is now seeking more than $1 million in damages. Matthei, a millionaire stockbroker, spent nearly a decade in jail after he refused to pay child support to his ex-wife and fees to Marshall.
“This case presents such a complicated, convoluted and contentious dispute over unpaid legal fees that the legal issues at the core of the dispute are virtually obscured,” the judge wrote. “At a minimum, this dispute exemplifies why there are reports of the public’s disdain for lawyers.”