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Attorney Fees

N.J. Fee Arbitrations Remain Secret

Posted Jul 20, 2007 8:50 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The New Jersey Supreme Court has declined to adopt a rule that would let parties talk publicly about attorney fee arbitrations.

The state Professional Responsibility Rules Committee had recommended that the gag be lifted, the New Jersey Law Journal reports. Under the proposal, clients who arbitrate a fee dispute with their lawyers would have been allowed to speak about the dispute, the arbitration and the result. Lawyers would have been permitted to reply to clients’ public comments.

Richard Gutman of Montclair, N.J., had sought to lift the confidentiality requirement. He had based his petition on a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that overturned a gag rule in attorney discipline cases for violating the First Amendment.

Gutman said the court’s latest decision will keep clients from disclosing unfair fee arbitrations. “If a client is dissatisfied, they're gaggled from discussing the results. They can't say 'I don't think it was fair.' "

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