Legal Ethics

Lawyer claims her arrest ordered by bankruptcy judge had an appearance of ‘vengeance’

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A bankruptcy judge in Palm Beach, Florida, has ordered the arrest of a lawyer who failed to show up for a show-cause hearing on Tuesday, later attributing her absence to the need to get medical attention for her daughter’s “serious gum condition.”

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge John Olson found lawyer Tina Talarchyk in contempt of court (PDF) and ordered her held until she pays nearly $11,000 to the court clerk and turns over trust account records to a bankruptcy examiner. The Daily Business Review (sub. req.) and Gossip Extra have stories.

Gossip Extra calls Talarchyk a “socialite” who is “one of the area’s most prominent defenders of broke folks.”

The funds to be turned over to the court clerk represent the money that should be left in Talarchyk’s trust account when her earned fees are subtracted from the $24,000 apparently paid for a fee and cost retainer, Olson said. The judge noted the amount of the retainer is in question, however.

Talarchyk and the client first said the lawyer was paid $25,000 for the retainer and a filing fee, then said it was $24,000, Olson said. And Talarchyk’s former bankruptcy partner, David Lloyd Merrill, raised more questions about the retainer in an unsworn court filing that claimed Talarchyk was trying to cause problems for him.

Merrill claims Talarchyk told him she would tell the court the actual retainer was $50,000, but that Merrill had taken half of it for an alimony payment to his ex-wife. Merrill’s motion deemed the allegation “nonsense.”

The Daily Business Review says Olson is known for sanctioning lawyers.

Talarchyk said in a motion for stay (PDF) pending appeal that she had already deposited the money with the clerk.

Talarchyk’s motion said she missed the court hearing because she took her daughter for medical attention for a “serious gum condition” on Tuesday. Talarchyk said she thought the hearing was a status conference and her attendance wasn’t required, and her lawyer did appear on her behalf.

Talarchyk’s motion maintains that actions by the court “give rise to an appearance of partiality, antagonism, vengeance, and other judicially inappropriate conduct.” She says the court has repeatedly subjected her to highly critical orders “tagged for publication” that are “upsetting, intimidating, intrusive and debilitating.”

Talarchyk claims her problems with Olson may stem from “professional altercations” with Olson’s husband, who is also a bankruptcy lawyer.

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