Attorney Fees

Panel: $680K Bill Inaccurate, Unreasonable

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A legal bill of nearly $680,000 allegedly owed by Nassau County in New York to a Washington, D.C., law firm for work performed in 2002 doesn’t have to be paid, an arbitration panel says. That’s because the bill was “not accurate, not reasonable and not credible.”

Zorc & Chase billed “extraordinarily high hours” for “very minimal legal work,” the panel also held in an opinion (PDF) earlier this month, reports New York Lawyer (reg. req.), in an article reprinted from the New York Law Journal. Originally, the firm sent a bill of well over $1 million, and the county paid about half of it in 2003.

Judith Chase, one of the firm’s two name partners, says she is mystified by the arbitration finding.

“Z&C bills were drafted to show what was being done and why; monthly bills averaged over 25 pages and were unusually detailed as to specific work being done,” she says in an e-mail to the publication. “Numerous county officials had commented that these bills were far better than other legal bills the county typically received.”

However, both the arbitration panel and opposing counsel contend that the firm’s billing was quite unusual in some ways.

“According to the decision, the firm’s lawyers allegedly threatened to sue the county, threatened to publish defamatory articles in local newspapers about county officials, sent e-mails to at least one county attorney threatening her with RICO claims and sent a poem to county officials alleging, among other things, that a senior county official was “in the sack, with a French [government] minister,” the article recounts.

Says Meredith Feinman, the chief executive deputy County Attorney, “They wrote this amazingly bizarre poem, which was very insulting and sarcastic.”

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