► Judge Paul Haakenson of San Rafael, CA; One of the Good Guys Print E-mail

Judge Paul Haakenson of San Rafael, CA; One of the Good Guys

 

The state of California presented Paul Miller Haakenson with a law license in 19993 after he graduated from the University of San Francisco Law School.

 

Judge Haakenson was appointed a Marin County Superior Court judge in 2006. His current elected term expires in 2017.

 

Over the past three years, Judge Haakenson presided over a case brought by so-called public interest lawyers on behalf of the poor folks in trying to reform the local welfare program. The lawsuit sough reforms in general assistance, a program that hands out a max of $387 a month to the poor, which is the most generous in Calfiornia.

 

A settlement of the case occurred in 2013 included an agreement that reforms would be enacted. After the settlement, Judge Haakenson derided the billing records of the so-called public interest lawyers, concluding “that a vast majority of the hours billed were excessive, duplicative and not reasonably spent.”

 

Judge Haakenson went on to say in his ruling:

 

  • “The billing records as a whole evidence substantial duplication and overbilling.”
  • “Particularly where counsel are earning fees as high as $710 an hour, the duplication of efforts, multiple conferences and meetings, and concurrent time spent by numerous attorneys on issues that do not require special expertise, warrant a substantial reduction from the fees sought.”

The settlement with Marin County capped any fee award at $1.15 million. However, the greedy lawyers had the chutzpah to claim they spent 3,767 hours on the case and claimed they were entitled to twice the $1.15 million settlement cap.

 

In a lame effort at levity, the greedy lawyers laughingly claimed that they “exercised considerable billing judgment” by dropping or not billing for another 1,094 hours.

 

In awarding fees of $423,574, Judge Haakenson rightful called the billings “profoundly excessive” and stated that in most cases, lawyers were only entitled to 15 to 20 percent of the hours they claimed. In his ruling, Haakenson cut the 1,711 hours billed by greedy attorney Judith Gold, a $710 an hour attorney for the law project to 257 hours, reducing her unconscionable claim of $1.2 million to $182,000.

 

Judge Haakenson went on to state in his well reasoned ruling:

 

  • “The vast majority of time was billed by the higher rate attorneys, while much of the work could have been performed by less costly counsel.”
  • “While the case indeed was a complex one in some respects, the majority of the thousands of hours billed were billed for work on issues lacking that complexity.”
  • “Double, triple or quadruple billed conferences”
  • “On some occasions, four attorneys consulted together, each billing,”
  • One attorney billed $630 per “for tasks such as calling Michigan to find local counsel and arranging travel.”

And lastly, Haakenson indicated that lawyers wasted time with convoluted pleadings requiring submission of new legal briefs. The judge then said, “Time not reasonably spent” included oral arguments that the he found “highly excessive.”

 

Given the magnitude of the double-billing, etc. by these so-called “public interest” lawyers, they all should have their law licenses revoked.

 

Kudos to Judge Paul Haakenson for having the courage and fortitude to tell these greedy and highly unethical attorneys to take a hike in regards to their efforts to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense of the Marin County taxpayers.

 

As we speak (ca. October 2014), Judge Haakenson remains sitting as a Marin County Superior Court judge in San Rafael, California.

 

 
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