► Judge Harriet Thompson of Brooklyn; one of the good gals Print E-mail

Judge Harriet Thompson of Brooklyn; one of the good gals

  

Judge Thompson was assigned to hear a case in Brooklyn Civil Court involving a tenant eviction matter wherein the Law Office of Thaniel J. Beinert represented the landlord, Inna Litinskaya.

 

In April 2004, Litinskaya agreed to retain the Beinert firm for a flat fee of $3,000 in an attempt to remove tenants, who were her ex-husband’s parents, from a Brooklyn apartment. Litinskaya obtained her interest in the apartment under a divorce judgment. (NY Law Journal)

 

Subsequently, the Beinert firm made repeated attempts to void the lease in New Jersey Superior Court, where the divorce action took place, but that court denied the motions based on lack of jurisdiction. In September 2004, the Beinert firm claimed it was owed more than $15,000. The firm agreed to reduce the bill to $7,500 after Litinskaya complained of overbilling.

 

In May 2005, the Beinert firm sued Litinskaya to collect $18,175 in fees, and Litinskaya answered with counterclaims alleging malpractice, and fraud. Seven years later when the fee dispute came to trial, the Beinert firm had the chutzpah to claim that Litinskaya owed more than $90,000, including interest charges.

 

Judge Thompson then rendered the following decision by stating in part:

 

  • Actions in New Jersey were unreasonable
  • Attempts to modify or declare lease agreement null and void were improper
  • “This action did not involve any novelty or difficulty.”
  • “Any experienced and skillful landlord and tenant attorney could have accomplished the primary objective in this case in a very short period of time.”

 

Judge Thompson also questioned the use of a law student and an inexperienced associate by stating:

 

  • “If this was such a complex legal case, would a managing partner and owner of the law firm with presumably 8 years of legal experience have delegated the responsibility of handing this case to a three year law student … and to an associate with 3 years or less of legal experience and training?”
  • The hours spent by the law student and associate “were clearly excessive.”
  • “Attorneys are not entitled to compensation that creates a windfall.”

 

Judge Thompson then denied the Beinert law firms claim for $90,057 in legal fees as without merit by saying:

 

  • “No one could argue that a reasonable paying client would be willing to pay in excess of $90,000.00 for a result valued at $3,000 or less.”

 

Since Litinskaya had already paid the Beinert firm $10,500 and had paid another attorney, Steven Garfinkle $3,500 to perform the work Beinert was unable to do, Judge Thompson ruled that the Beinert firm was not entitled to fees and was required to refund Litinskaya $1,918.

 

Kudos to Judge Harriet Thompson for having the courage and fortitude in refusing to rubber stamp attorney fees that was clearly excessive and unconscionable.

 

Unfortunately, the Disciplinary Committee for the First Judicial Department has not taken any action against any member of the Beinert firm for violating the rules prohibiting an attorney from charging or collecting a clearly unreasonable fee.

 

As we speak (ca. December 2014), the Beinert firm headed up by Thaniel Beinert continues to do business at 155 Bay Ridge Avenue in Brooklyn, New York.

 

 
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