Wednesday, July 24, 2013
The North Dakota Supreme Court has concluded that a criminal defense attorney who charged a $30,000 minimum fee did not violate ethics rules:
In this case, there is no evidence that [attorney] Hoffman breached the contract for legal services with [client] Wetmore; rather Wetmore terminated Hoffman's representation after previously terminating another attorney's representation. Furthermore, the agreement between Hoffman and Wetmore was entered before this Court's decision in Hann, which should have put lawyers on notice that unlimited usage of nonrefundable "minimum fee" agreements may be in question. To the contrary, there was evidence presented at the hearing that these types of agreements are common among the criminal defense bar in North Dakota.
The court nonetheless concluded that the attorney, who was discharged prior to completing the case, was obligated to return nearly $25,000 in unearned fees. (Mike Frisch)