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Lawyer has gone off his nut

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  • Lawyer has gone off his nut

    I can no longer trust our lawyer. He has lied to us about the trustee's instructions to cover up his own mistakes. He has been incompetent since day 1. We've had 6 or 7 341 meetings (I lost count). The biggest reason this is being dragged out is because of Sched. C amendments not being filed or, when they are filed, having significant mistakes on them. We also haven't been allowed to see or sign amendments prior to the lawyer submitting them electronically. Turns out this is a big deal in our area (local rules), and I think that he's being investigated by the US Trustee because of it. He hounded us like a bill collector last week to come in and sign old amendments, saying that this is per the trustee's instructions. (When asked, the trustee said that he hadn't instructed us to do that). I have it all in writing (email).

    We can't afford to hire another attorney. Heck, we also can't afford to register our car, pay our water bill, and we sure as heck can't afford yet another long, out-of-town drive to the federal courthouse to listen to the trustee point out all the mistakes the lawyer made (again). I feel trapped.

    Can I file the (hopefully final) Sched. C amendment myself, even though I (technically) have an attorney? If I fire my lawyer, will we have to start back at square one with the bankruptcy? I just want this to END. We received our discharge MONTHS ago. I can't believe this is dragging on this long.

  • #2
    Hi ESinCA:

    Welcome to the forum. I hear your pain!

    My DH and I were in a similar place when we first found this forum. Except that our case was a lot further along than yours.

    There are a couple of things you can do. First call the Clerk of the BK Court and ask to speak to your caseworker. Your case number will determine who is assigned to you. Ask if you can file the amendments yourself, even though you have an Attorney of Record, and how to do it. You likely will be referred to the attorney, but ask anyway. If your attorney is a bad as you say, the people in BK Court, already know this character and the problems he/she is causing you and others.

    Next, if you wish, and you feel up to handling your case yourself, you can file a MOTION with the Court to 'Discharge Attorney and Proceed Pro Se'.

    We did this with our attorney and I'll dig up the paperwork and post a sample Motion later on, if you are interested. In our case, everything had been done and we were only waiting for the 60 days to tick down. The judge told us if he granted the Motion, it could delay our case. He did not elaborate. We all agreed that it was in our best interest to leave things as they were, and he denied the Motion. However, it cost the attorney a days work, as the courthouse is an hour's drive from her place of business, and she had to appear at the hearing.
    "To go bravely forward is to invite a miracle."

    "Worry is the darkroom where negatives are formed."


    • #3
      Thank Angelina. I'm still undecided about firing our attorney (yet). He does next to nothing, is supremely unhelpful and, to be frank, doesn't appear to know very much about bankruptcy law. BUT... all this has been dragging on for 6 months. Our 7th (yes, seventh) 341 meeting is this week, so hopefully it will end things once and for all. We might not get to keep an exempt cash asset, because the trustee wants me to "trace the income" (or something like that), and I don't know how to do that. Google has failed me. I asked my lawyer and he gave 2 general suggestions, no details, and told me good luck.

      Meanwhile, the lawyer is being soundly smacked around by the US Trustee for the misconduct I mentioned in the original post. I guess every cloud has a silver lining.

      New question: how bad is it if my lawyer LIED on the "Disclosure of Compensation" I paid TWO legal fees to him in two separate checks: the standard fee (given to the paralegal) and a fee to "expedite" the process, which was given directly to the lawyer and literally went straight into his wallet. The reason I paid the exp. fee is because he and his paralegal told me that it might take weeks or months to file, there was no way to tell how long I'd have to wait. Anyway, on the Disclosure he only listed the standard legal fee, not the exp. fee.


      • #4
        A "expedite" fee that is off the record? Wow. Just wow.

        I think that should be reported to the state bar of California. I also think that should be reported to the trustee at your 7th 341. Bring both canceled checks - I know with my bank, I can print them from my home printer.

        I imagine that a trustee might be miffed about it and I've heard of trustees forcing attorneys to return parts of their fees.
        Chapter 7, above median, no asset. Discharged with no UST involvement.


        • #5
          If this attny is under investigation you might be able to find another attny who will pick up the pieces for little or no cost. Contact the US Trustee to confirm that there are problems and, if there are, ask if the UST has a list of attnys who can help. Also, the Court may have a "self help" center if you wish to fire the attny and then proceed pro se. Call to find out.



          • #6
            Thanks for the suggestion. I'll call the UST's office and see if they can point me toward some help. The UST has already filed a motion for sanctions and a couple other things (incl. a review of fees!) against our attorney, directly as a result of how our case has been handled. The UST didn't know about the attorney lying on the Disclosure of Compensation form. They do now But, the trial atty can't speak to me, because I'm still Bad-Lawyer's client. However, she did tell me that I could attend the hearing and tell everything I told her directly to the judge. So, I'm going to do that.

            Meanwhile, Bad-Lawyer is being realllly nice to me. It's kind of creepy, to be honest. I wish I could just fire him now, but I'm worried that it will drag this thing out even longer.

            Our seventh 341 meeting is tomorrow. So, let's all hope it's LUCKY No. 7 and this nightmare will be over soon


            • #7
              Good luck with going to the sanctions hearing, and on your 341 tomorrow!
              "To go bravely forward is to invite a miracle."

              "Worry is the darkroom where negatives are formed."


              • #8
                Thanks, AngelinaCat I think, for better or worse, it will be over tomorrow.

                My husband and I have had long talks about "losing the battle but winning the war," because we'll likely lose a significant EXEMPT asset, because of Bad-Lawyer's bad lawyering. But that is only a setback, it's not the last chapter in our story, and I still have the sanctions hearing to look forward to. It would probably be considered bad form to bring a soda and popcorn with me, so I can kick back and really enjoy the show ... but I'm tempted ;-)

                At the end of this mess, Bad-Lawyer will lose far, far more than us. Not only will he lose cash (hopefully), he'll also lose his reputation. Unfortunately for him, he lost his integrity and self-respect a long time ago. What a waste.


                • #9
                  Please keep us posted as to how it goes.
                  "To go bravely forward is to invite a miracle."

                  "Worry is the darkroom where negatives are formed."


                  • #10
                    well, it's not over. We are scheduled for an EIGHTH 341 meeting. I should totally contact the Guiness people, because I'm pretty this is some kind of record. But... despite that, it was actually pretty awesome. It was full of pleasant surprises and moments of hilarity. The ch 7 trustee started asking us questions and pointing out things that our so-called lawyer should have pointed out (um... except we haven't actually seen our lawyer outside of 341 meetings in... 5? months). So, the ch 7 trustee helped me figure out what needed to be fixed on the schedules (and most of the time he spoke directly to me and ignored our idiot lawyer), and worked out what we'd end up paying (a lot LESS than I'd expected, so that was nice). Finally, when we got everything ironed out, ch 7 trustee looked straight at our lawyer and said, with a smirk on his face, "Do you understand what we're doing here? Do you understand what YOU need to do on the schedules?" (HILARIOUS, I almost LOL'd). So, then he continues it to next month (sigh) and I think everything's over.

                    I was wrong.

                    All of a sudden an unassuming younger woman stands up and introduces herself as the trial attorney for the US Trustee's office. She proceeded to clarify a few small things with me and DH. Then she turned her sights on Bad Lawyer and GRILLED him about some financial misconduct (for example: lying on the Declaration of Compensation), caught him in lies and had him so messed up by the end that he had tears in his eyes and admitted to me and DH - on the record! - "I know I was negligent..." I mean, she so seriously smacked Bad Lawyer down, I was in awe of her. I cannot wait until his hearing before the judge. I don't have to be there, but I wouldn't miss it for the world

                    I can only imagine what was going through the heads of the other people in the room. If nothing else, it was entertaining.

                    Meanwhile, back in the real world, there are the schedules that need to amended. He emailed the amended schedules to me on Monday and they were totally, blatantly, stupidly wrong. He is, quite possibly the dumbest attorney alive. Now, in his defense, he doesn't actually DO any of the legal work. His role is to show up at 341 meetings, and do the initial signing. His paralegal (a total jerk, btw) does EVERYTHING else - initial consult, advising as to which chapter, completing the original and amended schedules... everything. Clearly, the paralegal is not very good at his job. And clearly, our attorney honestly has no idea how to do bankruptcy.

                    So, anyway, I went by on Tuesday to pick up my refund check (he magically offered me a FULL refund of fees during the UST's smackdown, instead of the partial one he'd offered the day before), and Bad Lawyer asked why I didn't have the amendments signed. I told him they were wrong. And he said - I kid you not! - he said, "I didn't see anything wrong on the amendments. Why don't you show me?" So, I grabbed the amendments and the pen and started crossing things out, explaining what I was doing, and he was like, "No, no! I'm sure that needs to stay in!" (Um... no. Were you LISTENING to the ch. 7 trustee at our last 341?) One of my favorite (or not) mistakes was the wages exemption. 75% are exempt. So, if we had $100 in our checking acct (I'm making up numbers here), we EXEMPT $75 and $25 is NOT EXEMPT and goes to the trustee. The schedule had it backward: it EXEMPTED only $25, which would have left us having to pay the trustee $75.

                    Finally, in a reallllly quiet voice that scares my children, b/c they know it means I'm about to completely lose it, I said, "I am having trouble staying calm. I am going to leave." He kept jabbering away about how the amendment was really okay, and I had to repeat myself, get up and walk out, just to get him to be quiet.

                    So, that's where it stands. I *love, love, love* the UST and Wonder Woman (the trial attorney). I am grateful to the ch. 7 trustee for realizing what an idiot my lawyer is, taking pity on us, and walking me through the fixes that needed to happen. So, despite yet another continuation it was a great meeting, and I'm feeling calm and at peace for the first time in months.

                    Now, I need to find out how to sue Bad Lawyer, so I can can get back the money I lost in this case (it should have been a no-asset case, but the paralegal gave us WRONG advice and screwed us to the tune of about $5k... ouch...). I'm also preparing my complaint to the bar assn. Wish me luck


                    • #11
                      All I can say is wow.


                      • #12
                        double wow!
                        8/4/2008 MAKE SURE AND VISIT Tobee's Blogs! and all are welcome to bk forum's Florida State Questions and Answers on BK


                        • #13
                          Yeah...make that 3 wow's...


                          • #14
                            Four, for wows sake!

                            Thanks for sharing with us. Best wishes on your way forward.
                            Chapter 7 Filed ~ Pro Se — 7-10-2013
                            341 Meeting ~ Pro Se — 8-14-2013
                            . . grateful to now be a '60 Day Club' newbie!


                            • #15
                              That's awful. Are bankruptcies not this guy's speciality? Even if his paralegal did all the work his name is on the documents so you'd think he'd be more careful. I would definitely purse a complaint with the bar association if for no other reason to save someone else from suffering the same anguish as yourself. Hopefully you can get some of that money back too.


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