Judge Launches Investigation Into Law Firms’ Inflated Bills
February 14, 2017
A federal judge in Boston plans to appoint a special master to investigate questionable billing practices by Thornton Law Firm of Boston, Labaton Sucharow of New York and seven other firms. The firms have already admitted to double counting numerous lawyers’ hours in filings. U.S. District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf said he wants a former federal judge to review legal bills submitted by the firms, and says the lawyers may have to pay $2 million, in advance, to fund the investigation. The case at the center of the controversy is a class-action lawsuit against State Street Bank. A Boston Globe investigation found that the firms were claiming “stratospheric” legal costs for dozens of usually lower-paid attorneys who worked the case. In one instance the brother of a Thornton managing partner –Michael Bradley, who often makes $53 an hour as a court-appointed attorney – was listed as having a $500 hourly rate. “Questions have arisen with regard to the accuracy and reliability of information provided by plaintiffs’ counsel on which the court relied, among other things, in deciding that it was reasonable to award them almost $75 million in attorneys’ fees and more than $1,250,000 in expenses,” Wolf wrote. Wolf tasked recently retired judge Gerald Rosen of Michigan with conducting the probe, which he said should be completed in six months. Then “the court would decide whether the original award of attorneys’ fees remains reasonable, whether it should be reduced, and, if misconduct has been demonstrated, whether sanctions should be imposed.” “This is very serious,” Ted Frank, a lawyer at the Competitive Enterprise Institute think tank in Washington, told the Boston Globe. “The judge is anticipating a real investigatory role for the special master. There’s $2 million in the pot – there’s no incentive to do a brief, perfunctory investigation.”
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