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Ask Ely Your Own Question
Ely
Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 101533
Experience:  Private practice with focus on family, criminal, PI, consumer protection, and business consultation.
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I was used by my ex three years after our Domestic

Customer Question

I was used by my ex three years after our Domestic Partnership was final. We waived our right to a trial and terminated the relationship. I was sued three years later for money that my ex said I owed. I had to hire an attorney. It cost me 50,000 dollars
just to have a judge eventually throw it out because my ex had no legal right to sue me. My attorney charged me the 50,000 for writing a summary judgment and for her time to mediate. It does not seem ethical to me that it should cost me 50,000 to have my rights
upheld. Again, all she did was write a summary judgement, filed a cross complaint on my behalf, and mediate a settlement on my behalf. The judge threw it out. How could this happen? I do not think it was ethical to be charged 50,000 and we did not even go
to trial.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Ely replied 1 year ago.
Hello and welcome to JustAnswer. Please note: (A) This is general information and is not legal advice. No specific course of action is proposed herein, and no attorney-client relationship or privilege is formed by speaking to an expert on this site. By continuing, you confirm that you understand and agree to these terms; and (B) the site allows experts not participate in phone calls and I may or may not be able to participate in this feature.
I am very sorry to hear about this situation. I am not sure exactly what you are asking here. Are you asking if the attorney could charge this much, or, if you can appeal the decision of the court, or, something else?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
As I said, I was sued by my ex. Our Domestic Partnership had been terminated for 3 years. The judge finally dismissed the case stating that my ex had no legal right to sue me. My attorney did a summary judgement, a cross complaint, and mediated the cross complaint on my behalf. This cost me 50,000. I feel that this is unethical. First of all, I should not have had to defend my legal right. In black and white the law said that my ex and I terminated our Domestic Partnership and my ex had no legal right to sue me. So, the judge should have thrown it out immediately. Secondly, I do not believe it is ethical to charge 50,000 to do a summary judgement, a cross complaint and a meditation that only got me 15,000.
Expert:  Ely replied 1 year ago.
Thank you.
Your Ex
Someone in your situation may wish to consider suing (irony not lost here) for malicious prosecution and/or abuse of process.
To previous on a malicious prosecution, one would have to show that defendant lacked probable cause for one of these causes of action. Soukup v. Law Offices of Herbert Hafif, 139 P. 3d 30 - Cal: Supreme Court 2006. In other words, that there was never a case, and that it was dismissed.
The essential elements of abuse of process, as the tort has developed, have been stated to be: first, an ulterior purpose, and second, a wilful act in the use of process not proper in the regular conduct of the proceeding.... The improper purpose usually takes the form of coercion to obtain a collateral advantage, not properly involved in the proceeding itself, such as the surrender of property or the payment of money, by the use of the process as a threat or a club. There is, in other words, a form of extortion, and it is what is done in the course of negotiation, rather than the issuance of any formal use of the process itself, which constitutes the tort. Oren Royal Oaks Venture v. Greenberg, Bernhard, Weiss, 728 P. 2d 1202 - Cal: Supreme Court 1986 (citing Prosser, and internal citations omitted).
YES, the Court should have/may have thrown it out earlier, but it did not. One cannot sue the Judge here for not dismissing it earlier.
Attorney
This is a different matter. Every case is different. If one feels that the attorney's charges were unethical or overbilled, then they can seek relief via CA Bar's fee dispute program. See here. This is the BEST way to resolve the issue such as that.
Gentle Reminder: Please, use the REPLY or SEND button to keep chatting, or rate positively and SUBMIT your rating when we are finished. You may always ask follow ups at no charge after rating.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I do not think arbitration is the answer. I understand that you cannot sue a judge, but I can seek justice when an attorney charges over a year's wages and we did not go to trial.
Expert:  Ely replied 1 year ago.
Well there is always the option of suing the attorney if one feels that they did a BAD JOB or TRICKED you in some way.
In civil malpractice cases, the elements of a cause of action for professional negligence are: "(1) the duty of the attorney to use such skill, prudence and diligence as members of the profession commonly possess; (2) a breach of that duty; (3) a proximate causal connection between the breach and the resulting injury; and (4) actual loss or damage. [Citations.]" (Schultz v. Harney (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 1611, 1621, 33 Cal. Rptr.2d 276.)
The problem here is that (1) you DID agree to the bills, (2) paid them, and (3) the matter was resolved. This would be a little akin to suing a physician for paying them $50,000 for a procedure that took longer than it ordinarily would. I do not know how effective this claim would be in Court.
Please note: If I tell you simply what you wish to hear, this would be unfair to you. I want to be honest with you and sometimes this means providing information that is not optimal. Negative ratings are reserved for experts who are rude or for erroneous information. Please rate me on the quality of my information; do not punish me for my honesty.
Gentle Reminder: Please, use the REPLY or SEND button to keep chatting, or rate positively and SUBMIT your rating when we are finished. You may always ask follow ups at no charge after rating.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Well, there is more to the story. The attorney told me that it would be an additional 4,000 to mediate and 10,000 if we went to trial and then she charged me 10,000 for the mediation. Anyway, it all really is so wrong. The laws are written to protect us and I was not protected. I am mad. I have a right to be mad.
Expert:  Ely replied 1 year ago.
You absolutely do. Do not get me wrong, I can see where you are coming from.
It is just all this should have been brought up AT THAT TIME. One could have asked the attorney to charge less and negotiated a price, or, gotten another attorney.
And if the attorney stated $k for the mediation, then why did you AGREE to pay 10k in the end, and not retort and ask what happened to the original quote?
You may also find this here on topic. If one feels that the fee was indeed unconscionable, one can proceed with the fee dispute arbitration, or, file a bar complaint (see here), although the latter should be a last resort and ONLY if one feels that the attorney unfairly took advantage and the fees were indeed unconscionable.
Gentle Reminder: Please, use the REPLY or SEND button to keep chatting, or rate positively and SUBMIT your rating when we are finished. You may always ask follow ups at no charge after rating.