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Maverick
Maverick, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 6390
Experience:  20 years experience as a civil trial and appellate lawyer
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Can a lawyer represent you, and then turn around and

Customer Question

Can a lawyer represent you, and then turn around and represent someone taking action against you?
I offered my cousin Sammy a house that I needed a tax write-off for. It was worth maybe 60K or so, and I told him that I wanted the money to go to his financially strapped sister. This came about because he told me his sister and husband couldn't handle having that much money, so he'd give it to them after he sells it.
Sammy was my life-long best friend, closer than brothers.
He told me he knew this guy who was good with real estate, so we met with the "guy", who turned out to be a big-time divorce and real-estate lawyer. I went through the process of filling out an application, paying him $600 for title searches, and I gave him a copy of the 300+ page trust so he could make sure everything was OK.
Within 2 weeks, in our second meeting, he tells me that the title searches came back clean, but since the property was a trust asset, that I would 1) have to sell it at fair market value, 2) pay my nephew his share, being the other beneficiary besides me.
(The estate was in probate for many years and I had just gotten the estate closed by conveying the property from the estate to the trust, under court order of the probate judge.)
I signed a contract to sell him the house for only $20,000; "my new lawyer" drew up the paperwork, but a paragraph in it said that I would be responsible for it clearing title. I asked him about this paragraph, he said, "hey it just cleared". This was in Sep, so I was still OK for the tax write off.
But them, they dragged it out for week after week, I kept asking what the delay was, they kept re-assuring me that my deadline would be met. Then in late Nov, they tell me that: 1) The estate was still open because I had fired my previous lawyer, and I had never closed it (BLATANT LIE), 2) The new title search had revealed that I was under restriction when I had conveyed the property (BLATANT LIE) 3) It would have to go back to probate court to lift the restriction before the sale could be completed (ANOTHER BLATANT LIE).
I stood up and told my cousin that the deal is off, family is more important than money. As far as "MY LAWYER", when we'd met the second time, I asked how much he wanted for a retainer. He looked at my cousin, who spoke up and said "Oh we do this all the time. We bring people in here and we just do them favors. There won't be any retainer." I SWEAR TO GOD that is exactly what he said. Which made me really suspicious, but Sammy was my life-long best friend so I trusted him and KEITH SIRLIN as well.
On the way out, I asked Sirlin if there was any way to get it sold by years end, he tells me to call Steve Albery, an independent court attorney. (I forget the term).
I NEVER CALLED HIM, he called me and asked me if it was OK to call my previous lawyer and go ahead and contact the probate court because the estate was still open. I told him NO WAY, DO NOT TAKE THIS BACK TO PROBATE. He tells me that he can just talk to the judge and get him to write a letter to the title company, and it would be informal. I told him to DROP THE CASE, DO NOTHING.
(BTW, my accountant told me I'd lost $8,000 by missing the write-off in that tax year)
OK, then in Feb of the next year , I get a letter from the probate court. It is a petition from Steve Albery, asking for the estate be re-opened, and explaining that I was under restriction when I had conveyed it previously. It specifies that I am to be removed as executor and he is to be re-named in my place. IT MENTIONS SAMMY AS BEING AN HEIR!! I got this letter only 2 days before the hearing. I called Sammy, who darted over and took the letter from my hand like I was a 5 year-old, and walked out with it.
Before court I met with Albery and told him to ABSOLUTELY DO NOT RE-OPEN THIS ESTATE AND TAKE NO OFFICIAL ACTION WITH THE JUDGE. He said it would be over in a minute, that he would just ask the judge to write the letter to Seaver Title Company.
In court, Sammy and Sirlin are giving me major heat telling me to keep my mouth shut and let Albery do the talking. I show both of them a copy of the conveyance that I had done (under court order, and approved by the judge), they both throw it back at me and tell me to keep quiet.
Our case is called, they introduce the parties... Me (trustee of the trust and executor of the estate), Steve Albery Independent court layer, Sammy, the party to whom the property is to be sold to after it gets conveyed into the trust, and Keith Sirlin, SAMMY'S LAWYER. I just about snapped my neck spinning around when they said that. It put me into shock.
The judge knew me VERY WELL and in fact, had developed an attitude towards me for dragging the estate through probate for 12 years, and he stated heckling me. 10 seconds later, the judge rules in favor of the petition, and the three of them start high-fiving each other as I waited for Albery to "informally ask the judge ..". It costed me 16K to defend myself.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Maverick replied 1 year ago.

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Customer: replied 1 year ago.
My question is the first sentence... can a lawyer act like he's reprresenting you, and turn around and represent the party taking action against you?The lawyer acted like he was working for me, BUT THEN HE REPRESENTED THE GUY WHO TRIED STEALING MY FAMILY TRUST. It cost me $16,000 to defend myself in a case that should never have been taken to probate court, successfully, and I want to be compensated for it, and for this "lawyer" to be reprimanded for lying to the judge and wasting the time of the probate court.
Expert:  Maverick replied 1 year ago.

ANSWER:

At this link you will find the MICH rules of professional conduct that govern attorney conduct. Under Rule 1.07 and especially Rule 1.09, an attorney cannot switch sides on the same or substantially same matter. It is considered a breach of his fiduciary duty to you. You can file a complaint with the State Bar here.

In order to recover your money you will most likely want to hire a legal malpractice / malfeasance lawyer so you do not lose on a technicality. However, your legal fees may not be recoverable and thus it may cost more to sue than what you can recover. The other alternative is to file suit pro se.

Also, you can move for sanctions under this rule in the court case where the lying occurred.