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State ex rel. Counsel for Discipline of the Nebraska Supreme Court v. Weinberg

Supreme Court of Nebraska

July 22, 2016

State of Nebraska ex rel. Counsel for Discipline of the Nebraska Supreme Court, relator.
v.
Maynard H. Weinberg, respondent.

         Original action. Judgment of public reprimand.

          Heavican, C.J., Wright, Connolly, Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, and Kelch, JJ.

          Per Curiam.

         INTRODUCTION

         This case is before the court on the conditional admission filed by Maynard H. Weinberg, respondent, on May 17, 2016. The court accepts respondent's conditional admission and enters an order of public reprimand.

         FACTS

         Respondent was admitted to the practice of law in the State of Nebraska on June 24, 1966. At all relevant times, he was engaged in the practice of law in Omaha, Nebraska.

         On March 9, 2016, the Counsel for Discipline of the Nebraska Supreme Court filed formal charges against respondent. The formal charges consist of one count against respondent. With respect to the one count, the formal charges state that in July 2012, respondent was retained by a client in an employment matter. Respondent and the client mutually [294 Neb. 290] agreed to a fee of $100 per hour, and this rate was never renegotiated during the pendency of the matter.

         In late September 2012, the matter was transferred to another attorney for primary representation (the primary attorney), but respondent continued to provide some legal services to the client, and respondent billed the client for his individual services. Between July 2012 and December 2013, respondent billed the client for 147.5 hours of work at $100 per hour and $209.20 in expenses. The client timely paid all of the billing, in the amount of $14, 959.70.

         In December 2013, a hearing was held in the client's case in the district court for Lancaster County, and attorney fees were addressed. On February 7, 2014, the district court issued an order which awarded attorney fees for respondent in the amount of 20.25 hours of work at $175 per hour and 4 hours of work at $100 per hour, which, according to the formal charges, totaled $3, 943.74. These attorney fees were awarded to the client as partial reimbursement of the fees that the client had previously paid to respondent.

         Between February 2014 and February 2015, respondent billed the client for 84 hours of work at $100 per hour for appellate work in the client's case. The client timely paid all of the billing, in the amount of $8, 400.

         On March 20, 2015, an opinion issued by this court awarded attorney fees to the client in the amount of $7, 938. The award of attorney fees in the amount of $7, 938 was for both of the client's attorneys, respondent and the primary attorney. This court remanded the matter to the district court with directions to divide the $7, 938 between the two attorneys.

         The defendant from the client's case issued two separate checks in the amounts of $3, 943.74 and $7, 938, and both checks were issued in the name of respondent and the primary attorney. The primary attorney waived any additional payment out of either of the two checks, because he had been paid in full by the client for all billed legal services. [294 Neb. 291] The primary attorney endorsed the two checks and remitted them to respondent. Respondent deposited both checks in his trust account.

         On March 20, 2015, respondent sent a letter to the client, asking permission to receive the additional funds of $3, 943.74 and $7, 938, totaling $11, 881.74, to reimburse respondent for the difference between the $100 per hour charged to the client and the $ 175 per hour he would normally charge for that type of work. The client declined respondent's request to renegotiate their fee arrangement. Despite repeated requests from the client, respondent did not disburse the fees to the client.

         On May 15, 2015, the client filed a grievance against respondent, alleging that respondent was improperly withholding the client's funds in an attempt to force him to accept a renegotiated fee for services previously rendered. In his response to the grievance, respondent asserted that he was entitled to the full amount of $11, 881.74 because the courts had awarded these amounts as attorney fees. On February 10, ...


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