A federal judge has taken Luzerne County attorney Cynthia L. Pollick to task for what the judge called “outlandish” fee requests and “inflammatory conduct” in a civil rights case.
In a lengthy 136-page rebuke, U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann of the Middle District of Pennsylvania chastised Pollick over her fee petition for nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in a decade-long case that settled for $25,000.
“Sad to say, after 10 years of protracted and unnecessarily contentious litigation, it appears that all plaintiff’s counsel, Cynthia L. Pollick, esquire, has managed to accomplish is disrespecting this court as an institution and embarrassing herself in the eyes of many of its constituents,” Brann wrote in his opinion.
But Brann wasn’t finished there. He went on to say Pollick’s fee request “felt more like an attempted bank robbery than a genuine effort to recover a reasonable fee bill.”
He continued: “Ms. Pollick’s fee petition is ‘mind boggling’ and ‘outrageously excessive.’ In fact, it is more than that. The vast majority of Ms. Pollick’s entries are larded with excreta unbecoming of any attorney in this district (and certainly unbillable to a client under any stretch of the imagination).”
Pollick, who works at the Employment Law Firm in Pittson, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Brann said in his opinion that Pollick “has not only failed to live up to her duty as an officer of this court—she has, as on numerous prior occasions, thumbed her nose at it. Such defiance ceases today.”
Specifically, Brann took issue, among other things, with the layout of Pollick’s fee request.
“That Ms. Pollick submitted her fee bill without weeding out improper entries is grounds alone to deny it and impose sanctions,” he said. “That shortcoming here is not one that can be ameliorated by careful, line-by-line revisions. I attempted to give Ms. Pollick the benefit of the doubt and pursue such an approach at first. However, I soon discovered that this method was fool’s errand: Ms. Pollick’s entries are so inappropriate, vague, and duplicative that nearly every one of her thousands of entries needs to be eliminated or refined.”
It’s the second time in just over a week that a Middle District judge issued a harshly worded response to a northeast Pennsylvania lawyer’s fee request. In the other case, a Scranton attorney who recovered $125,000 for his client in a bad-faith case asked for $1.12 million in fees, costs and interest, but the presiding judge instead awarded his firm nothing and referred the case to the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
U.S. District Judge Malachy E. Mannion of the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued an order Aug. 29 chiding attorneys Michael Pisanchyn and Marsha Lee Albright over their handling of the case, and saying their request for fees and costs was “outrageous and abusively excessive.”
Mannion’s opinion, like Brann’s, reached a triple-digit page count.
Mannion ended his opinion by saying that, “given the conduct of the plaintiff’s counsel and the exorbitant request for fees in this case, a copy of this memorandum will be referred to the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for their independent determination of whether disciplinary action should be taken against attorney Pisanchyn and/or attorney Albright.”