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Fighting Over Stein’s Money A lawyer who took over plaintiffs’ cases from bankrupt malpractice lawyer Hilton Stein is suing Stein’s court-appointed liquidator for tortious interference. It all started in December, when trustee Richard Honig put two dozen lawyers on notice he would pursue them for any fees owed to Stein in cases Stein initiated before he went bankrupt last spring. Notice is too weak a word. Honig started adversary proceedings that put the lawyers under the U.S. Bankruptcy Court’s jurisdiction. Princeton solo Glenn Bergenfield, who took three Stein cases, is fighting back. He says in a Jan. 30 counterclaim Stein doesn’t deserve fees and Honig’s pursuit is interfering with the three clients’ representation. He says the three — and a fourth former Stein client he doesn’t represent — authorized him to sue Honig on their behalf, too. Instead of suing lawyers for fees allegedly owed Stein, Honig should pursue Stein for fees he got for no work, Bergenfield says. In his Feb. 14 response, Honig, a partner in Newark’s Hellring Lindeman Goldstein & Siegal, moved to dismiss Bergenfield’s claim on several grounds, including immunity. And he wants Bergenfield to pay the fees that went into filing the dismissal motion. INS Woes The Lyndhurst asylum and refugee office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service will stay open, thanks to the budget bill signed Thursday by President Bush. The move safeguards jobs of 35 INS staffers, many of them attorneys. But the INS’s filing fee schedule — from which the asylum office gets its funds — is still the subject of headaches for the immigration bar. Funding was removed in January by passage of the Homeland Security Bill. That apparently occurred after legislators created discounts on some filing fees. An application to replace a green card went from $580 to $517, for instance. Having created the discount, legislators neglected to find new funds from elsewhere. The budget bill restores the original fee schedule, according to Judith Golub, senior director of Advocacy and public affairs at the American Immigration Lawyers Association. During the past month, many lawyers have filed the wrong fees, as the changes took place without notice. “Everyone sent in the improper fee, and immigration now has to process refunds,” says AILA’s local co-chairman, Robert Frank of Frank & York in Newark, “like we have nothing better to do” than track paperwork. “It’s nuts,” Golub adds. “This is not what the INS should be spending their time having to do.” Moot Court When Elliot Pell showed up Feb. 11 to argue his appeal in Paff v. Miller — a suit that seeks to bar Somerset County Counsel Thomas Miller from giving work to former law partner William Welaj — he didn’t expect to hear his adversary tell the judges the case was moot. After all, when Superior Court Judge Roger Mahon threw out the case last year for failure to state a claim, he explicitly ruled it was not moot. Although Miller’s lawyer, Arthur Goldstein, said Welaj — who had just been suspended for 90 days for ethics violations — was cut off from county work, Mahon observed, “There is nothing in the record to indicate he won’t be retained again” once the three months are over. Yet, Goldstein told the Appellate Division panel he did tell Mahon that Miller would not rehire Welaj. Not so, says Bridgewater solo Pell, adding that even if Goldstein did tell Mahon that a year ago, why didn’t he say so in his appeal brief or other communications with the court, or move to dismiss? Goldstein, a partner with Roseland’s Wolff & Samson, did not return a call requesting comment. Supreme Long Shot Last week’s bid by the American Civil Liberties Union and other interest groups seeking Supreme Court review of surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was extraordinary: None of the groups asking for an appeal from the obscure Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review is party to the litigation. Though the request is a long shot, the Court has granted similar motions in the past. According to a brief filed by the ACLU, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and two Arab-American interest groups, the Supreme Court has taken up such cases at least three times — most recently in 1968. ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer says the addition of Arab-American groups to its coalition strengthens the case. “It certainly does go to the standing issue. These groups are concerned that these surveillance laws are being used disproportionately against their members,” Jaffer says. Also new to the team: Supreme Court specialist Thomas Goldstein of Washington, D.C.’s Goldstein & Howe, brought in as counsel by the NACDL. � By Mary P. Gallagher, Jim Edwards, Henry Gottlieb and Vanessa Blum (D.C.)

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