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Marietta, Georgia, attorney D. Robert Autrey Jr. won’t be collecting his fee by lien foreclosure against a client who accuses him of sexual misconduct. Elena S. Baker claims that while he represented her, she and Autrey had an affair. But he said she’s just looking for a way out of paying her $31,000 bill. The Georgia Court of Appeals last week upheld a trial court’s finding that Autrey’s lien was improper. This settled one issue in the fight that erupted shortly after Autrey settled the client’s divorce case in 1995. Autrey billed Baker in late 1995 after representing her in a custody and divorce settlement in which she accepted $1.1 million to $1.2 million. When Baker refused to pay Autrey’s fee of $31,221, he filed liens on her property. He then filed a motion in Fulton Superior Court to foreclose on her home and lost. He appealed and lost again. The appeals court said Autrey was brought into the divorce action in May 1995 by Baker’s then-attorney Paul R. Koehler. “At some point, Autrey and Baker began to have an affair,” the opinion states. When Koehler and Autrey disagreed about how the case should be handled, Koehler withdrew and Autrey finished negotiating the settlement. D. Robert Autrey Jr. P.C. v. Baker, No. A00A0811 (Ct. App. Ga., June 21, 2000.) Baker alleges an affair began around Labor Day and ended in October 1995, about a month before her settlement was finalized, according to the court record. LIEN UNPROVEN, COURT SAID The appeals court held the amount of the lien was disputed and had not been sufficiently proven for foreclosure. Further, the court said an illicit relationship may present a defense, based on public policy, to a claim of attorney’s lien. The matter hardly ends there, however. While Autrey was seeking to foreclose, Baker sued him in Cobb Superior Court alleging malpractice. She claimed that her affair with Autrey adversely affected her settlement. He counter-sued, under Georgia Civil Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations statutes. Baker v. Autrey No. 96-1-19673-35 (Cobb Super. Oct. 29, 1997). Baker also has filed a complaint against Autrey with the State Bar of Georgia. Georgia’s bar rules do not specifically ban sex between a lawyer and his or her client, but Standards 28 and 30 often apply to questionable situations. Standard 28 states in part that lawyers should not use their clients’ secrets to their disadvantage, and Standard 30 states in part that lawyers should not allow personal interests to affect their professional judgments. LAWYER DENIES AFFAIR Autrey denies having an affair with his former client. “Throughout the representation, Baker kept making overtures about wanting to be involved intimately, and it was rejected,” Autrey said. “She had five attorneys and one CPA. She used this type of thing against � two of them,” he said. Autrey’s counterclaim states Baker never intended to pay fully the attorneys and professional accountants working on her divorce. He said she made allegations and various complaints or excuses as to why she should not have to pay their fees. “Ms. Baker has learned the system � attorneys and professionals do not want to have conflicts with clients that may lead to State Bar Complaints and/or threats of retribution or misconduct and � will mitigate or simply abate fees to forego any alleged complaints � even if such alleged conduct is totally and completely fabricated,” Autrey states in his counterclaim. Autrey claims Baker: Paid attorney Charles M. “Mac” Cushing $2,072 of the $3,272 he billed. Owes Koehler an unknown amount. Refused to pay attorney Elizabeth G. Lindsey of Davis, Matthews & Quigley the $36,551 billed. Made a baseless accusation that Lindsey directed her client to commit a crime. Paid $50,000 of a $78,840 bill for professional accounting services of Braver, Shimler & Co. P.C. Offered attorney Eugene P. “Pete” Chambers III $17,000 of the $25,000 billed and filed a fee arbitration complaint against Chambers with the state bar, alleging abusive and excessive fees. Chambers, who was Baker’s original attorney in the divorce action, confirms he had difficulty collecting his fee from Baker. “Yes, there was an issue with getting paid, and a judge ordered my fee to be paid in full,” Chambers said. Chambers said after the payment order, Baker dropped her fee arbitration complaint with the state bar. As for Autrey’s suit, Chambers said “I would agree with his position.” Braver and Koehler had no comment regarding the suit. Cushing and Lindsey did not return phone calls before press time. “She’s learned the ropes,” Autrey said, claiming Baker has no evidence to support her claims. “She makes allegations with not one scintilla of evidence, but people believe her.” Baker’s suit against Autrey claims malpractice, negligence per se, fraud and deceit, intentional infliction of emotional distress and being stubbornly litigious. Baker complains the alleged affair prompted Autrey to pressure her to accept the divorce settlement. In a hearing on the lien foreclosure before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Isaac Jenrette, Autrey questioned Baker about why she signed the divorce agreement if she did not think it was fair. She responded, according to court records: “Because I had had a sexual relationship with you [Autrey] and you told me I could not go to court because a jury would find out about it.” Baker testified her ex-husband hired a private investigator and knew about her relationship with Autrey. “So because of that,” she testifed, “I had to sign and you had advised me that if I went to court, I would get nothing, because I had committed adultery with you and I wouldn’t get alimony and you said that I may possibly lose custody of my children,” according to the Court of Appeals opinion. In October 1999, former Clayton Superior Court Judge Stephen E. Boswell, of Boswell & Teske L.L.P. of Jonesboro, withdrew as Baker’s attorney in the Cobb civil suit. Philip S. Coe of Fayetteville now represents Baker in that action. Coe said Boswell withdrew because his workload increased when his law partner took a judge position. “And she paid him in full,” Coe said. Autrey said the complaint Baker filed with the state bar is pending, and Coe said he has forwarded a copy of the appeals court opinion to Paula J. Frederick, deputy general counsel for the State Bar of Georgia.

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