As their former client grapples with mounting fees and an arrest warrant over legal costs he never paid, the law firms that once represented him are battling over who is responsible for providing his subpoenaed documents.
Marks & Sokolov and Chartwell Law Offices have now argued in multiple letters to U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Schmehl of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania about who should provide the material needed to execute a summary judgment on Paul Baxendale-Walker, a onetime client of both firms. Schmehl has found Chartwell Law in contempt for failing to produce documents, but the law firm has argued that the court should vacate its order and give Chartwell more time to find its records.
Schmehl has ordered Chartwell to pay $1,250 in attorney fees related to the contempt motion, as well as additional sanctions.
Chartwell has argued that it did not provide the documents because the firm no longer represents Baxendale-Walker, according to another letter from Marks & Sokolov. In addition, Chartwell said it was instructed by Baxendale-Walker’s new counsel, Mathieu Shapiro of Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel, not to provide certain documents because they were privileged. But Marks & Sokolov has argued in its own letters that those reasons were not sufficient for failing to provide the non-privileged subpoenaed materials, which include Baxendale-Walker’s medical records.
Chartwell’s Kenneth Dubrow withdrew his appearance in June 2015, the same day that Shapiro entered his own, court records show.
According to an August opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Shahrokh Mireskandari and Baxendale-Walker hired Bruce Marks of Marks & Sokolov to represent them in a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act matter in California. But they failed to pay Marks for his legal services, so Marks & Sokolov sued its clients for breach of contract and quantum meruit.
After Marks & Sokolov sued, Mireskandari and Baxendale-Walker filed no answer to the complaint, instead filing a pro se petition for arbitration. Later they withdrew the arbitration petition and filed a legal malpractice action, but still did not answer Marks’ complaint. So the district court entered summary judgment of nearly $230,000.
The defendants appealed the summary judgment, but while that appeal was pending, the district court also found Baxendale-Walker in contempt for refusing to comply with execution discovery orders. Baxendale-Walker appealed the contempt order as well.
In August, the Third Circuit affirmed the summary judgment order, the contempt order and another decision on the district court’s jurisdiction.
After the Third Circuit ruled, the district court entered an order Nov. 6 holding Baxendale-Walker in contempt once again, and issuing a warrant for his arrest. According to that order, Baxendale-Walker must pay more than $220,000, plus $12,000 in attorney fees, to purge his contempt order. The court has ordered him to pay $250 per day in fines, including $237,500 that had already accumulated as of Oct. 16.
But the court is now holding Chartwell in contempt as well for failure to produce the same subpoenaed documents. In a separate Nov. 6 order, the court gave Chartwell five days to produce the documents in full, or else be fined $250 per day. In addition, the court ordered Chartwell to cover the $1,250 in attorney fees required to bring the contempt motion.
“No one likes bringing a contempt motion against a law firm, but we had no choice,” said Tom Sullivan of Marks & Sokolov, who is representing his firm in the matter. “We hope that the law firm promptly complies with the order.”
Dubrow declined to comment on the letters. So did Shapiro, of Obermayer Rebmann.