|In reply to Comment 23 (Fabio Alemagna):|
> However, at this point it must be said that if the lack of money is
> the reason for which the attorneys withdrawed, and it's not the fact
> that they believed they couldn't win, then nothing can be said about
> Amiga Inc.'s position in the case (that is, whether they were right
> or wrong): as we all know, often people who are right are forced to
> abandon the case because they can't afford it, in fact this is the
> most common remark that is made to the USA legal system.
This definitely isn't standard procedure for 'abandoning' a case. Either one doesn't get started in the first place, or the attorney would throw in some sort of motion for settlement, or some other document that basically informs the court 'There's no problem here, my client's going to agree or at least say he agrees at this juncture because it's cheaper than fighting it, sorry for wasting your time.' Rules of procedure; you don't drive away when the cop tries to pull you over because you intend to pay the ticket.
It was my understanding that lawyers generally take (civil) cases with fingers crossed and the intention of billing forever. The procedure exists to flee early, but this is balanced by the code of conduct they're required to follow to retain membership on the state bar. (Of course, to see dismissal from same, someone has to get together a legal malpractice suit, which is why there remain -- quoting someone in the business -- so many "scumbag attorneys" in practice. ;)) If the client goes broke with a case in progress, counsel retains a professional obligation to help him unf**k his matters or avoid making them worse, be it by referral to someone cheaper, rapid closure of the outstanding action (settlement, dismissal, whatever's quickest and least damaging), whatever.
A plumber isn't supposed to open a sewer line into your basement and drive off 'til you've mailed him a check. You'd expect him to leave the problem no worse than he found it, and if there's a billing dispute, he probably won't work for you again, or even file suit to claim his pay. Same deal with lawyers, they just 'luck out' providing a service mostly needed by people in financial crisis. (If everyone had unlimited wealth, what would be left to argue about? Just the occasional crime of passion.)
Now, if the client's been offered adequate counsel ("You're out of cash, from everything you've shown me, I'd take the settlement," for example) and refuses, the attorney is in a better position to wash his hands, though I'd expect he'd want or have to make their position clear to the bench. The obligation does imply a little "HAL 9000" leeway; if the client wants to do something the attorney as knowledgable counsel knows is damaging, he's supposed to Do Whatever the Right Thing Is, and either end up satisfying the client ("See? Told you it'd all work out!"), or with good ammunition for the malpractice suit if it comes to that.
That's the ideal; people in reality -- clients, attorneys, judges -- all tend to suck, or we wouldn't hate life so much. ;)
Okay, to specifics. Here's the state RPC:
... Section 1.15 is what we care about if we want to care.
Given all that, any combination of the following could hold:
- Shukis and firm could be being a touch derelict here. ("Could" in the simple sense of possibility.)
- The case could be eating enough attorney resources that they figure they have nothing to lose at this point.
- AInc. may've told them to shove it.
- Were it negotiated in any way, the "has not responded" seems a little weird. I'd expect counsel to cover their posterior against malpractice by noting support or consent if it existed. No idea on court procedure, though, it could just be boilerplate in lieu of sworn statement.
- All the above point to some confidence that nobody'll bother or be able to bother with malpractice claims. (Could be that they feel they're covered under that RPC 1.15, could just be a lack of extraordinary skill, impossible to say how much anyone cares.)
Having prodded around a bit more (why does this always feel like stalking?), Shukis seems pretty cool, if not very grizzled. If I can try to think like a lawyer here (the pain! the pain!), that probably explains the lack of supporting documentation. It's a goofy, drawn out, low profit case, and it looks like this is just a 'feeler' to see if the judge will let the counsel off the hook.
If AInc. has resources left, one assumes they'd be 'peripherally' aware of it (while taking pains not to look emotional one way or the other), and figure they can wing it as a delaying benefit while retaining counsel that could be cheaper and more motivated.
If they only have the $100, then yeah, they're probably a little screwed. Sort of makes the 'license tax' seem worth it if it means we get to see this through to a proper conclusion. ;)