Timothy R. Lord, a San Rafael, California-based lawyer who is seeking $3.6 million or $5.6 million in attorney’s fees as one of the counsels for Betty Johnson, has been terminated by Johnson since March 2012.
Johnson and his first and current counsel, Bruce Jorgensen, disclosed this in their declarations filed in the U.S. District Court for the NMI on Friday.
Johnson said that in a written notice and verbal notice transmitted to Lord on April 19 and March 21, 2012 respectively, Lord was “disengaged, terminated, and discharged” as counsel in her class action.
In his declaration, Jorgensen said that prior to and following the inception of Johnson’s lawsuit on June 26, 2009, he was the only attorney representing plaintiffs.
“In that capacity, I have from the outset and through the duration of this litigation possessed full authority of plaintiffs to retain, engage, disengage, terminate, and discharge other attorneys on plaintiffs’ behalf,” Jorgensen said.
In that capacity, he said, he communicated with Lord to appear as his co-counsel on plaintiffs’ behalf.
Jorgensen said that based on events that transpired between February 2012 and March 2012, and based on communications which occurred during March 2012 and April 2012—between himself, Johnson (then appearing as Jane Doe) and then co-plaintiff John Doe—the decision was made to disengage, terminate and discharge Lord as his co-counsel.
Jorgensen said the plaintiffs fully authorized the decision.
Jorgensen said he then told Lord of this decision, first via telephone on or immediately following March 21, 2012, and then in writing on April 19, 2012, during which he transmitted to Lord a written notice of his disengagement, termination and discharge, as plaintiffs’ counsel, which he also transmitted to plaintiffs.
Jorgensen said that Johnson then received from Lord on April 19, 2012, a written notice acknowledging his receipt of the notice—with Johnson reiterating her understanding that Lord would no longer be her lawyer.
Jorgensen said he also met and conferred with other prospective co-counsel prior to and during this litigation.
He disclosed that among such prospective co-counsel with whom he met with were attorney F. Lee Bailey, whom he met and conferred with at his U.S. mainland residence, and attorneys Margery Bronster and Robert Hatch, with whom he met at their Honolulu office.
Jorgensen said he ultimately opted to bring aboard Bronster and Hatch as his co-counsel.
Jorgensen said he informed Bronster and Hatch of the events relating to Lord as those transpired during March and April 2012, including Lord’s ultimate disengagement, termination, and discharge.
He said he also contacted many CNMI and Guam attorneys in an effort to seek help from them in representing the plaintiffs but none were willing to do so, except for Stephen Woodruff.
He said Woodruff agreed to serve as local counsel on plaintiffs’ behalf in spring 2012.
On Thursday, Lord asked the court to allow him to appear telephonically during the hearing on their attorneys’ fees and costs. He said he wants to appear telephonically due to his medical restrictions. U.S. District Court for the NMI designated judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood granted the request.
Aside from Lord, Johnson’s other counsels—Jorgensen, Bronster Hoshibata law firm, and Woodruff—also submitted application for attorneys’ fees and costs. This would bring the total fees and costs to at least $40.6 million.
The hearing on the attorneys’ fees and costs will be held on Sept. 30 2013, which is also the date for the final approval of the settlement agreement in Johnson’s class action.