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Friday, April 18, 2014

Johnson counsels fail to agree on unified petition

The lawyers of Betty Johnson failed to agree on a unified petition for attorneys’ fees and costs by yesterday’s deadline.

Worse, Johnson’s Hawaii-based counsel, Bronster Hoshibata law firm, disclosed that the invoices of Johnson’s original counsel, Bruce Jorgensen, are “virtually incomprehensible and too vague and cryptic to enable any reasoned judgment as to the legitimate work, if any, they might effect.”

Attorney Margery S. Bronster informed the U.S. District Court for the NMI yesterday that despite diligent effort and the assistance of Hawaii Chief Bankruptcy Judge Robert J. Faris as a mediator, their law firm has been unable to reach an agreement on a fair and reasonable allocation of fees between itself and co-class counsels Jorgensen, Stephen C. Woodruff, and Timothy R. Lord.

Bronster, however, disclosed that their law firm and the CNMI have continued to pursue agreement on their individual petition for attorney’s fees and have made steady progress.

“Bronster Hoshibata intends to continue this promising path of negotiation and remains hopeful it will be successful,” she said.

With respect to Jorgensen’s petition, Bronster said their law firm believes the only way to measure Jorgensen’s contribution is by granting him 10 percent of the total attorney’s fees the court determines are reasonable in this case.

“Because Jorgensen has failed to carry his burden to submit bills that provide enough information to determine how much time he legitimately spent on the case, the court simply cannot award him any fees based on his invoices,” the lawyer said.

With respect to Woodruff’s petition, Bronster said their law firm believes that a reasonable fee for Woodruff would be around $400,000 for his work on this case.

Bronster said Woodruff was a valuable asset to the progress of the case after he appeared, and he personally participated in all mediation sessions and court hearings in the CNMI.

On Lord’s petition, Bronster said their law firm could not come to an agreement with Lord because by the time Bronster entered this case, Lord had ceased participating in the case.

U.S. District Court for the NMI designated judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood gave Johnson’s counsels no later than yesterday, Jan. 22, to submit a unified petition.

The judge set an evidentiary hearing on the petition for fees on Jan. 31, 2014.

Jorgensen is demanding at least $18.6 million. Bronster Hoshibata is seeking $17.5 million; Lord is asking for either $3.6 million or $5.9 million; and Woodruff is requesting for $2.9 million.

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