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Friday, April 18, 2014

Bronster: Why is Jorgensen scared to come to Saipan?
Johnson’s counsel says lawyer did not join negotiations but bills $20,767 for 63 hours

Margery Bronster, a former attorney general of the State of Hawaii and one of the counsels for Betty Johnson, wonders why her co-counsel, Bruce Jorgensen, is scared to come to Saipan.

In her declaration filed in federal court on Wednesday, Bronster said that Jorgensen, who originated Johnson’s class action, never appeared in person at the hearings and settlement negotiations of the case in the U.S. District Court for the NMI.

As this developed, Jorgensen filed yesterday a “unified statement” in support of his fee petition, saying he has conveyed to his co-counsel, Timothy Lord, that he is amenable to a 7-percent cut in hours and fees, which would set his total billable hours at 3,678.7 hours and fees at $1,195,580.10. Jorgensen’s initial request was for at least $18.6 million.

Bronster, however, questioned Jorgensen’s invoices for 63.9 hours or for $20,767.50 that was apparently incurred during the settlement negotiations in June, when Jorgensen did not participate in those proceedings and his only role was to be occasionally informed of the status of the mediation.

“Jorgensen had repeatedly told me that he feared being in Saipan so he would not travel there, but he never explained why,” said Bronster.

Bronster and her colleague at Bronster Hoshibata law firm, attorney Robert Hatch, traveled from Hawaii to Saipan for all of the substantive hearings.

Bronster disclosed that Jorgensen suddenly appeared one day in June on Saipan but immediately left, apparently because he had been “spotted.”

She recalled that she and Hatch traveled to Saipan to attend a three-day intensive mediation with Hawaii Chief Bankruptcy Judge Robert Faris at the federal court on June 25-27, 2013.

“Before we left, Jorgensen made clear that he could not join us,” the lawyer said.

As expected, Bronster said, Jorgensen did not show up for the first day of mediation.

Upon their return to their hotel that evening, they were shocked to find Jorgensen waiting for them in the lobby.

“He did not explain his surprise visit or why he came all the way to Saipan only to stay away from the mediation. Instead, he said that he was traveling incognito,” she said.

Bronster said that after their meeting that lasted about 45 minutes, Jorgensen left and did not join them in the final two days of negotiations.

Bronster said Jorgensen apparently left Saipan that evening or the next morning, explaining that he had been “spotted” and could not stay in the CNMI.

The lawyer said Jorgensen’s “role” in the mediation sessions and subsequent settlement was to be occasionally informed of its status.

Bronster disclosed that Jorgensen is billing 63.9 hours or $20,767.50 from June 21 to 27, 2013, when his role during this entire period was to be occasionally informed of the status of the negotiations.

Bronster pointed out that while Jorgensen’s other entries are too vague to be meaningfully analyzed, his entries for June 21 to June 27 are clearly misleading because they purport to claim he was working on the case for 63.9 hours when at most he could have properly billed only an hour or two for being occasionally informed of the progress of the negotiations.

“It is telling that in this one example, where Jorgensen has provided sufficient factual detail to compare the entries to what actually transpired, they have proven false,” she said.

Bronster added that the misleading character of Jorgensen’s invoices for June 21 to 27, 2013, casts serious doubt on the veracity of all of his entries.

Bronster has informed the court that Johnson’s counsels failed to agree on a unified petition for attorneys’ fees and costs by the Wednesday deadline.

Bronster recommended that the only way to measure Jorgensen’s contribution in the case is by granting him 10 percent of the total attorney’s fees the court determines are reasonable.

She also recommended awarding Johnson’s local counsel, Stephen C. Woodruff, $400,000 for his work on this case.

With respect to Johnson’s other counsel, Timothy Lord, Bronster said their law firm could not come to an agreement with Lord because by the time they entered this case, Lord had ceased participating in the case.

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.

Under the settlement agreement, the CNMI government will shoulder the attorneys’ fees and costs of Johnson’s counsels upon the court’s approval.

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