Hillbroom: It’s a go

Sanction sought vs 2 lawyers for allegedly taping his phone calls

Junior Larry Hillbroom wants to proceed with his legal malpractice lawsuit against his former two lawyers and asked the federal court to penalize them for allegedly taping his conversations.

Hillbroom, through counsel Rachel A. Dimitruk, filed on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the NMI his opposition to Barry J. Israel’s and David J. Lujan’s motion to dismiss his lawsuit.

Hillbroom also sought monetary sanctions on Israel and Lujan and a motion to dis-qualify Theodore W. Frank as counsel for Israel. He wants both Israel and Lujan to be made to pay $11,950, accusing them of ethical violation.

According to Dimitruk, the “no contact rule”— promulgated by the American Bar As-sociation as Rule 4.2 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct—exists for the very pur-pose of protecting the unwary litigant from being unduly influenced by an attorney.

“While this rule does not bar parties from speaking to each other, the prohibition does apply to lawyers who are parties to litigation,” Dimitruk said.

He said Israel and Lujan violated this fundamental rule and, with Frank’s participa-tion, have flaunted their unethical conduct in front of the court.

Vietnam-based lawyer Israel has re-filed his motion for the federal court to dismiss Hillbroom’s lawsuit against him and Guam lawyer Lujan.

Israel, through counsel Frank, asserted that the court should dismiss the lawsuit based on Hillbroom’s stated decision that he no longer wish to proceed with this case.

Alternatively, Israel asked the court to hold a hearing on this issue as soon as possi-ble.

Lujan joined in Israel’s motion.

In re-filing the motion to dismiss, Frank said Hillbroom instructed his counsel as ear-ly as Feb. 2 to drop the lawsuit but his counsel has not yet complied with his instruction.

In Hillbroom’s opposition to the motion to dismiss, Dimitruk said that, based on their improper and unethical conversations with Hillbroom, Israel and Lujan now claim to be “protecting” Hillbroom’s “wishes” and have now filed a motion to dismiss the action based on that unethical communication.

“What the defendants have done and what they are attempting to do, with the assis-tance of Mr. Frank, is sanctionable conduct that should not be condoned by this court,” Dimitruk said.

Dimitruk said the transcripts of the phone calls between Hillbroom and Lujan make it clear that the latter did not ask permission to record the conversations with Hillbroom.

“There is no dispute that, where it is illegal to record a conversation without the con-sent of all of the parties, such a recording is unethical as well,” the lawyer said.

Dimitruk said the re-filing of the motion to dismiss is an unethical attempt to dispose of the case by taking advantage of an individual with a history of drug abuse who has struggled with sobriety, and from childhood looked up to these defendants as his “protec-tors.”

The lawyer said the court should sanction Israel and Lujan in the amount of $11,750 in attorney’s fee and $200 in costs for cancellation of the deposition for a total of $11,950.

In his lawsuit, Hillbroom alleged that Israel and Lujan conspired with a former trus-tee to inflate their attorneys’ contingency fee when the fortune of the late business tycoon and DHL co-founder Larry Hillblom was still undergoing probate proceedings in Superior Court.

Israel and Lujan served as counsel for Hillbroom in the probate matter.

Hillbroom is one of the four DNA-proven children of Hillblom. His name is spelled differently from that of Hillblom.

Hillblom died in a seaplane crash off Anatahan waters on May 21, 1995. His body was never recovered.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com
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