Motion to dismiss Hillbroom’s lawsuit is denied

The federal court found Thursday that Guam lawyer David J. Lujan violated the rules of professional conduct when he taped the telephone conversations he had with his former client, Junior Larry Hillbroom, who is suing him for allegedly bilking him.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has barred Lujan from having any contact with Hillbroom without the written consent of Hillbroom’s lawyer.

According to the minutes of the hearing, Manglona gave Hillbroom permission to bill Lujan and Barry J. Israel for the attorney’s fees he incurred—$11,750—to reply to the two lawyers’ motion to dismiss Hillbroom’s lawsuit.

The judge stated that she was, however, going to deny Hillbroom’s motion to disqualify Theodore R. Frank as counsel for Israel.

Manglona also stated she was going to deny Hillbroom’s request that Frank disclose his communication with Lujan from January 2019 up to the the present about the contact between Hillbroom and Lujan.

Manglona also intends to strike the transcripts of the phone calls between Hillbroom and Lujan from the record.

Manglona said she will deny the motion to dismiss Hillbroom’s lawsuit as well as deny the alternative request that Hillbroom be made to testify about his instruction to his lawyer.

She directed Hillbroom’s lawyer to submit by May 2 a supplemental accounting for hours and costs rendered.

The judge intends to issue a written order.

At the hearing, Rachel Dimitruk, Nelson Werner, and Mark Hanson appeared on behalf of Hillbroom. Frank appeared on behalf of Israel. Lujan and Keith Waibel appeared pro se or for themselves.

All parties, except for Hanson, appeared telephonically.

Dimitruk informed the court that Hillbroom is currently residing in Idaho and will not be appearing.

Dimitruk told the court that, subsequent to the communication between Hillbroom and Lujan, she (Dimitruk) has, in fact, received instructions, both through phone call and email, to continue and proceed with this litigation.

In his lawsuit, Hillbroom alleged that Israel and Lujan conspired with former trustee Keith Waibel 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.

Israel, who is now based in Vietnam, has asked the federal court to dismiss Hillbroom’s lawsuit.

Israel, through Frank, cited Hillbroom’s alleged decision to no longer proceed with this case.

Alternatively, Israel requested the court to order and conduct a hearing with Hillbroom in person or on the telephone on this issue as soon as possible.

Lujan joined in Israel’s motion.

Frank said that, as early as Feb. 2, 2009, Hillbroom had instructed his lawyer to dismiss the lawsuit but his lawyer has not done so.

Hillbroom, through Dimitruk, opposed Israel’s and Lujan’s motion to dismiss.

Dimitruk said Hillbroom wants to proceed with his legal malpractice lawsuit and asks the court to sanction Israel and Lujan $11,950 for allegedly taping his conversations, which constituted an ethical violation.

Hillbroom also filed a motion for an order for monetary sanctions on Israel and Lujan and a motion to disqualify Frank as counsel for Israel.

According to Dimitruk, the “no contact rule,” as promulgated by the American Bar Association as Rule 4.2 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, exists for the very purpose 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.

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.

Manglona said she would not be granting the request for $200 in cancellations fees.

Hillbroom is one of the four DNA-proven children of Hillbroom. 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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