Fieger flight

Southfield personal injury lawyer Geoffrey Fieger is making no apologies for his new, demanding business model that requires lawyers to carry a certain number of cases at all times, and take three cases to trial every year, or face a financial fine.

But the new model is the thing that drove associate lawyer Arnold Matusz, who worked for Fieger for nearly 12 years, to leave the firm in May, along with his colleagues Paul Broschay and William McHenry, who will share office space with him when they open their new office on June 1, Matusz said.

Fieger Firm partner Ven Johnson told Michigan Lawyers Weekly last week (see story here) that he too left to open his own practice, and associate Rebecca S. Walsh is now listed on the State Bar of Michigan’s website at a Bloomfield Hills law firm.

In all, according to Matusz, nine lawyers have left the firm, starting with two appellate lawyers who left in December and February. He said he was the first of the trial lawyers to resign, and that was in late March, though he stayed on board for six weeks after giving notice.

“I’m thankful to the firm. I learned a lot working there,” Matusz said. “It was always a difficult place to work, but recently it became intolerable. I had substantial concerns about the new policies.”

The policies, he said, would have required trial lawyers to keep a caseload of 30 cases at all times. And if three cases didn’t go to trial every year, the lawyer would face having to pay a $25,000 fine.

“I didn’t have the control over which cases settled and which went to trial. The partners decided all that,” he said.

Fieger said he agrees that lawyers who don’t want to, or can’t, keep that pace should probably work somewhere else. And the departures — Matusz said there were nine, Fieger said there was not — have had no impact on the size of his firm.

“We have more lawyers this week than we did last week,” Fieger said.

He said the new, more rigorous business model is not just going to be good for his firm. It would be good for all firms.

“I expect lawyers to handle a certain number of cases to the best of their ability, and to try a certain number of cases in a year. We’re trial lawyers. That’s what we do,” Fieger said. “The reason Fieger Law has survived for this long, and the reason Geoffrey Fieger is still in business, is because of the high demands I put on these lawyers.”

Fieger partner splitting off to start solo practice

One of Michigan’s most talked-about plaintiff’s firms has something worth talking about once again.

Ven Johnson, partner at Southfield-based Fieger, Fieger, Kenney, Johnson & Giroux PC, announced Friday, May 13, that he will be leaving the firm to start his own practice.

At the Michigan Association for Justice’s annual meeting in Dearborn, Johnson told Michigan Lawyers Weekly that he expects to open his practice in Birmingham at the beginning of July.

In June 2008, Johnson and Fieger Law founder Geoffrey Fieger were acquitted in federal court on charged of illegally channeling money to the failed 2004 presidential campaign of Democrat John Edwards.

UPDATE: According to Crain’s Detroit Business, Johnson has already left Fieger Law, in that Fieger had a disagreement about Johnson’s departure date following Lawyers Weekly‘s above report.

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At least she wasn’t on Oceanic Flight 815

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger has filed a four-count lawsuit for negligence, false imprisonment, emotional distress and breach of contract, after his client, Ginger McGuire of Ferndale, was locked on an airplane for four hours after it landed.

The Detroit News reports:

[McGuire] flew Monday on a trip for an accounting training session that began in Detroit and ended in Philadelphia. During her travels, she was shuttled to Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., before heading to Philadelphia, where she was left stranded on the airplane after landing.

McGuire said she was exhausted from traveling and fell asleep as soon as she took her seat on the Philadelphia-bound Trans States airplane — Trans States works in conjunction with United Airlines. She was not taking medication and did not have any alcohol to drink.

McGuire woke up at 3:50 a.m. and found herself alone on the 50-seat plane.

McGuire said she walked up and down the aisle for 15 minutes. She said she panicked and didn’t think of calling for help.

“Then the door to the airplane opened and two Philadelphia police officers were standing there with a TSA officer,” McGuire said. “They wouldn’t let me off the plane until I proved who I was. It was like, ‘Show us your ID, show us your ID.’”

Officials let her go after about 10 minutes. McGuire then checked into a local hotel.

Fieger seeks to wipe away federal charges

“Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who last year was found not guilty of criminal campaign finance and obstruction of justice offenses, asked a federal judge Wednesday to take the extraordinary step of erasing from the record the fact that he was ever charged,” reports the Detroit News.

“Fieger told U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman that he wants to truthfully be able to state that he has never been charged with or convicted of a criminal offense when he applies for admission to practice as an attorney in other states.”

Feds’ campaign finance prosecution of Geoff Fieger falling apart?

Maybe so, opines Detroit Free Press scribe Brian Dickerson in his column today.

“Federal prosecutors who want to put him in prison are reeling from the latest blow to their case — and U.S. District Judge Paul Borman could be days away from dismissing it outright.”

Fieger, his partner, Ven Johnson (also charged with campaign finance violations) and their legal team have steadfastly claimed that the prosecution reeks of political motivation. Dickerson writes:

“Fieger has been screaming foul ever since November 2005, when 77 federal agents raided his Southfield law offices and ambushed 30 of his employees and associates at home in search of evidence that Fieger and his partner, Ven Johnson, illegally funneled $127,000 to John Edwards’ 2004 presidential campaign.
“When the pair was formally charged last November, their lawyers countered with a motion asserting that vindictive Bush administration officials had singled them out for selective prosecution, a constitutional no-no.
“Fieger’s lawyer, Gerry Spence, said Justice Department records would prove his client was the target of a government vendetta, and asked Borman to order prosecutors to produce them.”

Last week, Borman obliged with a 31-page opinion, which ordered the U.S. Justice Department to shed some light on the decision to take U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy and two of his underlings off the case seven months into the investigation. Borman also said Fieger and Johnson are entitled to information about other cases featuring big sweeps by FBI agents.

According to Dickerson:

“If the DOJ declines to turn over the information, as prosecutors have hinted it may, Borman could dismiss the case as soon as the next pretrial conference, now scheduled for Friday.
“The government likely would appeal such a dismissal.
“But the wheels of justice turn slowly, and by the time appellate judges are done scrutinizing Borman’s work, a new president and attorney general may be deciding whether U.S. v. Fieger is still worth the candle.
“And though polls suggest otherwise, the way the prosecutors’ luck is going in this case, that new president will be John Edwards.”

Great laugh line, Brian! (Update 1/31/08: Edwards has dropped out of the race and federal prosecutors have provided Fieger with what he was after. Both events occurred shortly after Dickerson’s column and this post were first published – no apparent connection detected.)

Meanwhile, in the January issue of the Michigan Bar Journal, current and former heavyweights of the Michigan Association for Justice have signed on to a letter (scroll to the bottom of the page to find it), which echoes Fieger’s accusations against the justice department:

“Pleadings filed in the case suggest the U.S. Department of Justice undertook the largest criminal investigation of alleged campaign finance violations in U.S. history against the Fieger firm in disproportionate reaction to allegations of technical violations usually handled in a civil manner.
“Utilizing an army of dozens of federal agents, investigators raided firm members’ homes and harassed their families, seized bank records without proper warrants, attempted to compel firm members and their families to reveal who they voted for in presidential elections, and engaged in other such apparently unconstitutional and illegal acts.
“These tactics of intimidation and harassment aimed at attorneys and their families are cause for great concern among the collective bar in Michigan, and among all Americans who value the rule of law and our political freedoms.”

Here are some goodies from the MAJ website:

Fieger Indictment

Motion to Dismiss for Selective and Vindictive Prosecution