Ex-partner suing Fieger Law for professional misconduct, ‘intolerable behavior’

It’s been a year since Ven Johnson’s high-profile split from Geoffrey Fieger’s eponymous law firm. And according to a recently filed lawsuit in Oakland County, he has some unfinished business.

The Detroit News reports that Johnson’s suit, which was filed last week and assigned to Judge Wendy Potts, alleges that professional misconduct, violation of state business law, and Fieger’s demeanor caused him to quit.

In the complaint, Johnson wrote that “[t]he combination of intolerable behavior, broken promises and false representations, the mistreatment of clients, ethically questionable edicts, the loss of experienced trial attorneys, the failure to provide corporate books, records and accounts, as well as other actions … resulted in a deterioration of the business and compelled” his resignation.

Michigan Lawyers Weekly reported last year that Fieger put new policies into place at his firm, including a requirement that trial lawyers keep a caseload of 30 cases at all times. In addition, if three cases didn’t go to trial every year, the lawyer on that case would face having to pay a $25,000 fine. Eleven attorneys have since left.

“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,” he told Lawyers Weekly at the time.

In Johnson’s complaint, he wrote that such a stipulation “was onerous, unprecedented and of questionable ethics, given that clients, rather than lawyers, have the sole right to determine whether they wish to accept a settlement or proceed to trial.”

The News noted that Johnson alleged he has suffered “significant and irreparable harm to his ongoing law practice” as a result of Fieger’s actions and behavior. Johnson is seeking compensatory damages, claiming he was cheated of compensation, including a percentage of wages and settlements reached by the firm, and he also seeks full accounting of the law firm’s books from 2001 to 2011.

UPDATE: In response to the suit, Fieger told Lawyers Weekly that Johnson “must be in financial trouble,” and that his tactical skills “are second only to Charlie Sheen. … He jumped off a cliff and now he regrets it.” Fieger said that he believes the case will be dismissed, “and then you won’t write another thing about it, because you won’t be interested in hearing the liar, only in the ridiculous claims he made.”


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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Some things are best done yourself

In November 2005, you’ll recall, more than 100 federal agents swooped down on Geoff Fieger’s Southfield law offices, and executed search warrants at several of his employees’ homes, looking for evidence of illegal campaign contributions.

Fieger, a staunch Democrat, and his main partner, Ven Johnson were indicted in 2008. They famously beat the rap last year. Part of their argument rested on the notion that the prosecution was the Bush Justice Department’s politically motivated brainchild.

Now, Fieger’s not the sort of guy to take all of that lying down. Fieger, or more to the point, Michael Deszi, one of his associates, filed a couple of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).

Deszi had an eye on establishing a political conspiracy regarding campaign finance law enforcement. He asked for any documents exchanged between the FEC and Bush Justice Department operatives.

Fieger, apparently displeased with the FEC’s response, named himself as plaintiff in a FOIA suit against the FEC.

Late last month, federal District Court Judge David M. Lawson dismissed the suit.

The problem, in a nutshell, was standing. Fieger didn’t have it. Wrote Lawson:

A plaintiff who has neither made a request for information on his own nor explicitly through counsel cannot show an injury in fact, which is a necessary constitutional requirement of standing.

Moreover, a plaintiff who bases a FOIA lawsuit upon the request for information by another person does not satisfy the prudential requirement that he must assert a violation of his own legal rights. …

[B]ecause there is no evidence presented that the named plaintiff ever requested information from the FEC, or that information was requested on his behalf, Article III standing has not been established.

The case is Fieger v. Federal Election Comm’n.

Macomb County faces lawsuit if it doesn’t fill prosecutor positions

“Time is running out for Macomb County to avoid a lawsuit over cuts made in the Prosecutor’s Office, an attorney for county Prosecutor Eric Smith said Tuesday,” reports the Detroit Free Press.

“In a letter sent to commissioners, attorney Ven Johnson threatened a lawsuit if the county doesn’t adequately staff the Prosecutor’s Office to handle the growing caseload. He did not say Tuesday when a suit would be filed.

“The threat came last week after commissioners eliminated 10 vacant positions from the office to help erase a $15.7-million deficit. Five of those were for assistant prosecutors.”