Friday, October 21, 2016, 08:19 AM
Posted by Administrator
Since I wrote this, 2 hours ago, the issue has been resolved. Most little disputes between lawyers are. After getting word that my client would get the papers she wanted, I responded by saying, more or less: "As0 always, if you need something from me (court coverage, etc.), just let me know." On the other hand, I remain un-thrilled with the legal advise I was given....

Recently, someone hired me to look at some problems she was having within a few weeks of her divorce trial and her Final Judgment being issued. I asked her to get me her ex-husband's financial papers from her previous lawyer and that lawyer told her to get them would cost $190....for "copies". This surprised me because I had always believed that the client owned what was in the file (apart, perhaps, from what the lawyer pleadings the lawyer prepared... and the client should have already received a copy of those). The lawyer certainly has the right to hold on to things when their involved with the case, but when the case....and their involvement is over....why would they even WANT the bulk of what is in their bulging file? I phoned the Florida Bar Ethics Hotline.

The Hotline is a service provided to Florida lawyers who are afraid they are going to do something unethical, have done something unethical, or believe another lawyer is off base with what they are doing. The lawyer on the Hotline told me I was wrong....that the lawyer owns the file and that there is an Ethics Opinion (written by Florida Bar lawyers) on this very subject.

Okay...........but not really.

I looked at the Ethics Opinion and it based it's conclusion that lawyers owned their file on an appeals court decision. So, I looked at that court decision and, sure enough the judge wrote, more or less: "In Florida, as in most states, the lawyer owns the file." But, when judges make pronouncements like that, they are supposed to tell you where they got that idea from: an earlier court ruling, a statute, a custom of the courts going back to the time of George XIV, King of England? And, this judge didn't cite anything.

Which makes me believe he or she was making it up. I've been doing this 30+ years and if a client wants the stuff in their file....I make copies of stuff I think I may, for some odd reason, need......and I give them what they want. Pleadings (complaints, answers, motions)...I charge for copying these but only because I've already sent the client a copy...and they should have held on to what I sent.

So, I am no longer convinced that I am right+. I am certainly not convinced the Hotline is right. I am not convinced the judge who wrote the ruling I referenced is right. I am still convinced that the right thing to do is turn stuff the lawyer has no further use for over to the client without charging $1 a copy.

Putting everything else aside (I say this for the sake of writing this sentence, I will not be putting everything else aside), who charges $1 for a copy?

Note #1: Where there is no specific agreement on what will be charged for something, the charge has to be "reasonable" and in keeping with what others in the area charge for a similar service.

+Editor's Note: Though Duhl does his best to agree that he is wrong when he is wrong......on this one, he really does think he is right.
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