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Limited Representation

Looks like I'm going to take on a sympathy case on limited r dingbat08/31/18
Make sure your retainer agreement spells out the limits of y anothernjlawyer08/31/18
AnothernjlAwyer is right on. My state has a specific rule in thirdtierlaw08/31/18
"summary judgment conviction." SJ in a criminal case? Ty jeffm08/31/18
Yeah, no conviction, descision I blame autocorrect dingbat08/31/18
I am guessing that by summary judgment, you mean default. If guyingorillasuit08/31/18
Not a bad idea to run the facts by your state’s ethics hot therewillbeblood09/01/18
What's it matter that she lives in State A and the judgment specv31309/03/18
I stopped reading cases before I even started Civ Pro. I do dingbat09/03/18
What kind of action was this? If it's based on a contract (d onehell09/13/18
I’m admitted in both states. Thanks for the advice - I dingbat09/14/18
An excellent call IMHO. I too get hit up by friends and rela onehell09/14/18
Your agreement has to spell out the scope of limited represe jorgedeclaro09/03/18
dingbat (Aug 31, 2018 - 5:01 pm)

Looks like I'm going to take on a sympathy case on limited representation.
Woman got summary judgment conviction. She claims she never received notice. (yeah, yeah)
More importantly, she lives in State A, and the judgment is State B.

I'm gonna offer to do limited representation to prepare a motion to vacate for lack of jurisdiction. I'm guessing the claimant will refile in State A after the judgment is vacated, and I don't want to be involved at that point. Also, if some dumb shlum has a judgment, she can't afford to pay a real fee.
Any thoughts? Good idea / bad idea? Reasonable fee?

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anothernjlawyer (Aug 31, 2018 - 6:47 pm)

Make sure your retainer agreement spells out the limits of your representation, and makes clear that you are not handling anything other than the motion to vacate, including not handling any defense if the motion is granted, or any appeals if the motion to vacate is denied.

Reasonable fee: your standard hourly fee.

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thirdtierlaw (Aug 31, 2018 - 7:06 pm)

AnothernjlAwyer is right on. My state has a specific rule in the civil rules of procedure of what you need to include in your notice of appearance to the court. We need to lay out, in general terms, essentially what the scope of representation includes. I'm not sure if that is common in every state, but it is worth a look.

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jeffm (Aug 31, 2018 - 9:12 pm)

"summary judgment conviction."

SJ in a criminal case? Typo?

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dingbat (Aug 31, 2018 - 11:20 pm)

Yeah, no conviction, descision
I blame autocorrect

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guyingorillasuit (Aug 31, 2018 - 11:36 pm)

I am guessing that by summary judgment, you mean default. If she claims she never received notice, she must not have filed an appearance, and was then defaulted. My experience has been that judges are very sympathetic to credible (even semi-credible) claims of improper service. If there's any reasonable doubt as to the validity of the service, judges tend to throw out the default and allow the litigation to proceed on the merits.

If she filed a general appearance, and claims she didn't get notice of the summary judgment motion (as opposed to service of the complaint), then what is your basis for the jurisdictional argument?

Edit: also, if you represent her in lawsuit #123 in State A, and the plaintiff subsequently files lawsuit #456 somewhere (anywhere), I do not believe you are forced to represent her in the subsequent lawsuit unless your retainer is uncommonly crafted to create this obligation for you.

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therewillbeblood (Sep 1, 2018 - 1:08 pm)

Not a bad idea to run the facts by your state’s ethics hotline if one exists. Just to be safe.

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specv313 (Sep 3, 2018 - 1:44 am)

What's it matter that she lives in State A and the judgment is in State B? Did you stop reading cases in your civil procedure class after Pennoyer v. Neff?

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dingbat (Sep 3, 2018 - 1:28 pm)

I stopped reading cases before I even started Civ Pro.
I don't do litigation. But I was thinking of making an exception to help the person prepare a motion she would otherwise prepare herself.

But I don't know how State B had jurisdiction over the person living in State A.

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onehell (Sep 13, 2018 - 4:49 pm)

What kind of action was this? If it's based on a contract (debt collection being the most common example) then the contract would have likely had choice of law and forum-selection clauses. If so, the reason state B has jurisdiction is because she consented to it. They'd still have to domesticate it and get any needed garnishment orders in state A to execute on the judgment, but the underlying judgment itself would be in State B if that's where the contract says it is to be, and state A would honor that judgment as a matter of full faith & credit.

If it is based on contract, then such contract would also almost certainly have a fee-shifting clause so fighting these things can really backfire if unsuccessful, and clients should be warned about that.

You've said you don't do litigation, so maybe don't do litigation. Being limited scope doesn't excuse the ethical requirement for competence. Also, I assume you're not admitted in state B so you'd be ghost-drafting a document that she would be filing pro per in a state in which you not only aren't appearing, but actually couldn't appear. Might want to check up on the UPL stuff related to that if you aren't admitted in state B.

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dingbat (Sep 14, 2018 - 12:35 am)

I’m admitted in both states.

Thanks for the advice - I chose to stay out of it

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onehell (Sep 14, 2018 - 4:35 pm)

An excellent call IMHO. I too get hit up by friends and relatives for all kinds of stuff I don't do. Always puts one in an awkward situation.

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jorgedeclaro (Sep 3, 2018 - 7:59 pm)

Your agreement has to spell out the scope of limited representation and said scope must be reasonable. I think that is a reasonable thing to provide a limited scope on.

Don’t be so sure they will refile in the right jurisdiction or obtain sufficient service of process. They often don’t go through the hassle unless there is some indication that the judgment is collectible. I once successfully collaterally attacked an out of state judgment on the basis that it was void for lack of jurisdiction. Got the creditor to settle for a nominal sum (5k on a 200,000 judgment. Debtor had money too).

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