In Uncategorized on 09/17/2020 at 12:43

Judge Emin (“Eminent”) Toro is direct. He tells the (now former) attorney for Robin Rothrock, Docket No. 17936-19, filed 9/17/20, to “… cooperate immediately and energetically in transmitting to petitioner all of the files and papers relevant to this case requested by petitioner.” Order, at p. 1.

This order follows a phoneathon Robin requested, wherein she announced she had dumped said attorney. Any client can discharge their attorney at any time for any reason, or for no reason, so that’s no biggie. And the client can replace their attorney or go it alone; their call.

Robin chose to go it alone. Although Judge Eminent reminds all and sundry that this case is on for trial in November, “(D)uring the same conference call, the parties agreed that respondent would forward decision documents to petitioner for review.” Order, at p. 1.

Questions arising: “Immediately and energetically”? Was said attorney dilatory? Did Judge Eminent suspect a meter-run (wasted motion to run up the bill)? But a docket search shows no motions, no discovery issues, and the standard scheduling and pre-trial orders issued not remarkably late.

Was there an unreasonably high fee? We know Tax Court doesn’t decide those. See my blogpost “A Court of Limited Jurisdiction,” 10/25/16, although then-STJ Lewis (“Quel Nom!”) Carluzzo came close.

“Immediately” makes sense, if Robin has to decide whether to stip out on IRS’ terms, try to negotiate a better deal, or go to trial. She needs to check out what discovery her former attorney got from IRS, if anything, and what he gave IRS, if anything. And see what research he did, if any.

But “energetically”? I don’t see delay. This is obviously a fact case, or IRS would have moved for summary J already. And either the facts have been Branertoned and stiped out, or the parties are ready to go with whatever they’ve got. If decision documents have been drafted, then fact disputes are not stumbling blocks.

Of course, there may be a fee dispute here. If there’s a question of an attorney’s retaining lien on the file to secure payment of fees, that’s outside Tax Court’s jurisdiction. You’ll find a variant, the attorney’s charging lien for a piece of a recovery, discussed by Judge Gustafson in my blogpost “We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges,” 4/2/14. As I said back then anent the charging lien, “(T)his is to keep deadbeats from tossing hard-laboring peasants like Your Humble Servant under the proverbial on the eve of victory and scampering with the boodle.”

All this is pure speculation, but as Mark Twain said, “(O)ne gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”


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