Hinshaw reports this case:

Client may not recover fees paid to criminal defense attorney whose representation was ineffective in part 

"The Vermont Supreme Court has held that a client is not entitled to assert a breach of contract action against a criminal defense attorney to recover fees paid for ineffective representation where at least some of the representation involved the provision of valuable services. Plaintiff, a client who was charged with federal crimes, retained defendant attorney to defend the charges. The attorney performed a substantial amount of work investigating the case and preparing for trial. The client was found guilty on all six charges and sentenced to prison. The conviction was upheld on appeal but the case was remanded for recalculation of the sentence. An increased sentence resulted, and it was affirmed on appeal. The client sought postconviction relief based on ineffective assistance of counsel due to the attorney’s failure to object to a jury charge. A federal district court dismissed the complaint, but a circuit court ruled that the jury charge on a reasonable doubt was improper. The circuit court remanded for a determination of whether counsel’s representation was ineffective.

On remand, the district court found that counsel’s representation was ineffective due to his failure to object to the improper jury instruction on reasonable doubt. A new trial was granted. The client pled guilty to one count and was sentenced to the 87 months he had already served.

The client then sued the attorney alleging claims for both legal malpractice and breach of contract. The contract claim sought to obtain return of the fees plaintiff had paid to defendant for preparing the case for trial and for trying the case. The trial court granted summary judgment for the attorney on the malpractice claim, ruling that a client must establish his actual innocence of the criminal charges to be entitled to recover for malpractice. The trial court denied summary judgment on the contract claim and found for the attorney on it. The trial court held that the client could not recover the attorneys’ fees he paid the attorney under a breach of contract theory because such a claim was in reality a malpractice claim and so required the client to establish his actual innocence. As the client could not establish his actual innocence because he pled guilty to one of the charges, the trial court ruled he could not establish proximate cause. The Supreme Court affirmed but for different reasons."

Email this postTweet this postLike this postShare this post on LinkedIn
Andrew Lavoott Bluestone

Andrew Lavoott Bluestone has been an attorney for 40 years, with a career that spans criminal prosecution, civil litigation and appellate litigation. Mr. Bluestone became an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County in 1978, entered private practice in 1984 and in 1989 opened…

Andrew Lavoott Bluestone has been an attorney for 40 years, with a career that spans criminal prosecution, civil litigation and appellate litigation. Mr. Bluestone became an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County in 1978, entered private practice in 1984 and in 1989 opened his private law office and took his first legal malpractice case.

Since 1989, Bluestone has become a leader in the New York Plaintiff’s Legal Malpractice bar, handling a wide array of plaintiff’s legal malpractice cases arising from catastrophic personal injury, contracts, patents, commercial litigation, securities, matrimonial and custody issues, medical malpractice, insurance, product liability, real estate, landlord-tenant, foreclosures and has defended attorneys in a limited number of legal malpractice cases.

Bluestone also took an academic role in field, publishing the New York Attorney Malpractice Report from 2002-2004.  He started the “New York Attorney Malpractice Blog” in 2004, where he has published more than 4500 entries.

Mr. Bluestone has written 38 scholarly peer-reviewed articles concerning legal malpractice, many in the Outside Counsel column of the New York Law Journal. He has appeared as an Expert witness in multiple legal malpractice litigations.

Mr. Bluestone is an adjunct professor of law at St. John’s University College of Law, teaching Legal Malpractice.  Mr. Bluestone has argued legal malpractice cases in the Second Circuit, in the New York State Court of Appeals, each of the four New York Appellate Divisions, in all four of  the U.S. District Courts of New York and in Supreme Courts all over the state.  He has also been admitted pro haec vice in the states of Connecticut, New Jersey and Florida and was formally admitted to the US District Court of Connecticut and to its Bankruptcy Court all for legal malpractice matters. He has been retained by U.S. Trustees in legal malpractice cases from Bankruptcy Courts, and has represented municipalities, insurance companies, hedge funds, communications companies and international manufacturing firms. Mr. Bluestone regularly lectures in CLEs on legal malpractice.

Based upon his professional experience Bluestone was named a Diplomate and was Board Certified by the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys in 2008 in Legal Malpractice. He remains Board Certified.  He was admitted to The Best Lawyers in America from 2012-2019.  He has been featured in Who’s Who in Law since 1993.

In the last years, Mr. Bluestone has been featured for two particularly noteworthy legal malpractice cases.  The first was a settlement of an $11.9 million dollar default legal malpractice case of Yeo v. Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman which was reported in the NYLJ on August 15, 2016. Most recently, Mr. Bluestone obtained a rare plaintiff’s verdict in a legal malpractice case on behalf of the City of White Plains v. Joseph Maria, reported in the NYLJ on February 14, 2017. It was the sole legal malpractice jury verdict in the State of New York for 2017.

Bluestone has been at the forefront of the development of legal malpractice principles and has contributed case law decisions, writing and lecturing which have been recognized by his peers.  He is regularly mentioned in academic writing, and his past cases are often cited in current legal malpractice decisions. He is recognized for his ample writings on Judiciary Law § 487, a 850 year old statute deriving from England which relates to attorney deceit.