Appeals Court Denies Pittston Attorney’s $733K Fee Petition
WILKES-BARRE — The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a ruling denying an exorbitant fee petition Pittston attorney Cynthia L. Pollick filed with the courts, siding with a decision that held her practices fell “somewhere between gross negligence and outright fraud.”
In July 2016, Pollick settled a long-running Monroe County civil rights lawsuit for $25,000 plus what was described as “reasonable attorney’s fees.”
Pollick then turned around and filed a request for $733,000 in fees, claiming she had spent 1,400 hours on the case over nine years.
Last fall, U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann described the request as “mind-boggling” and “outrageously excessive.” The judge denied the fee petition and fined Pollick $25,000 for conduct he said “reeks both of impropriety and lack of judgment.”
Court records show Pollick wrote a check to cover the fine, but then put a stop-payment order on in October 2017, citing her appeal of the decision.
In the opinion handed down Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court appeared similarly taken aback by Pollick’s conduct, finding the “litany of misconduct that the district court cataloged justified striking her entire fee petition.”
“The District Court’s meticulous opinion paints a picture of an attorney whose attitude toward billing and the court is cavalier in the extreme and whose conduct and demeanor bear no relationship whatsoever to an attorney’s obligations to the court,” the judges wrote.
“Pollick responded to the district court’s rejection of her fee petition by insisting that she had no responsibility to be accurate (or even careful) in her billing because, in her view, it was up to opposing counsel and the court to determine its accuracy,” the opinion continues. “She tasked them with doing her job. To make all of this worse, when Pollick was given the opportunity to amend the petition — at a sanctions hearing — she refused. We know of no decision or rule of procedure that would suggest that counsel can be as reckless and irresponsible as Pollick insists she can be in her court filings.”
Pollick did not immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.
It is not her first foray into what Brann described as “questionable litigation practices.”
In a 2005 case before U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo, the defendants moved for sanctions based on what they described as “totally nonsensical” arguments Pollick put forward.
Federal judges have also previously cited Pollick’s “vexatious litigation conduct and outlandish fee petitions,” Brann wrote.
Contact the writer: